2021-12 Jeff on Facebook

Jeff Richard is one of the regular posters in the RuneQuest Facebook Group. here’s some of his recent RuneQuest posts, only Jeff’s replies are included where relevant. Facebook membership is required to access the originals.


As an aside, I often post notes or things that I am working on that I think people will find interesting or useful. But I am posting this material without edits or revisions – they are all notes or works in progress. If people really expect me to edit or revise such ephemera before I post it, I am probably not going to post such things.

Jeff Richard, 2021

Table of Contents

    Chaotic features in the Lunar Empire

    The Red Goddess provides Chaos Gift to many Lunar cults, including initiates of her own cult and to senior priestesses of the Seven Mothers (but also to initiates of Danfive Xaron, priestesses of Deezola, Rune Lords of Hwarin Dalthippa, initiates of Yanafal Tarnils, and Yara Aranis. As we all know, this spell temporarily grants the caster with a random Chaos feature and permanently taints the caster with Chaos. So let’s assume somewhere less than 1% of the Lunar population is tainted by Chaos, but that percentage is primarily in the ruling class or its henchmen.

    Remember that a Chaos feature is much more than just a cool power – it is something that warps and mutates the recipient. Often it results in mutated horrors, but even when beneficial the results can be inhuman. People with features too smooth, uncanny valleys, exaggerated or grotesque body parts, and so on. But also those gifted have the sensation of wielding blasphemous power ripped out of the cosmos. Now 99% of the population have never experienced Chaos Gift, but that less than 1% are tainted by the experience. Many are Illuminated, but many are not. Needless to say this likely has some cultural effect.

    How would a high chaos rune affinity affect someone’s personality? I don’t think Chaos has a single personality. It is corruption, entropy, and evil. It is formless, emptiness, the void, or the abyss. It is the antithesis of the cosmos – the complex system we know as Glorantha. Most normal creatures are instinctive repelled by Chaos and most mortals find it terrifying and wrong.To reference the other roleplaying game, Chaos triggers SAN checks, sanity loss, and cosmic horror.

    This aspect of the Lunar religion is often papered over by cults like the Seven Mothers but it is there at the heart of the Red Goddess cult. She is Life, Moon, and Chaos after all.

    First Age Wenelia

    At the Dawn the Elk People, the children of Pralor, were the residents here. Their population was thin at first, but the relative ease of the Dawn Age allowed for population expansion in all directions. Clans and families migrated in all directions until they came into conflict with neighboring peoples.

    The traditional foes lived to the south and were called the Entruli. These were a branch of the Mraloti, or boar-folk, who had survived the Darkness in relative strength and delivered their civilization to their cousins after the sun rose. Thus, the Entruli ruled all of the peoples to the south.

    The Entruli valued their civilization highly and looked with contempt on their neighbors. They coveted the lands inland from their civilization, and were happy to combat the Elk People for it. The Pralori, in their turn, were glad to gain the wealth of civilization through plunder rather than work. Thus, the region quickly reverted to the combats and troubles off the Darkness, as if nothing had changed since the Gods War.

    In the year 97, the Entruli did what the Pralori could never do. Their ruler broke an ancient taboo which angered the gods. A great flood came rushing upon the land, drowning everything in its way and destroying the land. Only the capital, Porluftha, escaped because a Kolat clung madly to the buildings and held firm as the water washed over him. The city and its ancient inhabitants were preserved in a great air bubble undersea, lost to the outside world, undiscovered for many years.Without their traditional dynasty, the Entruli treated each other like foes. The Pralori plundered often, the Entruli destroyed each other’s strongholds, and it seemed as if a powerful Elk person would become leader here easily.

    Instead, there came a leader who was related to the old Entruli dynasty. He and his tribe came from the Shadowlands, where the Only Old One ruled over a nation of trolls and subject populations. A time had come when the Only Old One offered many of his subjects their freedom if they left his lands, or else commanded them to accept his rule.

    The leader was named Lalmor, and his tribe were the Vathmai. Lalmor was aided by the great Orlanthi hero Aram ya-Udram. Lalmor united the Entruli, helped them rebuild their strongholds, and led them to a great victory in driving off the Pralori. He arrived in 115, was finished with his victories by 122, and died in 138.

    King Lalmor’s arrival was more than simply a unification of the Entruli peoples. He brought a new religion with him, and he was also aided by many inhuman peoples. Lalmor came from Dragon Pass, where the Unity Council had been formed and where they worshiped the world-saving Lightbringers. Lalmor brought worship of Orlanth and his pantheon. With these new cults he was clearly ascendant.

    When the Lightbringer missionaries left the coastal Entruli lands and moved to enlighten the Pralori they were, in general, well received. The Pralori recognized the superiority of the new gods over their own animistic spirits. It did not unify the tribe, not did it split it.

    The Lightbringers faith did not ensure the unity of the Entruli. After the death of Lalmor in 138 the Entruli heirs divided his lands into several kingdoms. Some were coastal and thrived upon the increasing sea-trade borne by the ship-living Waertagi race which ruled the surface waters. Some were buffer states between the coastal cities and the inland barbarians. Others were barbarian kingdoms living in woods and plains.

    Aram was an Orlanthi hero on the level of Heort. He was not a follower of Heort or of his tribes, but might have been from the Entruli people by ancestry (he did ride a boar). But he was from Dragon Pass and defeated/tamed Gouger. The Ivory Temple was not built by Tusk Riders, after all.

    Volume of Trade in Dragon Pass

    Silk is something found among the elites in the Heartland, in Lunar Tarsh, in Boldhome, and is quite common in Nochet, Rhigos, and Karse. Assuming the Lunar Empire has roughly the same level of elite access to silk as the later Roman Empire, it needs about 5 or 6 tons of silk per year. Going with the comparison, Kralorela exports about 10 tons a year or so through ships going to the Holy Country. Half of that stays in the Holy Country, the other half (5 tons) gets taken to Karse and loaded onto caravans going north. 1 ton or so gets taken en route by the Sartarite elites (mostly at Boldhome, but also at Wilmskirk and Jonstown) – that’s enough silk for 800 silk tunics or 1600 silk dresses. Ultimately around 4 tons of silk end up at Furthest.

    Meanwhile, the Red Haired Caravan brings another 2 tons of silk or so in each year from the Kingdom of Ignorance. This comes from the roughly 6 tons a year Kralorela gives to Ignorance to keep them quiet.

    In theory, you could put that all in one big silk caravan, but of course it isn’t. Each caravan might have one mule with silk – but that still is enough for about 60 silk tunics, which is going to be a good return! This is just a drop in the bucket of the somewhere in the vicinity of 900 tons of goods that gets sent each year up from the Holy Country to Furthest, which is carried by 2500 mules, probably a quarter of all the mules in Dragon Pass.

    That’s about 35 standard 40 foot containers a year. Which isn’t all that much by modern standards, but is an awful lot in Glorantha.

    One way of looking at it is that there about 2500 “mule loads” operating in Dragon Pass at any given time. Let’s say 5 are huge (1000), 10 are large (1000) and another 10 are medium (500). Small caravans are purely local and to be ignored. So the location of these 25 caravans are purely a matter of logistics. Since there are 56 days a week, there is going to be approximately 1 caravan arriving every other day.

    So keep in mind that roughly every other day a caravan arrives in Jonstown or elsewhere along that main trade highway coming from the Holy Country. Presumably about the same volume is coming from the Lunar Empire as well. These caravans are the life blood of the Kingdom of Sartar, and so keep that in mind when you think about the economics of the kingdom.

    There could be somewhere in the vicinity of 5500 to 6000 mules involved in the caravan trade through Dragon Pass (2500 carrying goods from the Holy Country, 2500 carrying goods from the Lunar Empire, 500 from Prax), which is probably more than half of all the mules in Dragon Pass.

    This is part of that big explosion in trade following the Opening – which interestingly is about the time the Red Emperor takes a personal interest in Dragon Pass.

    What are the Royal Roads is made of? The royal roads of Sartar are stone.

    Royal Roads

    The Princes of Sartar were road builders. Each of the royal roads are four to seven meters wide and usually rests upon a foundation of rammed soil and rubble one to two meters deep. The surface of the roads are paved with polygonal stone slabs with curbstones on either side. These roads run in straight sections, with no curves, and traverse their way up steeper slopes. At intervals, the road widens to allow shrines and wayside rest stops. Watchtowers and guardposts are spaced along each road.

    The silk is taken from Kralorela and Teshnos to the Holy Country by ship and then overland to the Lunar Heartlands, or from the Kingdom of Ignorance to the Lunar Heartlands by land.

    Ironically, you are more likely to find Silk Pajamas in Sartar than in the Lunar Empire. If Sartar gets about one ton of silk a year, and the Empire, with 40 times the population, gets 6 tons – well you can do the math.

    Is spidersilk from Kingdom of Ignorance still a thing? I suspect there is far more spidersilk produced in Dagori Inkarth (held to be superior for making of ropes and threads than the silkworm silk of Kralorela and Teshnos) than from Ignorance. But it is also produced in much smaller amounts, coming only from the Aranea Cult.

    I suspect that silk is also made in the East Isles and no doubt there are intrepid Dormal cultists sailing to Haragala, although that trade may also be going to Fonrit and Maslo.

    The Vikings were at a far end of the Silk Road. Remember that Sartar is essentially Bactria here.

    Is Troll produced spider silk a thing? yes, and it is stronger than silkworm silk but it is expensive, and not produced in the sort of volume silkworm is, so is less useful for fabric. The trolls traditionally use it for ropes, nets, etc.

    Why is Kralorelan silk so important? Surely the presence of the Gorakiki Cult in Dagori Inkarth would present access to the raw material, including spider silk. it is much easier getting silk from a worm than from a giant spider. Even if that spider is a member of your cult. The spider at the very least needs to be persuaded not to kill you.

    Orlanth overview on YouTube

    I did a video overview of the Orlanth cult with Chaosium’s own James Coquillat:

    The RuneQuest RPG Wiki

    This is perhaps the most useful online tool for RQ I know of – the RQ Wiki! This has online all the core rules presented in the Starter Set, including a Fast Character Creation process.


    along with the RQ SoloQuest, The Battle of Dangerford

    The Hill of Orlanth Victorious

    It is roughly 20 miles from Boldhome to the Hill of Orlanth Victorious – a roughly comparable distance from the Akropolis of Athens to the sanctuary at Eleusis. No trade road connects the two, but countless Sartarites have made the pilgrimage.

    During the rule of the Princes of Sartar, the Hill of Orlanth Victorious was where many Sacred Time rites were performed by many tribes and cults, overseen and supported by the Prince, and aided by the Red Vireo. People would travel from Boldhome, Jonstown, or beyond, take lodgings in nearby villages or camp in the fields. Priests and rune lords would offer sacrifices, perform rites and ceremonies, and Orlanth and his Lightbringers would be invoked by all.Thousands of people, sometimes tens of thousands, would attend these rites. Priests and temples would jostle for priority, but for generations the Hill was under the direct protection of Hofstaring Treeleaper, a close ally to the Sartar Dynasty, and appeal to the Prince was thus rare. There were of course many lesser celebrations of Sacred Time in Sartar, but the sacrifices at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious was THE celebration. The Prince, his household and companions, the leaders of the Lightbringers cults – all attended.After Starbrow’s Rebellion, the Hill was guarded by the Yelmalio Cult (instead of by Lunar soldiers), and the celebrations were much smaller (and notorious rebels were turned away from the hill). With the Liberation of Sartar in 1625, arranging the Sacred Time rites at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious were viewed by many to be the single most important and pressing priority of the new Prince.

    (Bear Butte) Photo credit, Wikimedia

    Like all such ceremonies, the Sacred Time rites at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious would be a combination of sacred mysteries and secular partying and trade.

    As a Great Temple, pretty much every associate and local subcult of Orlanth is worshiped here at Sacred Time. Storm Bull berserks, Earth Priestesses and snake dancers, Issaries merchants, Lhankor Mhy scribes, Chalana Arroy healers, Helerite Rain Bringers, Yinkini, and of course bands of Tricksters and their clown societies. Imagine the scene!

    And of course folk from every tribe in Sartar. The Sacred Time rites would bring everyone who could make it there. Old rivalries would be put aside to help revive the world.

    Of course some tribes are overrepresented – the Culbrea, the Cinsina, the Kheldon, not to mention the urban populations of Boldhome and Jonstown. And other tribes are underrepresented – the Ducks, Lismelder, Locaem, and Kultain are present in only small numbers if at all.

    And note that the Yelmalions guarding the Hill is a direct repetition from the Greater Darkness.

    So the Yelmalians are guarding the hill on behalf of the Lunar, to prevent Orlanthi from worshipping there because the mythic resonance make them better suited for the task? Because this is where Orlanth began his Lightbringers Quest – and where Harmast Barefoot began his two Lightbringers Quest – this is a place where the boundaries between our world and the Other World are weak and permeable. Steps are taken to make sure the participants do not begin the Lightbringers Quest (as that quest is known to be extremely dangerous and unpredictable). For example, the Bad Rain is not normally summoned and the full ring not gathered.But after the Liberation of Sartar, Prince Kallyr Starbrow begins preparations to perform the Lightbringers Quest (although she makes preparations to limit its dangers and unpredictability). Her quest, ultimately a failure, accelerates the Hero Wars and dissuades any from following in her footsteps for another generation, when Prince Argrath, desperate in the face of renewed Lunar might, performs the quest without any limitations or reservations.

    Ernalda overview on YouTube

    I did a video overview of the Ernalda cult with Chaosium’s own James Coquillat:

    Magical Places in Dragon Pass

    There are several places in Dragon Pass where the boundary between the mundane world and the Godtime is permeable and easily crossed. A few of the more notables:

    • Hill of Orlanth Victorious
    • Kero Fin Shake Land
    • Wild Temple
    • Quivin Peak
    • Dragons Eye
    • Caves of Chaos
    • Castle of Lead
    • Tarndisi’s Grove
    • Dryad Woods and Forest of Wondrous Beasts
    • Arrowmound Peak

    Many of these places have been centers of cult activity for centuries or even millennia. When you see them, you know that this is something wondrous and remarkable. Mortals gather at these places to interact with the Godtime, and spirits and gods can be easily contacted there.

    Such magical locations have power comparable or greater than the greatest temples, even without the presence of the mortal worshipers. They are were great acts of Creation took place, where the world took its present form, or linger remnants of a world that otherwise died in the Great Darkness, or both.

    World Council of Friends

    At the Dawn, the World Council of Friends (centered on Dragon Pass) united five mortal species, each of roughly equal strength and numbers – humans, trolls (at the time there were no trollkin), dragonewts, aldryami, and mostali. A few remnants of the Golden Age remained, represented by the Golden Wheel Dancers, although few of these survived long into the Dawn Age. The Orlanth cult’s openness towards strangers facilitated this, as did the other Lightbringers.Humans were but one of five main groups, and although their numbers quickly increased faster than the other Elder Races, they never dominated the World Council or its successor the High Council of the Lands of Genertela. Even the Broken Council had so many non-humans that the Malkioni considered the Theyalans to be nonhuman Krjalki.In the Second Age, humans rose to dominance as the Elder Races tore themselves apart in internecine squabbles, and in many areas they never recovered. In the Lunar Heartlands, most humans have likely never seen one of the Elder Races – certainly not the fearsome dragonewts or trolls, and even elves and dwarfs are rarely seen. Things are different in Dragon Pass and the Holy Country. In the Holy Country, two of the sixths are dominated by Elder Races. Triolini are commonly seen in coastal areas and the trolls still rule their Shadow Plateau and in the Troll Woods. In Dragon Pass, non-humans occupied the region without ANY humans prior to about three centuries ago. Since then, humans have regained their position as the dominant species, but still about a fifth of the population is non-human. Most humans have seen one of the Elder Races, and interaction is frequent. Beastmen, dragonewts, trolls, dwarfs, and elves are commonly seen, certainly along the roads and in the cities, but sometimes even in small villages. Morokanth are seen as often as any other of the Great Tribes, although they are feared (and often despised) as cruel slavers.The Dragon Pass cultures are thus seen by many in the far West or in the Lunar Heartlands as being essentially non-human in some key regards.

    We often forget how significant the non-human population of Dragon Pass is, especially when compared to other parts of Genertela.

    There are a few comparable areas. Vesmonstran is viewed by many Seshnegi as being monster land because it is populated by trolls (Guhan), elves (Ballid), Orlanthi, and werewolves.

    And as we all know Maniria, elves are common there.

    I think in general we all tend to miss how significant the contact between the triolini and the Holy Country is. Some of this is aesthetic – art with fish, octopuses, and mermaids (especially on coffee cups) is going to be common. Some of this is just great awareness of the Deep and the seas. Not just in Seapolis and the Islands, but throughout the Holy Country. Just as the presence of trolls cannot be ignored there.And this is a new thing, as the triolini – as you observe – were not participants in IFWW or the original Unity Council (or indeed any of the great Councils).

    The Triolini

    The Triolini are a species (actually cluster of species) that don’t get enough love and attention in our Dragon Pass, Lunar Empire, and Prax centered games. It is worth considering that there are some 33,000 triolini in the Choralinthor Bay, mainly ludoch merfolk, but a smattering of mightier beings. Fatalistic and often harshly practical, the ludoch are about as interested in landwalker politics as humans are in the conflicts beneath the sea. Their gods are often similarly ignored by the landbound species, but within their watery domain they are supreme.Until a little more than 40 years ago, the surface of the oceans were impassable to the landbound. Prior to that only the triolini had access to the blue waters. With the Opening of the Seas, the Mirrorsea ludoch are a tremendous ally for the sailors of Kethaela. They know (or can easily learn) the currents, conditions, and dangers of each body of water and can often intercede with the rulers of the waters on behalf of their friends.

    The Mirrorsea Bay is shallow, no more than 60 meters deep in most areas. It becomes deeper in the Troll Straits, where it descends below 200 meters (probably more) at Deeper. There are coral reefs throughout much of the Mirrorsea Bay and over 50 islands that are larger than 2 square kilometers in size. Most islands are low, covered with grass or woods. A few are hilly, such as Thoxos and Loon Islands.

    Godtime Relics

    Waertagi, Golden Wheel Dancers, Mistress Race Trolls, elder Giants, Brithini – Glorantha has many relics of the Godtime that exist (to the extent they still do) in defiance of the world of Time. They continue their ancient ways, often refusing to acknowledge or accept Time and its changes. All of these peoples are dying out to a greater or lesser extent. The Golden Wheel Dancers were presumed extinct, at least until 1621. And yet the mortals that have proven most successful in Time also seek regular interaction with the Godtime. They experience the Godtime and then take those experiences to change the mundane world. Not so that the mundane world is the same as the Godtime, but that the ephemeral present and the recurrent eternal may interact on each other. Such mortals – in particular, the Orlanthi, the Lunars, and the Malkioni – have played a disproportionate role in the History of Time.

    And this is something that a lot of folk miss – the Orlanthi and Malkioni are not trying to revive some Golden Age (or Storm Age) empire from thousands of years ago. They are using very different methods from the Godtime that have proven very successful to survive in Time.

    The Lunars have gone a step further. They revived a dead goddess and created a Godtime inside of Time. And this Made in Time Godtime is being used at least in part to revive a Golden Age empire. The whole thing is a mad paradox worthy of Illumination points if studied for any length of time!

    But the Orlanthi aren’t trying to recreate the Kingdom of the Vingkotlings or something similar. Any more than Alexander was trying to recreate the Trojan War when he invaded Persia. They can recognize parallels, patterns in the Godtime, but they are aware that this is not the Lesser Darkness, even if now contains the Lesser Darkness (and other parts of the Godtime).

    The idea of recreating the Empire of Wyrms Friends might have far more appeal though…

    The Orlanthi, Lunars, and the Malkioni. They are all good at recognizing the value of an old story or myth at providing guidance for dealing with a different now – but they also can see that the story is not a perfect guide.That’s probably why they are good heroquesters.

    The Orlanthi know that their greatest hero – Harmast Barefoot – assembled the pieces of the Lightbringers Quest from countless stories. And they also know that those stories were not sufficient guidance for him to complete the Lightbringers Quest. He needed to bring in new elements and new experiences to succeed.How do they know that? Because Harmast told them that. Twice.

    The Glowline

    Normally, Lunar Rune magic and Lunar magical techniques are only at full effectiveness three days out of the week. The other four days a week, Lunar magic is either underpowered or not available at all. During the wars of the Zero, First, and Second Wanes, this was not that great of a disadvantage. Few of the Empire’s foes really understood the Lunar Cycle, and the Lunar magicians were a minority within the army. Most soldiers belonged to non-Lunar cults – Lodril, Yelm, Humakt, whatever – and were usually just lay members of the Seven Mothers. Lunar commanders would manouever so that battle would occur on Empty or Full Half days, or even better during the Full Moon, so that the Lunar magicians could play a decisive role in the battle.As the Lunar religion grew, more and more soldiers were members of Lunar cults, and the Lunar magicians grew in importance.In the Third Wane, this proved disastrous. Sheng Seleris and his nomads quickly learned (if they did not already know) that the Lunars were weak on the days of the Crescent Moon, and magically defenseless on the Dark Moon days. Sheng Seleris could use the superior mobility of his nomads to force battle on those days and use his magicians to overwhelm his foes. Lunar military history in the Third Wane was a depressing litany of defeats, routs, and massacres. The few successes the Lunars had were lucky coincidences, quickly reversed by the presence of Sheng Seleris.Yara Aranis was created to resolve this weakness. Her temples provided centers for magical defense, and the Glowline which they created eliminated the weakness of Dark and Crescent Moon days. Within the Glowline, it is always effectively Half Moon day. Lunar magic is fully effective, and the superior resources and training of the Lunar magicians mean that they are usually a match for any comparable number of opposing magicians. And since the Lunar empire has not foe capable of mustering a comparable number of opposing magicians, this means that within the Glowline there is almost no foe that can stand against the Lunar College of Magic.Outside of the Glowline is another story. Four days out of the weak, the decisive arm of Lunar victory is denied to the Lunar Army. The Lunar Army tends to be tentative, hesitant, and easily routed outside of the Glowline, unless led by the Red Emperor, accompanied by the Crimson Bat, or led by a first tier leader like Fazzur Wideread.

    Has anyone tried to create a response to the threat / power of Yara Aranis? Few people have ever dared to wander into the experimental lands of Lunar mythology.

    So if anyone thinks that giving up one day of extra full power in order get rid of four days of weakness each weak, well I’d love them to play the Lunars against me next time I play WBRM.

    When they created the Glowline they were definitely NOT an imperialistic expansionist culture. They were a barely holding on, trying to survive being conquered by a World Conquerer.

    The experimental landscape of Lunar mythology

    Few non-Lunars have ever dared explore the experimental landscape of Lunar mythology. Most celestial cults are reluctant to look into the shadows, and the Earth cults rarely look up into the sky. Maybe some of those Water cults might take a back route there along the path of the Blue Moon, but who cares about merfolk!

    But if I was going to hazard who might be willing to do that – I have two candidates. The more intrepid Darkness cults like Subere are comfortable in the deepest darkness of the Underworld and might be able to find some of those same paths. Heck, might know some of them better than She does. So if I were the Red Emperor I’d be cautiously wary of the trolls as much as I despise them as vile digijelm.

    The other candidate would be a god famed for assembling a band of misfits and then forging a path through the deepest Underworld to its very bottom. One who was willing to get lost, to lose everything, in order to find the right path through the deepest darkness of the Underworld and then unite others to defeat the God of Chaos. One whose defining Quest is so very similar to that of the Red Goddess herself that it might be that his quest be uncomfortably near the source of Her power? Yes, I would keep on eye on that one as well.

    Vasana’s Tattoos

    I’ve been working the last year with the amazing Anna Orlova on concept art for many of the iconic figures of the RuneQuest Campaign. One thing we’ve done is establish their tattoos and their meaning (at least the meaning of many of the tattoos). This helps us tremendously with achieving a higher level of artistic consistency – and also lets us gain insight into these characters.Remember, these tattoos are going to be far more painful than modern tattoos. That pain serves a magical purpose as it allows the recipient to focus on them without seeing them – the pain enhances their magical nature.

    As a teaser, here’s the sheet showing Vasana’s tattoos and explaining their meaning. It gives an insight into her life history – and brings the character to life! As always – amazing work by Anna!

    What I find fascinating is all the initiatory markings as well as the clan and tribal markings. This gets really wild once folk come back from a few big heroquests.

    Note also how important the “ordeal tattoos” are. This is that period after which a young “man” (in this case a Vingan) goes out on the edge of the community and survives with their fellow newly made initiates. This is an important part of becoming an adult.

    In my culture, te ao Maori, we would cut the face with sharpened bones like you carve Wood, rub ink into the cut then place small embers into the wound to cauterize the markings. They would heal into a 3d texture similar to a wood carving. This is different to how we would Mark the body with hammer and needle.  I would suspect that the tattooing process for the Orlanthi would be similar. And not getting those marks would be beyond shameful – it would be rejecting your kin, your gods, and your spirits. A deliberate rejection of human society.

    So instead of kind of making up most of Vasana’s tattoos each time, we now have a base line. We can add to them – for example, when she goes to the Spirit World or into Snakepipe Hollow – but those new tattoos “date” her.

    Hair and Beard Guide reprise

    I know I have posted this before (see Hair and Beard Guide, July 2021), but in the interest of helping folk out who are trying to imagine the look of their Sartarite characters, here’s the Hair and Beard Guide that Anna Orlova did for me. This piece really helps me imagine the range of Sartarite looks and reminds me that no two Sartarites look the same!

    One of the things I have loved about working with Anna Orlova (and Jaye Kovach) on this project is the incredible diversity of looks – which makes sense given that Dragon Pass is the crossroads of the continent. We’ve done concept art (turns, profiles, tattoos, etc.) for a number of key figures in Sartar and I expect people will love the result.

    Which tribes have blue and green skin? those are make-up or dyes for ritual purposes.

    The Crimson Bat

    The very first depiction of the Crimson Bat

    The importance of the Crimson Bat for the expansion of the Lunar Empire cannot be understated. We all know it is awesomely powerful in its own right, able to devour an entire regiment, spirits, and more – but it is also a Glowspot. Within about 10 miles of the Crimson Bat, Lunar magicians suffer no penalties even on crescent and dark Lunar phases.

    The pinkish glow of the Crimson Bat can be seen for many miles, and its presence in the borderlands of the Lunar Empire strikes terror into the hearts of outsiders. One can assume if the Crimson Bat is heading your way it is accompanied by soldiers, magicians, and more.

    During The Strong Making Peace wane, the Lunars used the Crimson Bat and Yara Aranis to strike fear into those nomads not led by Sheng Seleris – even those two demons were insufficient to strike against Sheng Seleris directly. But against tribal uprisings or confederations, they are normally more than sufficient.

    The Bat moves about as fast as a horse, yet is hundreds of times bigger. The thing slowly flaps its wings, like a slowed down video of a bat in flight, and it is impossible for it to be able to stay aloft, let it does.

    Combine that with a monster covered in many eyes, accompanied by madness inducing screams, with several impossibly long tongues darting out, and occasionally sprays of blood from its eyes, and you have something that is a D10/D100 SAN loss every time!

    I can think of only three times the Bat was defeated:

    1. The Nights of Horrors. Everyone on both sides died. But it was worse for the Pentans and they lost.

    2. Boldhome. A (dream) dragon big enough to defeat the Bat manifested to protect the city. Both were destroyed. Boldhome still fell.

    3. Whitewall. King Broyan and his followers managed to defeat the Bat and send it off to the Sea. This was probably the only real defeat the Bat ever had because the Lunars failed to achieve their goal despite sending in the Bat.

    Here’s another great slow motion video of a bat in flight:

    When we think of the Crimson Bat and the Lunar Empire, remember that this terror is rarely if ever seen in the Lunar Heartlands – generations might go by before the average citizen of Glamour or Raibanth actually SEES the Crimson Bat.But in the Provinces and the Redlands, the Crimson Bat is a constant reminder to Lunar subjects and outsiders of the real might of the Lunar Empire.

    The Lunar Empire is big, but not Roman Empire big. Think Assyrian Empire big or Hittite Empire big. So the Crimson Bat can’t just be dumped in some Area 51 and kept hidden. It is constantly there, in the Provinces, the Redlands, and among the Allies. Sometimes it is accompanied just by the members of its cult, but other times it is a rally point for the Lunar Army.

    Gloranthan Terrors

    The Crimson Bat, Cwim, the Mother of Monsters, the Chaos Gaggle, any of the True Dragons – stopping the appearance of any of these terrors would be the plot of a world-ending Call of Cthulhu campaign. All of them are present in Glorantha, and there’s a good chance that a character in Dragon Pass will cross the path of one or more of these terrors.

    And there are heroes capable of defeating them. That in a nutshell is the difference between RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu.

    Could Agrath take on the bat?? Yes.  I am pretty sure that the right team of RQ:G characters with a good plan and some luck could stop the Crimson Bat. I even know how to do it.

    But the presence of things like the Crimson Bat, as well the Lunar College of Magic, the Crater Makers, Jar-eel, the Full Moon Corps. etc – these are the backbone of the Lunar Empire’s incredible successes. The regular army units are better than average, but not powerful enough to defeat Sartar led by a member of its royal dynasty. But with its magicians, the Lunar Army can roll over most foes.Unless of course they have their own magicians and heroes….

    Cwim? Really? Yes. The archaic English slang association is pretty much unknown outside of England.

    Hero cults

    In general, when you gain Rune Magic from a hero cult, that magic comes from the god behind the hero. Where the hero is going to be apotheosised as a god, then you can once that hero is no longer active in the mundane world.

    The magic comes from the Gods World. But the cult is to the god who represents that archetypal event or experience.

    Although individual heroes can gain such magic through their direct experiences in the Gods World, for normal mortals that requires participation in cult that can provide a less dangerous (and more reliable) approach.

    Although some claim they do just what you described through worship of Arachne Solara. However most claim that the magic the Cosmic Spider provides is indirect only.

    Lunar Heartlands

    As we think about the Lunar Heartlands as a place populated by people, a few dimensions are worth keeping in mind.

    It is about 300 miles from Jillaro to Elz Ast and about 225 miles from Mount Jernotius to Two Tower on the Hungry Plateau (67,500 square miles). In comparison it is about 100 miles from Whitewall to Snakepipe Hollow and about 70 miles from Duck Point to Swenstown (7000 square miles). The Heartlands are about 10 times the size of Sartar.There are about 5 million people in the Lunar Heartlands. There are about 200,000 people in all of Sartar. If we adjust for area, that means that the Heartlands are about 2.5 times as densely populated as Sartar. The lingua franca in the Heartlands is New Pelorian, but there are many other languages there including Dara Happan (the old elite language of the Oslira city states), various Pelorian farmer languages such as Darjiini, Henjarli, and Rinliddi, as well as Carmanian, Antelope People, and even Theyalan tongues like Sylilan.

    For population and diversity, the old Aztec Heartlands in Mesoamerica is pretty comparable. The Lunar Empire is several centuries older than the Aztecs, and I expect that New Pelorian is more deeply engrained in the Heartlands than Nahuatl, it gives a good baseline.

    Like the old Mesoamerican heartlands, there are many cities. In the Heartlands – Glamour is of course the greatest city, but Raibanth, Yuthuppa, and Alkoth occupy great importance in the mythology and folklore of the Heartlands. Raibanth can be crudely analogised to Teotihuacan, and was for centuries the most populated center in the Heartlands as well as the religious center. Since 1250, Raibanth has steadily declined in contrast to youthful Glamour, but unlike Teotihuacan the city has still survived (perhaps a better comparison was Babylon after the founding of Seleucid).

    For centuries, the Heartlands were largely defined by Yelm, Dendara, Lodril, (Pel)Oria, Oslira, and a cluster of celestial deities (Dayzatar, Polaris, Ourania, etc.) whose importance far outweighed their numbers. Waves of new ideas washed through the Heartlands – Nysalor, Spolite darkness cults (Xentha, Argan Argar, Gorgorma, etc.) and Theyalan cults from Dragon Pass – Orlanth, Humakt, Storm Bull, Waha, Eiritha, Sun Dragon, etc. These waves would always recede, sometimes leaving small pockets of remnants.

    Since 1250, the cults around the Red Goddess have been the state religion and have been embraced by many people, usually on top of existing practices. This has accelerated since the Fifth Wane after the Red Emperor defeated Sheng Seleris. Newer cults like the Seven Mothers, Hon-eel, and Hwarin Dalthippa jostle with ancient cults like Lodril and Lokarnos.

    The result has been something new – a “Lunar” identity, even among those not initiated into the Lunar mysteries.

    As we think about the density of settlement, Sartar is at about 28 per square mile while the Lunar Heartlands is about 74 per square mile. That seems really dense, until we compare it to Esrolia with its incredible 465 inhabitants per square mile (“only” 364 if we drop Nochet out of the equation).

    So unlike Esrolia which is almost completely cultivated, there will be empty areas and wilderness (probably expanses of grasslands or wetlands) even in the Lunar Heartlands. But nothing like what we see in Dragon Pass.

    If remove the urban population, we still have more than 4 million rural folk in the Heartlands. These are mostly (more than 70%) semi- and unfree peasants, raising rice, barley, and maize. These masses are likely indistinguishable from their non-Lunar ancestors. They do not own their land (it is owned by nobles, temples, or other powerful entities) but are more or less bound to it.

    The overwhelming majority of these peasants really don’t care who their rulers are. They are loyal to each other, their little village and local priests, and little else. They pay their share to their rulers, try to avoid them when they can, and love their (far away) Red Emperor and Red Goddess, while cheerfully ignoring whatever they find convenient to ignore.

    As an aside it was about 50 km from Tenochtitlan to Teotihuacan, about 60 km from Seleucia to Babylon, and it is about 32 km from Glamour to Raibanth, which is pretty comparable. The ancient capital is nearby, but far enough away that the new capital can grow outside of its shadow.

    So let’s imagine that vast Peloria lowlands extending from Jillaro to the White Sea, from Mount Jernotius to the Hungry Plateau. It was once a grassland and wetlands, like the Pannonian Plains but twice as big. Largely flat except for the great Crater itself, which rises above the flat lands like the Footstool of the Red Moon.

    Peloria is quite dry – wet air gets blown from the far west, but needs to go over Fronela or Valind’s Glacier before it reaches Peloria. The immediate foothills of the Rockwoods and Yolp mountains might get 25 to 40 inches or so, but that drops in the plains.Furthest is the wettest city of the Pelorian valley, at 34 inches.

    Mirin’s Cross is 28 inches. Mirin’s Cross gets most of its precipitation in Storm Season.Alkoth is 24 inches (Kiev – the area of the Pripet Marshes). Alkoth is in a convergence zone that gets precipitation both in Fire Season and in Storm Season.Glamour is 16 inches (Spokane). The presence of the Crater moderates the Northerly winds, but also means Glamour is in a rain shadow.Raibanth is 14 inches. The presence of the Yelm cult definitely increases the number of cloudless days. Almost all of the precipitation falls in Fire Season, when the Pelorians worship Entekos the Rain Goddess and Dendara the Good Wife.

    Yuthuppa is 18 inches. Almost all of the precipitation falls in Fire Season.Elz Ast is 22 inches. Elz Ast is on the White Sea. Elz Ast is an awful place – the Pelorian version of Quebec City. Cold and miserable in winter even with the Kalikos Expedition.

    So let’s think a little bit about the presence of the Red Goddess in Time. She is a Greater God who appeared during Time, embraces Chaos, and her very existence violates the Cosmic Compromise. Many of the Old Gods refused to acknowledge her because of this – her victory at Castle Blue forced them to acknowledge her power, and many now accept and even embrace her (most significantly Yelm). However, several of the most powerful gods remain her resolute enemies (Orlanth most prominently, but also Storm Bull, Valind, Kyger Litor, Humakt, Eurmal, and Zorak Zoran). Many others (Aldrya, Magasta, Yelmalio, and the Malkioni) remain hostile to the Red Goddess.

    Through Illumination, the initiates of the Red Goddess are liberated from the reflexive fear of Chaos and oblivion. They believe that by following along the path of the Red Goddess, they can thread this needle and embrace ego annihilation as a means of liberating the true self. Enemies of the Lunar Way point out that in many cases this path to “ego annihilation” results in an even greater false self – Gbaji. The parallels with Nysalor and the Broken Council are there for all to see, although many Lunar apologists claim that with the Red Goddess’ aid, Nysalor has now defeated Gbaji (Sheng Seleris). Others claim that at the Shadows of the Empire, Arkat or Arkats are being formed once again.More disturbingly is the rise of the Lords of Terror with at least the tolerance of the Red Goddess. The Lunar Empire sponsors the Chaos demon called the Crimson Bat, accepts worship of Primal Chaos, and is known to cooperate with such Chaotic cults Krarsht, Mallia, Thed, and Vivamort against the mutual foes. Within Chaos strongholds such as Dorastor, Snakepipe Hollow, and the Footprint, the Lords of Terror have awakened.

    Some mystics claim there is uncertainty at the core of the Red Goddess’ existence that makes it impossible to resolve whether she is a deity of Chaos or of the Cosmos, or even that she is both simultaneously. This uncertainty and ambivalence is a key driver in the cataclysm later known as the Hero Wars.

    Art by the amazing Agathe Pitié

    This ambivalence of the Red Goddess – acting both as a deity of Chaos and as an upholder of the Cosmos – is key to her mysteries. She is both – or perhaps neither.

    It is perhaps inevitable that the Hero Wars ultimately is conflict between the two most complex of Gloranthan deities – the Red Goddess and Orlanth. As we know, Orlanth is both a Destroyer and the Upholder of the Cosmos. Like Shiva, he destroys and creates. He plunged the Cosmos into Darkness when he slew Yelm, but his Lightbringers Quest was the key to the preservation of the Cosmos.

    And their parallels go deeper still. In the depths of the Lighbringers Quest might one’s path cross that of the Red Goddess?

    This awesome mystery at the center of the Red Goddess is the source of both tremendous devotion from her followers, and great fear and hatred by her foes. Is she a goddess of Chaos? A servant of Arachne Solara? Both? Neither?

    We Are All Us, this slogan is often used unthinkingly by the Seven Mothers initiates. But the slogan contains within it deep and disturbing implications that can be deeply unsettling.

    The definitive answer is that there is a mystery.

    The only way to resolve that mystery is to experience it.

    As an aside, people like to claim that in the Arrolian Territories the ambivalences and ambiguities of the Red Goddess are somehow “easier” to reconcile with. But are they truly – or does that just reflect our Dragon Pass-Lunar Provinces bias?

    There is a reason that we see mainly the Seven Mothers at the frontiers of the Lunar Way. They prepare us for the Red Goddess, but they are more understandable than her and do not delve too deeply into her mysteries. They merely prepare the way.

    How much of the ‘Cosmic Compromise’ is reflection of myth derived from history? This is the First Age version:The assembled gods then created the Great Compromise, which began the recreation of Glorantha. The gods all agreed to three universal rules:

    First, they would concede previous claims, and mutually agree to define themselves as they were, making no further attempts to interfere with the realms of other deities. They shared Nature among themselves. No longer would Orlanth strive to be Lord of the Underworld, nor Yelm to be King of Middle Air.

    Second, all the goddesses and gods accepted to include within their being all which had occurred to them before, each event being in appropriate measure. Thus Yelm would spend half his time in the Underworld, and half in the upper world.They agreed too that no deity would directly manifest themselves into the world, but instead work through Nature, worshippers, proxies, avatars, and incarnations which would be inferior to the true deity.

    This was hidden in another thread, and deserves to be pulled out for all to read:

    The Great Compromise

    The assembled gods then created the Great Compromise, which began the recreation of Glorantha. The gods all agreed to three universal rules: First, they would concede previous claims, and mutually agree to define themselves as they were, making no further attempts to interfere with the realms of other deities. They shared Nature among themselves. No longer would Orlanth strive to be Lord of the Underworld, nor Yelm to be King of Middle Air.Second, all the goddesses and gods accepted to include within their being all which had occurred to them before, each event being in appropriate measure. Thus Yelm would spend half his time in the Underworld, and half in the upper world. They agreed too that no deity would directly manifest themselves into the world, but instead work through Nature, worshippers, proxies, avatars, and incarnations which would be inferior to the true deity.

    Jar-eel the Razoress

    Arguably the mightiest hero in Glorantha at this time is Jar-eel the Razoress. She has loads of titles – Fourth Inspiration of Moonson, Incarnation of the Red Goddess in Time, daughter/lover/mother of the Red Emperor, poetess and musician, defeater of barbarians, etc. But let’s talk about HER for a moment.

    Jar-eel was born in 1588 in Glamour and when she was only one year old she was part of the Legion of Infants that traveled over Fronela in Moonboats and thawed Syndic’s Ban. At ONE year old.

    At eight, she was Illuminated and traveled to the Red Moon itself.

    At fourteen, she was a leader of the elite warriors who sacked Boldhome.

    When she was twenty-nine, the Temple to Jar-eel was consecrated in Glamour. The Moonsword cult already worships her. She dismembers Belintar, suppresses the White Moon Movement, and defeats the Voor-ash confederation. And so on, and so on.

    Trying to find a real world equivalent to Jar-eel is difficult. Caligula was two or three when he accompanied his father Germanicus to fight the Germans, and King Richard II was 14 when he confronted Wat Tyler with great personal presence and bravery, but those things pale next to Jar-eel’s deeds. Jar-eel was born to incredible power and privilege and has achieved more.

    She is not a ruler, but even the Red Emperor is often over-shadowed by his glorious “daughter”. She is a figure like Krisha in the Mahabharata – operating at a different plane of existence than those around here. Let her drive your chariot, and she’s likely to Illuminate you on the trip across the battlefield!”

    The energy which the gods are endowed with is indeed great, but mine is greater.” – from the Song of the Razoress.

    Concept art by Jon Hodgson

    Jar-eel is a patron of the arts, a musician, and a poetess. She debates with the White Moon Movement and many of those who witness her renounce their errors and return to the Red Moon. Those who reject her words are killed.

    The name “Jar-eel” should be on everyone’s lips. She is the most famous person alive, revered within the Lunar Empire, feared in the Redlands, Holy Country, Dragon Pass, and Prax. She could easily be the next Mask but that would diminish her.

    Are there stats for her anywhere? Yes:

    And Jar-eel embraces contradictions. She is both notably merciful and notoriously cruel. She loves, but kills without hesitation or remorse.

    Yes, she debates with them. And they are true debates, magical events where she invites the leaders of the WMM to prove their claims. Jar-eel devastates them so badly that some bleed from the eyes as their tears run out.

    So whenever you think of the Lunar Empire, always keep in mind the presence of Jar-eel, for good or ill. Her charisma overwhelms that of the Red Emperor or Great Sister. She is a rock star, movie star, star athlete, and so much more.

    As for Chaos, Jar-eel accepts it as any Red Goddess illuminate should. Jar-eel has ridden the Crimson Bat, unaffected by its Chaotic abilities. I’ve heard stories that she has even allowed civilised broo to join the Moonsword regiment, as long as they maintain discipline and standards.

    Jar-eel is said to be inhumanly graceful and agile, and dances with her two swords to cut down entire regiments. Afterwards, she is famed for composing poems. One famous poem compares bloodshed in battle to a field of red roses, with the impression that both are equally expressions of beauty.

    For than a generation Jar-eel has been a – and more often THE – dominant light in the Lunar sky. Most accounts place her far above the mundane and magical machinations of her Eel-ariash kin, who nonetheless have gained tremendously by her presence. Even the Red Emperor might have second thoughts before acting against the family of the Fourth Inspiration of Moonson. Imagine how the other satraps and imperial nobles must feel!

    And yet, try to imagine the Jar-eel behind the imposing presence on the “silver screen”. What is there of a mortal person there?

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