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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The Seven Mothers cult
People often assume that the Seven Mothers cult thinks of itself like British imperialism – they are they to bring the benefits of Lunar civilization to the benighted barbarians of Dragon Pass and beyond. They imagine some 19th century colonial administrator or modern State Department staffer filled with condescension for the cultures they are ruling.
That’s not really the case. The Seven Mothers purpose is to prepare people to embrace the Red Goddess. Most people never become Illuminated, but the Seven Mothers creates an environment where Illumination can be welcomed and respected – not feared or killed. The Seven Mothers likes those things that like the Red Goddess, and it fights against those who would fight the Red Goddess.
Often Seven Mothers missionaries find themselves in cultures that are as wealthy, technically skilled, whatever, as the Lunar Heartlands. Carmania was wealthier, more developed, etc. than Rinliddi – that didn’t matter. Carmania threatened the nascent Red Goddess and needed to be defeated so that its population could be prepared to embrace her.
For most Seven Mothers cultists it is a universal goal – the Red Goddess needs to be embraced by the world so that we all can finally be healed. The Lunar Heartlands are in just as much need of healing as the barbarians.
Now add to that a level of imperial chauvinism – that it is only right and proper that the Red Emperor rules the world and that Lunar/Dara Happan/Pelorian society is the only right and proper society and that everyone not of Lunar/Dara Happan culture is a benighted barbarian. This cultural chauvinism is always present but is also at odds with the Seven Mothers mission. It is sometimes suppressed (by enlightened provincial administrators like Phargentes, Moirades, Fazzur Wideread, or Sor-eel), but just as often it suppresses the Seven Mothers mission (e.g., Euglyptus the Fat, Tatius the Bright, Halcyon var Enkorth, etc.).
These imperialists rarely justify their rule by saying they are building roads, aqueducts, whatever – because they aren’t! Maybe they introduce maize through the Hon-eel cult, if they remember to do that. They tolerate the Seven Mothers missionaries, but primarily they justify their rule because it is right and proper that the rule of the Red Emperor should be universally acknowledged. They are imperialists first and foremosts.
The imperialists and the missionaries often work hand to hand, but also are often in tension. Many suggest that the closer to Mirin’s Cross, the more likely the missionaries get their way – the further away, the more the imperialists get their way. But enough exceptions exist to make this a dubious political maxim.
Trying to imagine any real world analogue it might well be to Islam under the Abbasids around 1000. The Caliphate has existed now for nearly four centuries. Its religious justification is still there, but it has also a well-developed imperial tradition that is now ancient and hallowed.
The Seven Mothers missionaries are seeding elements of the Red Goddess story wherever they go, as preparation for the deeper mysteries.
Orlanth is less spiritually problematic than he is in their face screwing up the preparations. He rallies the non-Illuminated masses by pointing out the obvious – the Red Goddess embraces Chaos.
And since normal things are quite understandably terrified of Chaos, that’s a very powerful rallying cry.
The Lunar EMPIRE is imperialist. Comes with the name. And the Seven Mothers missionaries (see Cults of Prax) are missionaries. It is what they are. If you say Bronze Age imperialists and missionaries are automatically the bad guys, ok. But Greg was more nuanced than that.
They are imperialists. Proudly so. They are missionaries. Proudly so. That doesn’t make them good guys or bad guys.
What (arguably) taints the Lunar Way with evil is its embrace of Chaos, not imperialism or missionaries or nobles or whatever. Is using a soul-annihilating monster to devour your foes evil? Is constantly providing it with a supply of sentients to devour (and annihilate their souls) evil? How about when you run out of criminals to feed it and have to resort to innocents?
These are the moral questions that swirl around at the center of the Lunar Empire’s power. If Chaos is part of the cosmos, can it be used as a tool? Should it be used as a tool? Do the ends justify the means?
Sheng Seleris, the Shadow of the Lunar Empire
So let’s contemplate Sheng Seleris, the Shadow of the Lunar Empire. Sheng Seleris and his nomad army entered Peloria for the first time in 1375. Sheng Seleris was a celestial hero, whose horses could run through the sky, and whose companions were as pure and as merciless as the light of the sky.
Sheng Seleris exploited the weaknesses of the Lunar Cycle, and with the superior mobiity of his nomadic army, he repeatedly forced battle upon the Lunar Army during the Dark or Dying Phase. For over a quarter century, the Lunar Army knew little more than defeat and humiliation. The Red Emperor maintained his claims to be the legitimate ruler of the Lunar Heartlands, but in truth his authority was confined to a few strongholds. The Red Emperor engaged in several magical contests with Sheng Seleris, but appeared to have lost them all. Much of Peloria was overrun, and many cultivated areas returned to grassland. For FOUR GENERATIONS(!), nomadic herds roamed over the Pelorian grasslands. In some areas, city and town life continued, ruled over by Yelm-worshipping horsemen. Other areas paid tribute to whatever nomad chieftain demanded it, and submitted themselves to whatever other demands were made, in exchange for limited autonomy.
In 1409, the first Temple of the Reaching Moon founded. Within the “Glowline” formed by her temples, the Red Moon was always magically at Half Phase, which helped to mitigate the Lunar magical weakness that Sheng Seleris exploited. The Lunar Army knew a few successes against the lieutenants of Sheng Seleris, although whenever Sheng Seleris was present, the Lunars were badly defeated.
In 1415, Sheng Seleris killed the Red Emperor in a magical duel. This is the first time the Red Emperor is known to have died. He had ruled for over 150 years but now was gone. For 15 years, there was no emperor.
In 1428 the Red Emperor reappeared, but was much weaker. The Red Emperor was reduced to being a guerilla leader, and he was repeated forced into hiding. In 1442, Sheng Seleris defeated the Kralorelan Emperor and became a god. A new star appeared in the heavens. The remnants of the Lunar Empire shuddered before the Celestial Empire. The Red Emperor confronted Sheng Seleris and was killed again, and Sheng Seleris flew his elite warriors to the Red Moon to search for him. The scars on the Red Moon can still be seen by the naked eye.Sheng Seleris continued to search for the Red Emperor, and ravaged the land and mythology. He killed those who were formerly neutral in the conflict, and made a growing number of enemies. Even those who had once hated and feared the Red Goddess increasingly viewed her as the lesser threat.
In 1460, the Red Emperor returned (in a new form) and finally defeated Sheng Seleris in a magical duel the Battle of Kitor. Lunar propaganda claim this was a long-planned master scheme of the Red Emperor, but other accounts suggest it was more opportunistic and that many former enemies aided the new Red Emperor.
Over the next few years, the Lunar Army forced the now leaderless nomads to withdraw from the Lunar Heartlands into the Redlands. But the nomads were still powerful and a near-equal to the Lunar Army. The threat was not ended for another two generations with the Nights of Horror (1506), which destroyed both the Lunar Army and the nomads. The Lunar Empire raised a new army, but the nomads were forced deep into Pent.
This is so very very different from the Lunar Empire of a century and a half later.
Sheng Seleris’ game of Whack-a-Mole against the Red Emperor exhausted the Celestial Emperor and turned formerly neutral (or even potentially friendly) forces into enemies. Ironically, this sounds a lot like what happened to the Lunar Empire in the Eighth Wane.
Almost every institution we associate with the “modern” Lunar Empire except the Seven Mothers and the Red Goddess really is the result of the struggle with Sheng Seleris and the nomads. The Glowline. The Lunar College of Magic. The Cavalry Corps. The widespread nature of New Pelorian. Referring to each new Red Emperor as a “Mask” of the Red Emperor. And so on.
So before you think about the Lunar Empire, remember that it rose out of the ashes of a previous Lunar Empire, one nearly destroyed by Sheng Seleris. The Lunar Empire has known defeat and had to recreate itself out of the ruins.
Nochet population density
When we think about cities like Nochet, keep in mind how incredibly densely populated some of them are – like Bombay or Calcutta. Nochet’s population density averages somewhere around 18,000+ per square kilometer. That’s average – for every Sacred City garden that means somewhere else people are piled on top of each other.Boldhome in comparison is a mere 3000 people per square kilometer, but it has plenty of empty space, which means that in the Pockets and the Main City, things get piled up.In comparison, the population density of modern London is 5700 per square kilometer; modern Manhattan has a population density of 29,000 per square kilometer and San Francisco about 6600 per square kilometer.
Some fragments from a document Greg and I put together, which might interest some of you. It is part of the RQ Campaign.
Argrath History To 1627
- Born on Starfire Ridge to the Colymar Tribe
- Maniski killed in fall of Sartar
- Yanioth killed (by Telmori?)
- Initiated to Orlanth
- Outlawed from Starfire Ridge
- Made slave among Bison Riders
- Discovered White Bull, founded secret society
- Became Wind Lord of Orlanth, gained a draconic entity as an allied spirit Adopted name Garrath Sharpsword and resided in New Pavis Quest of the Drinking Giant’s Cauldron
- Giant’s Cradle
- Met Harrek
- Circumnavigated the World, many adventures
- Battle of Pennel Ford
- Was lover of Queen Samastina
- Left for Prax, gathered White Bull society and summoned Jaldon Goldentooth Liberated Pavis
- Liberated Corflu
- Defeated at Hender’s Ruins
- Founded first Magical Union, gained Dragon Teeth
- Defeated Lunar Army in Far Place, liberated Alda-Chur Became Prince of Sartar
When we were writing this, we looked at the early years of Alexander and Napoleon Bonaparte, – Argrath’s manic activities seem pretty reasonable in comparison!
But Argrath has the farthest to travel in order to become a peer of the likes of the Red Emperor, Gunda the Guilty, Beat-Pot, or Sir Ethilirist.
Pretty good going from a kid on the Starfire Ridge to becoming one of these four chits!
RQ Campaign Random Events
Here’s a little something I am working on as part of the RQ Campaign that I thought people might be interested in!
At the start of each season, the gamemaster should generate a random event which may have significant events on the individual clan, tribe, or indeed all of Dragon Pass. First, you should roll D10 on the Event Occurrence Chart below. No Event indicates nothing unpredictable and unexpected occurred in the area that season, yet. Clan events affect small groups or individuals within the clan and are the clan’s duty or responsibility to resolve. Tribe/National events affect the local Tribe or even the Kingdom of Sartar. Dragon Pass Events affect the entire region and might even take place outside of Dragon Pass. These events are more general in nature than the clan events. Each of these events can become the basis of an adventure. The gamemaster has considerable latitude in determining what these events mean and how to fit them into the campaign.
EVENT OCCURRENCE CHART
D10 Event Chart
- 1-4 No Event
- 5-7 Clan Event
- 8-9 Tribal/Sartar Event
- 10 Dragon Pass Event
- 01-11 Signs of troll activity discovered in clan territory
- 12-17 Herds troubled greatly by predators
- 18-21 Herds suffer little from predators; good hunting
- 22-30 Bandits in clan territory
- 31-33 Unknown strangers found passing through clan territory
- 34-38 Nonhuman strangers found passing through clan territory
- 39-41 Neighboring clan or tribe members discovered in clan territory
- 39-41 Caravan in clan territory, opportunity for unusual trade goods.
- 42-45 Neighboring clan or tribe members discovered in clan territory
- 46-52 Neighboring tribe raids clan’s livestock
- 53-57 Clan involved in legal action against another clan
- 58 Clan territory invaded by large herbivores – threat to crops
- 59 Mythical animal discovered while hunting
- 60-63 Opportunity to join livestock-raid against neighboring clan or tribe 64-68 Tribal leader visits
- 69-71 Famous Sartarite leader visits
- 72-73 Famous priest visits
- 74 Famous visitor from another Homeland
- 75 Famous visitor from afar
- 76-77 Gods angered – difficulty for priests at seasonal sacrifice
- 78-81 Gods pleased – easy time for priests at seasonal sacrifice
- 82-86 Proposal of marriage from another clan seeking an alliance with family/clan
- 87-90 Adventurers offered to become bodyguard to important leader
- 91-96 Clan musters to defend territory
- 97-99 Clan mustered to invade enemy clan
- 00 Involuntarily drawn into a heroquest
TRIBAL/SARTAR EVENTS CHART
- 01-02 Outpost of major troll tribe discovered in area
- 03 Leaders muster against troll invasion
- 04-05 Extraordinarily rapid forest expansion reported (elf)
- 06-09 Exceptional forest death reported
- 10-12 Stone hills forming (dwarf activity)
- 13 Leaders muster against forest expansion
- 14 Leaders muster against dwarfs
- 15-20 Herds thrive
- 21-23 Disease or broo among livestock
- 24-25 Major brigand or bandit camp found
- 26-27 Settlers/squatters from neighboring tribe found
- 28-29 Decrease in caravan activity, diminished opportunities for trade and crafts
- 30-35 Increase in caravan activity, opportunity for unusual trade goods
- 36-37 Mines run dry
- 36-40 New mine found. D10: 1-2 bronze; 3 gems; 4 gold; 5 lead; 6 aluminum, 7 silver, 8 tin, 9-10 copper
- 41 Something from a prior Age or even from before Time is discovered.
- 42-43 Chaos remission
- 44-47 Chaos resurgence
- 48-57 Tribe initiates legal action against neighboring tribe/neighbor initiates legal action against tribe
- 58-61 Dragonewts active in area
- 62-66 Dinosaur migration into area
- 67 Dead dinosaur corpses discovered
- 68-72 Famous entourage from neighboring nation arrives
- 73-76 Priests report good omens – bonus to Rune
- 77-79 Priests report bad omens – penalty to Rune
- 80-82 Temple attacked
- 83-90 Tribe mustered to invade enemy territory
- 91-98 Tribe mustered to defend territory
- 99-00 Major outbreak of disease spirits
DRAGON PASS EVENTS
- 01-15 Fertile Earth. Harvest and Children rolls get +15% bonus next Sacred Time.
- 16-23 Troll nation on the move
- 24-26 Major invasion from another Homeland
- 27-37 Glowline fails for 1D10 days
- 38-40 River changes course
- 41-42 Tsunami or sea-quake affects lands next to Homeward Ocean
- 43-44 Ice falls
- 45-48 Coldwave. Temperate drops 2D20 degrees.
- 49-51 Heatwave. Temperature increases 1D10+5 degrees.
- 52-57 Winds become calm throughout region
- 58-61 Winds becomes strong or greater throughout region
- 62-67 Violent storms
- 68-72 Tremors. Magnitude 4.0 to 5.9. Felt by all, little damage.
- 73-75 Earthquake. Magnitude 6.0+. Much damage to buildings.
- 76-78 Drought for 1D8 weeks
- 79-80 Gods angry. All Worship rolls are at -40%.
- 81-86 Major rise of Chaos reported
- 87-90 New Chaos crack found
- 91-94 Old Chaos crack reported eliminated
- 95 Volcano formed
- 96 Mountain or hill disappears
- 97-98 Technological advance discovered
- 99-00 God/Major spirit crosses region
I for one have always liked random tables as a source of ideas. Roll or pick, makes no difference to. The advantage of rolling is that the event is likely outside of what you would normally have thought of – like drawing a Tarot card or using I Ching.
The other idea is that these tables illustrate the type of stuff going on!
So if I am trying to coming up with a strange twist in an ongoing campaign, just grab something from this list.
This is intended to be out of the ordinary events. So stuff like a caravan shows up is an ordinary activity. Or the stuff that normally happens at assemblies, militia musters, or seasonal holy days. That stuff happens according to the calendar – or often enough that it is pretty darn predictable.This is the unpredictable stuff that happens, and screws with player plans!
Sometimes having no event is important for pacing and teaching the setting.
Here’s another snippet folk might enjoy. I apologize ahead of time for the formatting, but believe me it looks much better in the book! The tribal information presented here helps you quickly get some of the most important characteristics of that tribe as a tribe.
Pick a Tribe
Pick one of the tribes from the following list or let the players decide which tribe they want. The default Tribe is the Colymar tribe, which are fully described in the RuneQuest Adventures Book.
|Amad||Very Small||Poor||Rural||Alone tribe, very isolated, Tarshite speakers|
|Aranwyth||Average||Wealthy||Urban||Swenstown tribe, Neutral during rebellion, hate werewolves|
|Bachad||Small||Average||Urban||Alone tribe, Tarshite speakers|
|Balkoth||Small||Wealthy||Urban||Swenstown tribe, Trade with Praxians|
|Balmyr||Large||Rich||Urban||Wilmskirk tribe, half-mad heroquesting king|
|Cinsina||Large||Rich||Urban||Jonstown Tribe, hate werewolves|
|COLYMAR||Very Large||Rich||Rural||Oldest and largest tribe, Argrath’s tribe. Default tribe.|
|Culbrea||Small||Wealthy||Rural||First to rebel against the Lunar Occupation, hate werewolves|
|Dundealos||Large||Poor||Rural||Were exiled by Lunar Empire, associated with Praxian Pol-Joni tribe|
|Kheldon||Small||Very Rich||Urban||Boldhome tribe, Kallyr’s tribe|
|Kultain||Average||Average||Rural||Disbanded by the Lunar Empire, recently reformed.|
|Malani||Large||Average||Rural||Jonstown tribe, Humakti kings|
|Torkani||Average||Average||Rural||Troll friends, hate werewolves|
|Tres||Small||Poor||Rural||Alone tribe, Tarshite speakers|
- Size: A small tribe has 4000 or less members, a large tribe has 8000 or more. The larger a tribe is, the more militia it can muster in war.
- Resources: This measures the resources available to the tribal leaders, usually wealth or livestock. The ruler of a rich tribe might maintain a royal household with companions, priests, numerous bodyguards, and scribes. In contrast, ruler of a poor tribe might be nearly indistinguishable from a clan chieftain or even a wealthy farmer.
- Urban/Rural: Urban tribes have a strong townsfolk presence, possibly even forming a majority of the tribe members. Rural tribes are predominantly traditional Sartarite tribespeople. Rural tribes can be part of a city.
Deadwood was the site of an Early Third Age conflict between elves and trolls. After the Dragonkill War killed all the humans, the elves tried to reclaim the Pass from 1120 to 1150. Reinforced by Brown Elves from the Old Woods, the Stinking Forest expands to the Indigo Mountains (as well as down the Dragonspine).
The Elves planted a marching forest to try to break the back of the trolls. That’s why the trees go so far up the mountains. To the elves’ horror, the trolls summoned Gorakiki Beetle and swarms of bark-boring beetles killed trees and elves alike. The trolls awakened the Indigo Mountains and an eruption killed the trees inside the Indigo Mountains, and then the trolls released the beetles on the rest. The trolls were also aided by spirits and by the half-trolls of the Ivory Plinth.
This broke the back of the Aldryami attempt to reclaim Dragon Pass. The trolls keep the dead trees standing as a reminder to the elves what will happen if they try again. The angry ghosts of the Aldryami still haunt Deadwood.
Now this nicely illustrates the conflict between the Elder Races. Always remember that the Elder Races usually view all humans as the Lesser Enemy. The True Enemy is the other Elder Races. And they have very good reasons for this.
Elder Race Memory
Something to think about with the Elder Races – memory. The green and brown elves live 200 to 300 years, and dryads even longer. There are plenty of elderly elves who remember the Inhuman Occupation and when the Orlanthi settlers first returned to Dragon Pass. The political squabbles of human groups means little to them. Who can really distinguish between those humans that follow the Red Moon and those of Sartar Dwarffriend?
Although dark trolls only live a little longer than humans, Mistress Race Trolls are immortal. Most Mistress Race Trolls were born in Wonderhome, before the Dawn. The race was already diminishing in the First Age before the Curse of Kin. Arkat and his companions were the last MIstress Race Trolls born in Time, until recently.
That means the Mistress Race make the Antediluvians from Vampire games look like spring chickens. Some are many thousands of years old. They barely recognize the dark trolls as their descendants – the trollkin are hated mockeries. The Mistress Race remember Osentalka! They remember the Broken Council! They remember the betrayal of the dwarves and elves, the fickleness of the dragonewts.
But the prize goes to the dwarfs. They are all immortal, unless they deviate from their function. But most dwarfs have no interest at all in human society and cannot tell one human from another. If the price is right, they will work for whoever, but that price is always very high. And all of the remaining True Mostali (like The Dwarf) are from the Godtime and predate the dwarves. And the Mistress Race.
This personal recollection of history and mythic events makes the Elder Races societies quite different from humans. Some of the Mistress Race recall the Lesser Darkness and survived the Greater Darkness.Even the elves are far more longer lived than any human society ever (including our own). And some elves have been replanted or reseeded, and recall events from the Second or even First Age.But this memory also means that old feuds and betrayal are not forgotten. Humans are a secondary concern – the other Elder Races are existential threats.
Elves generally live 200 to 300 years.
A Mistress Race Troll should be a terrifying encounter – likely to occur only in the deepest Darkness of a troll stronghold. She is a dark, rumbling thing, constantly hungry, utterly without mercy, and those with Second Sight will wish they did not. Sure she has dozens of Rune points but most have also wrested strange powers from gods and spirits. Your human tribe, kingdom, or empire is irrelevant to her, unless she learns that it is tied to something she experienced and still cares about.
MOB – “Arkat and his companions were the last MIstress Race Trolls born in Time, until recently.” A lot to unpack in that sentence!
Lunar Treasury at Boldhome during the Occupation
Although the new Temple of the Reaching Moon was to be the magical and religious center of the province, Boldhome remained the administrative center for the Lunars. The Provincial Governor of Dragon Pass (Euglyptus, Fazzur, and Tatius) served as the Red Emperor’s proxy in that province, and was overseen by the Provincial Overseer. The provincial governor combined military, religious, and civil functions and was assisted by personal staff. The primary responsibility of the Provincial Governor was to secure and expand Lunar power in Dragon Pass and beyond, while cooperating with the needs of the Seven Mothers cult.
To the extent possible, the Provincial Governor was to be financially self-sustaining, collecting taxes and tolls, and imposing other tribute in order to pay the large number of soldiers assigned to Dragon Pass. In 1625, there were approximately 15,000 Lunar soldiers in Dragon Pass. In addition, from 1613-1625 the Provincial Governor was responsible for the construction of the Temple of the Reaching Moon, a vast monumental building covering 10 hectares (about the same size as the Upper City of Jonstown).This meant that not only was the Provincial Governor collecting money from merchants, tribal leaders, temples, cities, etc., but was receiving regular infusions of silver from Glamour. Several treasuries were set up. The first was in Boldhome. In 1622, construction of the Temple of the Reaching Moon had progressed far enough that a second treasury was established there. A third treasury was established in New Pavis, for the Lunar Prax province. These treasuries stored silver, minted coins, and a small army of scribes tracked receipts and expenditures.
Argrath seized the New Pavis treasury when he took that city in 1624 (despite efforts by the Provincial Governor to escape with the treasury). The treasure at the Temple of the Reaching Moon was lost to the Dragonrise, and is believed to be at the bottom of the chasm called the Dragon Rest. The Boldhome treasury was seized by Kallyr Starbrow shortly after the Dragonrise, and it funded her attempted Lightbringers Quest later that year.
The Sisters of Mercy
The Sisters of Mercy are the daughters of Chalana Arroy, adopted or otherwise. Malamse, Oronio, and Amprefesne are the three holy Sisters most often called upon, but there are many others. Many living High Healers are often accounted among their numbers and the title “Sister of Mercy” is a common name for High Healers in Dragon Pass.
They live in an invisible nunnery whose exact location or dimensions are unknown. Some claim that it is as large as the world, encompassing all of the cosmos within its walls. This is, however, untrue as proved by the Sage Elad Kramdnil during the reign of Prince Salinarg. He showed that the Sisters are met wherever the old Empire of the Wyrms Friends was dominant, and he was the first to state that they should be considered remnants of that lost empire. This lends credence to the belief that the Empire was not totally corrupt, as such remnants as the Tusk Riders and Delecti would suggest.
The Sisters of Mercy is the subcult most commonly worshiped in Dragon Pass and Prax. It provides the Refine Medicine spell. The center of the subcult is the Nunnery in Dragon Pass.
It is worth keeping in mind that many of the institutions we associate with the Chalana Arroy cult were strongly promoted by the Empire of the Wyrms Friends.Then again, I think many popular assumptions of the EWF are wildly wrong.
So let’s think a little bit about the Empire of the Wyrms Friends
So let’s think a little bit about the Empire of the Wyrms Friends. Perhaps the most important elements of that Second Age empire is in the name- the Wyrms Friends. Here’s an abridged snippet from the forthcoming Cults. There’s a lot in here to unpack, so digest it carefully!
Two great schools of investigation existed in the Second Age. One originated in the far east. It became a popular mystical religion in Dragon Pass and created new horizons of magic. The political form of this religion was the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, who had learned powerful secrets from the dragons and enjoyed the support of the dragonewts and the rest of dragon-kind. This splendid and colorful age combined many parts of many ideas to make a new wholeness to face the world. The ruling humans became progressively more interested, fascinated, and enmeshed in the strange draconic magics. These left-handed pathways offered exotic and strange powers, whose effects could be exceptionally devastating when manifest in the physical world. In 826, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends—or the Third Council—was established to rule over the material interests of the leaders of the draconic movement. The rulers began a long and intense ritual that was expected to take generations to conclude.
During the development of the Grand Ritual, the fortunes of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends grew. Armies of dragonewts and trolls led by Lightbringers who rode dragons and wyrms conquered much of central Genertela. The barbarians of Prax were defeated, and the Shadowlands and the Storm Hills paid heavy tribute rather than fight. Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.
In 889, the Third Council demanded to be worshiped in place of the traditional Lightbringer deities. Immense energy and power were needed to sustain the Grand Ritual. The dance of the gods in the early stages of the ritual provided much of the energy used to expand the Third Council’s domain. However, in the latter parts of the spell, more and more power was to be provided by the population, who were at the same time growing distant from their increasingly-demanding Council. The Council, deep in spectacular meditation, was either unaware of the dissatisfaction, or unable to break their concentration to do anything about it. Whatever the case, the gulf grew between populace and leaders. In 889 this erupted into violence when the people were instructed to worship the Council. The Pelorian peasants welcomed Carmanian spirits into their newly-built temples, and burned the images of the Third Council members. The dark trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau killed and ate the dragonewts that garrisoned Peloria. Dara Happa rebelled and Prax fell. Orlanth Rex reestablished his primacy over the gods and slew his Third Council imposter.
Another member of the Third Council awoke to the threat of the barbarian hero Jaldon Goldentooth, and directed some divine energies to aid the beleaguered Six Sisters upon the border with Prax. The tattered remains of the Empire gained heart, and members of the Council took form and descended to the earth to aid their people.
Such was the cause of their downfall, for in aiding their fellow mortals, the Council abandoned their unfinished ritual. The Grand Ritual was left with insufficient leadership among those few Council members who did not return to earth. The magic lost direction, and its release was directed first against its makers and then against their followers.
There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence.
Armies of dragonewts and trollsled by Lightbringerswho rode dragons and wyrms
So if you imagine some Moorockian scene, with Wind Lords and Humakti riding dragons and wyrms, calling down thunder and lighting, while armies of Mabden, trolls, and dragonewts are on foot – well you would be on the right track.
The EWF used secrets from the Jrusteli. I always thought of the two empires as ideologically separate. People are rarely hermetically sealed from other peoples. Especially an empire that was founded on the Orlanthi idea that maybe it could be useful to befriend those weird strangers (dragons).
So imagine the EWF as “something like” the old World Council of Friends, BUT the Orlanthi are clearly the dominant group and they are firmly allied with the dragonewts and other draconics. And their rulers are in deep conversations with the dragons, seeking power and understanding. Eventually, that ruling council concludes that they are gods and should be worshiped as such.
So we have this Orlanthi empire that dominated central Genertela. Now wait you might say – the Third Council insisted on being worshipped as gods! How can you say they were Orlanthi?
Simple – the rulers established themselves atop the traditional cults and allocated more and more the worship energies to the great great ritual of the Proximate Realm. But the base was always the traditional cults at least until near the end.
But this mighty empire – which steamrolled Dara Happa while fighting off the Middle Sea Empire – lurks behind Orlanthi history.”We hate dragons and would never cooperate with them.””Perhaps that is true. But our ancestors did, and they ruled the world.”
Until they killed every one of “us”. ah but was that because dragons are bad – or was it because the ruling council became decadent and bad? If we just hold true and don’t become decadent and bad, I am sure it will be fine. And of course, it was not the EWF that died in the Dragonkill War. It was those who came to destroy the dragons that caused it.
So where we see the EWF dominant, we also see the Lightbringers Pantheon (Orlanth, the other Lightbrinters, Ernalda, Humakt, etc). The very top of the society are engaged in mystical experimentation, but most people at most dabble in this and worship their Theyalan gods as led by their priests (who are increasingly engaged in mystical experimentation).This is of course a gradual process. In 826, we might have a ruling council allied with the dragonewts and dragons, who are supported by the priests who seek to maintain the Proximate Realm, and the rest of society just do what they have always done with a little extra for the Proximate Realm.By 889, those rulers are now gods and demand to be the primary focus of worship and are supported by the priests. The rest of society is torn about this, but the rulers are as powerful as gods, are backed by dragonewts, dragons, and many mercenaries. And so things erupt in violence and peoples who might have supported the original Empire of the Wyrms Friends now oppose it. And people who did oppose the original EWF, now support it.
The EWF was dominated by its Storm Voices, many of whom had learned to speak with the dragons and dragonewts. The priests formed the council that ruled Dragon Pass and beyond, and the chieftains and war lords were bent to their will. Orlanth Rex fixed this, so that the Rex rules the priests and can even cut them off from their magic.
And now, we have an Orlanth Rex who can speak with the dragons and dragonewts. And not just any Rex, but the Prince of Sartar, who also has Jaldon Goldentooth at his side. History sure can have a sense of irony!
The Empire of the Wyrms Friends still haunt the dreams and ambitions of the Orlanthi – and is still feared by the Praxians, the trolls, and the Pelorians.
Hey all! This is an enjoyably rambling interview with me about all sorts of things gaming, RuneQuest, and otherwise!
The Middle Sea Empire
The most wide-spanning empire of Gloranthan history was the Middle Sea Empire, also called the Jrusteli Empire. Its core was city-states of the island-continent of Jrustela who were tightly allied with the kings of Seshnela, and in 789 they formed together the Middle Sea Empire.
Seshnela and Jrustela were ruled by Hrestoli Malkioni, although they had significant Theyalan influences, particularly in Jrustela. The Umathelan Coalition was part of the original alliance, and in Pamaltela, the Empire expanded to conquer Fonrit, Laskal, and Jolar (where it was known as the Six Legged Empire). Slontos was conquered by the Middle Sea Empire, and it formed a borderland between the Middle Sea Empire and the krjalki of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, with its dragons and trolls. Akem in Fronela was also a stronghold of the Empire, which later expanded to rule much of Frontem (Loskalm).
The Middle Sea Empire ruled Teshnos, Teleos, and Loral and included the New Dragon Ring of Kralorela. The Dark Empire of Ralios was conquered in 740, and the Arkati secrets taken from the Stygian Archons formed the basis of the Mythic Maps of the God Learners, which enabled their great conquests. The Mythic Synthesis Movement enabled the God Learners to develop the Monomyth, a holistic understanding of all the mythologies of their allies and subjects. Cults such as Chalana Arroy, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, and Wachaza were deliberately encouraged and spread by the God Learners, although the ruling caste was largely Hrestoli Malkioni, at least at first.And this is something worth keeping in mind – the Middle Sea Empire was not a Malkioni missionary movement. Each new culture it encountered or conquered had secrets and insights which were synthesized into the Monomyth, and the God Learners came the closest of any mortals to seeing the “whole mythological picture”. Their insights were adopted by their enemies, for example, Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.
The Middle Sea Empire was primarily a naval power, with water elemental powered battle barges and used sorcery to command the waters. On land, it was typically less effective, relying on sorcery and heavily armoured horsemen.
The Second Age
So if we think about the Second Age, we have cultural transmission of ideas and secrets around the world. Around the coastal regions of the world, the Middle Sea Empire, with its mix of Malkionism with a smattering of Theyalan and Darkness myths (starting from the Broken Council and Gbaji Wars era, but later built upon with the Dark Empire) and finds parallels in Kralorela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and elsewhere. This leads to the Monomyth – a universal approach to Gloranthan Mythology.
Now many commentators will say “God Learner Lies” or similar nonsense, but the Monomyth worked. It enabled deep exploration of the God Time and experimental heroquests to gain power and rob secrets from their enemies. Like Arabic numbers, the Monomyth was too useful not to be used, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends eagerly embraced it (which can be viewed as its return to its source – as the origins of the Monomyth was with the First and Second Councils).
And so by the height of the Second Age, a working understanding of the Monomyth had spread across much of Glorantha. The Monomyth never fully replaced many traditional names and cults, but it informed them of their greater context. In the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, the Third Council learned secrets from the dragonewts and wyrms, something entirely consistent with the traditional Orlanthi openness to strangers and new ideas. With aid from mythic maps stolen from the God Learners and with the Monomyth as a framework, experimental heroquests and mythic explorations were common in Dragon Pass, as the lives of such individuals as Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Isgangdrang, Lord Labyrgon, and Pavis show. The enemies of the empires also adopted their approach, and such heroes as Alakoring Rex, Iddi Scorchbane, Emperor Karvanyar, and Verenmars would not be possible without the secrets taken from the EWF and God Learners.
The disasters that ended the Second Age largely put an end to this experimental outlook and mythic explorations. With one big exception – the Lunar Empire.
Remember, the God Learner Monomyth is more than just a Missionaria Protectiva. It works because at a certain level there is a universal mythology and set of archetypes in the setting – the Runes are universally acknowledged. The God Learners might oversimplify, try to hard to create a chain of events involving things that might not actually be part of that chain, or sometimes get specific associations wrong, or might not fully appreciate the importance of contradictions, but the Monomyth is fundamentally valid. It works because it is basically right.
Jrustela was somewhere more than 400,000 square miles in area or about twice the size of Madagascar. Dwarfs, and several species of sentient insects, the Timinits, were indigenous to Jrustela. Humans came to Jrustela in the First Age. The initial settlers largely came from Slontos. and were brought here by Waertagi dragonships. They called themselves the Olodo, and settled in the interior away from the coasts. They settled in small freeholds and fought with the Timinits.
In the Second Age, the Seshnelan king Nralar son of Gerlant Flamesword died in 603 after ruling for more than a century. Nralar had many eligible and powerful sons to succeed him, and so a council of nobles, Hrestoli adepts, and wizards met to chose a new king. The council chose one of Nralar’s younger sons, Nepur, the older brother having been deemed unfit to rule the kingdom.
Rather than contest the choice of the council, a great many descendants of Nralar left the kingdom, sailing upon Waertagi ships over the ocean to Jrustela. The royal talars were accompanied by their sorcerers and followers. They founded the city of Hredmarinos, and allied with the Olodo against the Timinits. The Seshnegi kept to the coasts, and the Olodo claimed the rugged interior of the island.
Sadly, the settlement of Jrustela by the Nralarites did not prevent a civil war in Seshnela, and many others fled Seshnela to the comparative peace of Jrustela.
The human settlements on Jrustela grew in number and population. Each settlement was free and independent. At first, this was no problem as there was land and resources enough for all, but within two generations conflicts grew. In 646 the quarrelling rulers and wizards of the city-states and tribes of Jrustela met to reach a lasting settlement. Unexpectedly, the conclave created or was presented with a new ecumenical syncretic form of Hrestoli Malkionism called the Abiding Book, which presented the Invisible God as an utterly simple, ineffable, unknowable entity which is both the creative source of existence and the teleological end of all existing things. The Invisible God created the Runes, the Powers, Elements, and Conditions, which slowly commingled and degenerated into gods, spirits, and mortals. All of creation was made understandable and knowable – with the exception of the Invisible God itself of course.
This Abiding Book presented the true teachings of Malkion, and was consistent with the teachings of Hrestol, Zzabur, Gerlant, and Arkat – without need for the dangerous mysticism and irrational contradictions of Stygianism. The Abiding Book was a framework for understanding, and was an open invitation for exploring the cosmos. Everything could have its proper place within the framework of the Abiding Book, and the limited perspectives of the various barbarian cults could be put together to flesh out that framework. About this time, the Jrusteli began experimenting with seagoing ships and began their first tentative challenges to the Waertagi monopoly over the oceans.
Note that Abiding Book Hrestolism was not some narrow fundamentalist monotheism – I’d imagine it something like a cross between Herbert’s Orange Catholic Bible with Aristotle’s Metaphysics and the Upanishads.
“What is the origin of this world?
The Invisible God, said he. Verily, all things here arise out of the Invisible God. They disappear back into the Invisible God, for the Invisible God alone is greater than these, the Invisible God is the final goal.”
“What are the gods?
They are expansions of the Invisible God into various forms, each with a certain quality. We call each the Runes. The Runes devolved to form the Sruvuli or combined to form the Burtae – these Sruvuli and Burtae became so degenerate that they forgot the Invisible God and fought each other in the Gods War, nearly destroying the cosmos.”
“Lead us from the unreal to the real. Lead us from darkness to light. Lead us from death to immortality.”
Around 650, some of the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass learned to speak with the Dragons. This opened tremendous mystical vistas for the Orlanthi, identifying the Cosmic Dragon as the Source and expanding their cosmological perspective. Unlike the Invisible God of the God Learners, insight into the Cosmic Dragon cannot be reached through materialistic logic – the identity of opposites, matters of duality and nonduality, formation of the “self”, and other such metaphysical questions.
The following immortal dragonewt poem is a chant and prayer which relates to the creation of the world and was popular with the Wyrmfriends:
- Silence, The Infinite O Zero, or an exclamation OU A cry of pain; Ego OUR Collectiveness, plurality. OURO Collective emptiness OUROB Creation (Collective with an end-stop “b”) OUROBO Closed Infinity, or Being OUROBOR Birth. OUROBORO Nothing, emptiness. OUROBOROS S= “Voice” (i.e. the sound a serpent makes)
The poem shows a gradual internalization of something to bring about the formation of the concept of “self.” This poem was also repeated backwards at rituals and transported the chanters and the universe into mystical bliss which was ordinarily impossible to reach.
Ouroboros was sometimes worshiped as the Source and seen as the complement to Glorantha the World Goddess who was without consort or mate in her own realm. The phenomenal world is constantly changing and thus ultimately spiritually unreal – the gods themselves, although useful, do not reveal the hidden principles and implicit knowledge that created them and the universe. Orlanth led the path towards draconic understanding. His openness to strangers meant it was easiest for his priests to speak to alien species. They learned that Orlanth embraced Arangorf the Inner Dragon, and that Orlanth had performed utuma for the Cosmic Dragon. Orlanth’s role as a cosmic creative-destroyer was promoted by the priests, sometimes to the near-exclusion of his other aspects. Through their draconic insights, the rulers of the Wyrms Friends had access to powerful dragon magic that terrified their enemies. Their mystics could dismiss even the most powerful of elementals or spells, terrify foes, deflect spells, breathe fire, or even become dragons themselves!
Second Age Overview
So based on the past few posts, hopefully I conveyed the idea that the Second Age featured widespread mythic experimentation and exploration. Not only did we have God Learnerism, dragonic mysticism, and syncretic developments in cults, but also there was an exploration of the God Time. This was a time of remarkable cult-changing heroes such as Pavis, Alakoring Rex, Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Carmanos, Verenmars, Jaldon Goldentooth, Delecti, and many more. This was the time that experimental artificial gods were created – and they proved to have magical power (although not necessarily as expected).However, the Second Age ended in catastrophes worse than that of the First Age. The Oceans were closed to humans. Seshnela was sundered into fragments, Slontos sunk, and the Dragonkill War exterminated humans in Dragon Pass. Nature struck back against human hubris. After 1120, humans had learned to fear experimentation, exploration, and new ideas.
There were three main exceptions to this:
In 1220, a desperate cabal with nothing left to lose brought back into the world a goddess that had been destroyed in the God Time. Seeking weapons against her enemies, she tread paths in the Underworld and became lost there until she was Illuminated by Nysalor and returned with the Crimson Bat. She later rose into the Middle Earth as the Red Moon after appointing her son as her regent for her mundane affairs.
In 1313, a Stranger came ashore in Kethaela despite the Closed Seas. He made alliances with the Silver Age heroes of that lands, gained acceptance of their gods and goddess, and overcame the Only Old One, the dark lord of that land since prehistory. He instituted rites and ceremonies by which the Gods World could remain in proximity of the mundane world, and began the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death to keep those pathways active and empowered. Kethaela became known as the Holy Country because of this.
In 1470, a wanderer named Sartar came to Dragon Pass from the Holy Country. Without using violence himself, this wanderer united the quarreling Orlanthi of Dragon Pass, made friends with the dwarfs, centaurs, dragonewts, ducks, and werewolves, founded cities and built roads, temples, and libraries, and made himself King of Dragon Pass when he married the Feathered Horse Queen (another mythic adventurer from the Grazelands). He displayed the secrets and magic of Orlanth Rex, but also maintained draconic friendship. The kingdom he founded became rich on trade, and was influential far beyond its size and population.
Does Godunya count as an experimenter? Godunya is a True Dragon in human form, or so the Kralorelans tell me. He permits himself to exist in this form in order to bring harmony and perfection to the Kingdom of Splendour.
What is the “nature” that struck back? Is it personified? some might say it was Arachne Solara or Glorantha herself that struck back.
This backstory helps explain the context of the Hero Wars, and gives ideas as to what they are all doing. Few if any of the main heroes are repeating the deeds of others. They are forging new paths, experimenting and exploring. Like your adventurers likely do!
Greg’s references to First, Second ages goes back to the mid-60s. When he added White Bear & Red Moon to Glorantha, and shifted the focus and subject of his stories, they fell into place.
Makes the Pharaoh’s death even more tragic and the Lunar empire even more evil. the assassination and dismemberment of Belintar was pure imperialist aggression – Belintar blocks our access to the ocean and its rich trade, thus we must kill him and conquer the Holy Country.Interestingly, that episode was carried out by Jar-eel, and likely planned by her as well.
God Time and the mundane world of our adventurers
When we think about the interactions between the God Time and the mundane world of our adventurers, two categories come into view.
First is the regular, ceremonial interaction that every cult does on every Holy Day. This activity maintains the pathways between the mundane and the divine and allows us to wield the power of the gods in the mundane world. These ceremonies are ritual and usually very predictable – on the other hand, the individual gains are pretty much that you gain access to Rune Magic, keep your cult spirits happy, and all the stuff that is usually handled in the background. In fact, I’d say they are only worth incorporating into a game when either
- the steps of the ceremony are deliberately kept secret from the adventurers and they need to thus make their own decisions (e.g., initiation rites); or
- something goes seriously wrong and the ceremony is now not so predictable.
Second category is the experimental exploration of the God Time. This is usually what is meant by a “heroquest”. These quests are dangerous and unpredictable, but the rewards are far greater. Magical abilities, new spells, powerful spirit allies, new insight into the gods, and even immortality. Not all such heroquesters becomes “heroes” but this is the precondition for such status.
These heroquests are dangerous and powerful precisely because they are not regularly traveled. So if you repeat a familiar and well-known story, it probably falls into the first category. It becomes interesting for a gaming session when it turns out the story is wrong, incomplete, or seriously misleading. Or that something has changed so much that the players need to create a new story.
If the adventurers need to explore the mythic realm itself then it is probably the second category. The Lightbringers Quest involves a trek across the changing landscape of the Lesser Darkness (as it becomes the Greater Darkness) and then a trek through the Underworld – where the questers GET LOST. That’s second category, no matter how much you try to prepare for it. The Red Goddess quest is similar in its mysteries.
Art by the amazing Jeff Laubenstein
In the Third Age, that second category gets a little bit of a Canticle for Leibowitz vibe – as our explorers are also trying to rediscover things known to the ancients (who also nearly destroyed the world with the knowledge).
“Only a few secretive successor groups remain” – not forgetting those Old School Shadow Guardians who essentially live on the Hero Plane, nowadays. Those that haven’t already been defeated by God Learners or Lunar heroes like the Seven mothers, Red Goddess, Hwarin Dalthippa, the Red Emperor, Hon-eel or Jar-eel, you mean?I do think any time you try a “new” path you run the risk of those Shadow Guardians.
Harrek the Berserk
We’ve talked a lot about Argrath, Jar-eel, the Red Goddess and the Red Emperor, the God Learners, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends. Let’s move on to the most iconic and controversial hero of the Third Age – Harrek the Berserk.
Separating the stories of Harrek from the truth of his life is nearly impossible – certainly Irrippi Ontor has so far failed to do so. Harrek was, as far as any can tell, initially a normal Rathori warrior. There are rumors that Syndic’s Ban was somehow connected to his adulthood initiation but those are but rumors. What is known is that after he awakened in 1594, he was extraordinary. For over a decade, Harrek wandered the world without – both the mundane world AND the mythic realms. Stories of him as a penniless mercenary, a slave, a Lunar gladiator, etc., are often associated with this time. In 1605 he received training as a Dart Warrior. In 1607, as part of a Dart War, Harrek killed the Red Emperor and fled through the wilds of Dorastor to escape. Harrek is known to hate the Red Emperor and the Red Goddess with an overwhelming passion – it is thought this hatred originates from those experiences. And then in 1609, Harrek slew and bound the White Bear God – and now always wears its skin and claws. After this, Harrek was no longer merely extraordinary – he was a superhero, a shaman with a god as a fetch, a demigod of destruction and disorder. Constantly wandering through this world and the Mythic Realm, Harrek is constantly seeking treasures, weapons, and fame. But his goals are erratic. He’s thrown away fortunes and even kingdoms for further adventure, traveled all the way around the world, and quested along unknown paths. Harrek is said to be loyal only to Gunda, his Shield Maiden. His relationship with Argrath is more complicated; Argrath is the closest thing Harrek has to a true friend, but they also come to blows on several occasions. Harrek has an intense and inflexible hatred for the Lunar Empire and everything in it.
Harrek can be thought of as a great random factor throughout the Hero Wars. And one who does not fit easily within anyone’s models or frameworks. Within the overall setting, I think that may be his most important overall role.
Harrek is savage and uncivilised, but he’s also been trained by the Lunars, been to Dorastor, plundered cities in Fronela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and Seshnela. He’s definitely no fool and has bestial cunning.
One theory is that Harrek’s hatred is very personal (and focused on the Red Goddess, Red Emperor, and the demigods around them) and he didn’t appreciate that Gimgim the Grim or whoever brokered the deal was an agent of the distant Red Emperor.
As an aside, I think Anna Orlova is doing a great job of capturing his dangerous brutality, and I love that bloody white bear skin.
Harrek’s combination of power – both physical and spiritual – with his unpredictability makes him perhaps the most dangerous protagonist in the Hero Wars.
I personally find the idea of a self-initiated shaman terrifying.
My hope with these posts over the past few weeks is to give an impression as to the context around heroquesting, and to get us away from the approach in the King of Dragon Pass computer game (and often taken in the HW/HQ materials). Every culture performs ceremonies and rites that cause the mundane and divine worlds to overlap into what is called the Hero Plane. This is where you get your Rune magic from, your allied spirits, befriend cult spirits, and all that stuff. Now that stuff is gameable, but it really only gets interesting IMO when things go wrong. When the ceremony no longer predictably works, when dangerous enemies show up, etc.But far more interesting to me is deliberately exploring the mythic realms and discover previously unknown paths through the divine world. This is what heroes such as Alakoring, Argrath, Arkat, the Feathered Horse Queen, Harmast, Harrek, Jaldon Goldentooth, Pavis, Sir Ethilrist, Cragspider, Jar-eel, Hwarin Dalthippa, Hon-eel, and the Red Goddess. They did not “invent” new myths – they traveled previously unknown paths through the Hero Plane and brought back their experiences to the mundane world. They discovered paths and events that had always been latent in the God Time.This approach to heroquesting was fairly common in the late First Age and through the Second Age. Most people shunned it after the cataclysms that ended that Age. BUT not everywhere – in the Lunar Empire and the Holy Country this sort of spiritual exploration remained, although for very different ends. And Sartar and his dynasty inherit the techniques developed in the Holy Country. As the Hero Wars develop, the protagonists take more risks and gambles in their heroquesting – such as rediscovering the techniques of the God Learners and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, using Chaotic magic in heroquests, and more. People take short cuts, make permanent changes for short-term gains, and all the sorts of things that people do when they are desperate and ambitious. That becomes the Hero Wars. We start from a familiar starting point, but by the end, the world has changed so much we can barely recognize where we began.
Chaotic magic? The Red Goddess has Chaos Feature, and it is only a hop skip and jump from Primal Chaos to other, more dangerous magic.
It is important to keep in mind that underlying Glorantha are the Runes and other archetypes. These archetypes are more real than reality. We know that the Runes joined together, came into conflict, devolved, and made the world we live in. But how we interact with these archetypes is based on our experiences which in turn is the foundation of our understanding of it all.
Repeating somebody else’s story is not the point of heroquesting – nobody becomes a hero by simply being the understudy! One becomes a hero by making your own path through the mythic realm of archetypes and Runes. Make the divine and eternal the personal and psychological!
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