Dragons Past #1 – Gloranthan Military Experience (1983)

by Greg Stafford

originally published in Different Worlds #28 (1983)

Table of Contents

  • The Dragon Pass Campaign
  • Lands of the Campaign
  • Integrating your Characters into Glorantha
  • Army Activity Chart
  • Reading the Army Activity Chart
  • Events in Campaign Lands
  • Event Descriptions
  • Previous Experience

The Dragon Pass Campaign

Lands of the Campaign

Most of the action, the sparks which will ignite the ferocity of the hero wars, will begin in the Dragon Pass region. An overview of this area is therefore critical to an understanding of the historical events. The following are outlines of the more important local political entities and society.

(50% Orlanthi, 50% Lunar)
Population 250,000
A rough land of craggy hills and steep valleys, mostly untamed. Its hilltops and frontiers are still occupied by Orlanth-worshipping barbarians who regularly exert their surly independence. The valleys are rules by the Lunar king whose loyal subjects include the lowland farmers, the small populations of the cities, and the merchant class. West of Aggar lies chaotic Dorastor, and north of it lie other Lunar provinces.

(70% Caladraland, 20% Insular, 10% Other)
Population 450,000
A barbaric culture which leads a horticultural existence on the rich slopes of their volcanic ranges of hills and mountains. They worship the gods of the volcanoes they live upon above all else, and recognise an elected High King for a term of years. They are stubbornly traditional and their magic has allowed them to maintain independence throughout history. They speak a local dialect similar to the Orlanthi.

(60% Orlanthi, 20% Caladraland, 20% Other)
Population 250,000
A barbaric culture which occupies some rich river valleys and the surrounding hills. It is a lush, heavily forested area which supports many clans in its wilds, and which sits upon the east-west trade routes to the Solanthi and beyond.

(65% Orlanthi, 15% Insular, 20% Other)
Population 2,000,000
A densely-populated, heavily farmed land ruled by a number of female-led clans who form a council which selects a High Queen, or Matriarch. Though labelled Orlanthi, they are heavily earth-oriented.

(80% Grazelander, 20% Other)
Population 100,000
A nomadic barbarian culture which occupies the ridged lands and defies all incursions by would-be farmers. Grazelanders worship the sun, horses, and earth deities, and have a traditionally close relationship with Ironhoof and centaur.

(85% Orlanthi, 15% Other)
Population 500,000
A high plateau of good farming land, surrounded and broken by hills and woods. Traditional peoples, though the valleys are influenced by the Malkioni military culture.

(80% Insular, 20% Other)
Population 60,000
Sea-going fishermen and coastal peoples. They speak the local dialect, but as often use their own ancient watery language, called Boatling by those who do not know it. Pharonic believers elect an annual president, but real power is in the hands of the High Admiral who rules the fleets.

(75% Praxian, 10% Lunar, 15% Other)
Population 200,000
Prax is a semi-arid plain further troubled by various godtime curses. It is inhabited by Praxian nomads whose unique culture suits them to the harsh life.

(60% Orlanthi, 30% Lunar, 10% Other)
Population 250,000
A barbarian culture worshipping Orlanth, similar to the Hendreiki of the south.

(90% Other, 5% Orlanthi, 5% Lunar)
Population 60,000
The Stinking Forest is a haunt of non-humans, mainly the tusk riders, whose nearby holy place exerts a compelling presence. This is also the lurking place for many trolls from nearby Dagori Inkarth, dwarfs from Greatway mountain, dragonewts from their nearby city, and chaotic monsters from nearby Snakepipe Hollow.

(80% Lunar, 20% Orlanthi)
Population 500,000
A land of rolling hills and lush valleys. It is rules by a Lunar king whose dynasty has provided peace and security to the dominant farming culture for many generations.

Integrating your Characters into Glorantha

Established player-characters are likely to have a long history of adventures of their own. In being fitted into Glorantha, their personal history should be integrated with what has occurred. For that reason I have included a chronology of events. The referee and players should sit down with the list of adventures performed by the player-characters and work out which year which event occurred. Players should also have their choice to participate in historical adventures which occurred but which were not player out, such as uprisings or battles.

The result of this work will be that you characters will feel much more a part of the world’s events. Their daily activities and inner feelings take on meaning when contrasted to the large world they are playing in.

New characters begun for this campaign have an easier time, for they have not been committed to much action. New characters in our games have generally been no more than 21 years old and have, at most, served 5 years of mercenary service. Decide what side the mercenaries fought on and then consult the appropriate column to find out the battles which would, or might, have been seen.

New characters’ childhoods can also be charted by these past events. Such early occurrences would shape ambitions and prejudices. Figure out what your characters parents were doing during his/her formative years. If nothing else, you can discover which sets of events launched the player-character into a life of wandering and homeless insecurity. Was his home burned by an invasion or raid? Is her motivation national, clannish, or tribal? Did he desert his family without a backward look, or has she returned to see how they have fared? This is an era of many troubles, and there are many reasons for a character to become a wanderer.

Army Activity Chart
YearAggarTarshStink- WoodDagori InkarthPraxSartarGraze- landsDitaliCaladra- landEsroliaHeort- landIslandsLunar provincial
Sartar *1 InvasionBalazar RaidStinkwood RaidSartar *1 InvasionHome DefenseSartar *1 InvasionHome RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome DefenseSartar *1 Invasion
1603Home Civil / Tarsh RaidHome DefenseDagori RaidHome DefenseHeortland RaidHome CivilEsrolia RaidHome Raid / Caladraland RaidHome DefenseHome DefenseHome DefenseHome DefenseSartar Garrison
1604Home DefenseAggar InvasionHome DefenseStinkwood RaidHeortland RaidnoneEsrolia RaidHome CivilHome GarrisonHome DefenseHome DefenseHome DefenseSartar Garrison
1605Home GarrisonHeortland *3 InvasionTarsh RaidHeortland *3 RaidHeortland *3 InvasionnoneEsrolia *2 InvasionHome CivilEsrolia *2 DefenseHome *2 DefenseHome *3 DefenseHome DefenseEsrolia *2 Invasion Heortland *3 Invasion
1606Home RaidStink InvasionHome DefenseHome GarrisonHeortland RaidHome Civil *4Home DefenseCaladraland InvasionHome DefenseGrazelands RaidHome DefenseHome DefenseSartar Defense
1607Home DefenseHome GarrisonAggar RaidHome GarrisonBalazar RaidHome Civil *5Home DefenseHome DefenseHome GarrisonGrazelands RaidHome Garrison( ) RaidSartar *5 Invasion
1608Home GarrisonHome GarrisonSartar RaidHome GarrisonAggar GarrisonHome DefenseHome DefenseHome GarrisonHome GarrisonGrazelands RaidHome Garrison( ) RaidPrax *6 Invasion
1609Home GarrisonStinkwood RaidHome DefenseHome RaidDorastor RaidStinkwood RaidEsrolia RaidCaladraland Raid / Esrolia RaidHome DefenseHome DefenseHome Defense( ) RaidPrax Raid / Heortland Raid
1610Home DefenseHome GarrisonHome DefenseStinkwood RaidAggar RaidHeortland RaidPrax *8 InvasionHome DefenseDitali InvasionDitali InvasionHome Defense( ) RaidPrax *8 Invasion
1611Home GarrisonHome GarrisonBalazar RaidStinkwood RaidHome CivilHome Civil *9Home GarrisonHome DefenseDitali InvasionDitali InvasionHome GarrisonHome DefensePrax Garrison / Sartar Garrison
1612Home RaidHome GarrisonVanch RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonPrax Garrison / Sartar Garrison
1613Home GarrisonSartar *10 InvasionHolay RaidHome GarrisonHome RaidHome *10 InvasionSartar RaidHome DefenseHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome DefenseSartar *10 Invasion
1614Home GarrisonHome DefenseBalazar RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome RaidTarsh RaidCaladraland *11 RaidHome *11 DefenseHome GarrisonHome GarrisonDitali RaidGrazelands Raid
1615Home RaidHome DefenseTarsh RaidHome GarrisonGrazelands *12 InvasionHome DefenseTarsh *12 RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonSartar RaidHome DefenseGrazelands *12 Invasion
1616Home RaidHome GarrisonSartar RaidHome GarrisonDitali *13 InvasionHome DefenseHome GarrisonHome DefenseDitali *13 InvasionDitali *13 InvasionSartar RaidHome DefenseSartar Defense
1617Home RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome CivilHome GarrisonHome GarrisonHome RaidHome GarrisonSartar Garrison
1618Home RaidHome GarrisonGrazelands RaidHome GarrisonHome RaidHome GarrisonHome GarrisonEsrolia *14 InvasionHome *14 DefenseHome *14 DefenseHome CivilHome DefenseSartar Garrison
1619Home RaidHome DefenseTarsh RaidHome GarrisonHeortland *15 DefenseHome GarrisonEsrolia RaidEsrolia RaidHeortland *15 Defense / Home DefenseHeortland *15 DefenseHome *15 DefenseHome GarrisonHeortland *15 Defense
1620Home CivilHome DefenseTarsh InvasionHome GarrisonHeortland *16 InvasionHeortland *16 InvasionEsrolia RaidCaladraland RaidHome DefenseHome DefenseHome *16 DefenseHome DefenseHeortland *16 Invasion

Reading the Army Activity Chart
This chart shows the annual activity of thirteen armies between the years 1602 and 1620.
The year is given in the column on the left side. To see what occurred in a given year, simply find the date, then read horizontally to see where each army was engaged.
The armies, mostly originating from the previously described areas, are listed horizontally at the top of the chart. Their political boundaries are approximated in the Dragon Pass area map. To follow the history of a particular army, read the list vertically, from top to bottom.

PlacesThere are twelve major lands in the area capable of mustering an army at this time. They are listed along the top of the chart (plus the Lunar Provincial Army), and correspond to the places described in “Lands of the Campaign“. There are also some other locations which did not have armies of consequence but appear as victims of raids. Home means the army was in its land of origin.

AcitiviesThere are five types of activities which appear on the chart. Each has a vaguely specific set of implications, described below. Many variations in intensity occur.

Activity Definitions
InvasionIndicates large numbers of troops, and an intent to commit to full battle, but not necessarily an intent to occupy land.
RaidIndicates small groups of troops of varying sizes in battle for plunder and damage rather than decisiveness.
DefenseProtecives measures taken, usually in one’s homeland, which will shift to any appropriate method of defense necessary.
GarrisonProtective measures taken, usually in homeland. Indicates a period of peace without significant military acitiviy.
CivilIndicates that combatants are engaged in decisive military acitivy to settle internal political disputes.

Note that it is possible for a nation to be home and raiding at the same time; this indicates internal dissent, commonly interclan feuding and normal cattle raiding among nomads.


Dorgrim the Loud was born in 1598. The youngest years of his life are off-chart and uneventful for him. He was age 4 when Boldhome fell to the Lunar army. He was ten when the Righteous Wind of Orlanthi worshippers was persecuted, and twelve years old when the Telmori were defeated by the Lunars. Three years later, surviving raids by tusk riders and Hendreiki warriors on his land, he reached maturity at 15, in 1613.

At this time, Dorgrim decided to join the mercenaries. Liking horses, he applied to and was accepted by a unit sponsored by the Grazelanders. In the next five years of his enlistment he saw action raiding within Sartar, then fought in Tarsh for a couple of years against the Lunar army. Then there were two years of boring garrison duty until discharge in 1619.

Events in Campaign Lands

YearAggarTarshStink- WoodDagori InkarthPraxSartarGraze- landsDitaliCaladra- landEsroliaHeort- landIslands
1602Trolls RaidClan RaidLunar*1 InvasionClan RaidPirates Raid
1603Civil RaidAggar RaidTuskers RaidClan RaidCivil InvasionClan RaidDitali RaidGrazelands RaidPrax RaidPirates Raid
1604Tarsh InvasionTrolls RaidClan RaidCivil RaidGrazelands RaidPrax RaidPirates Raid
1605Tusker RaidHeort. RaidClan RaidCivil InvasionPirates RaidLunar*2 InvasionLunar*3 InvasionPirates Raid
1606Clan RaidTarsh InvasionClan RaidCivil*4 InvasionEsrolia RaidDitali InvasionPrax RaidPirates Invasion
1607Tuskers RaidClan RaidLunar*5 InvasionEsrolia RaidPirates Raid
1608Civil Invasion/ Lunar*6 InvasionTuskers RaidEsrolia Raid
1609Many *7 InvasionClan RaidLunar RaidDitali RaidDitali Raid / Grazelands RaidLunar Raid
1610Prax RaidTrolls RaidLunar*8 InvasionPharaoh InvasionSartar Raid
1611Trolls RaidCivil InvasionCivil *9 InvasionPharaoh InvasionPirates Raid
1612Clan Raid
1613Lunar*10 Invasion / Civil InvasionSolanthi RaidPirates Raid
1614Grazelands RaidClan RaidLunar RaidPharaoh Navy RaidSolanthi Raid*11
1615Clan RaidGrazelands RaidHeort. RaidLunar*12 InvasionPirates Raid
1616Clan RaidHeort. RaidPharaoh*13 InvasionLunar RaidPirates Raid
1617Clan RaidClan RaidCivil RaidCivil Raid
1618Civil RaidTusker RaidSolanthi Raid*14Civil InvasionPirates Raid
1619Civil RaidTusker RaidDitali RaidGrazelands RaidLunar*15 InvasionPirates Raid
1620Civil InvasionTusker InvasionDitali RaidGrazelands RaidLunar*16 InvasionPirates Invasion

Event Descriptions

A number of events are noteworthy for their historical importance or curiosity value. They are marked on the charts with an asterisk ( *) and a number, and their descriptions can be found below.

Event Descriptions table

1. The Boldhome Campaign (1602)The Lunar army invaded the kingdom of Sartar with great success, seizing the supposedly impregnable capital city by force and ending that legendary kingdom’s history.
2. Building Wall Battle (1605)A major thrust by the Lunar army to invade the Holy Country, striking at heavily populated Esrolia. Countering with magical strength, the Pharaoh stopped the Lunars by inflicting a decisive and humiliating defeat.
3. Feint to the Sea (1605)Minor thrust of the Lunar army reached the city of Karse and laid siege, but withdrew without permanent success. The Lunar victory was clear over the Hendreiki defenders.
4. Annihilation of Maboder (1606)Amidst the widespread Sartar clan disputes and tribal wars, the struggle against the Telmori stands out. The Telmori wiped out a whole tribe under their fangs.
5. Conquest of the Telmori (1607)Duke Jomes Wulf, a Lunar general, led a brilliant campaign, and tracked down the wolf-people in their own territory, using great personal heroism. The Telmori sued for peace but not before taking extreme losses.
6. (First) Invasion of Prax (1608)The Lunar army hopped from oasis to oasis but was raided and harried until it accepted peace before being allowed to enter the Paps. Despite propaganda, this was a nomad victory.
7. The Boar Hunt (1609)Persistent raiding by the tusk riders rallied their foes, and many lands sent their best hunters and warriors to hunt down the raiders. Success was, as usual, questionable.
8. Conquest of Pavis (1610)The Lunar army, better prepared and equipped this time, marched into Prax and defeated the nomads in battle, then occupied the surrendering city of Pavis.
9. Defeat of the Righteous Wind (1611)Cruel civil war in northern Sartar climaxed when the Duke of Alda-Chur suppressed the Orlanthi cult in all that realm with fire, sword, and blood.
10. Starbrow’s Rebellion (1613)Outraged by Lunar presence and urged by social unrest, the Sartarites rebelled in strength, but were soundly defeated by the Lunars.
11. Greymane’s (First) Raid (1614)Led by a renowned warrior, a barbarian army plundered the border cities of the Holy Country.
12. Grazelands Campaign (1615)A squabble broke into open war between the Grazelanders and the Lunars. The former, aided by Ironhoof’s people, managed to evade and frustrate two massive invasion forces.
13. Lion King’s Feast (1616)A large army from the Holy Country was ambushed and slaughtered by the Ditali barbarians.
14. Greymane’s (Great) Raid (1618)The Solanthi warlord led a massive army through Ditali and deep into the Holy Country, taking great plunder and avoiding a decisive battle.
15. Volsaxi Campaign (1619)The Lunar army invaded northern Hendreiki lands and took the city of Karse.
16. Conquest of Heortland (1620)The Lunar army decisively defeated the Hendreiki army in battle and accepted their surrender.

Previous Experience

Previous experience constitutes the player-character’s youth and militia or other experience that was not played within the campaign. Special events during childhood, and time spent at home, can be found by reading the Places table vertically. During childhood these events form a backdrop, and may include things the player-characters heard their fathers talking about. When an adult, past the age of 15 or so, these events take on more importance, since the characters will have to share in the Defense of their homeland.

Player characters, by definition, are extraordinary characters, wide-travelled and weapon-skilled in comparison to the mass of peasantry and urbanites about them. Characters may choose to avoid certain conflicts even though expected to lead and fight among the local militia. I certainly give them permission to so refuse, and thereby fail to increase their experience with the world. Just note it on the character sheet and see how others react to it in game years to come. But, in general, an action-oriented character will seek these opportunities to add to his history and experience.

One method for obtaining previous experience uses the Places table to get background events that intruded on the otherwise smooth life. Anyone with militia experience, living in a trade, or hanging around when the enemy appeared, should use this method.

The second method follows the characters right through their military history, including serving as a knight, thane, noble, or other military class. A character who is a rich noble will have served all his military class. Simply put, the function of the noble class in Orlanthi society is to serve as a standing army. Thus, their practical experience is the same as serving in the army. They serve in their home army. They may, of course, join other units, like normal player-characters, but are less likely to do so. Doing so would surely cut them off from their deliciously high annual stipend.

Many characters join mercenary units. They will have joined a unit which originates from one of the lands shown on the chart. Note that it is not possible to sign up for a temporary hitch with the Lunar Provincial Army. People who are hired during campaigns to serve as native scouts, local skirmishers, and random or permanent mercenary units would be hired through one of these nationally-oriented groups.

It is possible to join the mercenary unit of another nation, as long as the usual requirements are met, and the character has the necessary minimum requirement of speaking the native language well enough to be able to obey the offices. In such cases, a character may find himself raiding his own homeland.

Remember that joining a mercenary unit is done for hitches of three, five, or seven years at a time. Characters should remain in their unit despite a distaste for its actions, such as raiding your homeland or discovering it will be on the wrong side in an upcoming battle. It is possible to refuse, but to do so is to desert the unit and become a man with a price on his head. Such a price is small, but high enough when your character is in the area concerned, or that mercenary unit is nearby. Fine stuff for role-playing, if you like looking over your shoulder all the time because your gamemaster likes to have random appearances of bounty hunters armed with poison-tipped arbalest bolts.

When a character serves in the mercenaries or in his national army he will have a troop type; for reference, the types are heavy infantry, medium infantry, light infantry, heavy cavalry, medium cavalry, and light cavalry. These differences are based on different armor and weapons for each unit.

The type of unit they are in affects the chances for characters seeing action in each type of battle. Some troop types have a higher chance of actually fighting than others. Light cavalry, for example, have the greatest chance of fighting in a raid, but heavy cavalry is likelier to fight often in an invasion.

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