So let’s talk about the books I think constitute the “canonical corpus” for official RuneQuest publications. These are the works that get referenced in future Chaosium publications with very few changes, and if you rely on them in your materials, you are not likely to get contradicted by future publications. In truth this only matters if you want to write for Chaosium or get your work published by Chaosium.
NOTE: This is edited to explain what is important canonically in these books.
- The Guide to Glorantha: the overview of everything. Got a question about a place in the setting – here’s where you start, although it is from about 20,000 feet elevation.
- Glorantha Sourcebook: short overviews of the main pantheons, the solid histories of Dragon Pass and the Lunar Empire, and some useful information about the main ruling dynasties. This is the other starting point.
- RQG: the core rules and foundational document for the current edition. Necessary for every writer.
- Bestiary: Another foundational document for the current edition. Necessary for every writer.
- Red Book of Magic: A nearly-complete list of Rune and Spirit spells. A handy reference guide for any writer.
- Weapons and Equipment: Loads and loads of information about material things. Another handy reference guide for any writer.
- Pegasus Plateau: there’s some locations that are described here (Pegasus Plateau, Locaem Tribe, etc.) that should be the basis of any later visitation to those locations. If you aren’t using those locations in what you are writing, this book isn’t necessary for the project.
- The Smoking Ruin: here’s some locations that are described here (South Wilds, Smoking Ruin, etc.) that should be the basis of any later visitation to those locations. If you aren’t using those locations in what you are writing, this book isn’t necessary for the project.
- GM Screen Pack: The GM Adventures Book is the best resource on the Colymar Tribe and Clearwine Fort out there. If you are dealing with that tribe, use it.
- Trollpak: Everything on trolls. If you are writing about trolls please grab a copy. Also the best resource for Shadows Dance.
- Haunted Ruins: Great map of Battle Valley in the Guardian Hills. Some useful details on what is there. Not necessary unless your writing goes there.
- Pavis: Everything on New Pavis prior to 1621. Also the main foundational document on Civilized Prax prior to 1621. Loads of key background on Prax as well. If your writing involves Prax, Pavis, or the River of Cradles and its settlements, you need this book.
- Big Rubble: The main book on the Big Rubble. If your writing is in the Big Rubble you need this, if not you don’t.
- Borderlands: A key resource on the River of Cradles and Prax prior to 1621. If your writing involves Prax or the River of Cradles and its settlements, you need this book.
- Snakepipe Hollow: A key resource on Snakepipe Hollow and its environs.
- Griffin Mountain: Pretty much everything on Balazar and the Elder Wilds in print. Also some useful history of Dragon Pass information. And stuff on Gonn Orta.
- Dorastor: Pretty much everything on Dorastor and Talastar in print. Greater detail than the Guide. Also useful information on the history of the area and Sylila. Plus lots of First Age material (although much of it is available in the Guide to Glorantha).
- Cults of Prax: The best writeup of those cults at this time.
- Cults of Terror: The best writeup of the Chaos cults at this time.
- Troll Gods: The best writeup of those cults at this time, although many are also in Trollpak.
- Sun County: The best description of Sun County in Prax. Note that this Sun Dome community is an extreme outlier – many other Sun Dome Temples are not nearly so xenophobic!
Beyond this, there are several canonical works that have not gotten published yet (but if you are working on a book for us, you’ve probably been given access to some of this):
- The Cults Books (which are coming very soon)
- The Sartar Players Guide
- The Guide to Dragon Pass
Then there are three works to be used, but as sources of inspiration rather than canon:
- King of Sartar is canonical but also can be contradicted as it is deliberately self-contradictory.
- WBRM and Nomad Gods are pretty close to canonical, but are boardgames, and thus get used differently.
But again, this is purely in the context of what we publish and what we tell our writers to reference and rely on. In your own games (or in Jonstown Compendium publications) you should use whatever you want to use!
What about the Hero Wars/HeroQuest books from the early 2000s? I tell people writing for Chaosium to not reference or rely on them. At all. Where they are right, there are better sources (such as the above list), but all of them have stuff that I would prefer not to have to edit out. Referring to the subcult of Desemborth the Thief or Daylanus the Conquering Wind or Gravlor the Gladiator – that’s just generating work for your editors.
So these have been superseded? Yes, and they are filled with things that have been rejected (like Misapplied Worship, or having to try to figure out the deep “real nature” of a cult before you can even use it in game), its millions of subcults (“Orlanth the Carpenter”? Really?), and other stuff that just makes an editors job nightmarish. Best to just ignore it entirely.
What about the Mongoose publications? Simple answer – there were no Mongoose publications.
In my opinion, if someone is coming new to RuneQuest, this is the body of books that it is fair to tell them that they should be aware of. If they have a question that ties into a Jonstown Compendium publications (particularly along the lines of “I am looking for adventures that does X”), by all means recommend it!
But referencing some long out-of-print and not ever to be reprinted Hero Wars book is not doing anyone any favours. If anything it just contributes to the perception that Glorantha is as inaccessible and impossible for newbies to master as Tekumel.
Note that with the exception of Troll Gods, Haunted Ruins, and Dorastor, all of the listed publications are currently available. And honestly Troll Gods is only there until the Cults Books come out. Haunted Ruins is listed because of the great map included in it. And Dorastor is there because it is the sourcebook for anyone doing stuff in Dorastor.
And honestly Haunted Ruins is actually in Trollpak. I really just included it because of the great map of Battle Valley in the Haunted Ruins publication.
The point is that if you are new to Glorantha, everything you need to have to understand canonical Glorantha as well as ANYONE else is available and currently in print.
Note that there’s a lot of wildly non-canonical material in the RQ Companion. And the stuff that is canonical is better presented elsewhere.
My posts (here, Facebook or Discord) are notes or works in progress. They give a good idea what I am thinking, what is likely to appear in publication. But I reserve the right to change, modify, or whatever.
Again, canon doesn’t matter AT ALL for running a game. As my original posts states: “this only matters if you want to write for Chaosium or get your work published by Chaosium.”
So if you want to write for Chaosium, this is the set of books that matter. If you want to run or play RuneQuest, these don’t even matter.
Plunder? I don’t recommend our writers read Plunder as anything beyond some examples for cool and interesting magical items and treasures, as well as a way of pushing outward in descriptions rather than trying to fill in between the lines. Certainly I don’t expect them to weave Zakhom the Mighty Warrior of the East or many of the other throwaway lines from Rudy into their books. Nor do I expect editors to worry about any of Plunder’s little storylines. Another Plunder book with entirely new magical items can happily coexist with Plunder, and could even contradict Plunder (in fact I would fully expect to contradict Plunder’s Treasure Factors, the listed values for items, and even how some magical items work, etc).
Remember, “canon” has a very specific meaning for us. For everyone else, feel free to ignore it entirely.
The Broken Tower? The Broken Tower is referenced and summarised in the GM Adventures pack. So we know what is labeled as Broken Tower on the map. But beyond the narrow details of what is there at the tower ruins, all of that is already present in the GM Adventures pack and the Bestiary.
I added Sun County to the list as it is the canonical description of Sun County in Prax. It is worth emphasising that it is pretty unique – most Sun Dome communities in Dragon Pass have to make far more accommodations with the Ernalda and Orlanth cults (or with the Seven Mothers).