THE WOLF GOD EATS THE WORLD 0:00-4:15
In Berlin, Jeff tells us the mighty wolf spirit is devouring the sun, at the time of recording – Arachnae Solara has spun her web, and the doomed conjunction is occurring. In other words there is an eclipse of the sun going on. Jeff inquires of MOB and Rob the Producer whether this is occurring in Australia too, but they can’t tell because it is night-time there.
The topic of the solar eclipse segues into a discussion of Aztec human sacrifice, and especially the ball game played with hoops (kinda like basketball) that was the prelude to many Aztec human sacrificial rites. There is some disagreement as to whether it was the winning or losing team that got sacrificed, but either way MOB questions whether this was in fact an optimal process to build up a Mesoamerican ball league. Jeff takes at the big picture however, and speculates that the games in this world were for recruitment only, and the major leagues took place in the afterlife. But both agree that a game of this nature is sure to be played somewhere in Glorantha – perhaps the Kingdom of Ignorance, or maybe Fonrit? This further segues into the topic of the day, how Moon Design Publications continues to explore Glorantha…
LAKE GENEVA, WISCONSIN, AND THE MAGICAL LEY LINES 4:16 – 12:34
As Creative Director of Moon Design, Jeff’s job is to carry on the creative legacy of Greg Stafford, who created the fantasy world of Glorantha.
Greg discovered Glorantha back in 1966, which was before the Gary Gygax RPG period. In fact, Greg says he was actually the first person to buy a copy of the original Dungeons and Dragons; he bought directly from the print shop in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (which is clearly a centre of mystical magical energy).
Greg had the world of Glorantha in his head, and kept writing stories about it in the late sixties, but couldn’t get the stories published. He then had the idea of creating a board game, which was set in Sehnela, where a lot of his early fiction was set.
The second version of the board game was set in a mythical world called Dragon Pass, borrowing a Gloranthan character that he then called Argrath.
Greg then decided to relocate Dragon Pass to Glorantha (which may not have done much for the property values). This is how White Bear Red Moon came to be set in Glorantha.
A year or so after the creation of the game Greg Stafford was introduced to Steve Perrin, and they decided to create an RPG set in Glorantha. The rest is history. [ED: RuneQuest if you weren’t sure about it…]
MOVING ONWARDS 12:35-25:25
MOB nudges Jeff to discussion of recent Gloranthan history.
Greg Stafford semi-retired after the publication of Hero Wars, and in 2007 (that long ago?) Jeff moved to Berlin. At was at this time he, Rick Meints and Greg Stafford talked about doing a second edition of the Hero Quest game. They hired Robin Laws, and towards the end of that process decided to add in some Gloranthan rules. By a slow process Jeff started taking a lot of Greg’s old material and editing it for print. Eventually the conversation was had with Greg and Moon Design purchased the rights to Glorantha in 2013.
This was obviously a big thing for Greg, as he had had creative control since 1966. The first publication of the new era was the Guide to Glorantha. While the book was authored by Jeff, Sandy Peterson and Greg, it codifies the contributions of other writers, including MOB, Nick Brook and Ken Rolston, among many others (with a shout out to Colin Driver’s maps).
The Guide is an immense book, and encyclopaedia for the setting. Anything in the guide is canon, and won’t be changed (unless there is a really, really good reason!!) To elaborate on this, any changes made to The Guide material will be consciously made and minor: this creates a foundation for all future work in the setting, so writers, creators and players will not have to go to out-of-print works to establish continuity. This has made Jeff’s job as Creative Director infinitely easier. It is the equivalent of a TV show’s ‘Bible’. MOB poses a Devil’s advocate question, about how you can then stop the setting from ossifying, which leads to…
LESS BRAVEHEART, MORE GAME OF THRONES 25:26–44:19
Jeff feels that actually having a canon bible actual frees up the creative process, rather than stifling it. If things get a bit rigid, you can always move the storytelling to a new and less defined location, and the other big way to shake things up is to move the storytelling timeline past the Gloranthan year 1621. For the last thirty years Gloranthan supplements have been set in a constricted temporal range, which has led to adventures constantly revisiting the same characters over again in the same narrow timeframe.
With the Glorantha Sourcebook (ETA summer 2015) the setting will be moved forwards to 1627. This, Jeff and MOB agree, will change the setting dramatically. Sartar is free. New Pavis has been liberated. There are no Lunars left in Prax or Sartar. There are huge changes. Jeff hopes that this will break the game out of “Braveheart” territory and make it more like “Game of Thrones”.
With the yoke of the Lunars removed, there is now much more scope for geopolitical manoeuvring: the Sartarites are no longer plucky rebels. Argrath is now Prince of Sartar, and is a much more complex and ambiguous figure. Argrath does all sorts of things that an Orlanthi is not meant to do. His ally is Harrek the Berserk, who is, shall we say, not a pleasant figure.
With the change in time period by six years, many new things have happened to old characters (many of them fatal) and there are many new characters. Plus, there are some ‘old, new’ characters, which were in the board game but have not since been developed.
There are also world-spanning events affecting all parts of Glorantha. One example of this is the Dragonrise, that happens in 1625. The dragon is several miles long, creates a canyon when it rises, eats most of the local Lunar army, destroys the Temple of the Reaching Moon, and then flies away. Remembering that Glorantha is a flat world, this sight would be visible from far shores. With The Guide mapping this out, you can now develop reactions across Glorantha.
Another controversial event is the Windstop. When Whitewall falls at the end of 1621, the Lunars have successfully chained Orlanth in the underworld. So, within a 250 mile radius of the city, Orlanth is effectively dead. Inside this area there is no wind, no rain, no growth, and no births for over a year. The effects reach all the way to the River of Cradles (see the map in The Guide!), and MOB had immense fun writing up all the myriad horrible things that happened in Prax and Sun County during this terrible time.
HORRIBLE WAYS TO FAIL 44:20
Glorantha has always been a collaborative process. While Greg Stafford is now (semi-)retired, Jeff still talks with him regularly to bounce ideas around. Other collaborators at the present time are MOB, Harald Smith, Rob Heinsoo, Ian Cooper, Dan Mclusky, Jonathan Tweet, David Dunham, Sandy Petersen, Nick Brooke and Ken Rolston. A lot of familiar names, if you are an old Gloranthaphile Jeff feels that it has been the most fertile period for Glorantha since the early nineties. These people have been working through, for example, the implications of the Lunar Empire’s decline. The Lunars have been seen to date as something like a Roman equivalent – an empire at its peak – but it is now more like the later Byzantine, a fragile empire. It is not necessarily wholly corrupt empire, but one that needs heroes to enable it to survive.
With Sartar also now a functioning state, it is also more ambiguous, and not necessarily the good guys: anybody who has studied their Greek history knows that heroes are often not the nicest of people. From a literary perspective Jeff find that a lot more interesting than something that is static.
As the end of the podcast approaches the wolf god has given back the sun in Berlin, Germany. To wind up Rob asks if there are any fiftieth anniversary events planned for Glorantha. While Jeff does not want to reveal too much, there will be two significant releases. The obvious follow up question is whether the Glorantha fan base is renewing itself. Jeff feels that while Glorantha skews towards an older fan base, new fans are definitely coming through: for example, the Eternal Convention in Germany skews towards a younger demographic.