Back in ~2003ish I read an article by Ron at The Forge about the Hero Wars RPG. He included some context about the Runequest system, and I managed to avoid it for the next 19.xx years, until Chaosium and Greg Stafford put together the Glorantha-forward “Runequest: Glorantha”.
It took me until 2022 to discover it, and it has a Hit Location table which almost scared me off, I’ll admit. But then I saw the Family History Generator, the straightforward (if, as d100, rather fiddly) core mechanic, and, as I put it to my players, “This game doesn’t just fit your character into Glorantha. It makes your character an important *part* of Glorantha!”
I think it was the combination of all three – i.e. your family members and yourself(!!) participating canonically in battles of the Big Canon Stuff – that convinced me this game was sufficiently rehabilitated from previous, squicky Runequest for me to not only keep reading, but run. Quickly, it turned out I was almost too excited not to play RQG. Amusing to me is that “Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha” can be abbreviated as RQRPG, and that’s why I believe in a benevolent universe, lol
My players are all in a single polycule together. For extra spicy context, I used to date one of my players – – JR – – and C and I were therefore once romantic rivals for a time. Us being all gravy and getting along very well now means I get to say I’m running a game for this polycule I know, which is fun.
I am writing this post both to share my deep and sudden love of this game, and, more primarily, to consult with y’all and see – – does it sound like R is doing ok? i.e. having a good time, maybe a good enough time? I am trying to be very gentle and hands-off about it because, you know, this is ultimately my perception and therefore grounded in my (sometimes problematic) desire to be a good GM to everyone always. And, I suppose more importantly, I’ve been taking it easy because R is playing her very first RPG with us in this Runequest campaign, and because she’s kind of a quiet person generally and I don’t want to be a butt.
The players are:
JR: my lovably notorious ‘troublemaker’, i.e. makes trouble for GMs using Force, doesn’t care about ‘your story’, too busy making his own, but frequenly stops to consult with the other *players* (not me, lmao) to see if he’s being too pushy. Has the most RPG experience in the group besides me, has joined me for Eclipse Phase, D&D5, and probably something else I’m forgetting. Amazing player to work with, let me tell ya.
JR is playing Fakyoo Arold, the foul-mouthed Dragonewt warrior-mystic, who is visiting Fort Clearwine as an anthropologist of humans.
C: my ‘leading man’. JR’s live-in partner and a super-friendly team player who’s always happy to take one on the chin if it means getting some extra spotlight. I introduced him to Dungeons and Dragons per his request, and he’s been sinking his teeth into the hobby since then.
C is playing Lord Gilgamesh Sorshasson Colymar, the charismatic first son of Fort Clearwine’s chieftess Sorsha Colymar. He’s a powerful, Orlanthi-initiate warrior who likes casting Lightning in melee.
V: the consummate techie/supporter role. C’s other partner and a veteran gamer in his own right. We first played Eclipse Phase together in 2022, and he was eager to check out Runequest when I mentioned ducks and heroquesting. He firmly prefers playing the support role and not being in the spotlight too much.
V is playing Nil the Carpenter, a Sartarite initiate of Babeester Gor, so he can be a berserker!! \m/
R: my titular saint. C’s other other partner and both pretty new to gaming in general, and entirely new to RPGs. She sat in on us playing Eclipse Phase last year, and when we started up Runequest: Glorantha in December 2022, she asked to join. Since then she’s been quiet, mostly listening and sometimes a bit distracted, but she keeps coming back, and C and I have checked in a few times to make sure she’s not just being polite, and since she says she’s enjoying the game, I’ll take her word for it!
R is playing Jareen the Jeweler, a mild-mannered Sartarite initiate of Argan Argar. She sells her work in the Fort Clearwine marketplace out of a tray while walking around getting to know the townspeople.
So! Let’s begin!
This post is basically a quick description of our campaign and a reflection on R’s perfectly valid but potentially perplexing approach to our game.
While we’ve got a serious fireteam going with Arold, Gilgamesh, and Nil, Jareen has had a different approach to danger so far. But first, some play summary for context!
Session 1: Gilgamesh and his brother Pyter Sorshasson (another prince of Clearwine) play Orlanth and Humakt for a Sacred Time heroquest/public ceremonny, “Orlanth Takes Death From Humakt”. Nil, Jareen, and Fakyoo Arold are all watching in the crowd, which is gathered on a hill just outside Ft. Clearwine on the last night of Sacred Time.
I explain to C/Gilgamesh what heroquesting is, and that he doesn’t have to do what Orlanth did, he just has to follow the framework if he wants the rewards. To that end, instead of ceremonially dueling his brother Pyter-as-Humakt, Gilgamesh-as-Orlanth just zaps him with a Lightning spell; this causes Humakt’s infamous sword Death to go flying out of his hand over the crowd…
JR/Arold the Dragonewt jumps up in the air, hoping to catch the sword Death with the use of one of his dragon magic abilities, but a visiting Darktroll nurse, Kitan, has the same idea and they end up tussling very carefully over the sword before Gilgamesh politely asks the two 7′ tall Elder Race entities to please return Death to him, as he has won it in ceremonial battle. They comply: Arold because he’s not trying to get too overinvolved with the subjects of his longitudinal anthro study, and Kitan because she’s arrived in Colymar tribal lands to ask for help and doesn’t want to make a bad first impression to Gilgamesh, since he’s the Colymar tribal firstborn.
When the ceremony ends, Kitan Gehrehr the Darktroll of Clan Knapper approaches Lord GIlgamesh and asks him for an audience to request a personal, armed escort and supplies for her Clan. Gilgamesh and the other player-characters defer agreeing to join her personally, but Gilgamesh invites her to return the following morning (1st of Spring/Sea Season) for a load of supplies.
Session 2: We start out by checking where everybody might have slept after the ceremony. Jareen, Nil, and Gilgamesh all have homes in the fort, so we introduce them one by one with a quick snapshot of their morning activities. JR/Arold the Dragonewt has spent the night in a stone hayloft inside the keep, and awakens to two ‘dragon weebs’ as C/Gilgamesh calls them – Shelm the trans woman Rune Priestess of Eurmal the Trickster, and Gaz the heavily tattooed, split-tongued sorcerer-exile from the Prax Impala Riders; they are both here because they heard a Dragonewt was around. Arold is not thrilled.
I then turn to R/Jareen and ask her about her jeweler’s shop. She explains that she envisions herself walking around the marketplace with a tray of wares, so we dig into that for a bit – – she talks to a couple of merchants and townspeople, and then one of Gilgamesh’s 8yo cousins, a lil trans boy whose name escapes me, arrives in the market to summon her to the keep to see Gilgamesh, who requests her presence as an Argan Argarite. We divert briefly to the Argan Argar cultic temple in Clearwine along the way – very gothic Rune Priests with heavy eyeliner, a couple of Darktrolls, the smell of clove cigarettes – and the Rune Priests, hearing of Jareen’s summons to the keep, assure her she is an honorable woman and may speak for the Cult of Argan Argar in the court of the Chief and her sons.
Jareen joins the group – – Kitan Gehrehr and the others are gathered together in the Clearwine marketplace just outside the keep. I consult with Gilgamesh as to how generous he’s feeling, and we agree upon three ox-drawn wagons of food, tools, necessities, etc. as an appropriately generous gesture – since they won’t be accompanying her, Gilgamesh decides more supplies will make up the ‘difference’ in the Colymar Tribe/Knapper Clan diplomatic relationship. Trolls fought Chaos alongside humanity, after all, which I am sure to mention frequently throughout our sessions.
Here’s the extra fun part – – Kitan, taking long drags on a clove cigarette (which quickly became a running joke about Trolls and Darkness Rune acolytes), mentions that she’s really here to ask for companions for a Heroquest to reverse the Trollkin Curse, at least for the Knapper Clan as a start. The players have a chuckle at the phrase “Chaos Taint”, and then Gilgamesh says he’s sympathetic to Kitan’s cause but isn’t sure he can commit to a long journey through the God Time right now, he’s a lord of the Colymar and has responsibilities.
Kitan concedes, thanking him again for all the supplies and the tasty oxen to haul them, and walks away a short distance to smoke a clove and think. Seconds later, Gon, a Greattroll Revenant assassin of Zorak Zoran’s cult – from the Knapper Clan’s monarchist rivals, the Baigonns of the Shadow Plateau – teleports into the marketplace in a cloud of darkness, breathes Black Breath in Kitan’s face, and she dies.
We pause the fiction here so everyone can come up with a plan. R/Gilgamesh decides he has no choice but to rush forward and aid his guest, Kitan. JR/Arold decides to make a torch with a branch off the street so he can pierce the dark. V/Nil readies a throwing ax and a Summon Earth Elemental spell. R/Jareen asks if there’s anywhere she can run to safety, lacking combat skills (I did almost nothing to ‘optimize’ the players’ skill choices), and I suggest going into the walls of the nearby keep; she agrees.
Gilgamesh and Arold rush forward to help, Arold lighting a bit of wood with his fire breath to make a torch. Fortunately it works, and they see Gon Baigonn squatting beside Kitan, who appears to be dead. Gon, a storied hero of his clan, growls a challenge at Gilgamesh, but Nil summons an earth elemental named Geodude beneath his feet, who promptly sucks the Greattroll’s legs into the earth below the street. With his enemy pinned, Gilgamesh blasts the Greattroll’s leg off at the knee with, yes, a Lightning spell. Screaming curses and weeping with pain, Gon takes up his poleax and tries to attack Arold, pivoting on his one remaining leg, but the Dragonewt wrests the ax from the catastrophically injured Troll’s hands and knocks him to the ground.
Kitan then rouses, revealing that she was playing dead. The Fort Clearwine garrison arrives in force to put Gon Baigonn in chains and haul him to the keep’s dungeon, but Fukyoo Arold insists on doing a fireman’s carry to hoist the massive, ~400lb. Greattroll warrior onto his shoulders, and the soldiers can do nothing but follow.
We end the session there due to time constraints. The next session picks up the following morning, 2nd of Sea Season.
[Between sessions, I approach R on messenger and ask her to design a piece of jewelry that Jareen has made for the leader of the Knapper Troll Clan. She shows up to Session 3 with a digital illustration of a copper bracelet inset with turquoise stones, going so far as to put the finishing touches on it during her downtime in play, then proudly showing it to me. Will post it if I can get hold of it.]
Session 3: Gon Baigonn is now in the dungeon below the keep, and Gilgamesh, Arold, Nil, and Jareen are discussing how to proceed with Kitan, over a buffet-style breakfast in the keep’s Great Hall. Kitan, for her part, is now chain-smoking cloves, and increasingly agitated and upset, and when the PCs ask if she needs help, she confesses that she is dying.
We pause to absorb this information. Then I go on, “I died when Gon Baigonn gassed me, but I called out with my last breath to the great Progenitrix, Kygan Litor, and she stopped me from dying.”
Arold: “Then why are you dying now??”
Kitan: “Because she decided belatedly she’d rather gather me unto Her Bosom than bring me fully back to life…” *aggressively drags on clove cigarette*
I pause to explain how Divine Interventions work in this game, and then add that if the POWER loss roll required for Intervention reduces the character’s POW to 0 or lower, the deity just ‘gathers ye unto My bosom’ instead of resurrecting you.
Kitan then offers Nil a cigarette. The pack is black and violet and reads Stygian Light 500s. Nil accepts, Kitan lights it with a dwarven firelighter (fantasy Zippo), and I inform Nil he needs to roll a POW gain check. He fails with a 34 (TN was 30), and I tell him this near miss awards him +d6 temporary POW for d6 hours – – he rolls *very* well, gaining 5 POW for 6 hours! I explain that, in game terms, these smokes are a way to shore up or even increase POW to deal with spirit combat, augment magic, etc. And, of course, if you’re going to die of POW loss, the fact that the effect is temporary (even if you succeed) means you’re tantalizingly still in danger…!
Kitan and the PCs chat a bit longer, and then Kitan starts having a panic attack, revealing that she is now actively dying. “Get me to a temple!”
Gilgamesh: “Which one??”
Kitan: *angry and embarrassed* “ANY TEMPLE!”
GIlgamesh, Nil, and Arold rush Kitan out of the Great Hall, with Jareen following and watching from a distance. They go into the corridor, enter the Royal Quarters of the Chieftess Sorsha (Gilgamesh’s mother), and head straight for the courtyard Orlanth shrine within; Arold and Nil stay behind to guard the entrance, as there are several Vinga warrior women in the lobby of the Quarters who want a word about this invasion of privacy.
Arold mutters a comment about the wastefulness of monarchs and asks how much he can steal from this antechamber while Lord Gilgamesh is busy in the Orlanth shrine. I decide it’s not interesting whether or not Gilgamesh finds out about the theft – he eventually will because of the Vinga warriors – and more interesting to roll to see how much Arold steals, so he rolls a d20X5 and gets 250 Lunars. Later in the session, JR/Arold comments offhandedly how he ‘barely got anything’, and I tell him that’s a fabulous sum, enough to feed a small village for a year or more…!
Meanwhile, Nil and Gilgamesh and Kitan rush into the shrine, meet the transmasculine Rune Priest, Samus, and find out that this actually *isn’t* your typical shrine to Orlanth, it’s a special, perhaps unique subcult called Orlanth Husbanding. The walls of the courtyard are painted with murals of Orlanth sweeping house, rubbing Ernalda’s feet, etc, all with a huge smile on his face.
Rune Priest Samus quickly gets them to tell him what the problem is, and Kitan begins to die-die as Samus helps her lie down on the grassy floor of the courtyard to begin a Resurrection Spell. Samus takes Gilgamesh’s hand – I took C’s hand for this part – and the two of them gave up a bunch of Rune Magic Points (C gave up all 3 of his) to power the Resurrection. Kitan comes back to life, begins to weep, and the party watches in surprise as her skin changes from charcoal grey to the color of red clay earth. Samus reveals that Kitan is *not* now an initiate of Orlanth, not even of Orlanth Husbanding, but *actually* of Ernalanth Husbandwife aka Orlanda Wifehusband, the incarnation of Ernalda and Orlanth totally fused into one.
Kitan begins sobbing angrily and swears that she will avenge herself on Samus for making her ‘an Elf’, which she quickly corrects to ‘Trelf’.
We have our fourth session on Wednesday night (Feb 1). Wildness awaits, and Gilgamesh has sworn to ‘slit [the] throat’ of Fukyoo Arold for stealing from his mother and, by extension, his tribe.
I will be looking for ways to approach Jareen/R with a diplomat-of-Uz-and-Humans kind of role, which I’ve hinted at to her already.
Death to Chaos and see you next time!