domingo, 29 de marzo de 2020

La licencia OGL de Chaosium para publicar juegos BRP

4 comentarios
 
Chaosium ha publicado una licencia OGL (Open Game License) que permite a la gente publicar juegos de rol basados en sistema BRP (Basic Roleplaying). Este es el chasis de reglas del sistema de percentiles (D100) en el que se han basado gran parte de sus juegos. Actualmente, eso significa RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha y La llamada de Cthulhu. Sin embargo, la licencia incluye una serie de prohibiciones para que la gente no pueda hacer un retroclón de esos juegos, incluido Pendragón, Stormbringer, etc. y venderlo con el sello BRP.



En realidad, ya existen muchas otras vías para publicar juegos basados en el sistema de percentiles. Por ejemplo, la Gateway License para Mythras, la licencia OGL de Legend (basada en la de D&D) o el documento SRD (System Reference Document) de OpenQuest (que se basa en la de Legend), también la de Delta Green y hasta el SRD de Revolution d100. Además, en los últimos años han salido numerosas versiones independientes de La llamada de Cthulhu que siguen usando el sistema de percentiles: Gore, Cthuhu d100, Open Cthulhu, Fhtagn, Call of Cthulu Lite, etc.

En el fondo, nadie puede impedirte publicar un retroclón de cualquier juego de Chaosium, o de cualquier juego en general, ya que las reglas no pueden protegerse con derechos de autor, sino solo el texto con el que explicas esas reglas. Es decir, si quieres, puedes publicar una copia de RuneQuest Glorantha con sus mismas reglas, solo que tendrás que usar sinónimos para todo y explicar las reglas con otras palabras (y quitar Glorantha, que eso sí tiene derechos de autor).

Entonces, ¿para que sirve la licencia BRP de Chaosium? Pues únicamente para facilitar que puedas vender tu producto con el sello BRP. Un poco de marketing y que la gente sepa que tu producto es muy compatible con otros de la familia. El objetivo del esqueleto de reglas de la licencia es que cualquiera pueda publicar su juego basado en el BRP y ganar dinero con ello. Al contrario que con la Gateway License de Mythras, con esta de Chaosium ni siquiera hay que pedir permiso mientras se cumplan las reglas. Estas reglas son: por un lado, aprovechar parte o todo del documento de referencia del sistema (SRD) que es el BRP reducido a 27 páginas y, por otro, no copiar ni parecerse demasiado a una serie de mecánicas distintivas propias de sus juegos, como RuneQuest Glorantha o La llamada de Cthulhu. Por ejemplo, no puedes publicar un juego con la licencia BRP que incluya un sistema de cordura igual al de La llamada de Cthulhu, aunque lo llames de otra forma. O no puedes publicar un juego que incluya el sistema de pasiones de RuneQuest Glorantha. Pero sí puedes publicar un juego basado en ese esqueleto y que incluya localizaciones de golpe, contenido de la OGL de Legend e incluso puedes publicar un juego con esa licencia en español u otro idioma (¡me lo han confirmado!).

Así que tengo ganas de ver qué sale de ahí.


Vale, pero ¿qué pasa con los juegos del sistema D100 que ya hay publicados fuera de Chaosium?

Tal como yo lo veo, la multitud de retroclones de RuneQuest y Cthulhu que ya hay por el mercado no van a desaparecer. Ninguna de esas editoriales independientes está vendiendo el juego con el sello BRP, así que pueden seguir haciéndolo. Además, a Chaosium tampoco le interesa emprender acciones legales contra retroclones ya existentes, porque lo que perderían en reputación al hacerlo no compensaría ni por asomo lo que les hacen perder de ingresos esos retroclones. Y lo saben.


Vale, pero ¿por qué hay gente enfadada por internet?

Por lo que he leído por ahí, hay gente molesta porque llamen a esta licencia «Open Game License» (licencia de juego abierto) cuando no es tan abierta. Y tienen razón. El hecho de que incluya algunas restricciones en la creación de reglas hace que no sea abierta, así que llamarla «OGL» es confuso.

Además, también hay gente decepcionada porque esperaban que fuera más parecida a otros sistemas liberados del mercado. Por ejemplo, la famosa OGL de Dungeons & Dragons 3.ª edición que publicó Wizards of the Coast en el año 2000 para crear el sello d20 System y que contribuyó a la oleada creativa de juegos de la Old School Reinassance (OSR). Esta licencia podría haber incluido todo el reglamento del Basic Roleplaying, pero no.

Portada del Basic Roleplaying de Chaosium

¿Y si quiero sacar un juego de rol o material de juego ambientado en Glorantha?

Glorantha sí tiene derechos de autor, así que para publicarlo, deberías hacerlo bajo el sello del Jonstown Compendium. Es una plataforma en DrivethruRPG de publicación de material creado por los fans (como el Miskatonic Repository para Cthulhu) que permite publicar aventuras y ayudas de juego situadas en el mundo de Glorantha, aunque eso sí, de momento solo en PDF y el autor gana solo el 50% del precio de venta. El otro 50% se reparte entre DrivethruRPG y Chaosium.

Si quieres ofrecerlo fuera de esa plataforma, puedes hacerlo según la política de material fan si no pretendes ganar dinero con ello o solicitar la licencia limitada de pequeña editorial. Para esta segunda sí puedes ganar dinero con ello, pero siempre que no supere los 2000$ brutos anuales y pagando entre 100 y 200$ al año (ver aquí). Además, de momento tanto el Jonstown Compendium como las licencias permiten material publicado solo en inglés. Aunque el Miskatonic Repository ya sí permite publicar en español.


¿Qué es eso del «substantially similar»?

La licencia especifica una serie de componentes que no permite incluir en un juego desarrollado bajo el sello BRP de Chaosium. Se trata de elementos «sustancialmente parecidos» a mecánicas distintivas de juegos como RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha, La llamada de Cthulhu o Pendragón. Al parecer, «substantially similar» es un término legal que se usa para evitar plagios. Entre estos elementos prohibidos hay cosas como el sistema de cordura de La llamada de Cthulhu, el sistema de repetición de tiradas a cambio de un riesgo, las pasiones de RuneQuest y Pendragón, el sistema de hechicería y hasta el sistema de magia espiritual de RuneQuest.


En un principio, puede dar miedo eso de «sustancialmente parecido» porque queda ambiguo y se presta al temor de que publiques algo parecido y que luego venga Chaosium a buscarte las cosquillas. Pero no, el personal de Chaosium asegura en su foro que esto solo está ahí para impedir que puedas publicar un clon de sus juegos vendiéndolo con el sello BRP. Lo cual tiene todo el sentido del mundo. Por ejemplo, si creas un juego de rol con un sistema de magia parecido a la magia espiritual de RuneQuest, pues tendrás que inventarte conjuros nuevos en vez de copiar el Cuchilla Afilada, Confusión, Contramagia, etc. Y si quieres usar esos conjuros en tu juego y venderlo con el sello BRP, pues entonces es mejor solicitar la licencia de material fan o de pequeña editorial que he comentado antes.


¿Qué tal está el System Reference Document (SRD) de la licencia BRP?

Es un PDF de 23 páginas que condensa lo más básico del sistema Basic Roleplaying, con elementos comunes a RuneQuest y La llamada de Cthulhu. La tirada básica de habilidades de porcentajes con un dado D100, las siete características que definen a un personaje: Fuerza, Inteligencia, Destreza, Constitución, Tamaño, Poder y Apariencia, etc. Sin embargo, incluye cosas que se usan en un juego pero ya no en el otro. Por ejemplo, se incluye la tabla de resistencia que, aunque ya no se usa en la séptima edición de La llamada de Cthulhu, sí se sigue usando en RuneQuest. Lo mismo ocurre con los puntos de características, que aunque en Cthulhu ahora se expresan del 1 al 100 (es decir, ya multiplicadas por cinco), aquí siguen yendo del 1 al 18 porque en RuneQuest sigue siendo así.

Estas 23 páginas son prácticamente idénticas al PDF de descarga gratis que del quickstart del sistema BRP. Incluye las mismas listas de armas, armaduras, reglas de combate y reglas especiales. La principal diferencia es que el SRD no incluye ilustraciones, ni ejemplos de juego ni las 7 miniaventuras de distintas ambientaciones. Es el texto pelado. Y la hoja de personaje es de lo más soso, solo está ahí como referencia.


Sin embargo, sorprende un detalle muy curioso: aunque en la descripción de las tiradas del SRD se describe que un resultado igual o menor a 1/20 del porcentaje de habilidad equivale a un éxito crítico (como en RuneQuest), en la descripción del combate no se especifica qué efecto tiene un crítico. Solo se especifican los efectos de un éxito especial (1/5 del porcentaje, como en RuneQuest), un éxito normal, un fallo y una pifia (igual que en el quickstart). Supongo que se ha hecho así para que cada creador decida por sí mismo qué efecto tiene el éxito crítico, si es que decide incorporarlo en sus reglas.


En fin, como he dicho antes, tengo ganas de ver cuál será el primer juego de rol que se publica con este sello. Y a ti, ¿qué te parece todo?

sábado, 21 de marzo de 2020

Converting The Pirates of Drinax to M-Space

2 comentarios
 
M-Space is a great sci-fi roleplaying game based on Mythras (formerly known as RuneQuest 6th edition) that doesn't have any particular setting attached. What to run with it? One of the options is converting material from another game, such as Traveller. And one of the best campaigns for that game is The Pirates of Drinax, written by Gareth Hanrahan.

The Pirates of Drinax is a huge sandbox campaign currently published by Mongoose Publishing. It comes in 3 books and a map, and contains enough material to play for years. The basic premise of the campaign is that the ruler of a rump state in a star empire hires the player characters to regain said empire. To do that, he gives them a letter of marque so they can raid trading ships in the sector and then offer to protect the planets in the system from pirates. This small empire sits in the middle of two vast star empires: the Third Imperium and the Aslan Hierate.

On February 2018, a user of the The Design Mechanism forum called Pentallion started sharing his summaries about the sessions he was running converting The Pirates of Drinax to M-Space. He converted all the starships in the campaign and ran it on Roll20 for a year with 4 to 6 players, with every player controlling two characters. It wasn't until much later, that Clarence Redd made available a brief guide for converting Traveller material to M-Space or BRP. Even so, I contacted Pentallion to ask if he would agree to share his experience here, since I thought it would be valuable for other GMs who may want to do the same... So without further ado, I leave you with Pentallion, aka Scott Crowder, and his hands-on advice (I have only added some images).



My experience converting Pirates of Drinax to M-Space


Hello, my name is Scott Crowder and I’m the co-author, along with Clarence Redd, of the M-Space Companion. In this article I will share my experiences converting Pirates of Drinax to M-Space.

I chose to run my campaign using M-Space because I feel it is the culmination of the evolution of SciFi roleplaying that started with Traveller. It is very flexible and allows the GM great freedom. M-Space is so open ended that it can be used for virtually any setting. M-Space introduces new concepts and ideas to roleplaying such as Circles and Factions. It also draws from the incredibly rich Mythras roleplaying system.

The M-Space Companion includes detailed rules on robotics, cybernetics, hacking as well as a new character generation system and technology so advanced it feels like magic.

I've played M-Space extensively and the D100 system allows for a smooth narrative style of playing blended with the crunchy feel of D100 combat. My favorite part of M-Space, however, is the conflict resolution system for non combat situations. Be it climbing Mt. Everest or winning the Scopes trial, M-Space's conflict resolution system handles it simply and eloquently while giving the players their daily allowance of stress and intense game play.

I chose Pirates of Drinax because it has the reputation of being the greatest scifi campaign of all time. A well-deserved reputation I might add. If you’re looking for a sandbox to play your campaign in, then the Trojan Reach setting of Pirates is the best you’ll ever find.

Small detail of the map of the campaign The Pirates of Drinax

Naturally, I knew I was undertaking a rather large task in converting a Traveller campaign to M-Space. The first thing to consider is that Pirates of Drinax (PoD) has a LOT of starships. The next thing I noticed is that characters rolled up from the planet Drinax had their own custom made Life Event table.

Now, before I go any further, let me tell you a couple of things about myself. I used to love rolling up Traveller characters back in the GDW days (early ‘80s) when most of your characters died before you finished rolling them up and the ones that lived were so old they might as well retire. My friends and I used to joke that rolling up Traveller characters was the adventure. We never actually played a whole lot of the game. The other thing you should know is that the game we did play a whole lot of was Stormbringer. My favorite part of rolling up Stormbringer characters was having wildly different characters depending upon what nation they were from. It was these two factors that led me to create Origins, an alternate character generation system for M-Space.

So you could say that the first “conversion” I made was a Life Event system that mirrored the original GDW system and incorporated unique features for the various planets you could come from. After all, people who come from desert worlds will have different skills than those that grew up on a water world or an orbiting space station.

Mongoose Traveller players are well aware that their modern Life Event system is far more forgiving than the GDW system was. I wanted to capture that sense of risk rolling up your character had in the GDW days. Instead of possibly dying, in Origins you could find yourself in prison or sold into slavery.

Since in Stormbringer, you had the option of rolling for your nationality, in PoD I offered the option of rolling for your planet of origin. From this, I came up with the following character generation table that incorporates the Origins system into PoD. Here is a snippet of that table:

01-15 Drinax: -1d4 STR, -1d4 CON, +1d4 INT, +1d4 CHA Origin: Skyrise
(Scholar, Engineer, Pilot, Diplomat, Official)
16-20 Drinax Grounder: +2d4 CON, -1d4 INT, -1d4 CHA Origin: Jaffa
(Mercenary, Colonist, Thief, Smuggler, Scout)
21-25 Asim: +1d4 CON, -1d4 INT Origin: New Haven (Mercenary, Colonist, Thief)
26-30 Theev - Origin: Ghoster's Rock (Mercenary, Thief, Criminal, Gambler, Smuggler)

The places listed as "Origin" (Ghoster’s Rock, Jaffa, Skyrise, New Haven) are the names of the planet archetypes used in the Origins system, that is included in the M-Space Companion.

Here are two of the characters we rolled up for my campaign using the Origins system:

Aaron Jackson (artist unknown) and Irene Addler (art by maratarslanovare two player characters in Scott's campaign 


Aaron Jackson
Aaron is a bounty hunter. He grew up in the jungles of Inurin's equatorial region. He found Q Tech in a lost city buried in the jungles. He left behind his lover on Inurin. In his bounty hunting he brought in a famous criminal and made a dangerous enemy.

Irene Addler
Irene knows fences throughout much of the Trojan Reach. She has lived a life of crime and she would be the first to tell you: "Crime pays baby, it pays real well." Whatever doors her fantastic good looks don't open, her lockpicking or hacking skills do. While she's of no use during space combat, she's an invaluable member of the crew nonetheless. And after every trade or transaction, she makes sure she gets her slice of the pie, with Captain Highfall’s approval. He recognizes they'd be broke in no time without her keen eye for a cargo's worth and her ruthless bargaining skills. None realize, however, that Irene is a cyborg as well. She escaped from her homeworld of Neumann and the Shield Church would take back her nanobyte implants, even though doing so would kill her.

Converting NPCs from PoD to M-Space was fairly simple. Traveller uses 2d6 and M-Space uses 3d6. I just add 4 to any stat except INT, which gets +6 (since M-Space INT is 2d6+6). END is CON. Social Status becomes Charisma. Not the same, but somewhat comparable. Education is an unnecessary stat as it is addressed in occupation skills in M-Space. However, since it takes a bit of willpower and determination to have a high level of education, I converted EDU to Power. Size needs to be rolled up, or, for a quick conversion, just make Size equal CON.

For converting skills I decided that NPCs were average stat folk for the most part so gaining a skill in M-Space terms generally put them at 25%. Thus, Gunnery-0 skill in Traveller became Gunnery 25% skill in M-Space. For each additional point they gained in that skill in Traveller, they gained 15% in M-Space. A typical NPC has 2 points in their occupational skills, so a typical Mechanic might have Mechanics 2, which converts to Mechanics 55% for M-Space.

As an example from Pirates of Drinax: Blacksand Widows have gun skills of 70% and unarmed combat at 70%. Streetwise 55% and Deception 40%. It’s quick and easy to convert NPCs to M-Space this way. One quickly learns to read it straight off the page, converting in their head as they go.

Skill 0: 25%
Skill 1: 40%
Skill 2: 55%
Skill 3: 70%
Skill 4: 85%
Skill 5: 100%
Etc.

Having created a means to roll up characters from different worlds with different backgrounds and life events, I then moved on to converting starships from PoD to M-Space. The primary difference between the two systems is that fuel does not take up a huge space in M-Space starships the way it does in Traveller. I made the decision to ignore fuel tonnage. In my universe, starships employ a warp drive system that uses very little fuel, instead creating exotic matter called Casimirium that powers the gravity warping engine. This vastly simplified the conversion process.

Art by Naima

Here is the M-Space version of the Harrier:


# to hit Hit Location Armor/hit points
01-03 Advanced Sensor Array 0/5
04 Cargo Scoop 6/1
05-14 Military Countermeasure Suite 6/15
15-21 Bridge 6/10
22-24 Particle Barbette 6/5
25-45 Staterooms 6/32
46-50 Common Area 6/8
51-59 Jump Drive 6/14
60-62 Cryochambers 6/4
63 Triple Beam Turret 6/1
64 Armory 6/1
65-73 Power Plant 6/13
74-80 Med Lab 6/10
81 Atmospheric kit 0/1
82-85 Underwater kit 6/6
86-94 Cargo Hold 6/14
95 Fuel Processor 6/2
96-00 Maneuver Drive 0/8

To create the above starship I simply took the tonnage in PoD of the Harrier, ignoring fuel tanks, and converted them to Modules from M-Space. Bridge, 10 modules. Cryochambers, 4 modules. Armor was 6 tons so that became 6 points of armor. Since, in Traveller, some ships specifically state that they armor their sensors and thrusters, I took that to mean maneuver drives and sensors weren’t normally armored. Then it became very simple to use the M-Space ship design rules to make the above hit location table.

I liked the idea of having a hit location table that reflected the actual ship layout. This becomes important to ships that purposefully disperse their critical systems such as the ship above. Using the ships blueprints provided in the campaign I ordered the hit location from front (01) to rear (00). I also made a house rule on damage allocation. If a hit location was totally destroyed by one hit, excess damage was assigned equally to adjacent hit locations. This could rapidly expand to take out whole sections of the ship. One could even see that a ship might be split in half if the regions destroyed so indicated. Most often, however, a massive hit to the engines system might take out the maneuver drives, power plant and jump drive as the majority of ships had these systems installed at the rear of the ship.

The Harrier is the starship the player characters are given in the campaign in order to do their piracy. 

Some things are simpler if left in Traveller terms. Rather than calculate Handling and Speed per M-Space, I just left those terms alone. Thus, the Harrier above has Thrust 6, Jump 2. It carries a Torch Drive allowing it to go to warp speed two-thirds the distance from a gravity well than Traveller allows. It has Superior Stealth, giving it –60% to be detected by Sensors. Its Advanced Sensors give the operator +15% to his Sensor skill. It can make a Stealth Jump, meaning when it comes out of warp speed it doesn’t cause the built-up dust collected in the warped space to explode outwards, causing a detectable bang when a ship jumps into a system. The ship is 200 tons in Traveller, but comes out to be 156 in M-Space, counting armor. That gives the Harrier 150 hit points but I don’t use general hit points so I didn’t calculate that for the ships I converted.

The Harrier main weapon is a Particle Barbette. This is a high energy weapon that adds +15% to Gunnery, does 4d6+1 damage and has a range of 40. It has a wide arc (Forward, Port and Starboard).

The Harrier also carries a single missile rack. The PCs later upgraded this to a triple beam turret doing 6D6, forward arc, range 20.

I never bothered to convert planetary system specs to M-Space as that type of information is easily read and used by GMs as is. I see no need to make a GMs life harder.

For weaponry, I took from a variety of Mythras sources. Warning to GMs: The Gauss rifle from Luther Arkwright is way over-powered. The Gauss rifle presented in Mythras Imperative is not as OP. One concern about M-Space that I’ve heard is that the personal weapons list is rather sparse. Since the game is based on Mythras Imperative, which has a much larger array of weaponry, I haven’t found that to be a problem.

Other starships from the campaign: the Serenity, the Sindal Spear and the Aajege.


My favorite moment in Pirates of Drinax


My favorite moment in my campaign came when they were exploring a derelict starship. This is what they saw on Roll20 as they explored the exterior of the ship:


I really love how the shadows gave this a very three-dimensional feel to it and a sinister sense of dread. Here is how I recounted that day on the TDM website:

(NOTE: A Vargr is a canine Major Race from Earth that was abducted by aliens many millenia ago and given sentience and altered to walk upright. The Vargr described below was the only life form detected in the derelict ship above.)
"Never let a bunch of Orlanthi get their own spaceship." One of my players said after tonight's action.
So tonight was really fun, although the GM fumbled and will probably never hear the end of it.
They started off by surprising me and splitting into two groups to enter each airlock. The aft section still had air and enough power for dim lights. The forward airlock led into the frozen, airless command center. The away team was being monitored by Bixel in the Darklight. The curious thing was that the person giving off the distress signal was in the uninhabitable section of the base, not the part with air and power. Lucas led team alpha into the frozen section, Red led team bravo into the powered section. Immediately, there was a concern. As soon as Bravo entered the base station, all comms with them were cut off. Also, several of team Alpha had neural comms and they began getting some sort of odd feedback that was dizzying. Bixel on the Darklight could not identify the source. There was no other life form than the Vargr who wasn't moving.
Both sides proceeded deeper into the ship. Alpha found the airlock that connected to the part of the ship that had power. Meanwhile, things with Bravo were getting tense. A voice was talking inside their heads, repeating everything they said. It wasn't a human voice. They came across a bug the size of a great dane and it spit acid at them. They chopped off one of its legs yet with amazing agility, it ran away. What it did next was very concerning to them. It opened a door, then opened the hatch to an airlock then proceeded to try to blow the airlock, thus sucking the PCs out of the only habitable space on the ship. 
While this was happening Bixel saw that the Vargr was moving towards team alpha. But comms were jammed. It was at this moment, as the creature started fumbling with the airlock controls, that it stopped jamming comms and Bixel started shouting into their ears: "It's coming!" Which way asked Lucas? 
North, I told Bixel's player. 
North? Which way is north? We're in SPACE!!! 
derrrrr. 
Starboard, it's coming down the hall on the starboard side. I'll never hear the end of this one. So there was a slight delay as the players gave me grief lol. 
Despite the comic relief, Lucas still freaked out. He shot at the Vargr when it appeared, unarmed, in a vacc suit with his hands up. Fortunately, he missed. Unfortunately, he blew out a section of the wall and the Vargyr tumbled into space. Meanwhile, over comms, Red could be heard saying "OMG! It's trying to blow the hatch!" Then there was fully automatic fire as Red unleased the boarding gun on the creature......and missed with every single shot. He didn't miss the hatch, though, which was completely blown out, sucking the creature, Red and the rest of team bravo except the one guy who had magnetic boots right out of the starship.
I really enjoyed how freaked out they were and how they overreacted so badly. Fortunately, the team recovered after a little dramatic space rescue.

That space rescue, by the way, highlighted one of the many things I love about M-Space. It was an impromtu event. Obviously, I hadn’t forseen the need to rescue crew members and aliens floating in space. M-Space's conflict resolution system makes these kinds of events easy to orchestrate while providing tension and drama to the players. Bixel’s Pilot skill was matched against a difficulty level I set at 60%. With each success, he plucked a PC or alien out of space. Each PC floating in space had their own damage pool. For this event, it was their Survival Space skill. Each time Bixel failed to pluck someone out of space, the remaining PCs lost 1d10% of the Survival Space. If it reached zero, they died.

Now that isn’t technically how conflict pools are typically done in M-Space, but I felt it better reflected the situation by making the pool their Survival skill than two of their stats. So I think Clarence would approve.

Art by Naima

Other things the GM can do with M-Space for PoD. Using the factions and circles rules to track all the different forces out there in the campaign, be that GeDeCo, the Aslan, the Imperium, pirate gangs, relationships between the PCs and each planet, etc. PoD has rules for tracking each planets reaction to the PCs and how to turn them into safe havens. This can be handled using M-Space rules and doesn’t really require a lot of work. In fact, it makes tracking such relationships even easier. I’m sure I’m forgetting things and if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask away.

Thank you to Runeblogger for letting me share my experiences converting Pirates of Drinax to M-Space. Converting starships is time consuming but it is very easy. It’s just a lot of starships to convert. I’ve been asked many times for my list of converted starships and I’d love to share them, but Book 3 of Pirates of Drinax is the list of starships and I’d feel like I was copyright infringing if I gave out my conversions. It’d be like handing out their entire book. If Mongoose ever gives me permission to do so, however, rest assured I will take a day to type them up and upload them here.

EDITED (31/3/2020): Thanks to Mr Sprange's generosity and this thread on RPGnet, (thanks, Trsiten!), Scott was allowed to share the exhaustive list of converted starships: Download it here!

Best wishes on your own Pirates of Drinax campaign. It’s truly a great sandbox to play in, perhaps the best ever made for a scifi setting.

Scott Crowder

domingo, 15 de marzo de 2020

Criaturas raras de Glorantha: el jack o'so

26 comentarios
 
Si buscas en la página 86 del RuneQuest básico de JOC Internacional encontrarás una criatura rara a más no poder: el jack o'so. Un monstruo caótico con cuerpo de oso y cabeza de... ¡¿calabaza?! ¿Pero qué chorrada es esta? Tranquilo, a continuación te lo explico todo acerca de este misterioso monstruo de Glorantha y por qué Greg Stafford llegó a incluirlo en el juego de rol de RuneQuest. Es una explicación algo larga, pero espero que te resulte una lectura amena a la par que interesante. ;-)

Un jack o'so paralizando a una víctima, ilustración de Paul Jaquays para la portada del suplemento Griffin Mountain


¿Qué es un jack o'so?


Un jack o'so es un monstruo del Caos de forma humanoide, cuerpo peludo y una cabeza abotargada parecida a una calabaza. Son depredadores inteligentes en su mayoría solitarios con una capacidad mágica que los hace ser especialmente peligrosos, ya que su mirada hipnotizante puede dejarte paralizado e indefenso ante sus afiladas garras y colmillos. Aunque el RuneQuest de JOC no tenía una ambientación fija, es un monstruo propio del mundo de Glorantha creado por Greg Stafford.

Varias ilustraciones del jack o'so en diversas ediciones del juego de rol RuneQuest.


¿Por qué ese nombre?


En la edición original de RuneQuest, el monstruo se llama jack o'bear, así que el nombre del monstruo es un juego de palabras con la leyenda irlandesa de Jack-o'-lantern. Esta leyenda cuenta que había un hombre muy tacaño pero muy listo llamado Jack que, resumiendo mucho, robó a sus vecinos y engañó al Diablo para que no se llevara su alma. Al no poder entrar en el Cielo ni en el Infierno, tras su muerte vagó por la tierra en plan espectro atormentado. Para burlarse de él, el Diablo le arrojó una brasa infernal para que pudiera ver algo en la oscuridad del limbo. Pero como Jack era muy listo, sacó un nabo (sí, un nabo) que llevaba en el bolsillo (como hace todo el mundo), lo escarbó un poco y metió la brasa dentro para poderlo usar como linterna. De ahí el nombre: Jack of the lantern, abreviado Jack-o'-lantern, o Jack el de la linterna. Los niños irlandeses se entretenían haciendo linternas a base de nabos hasta que sus familias emigraron a Estados Unidos. Como allí no tenían muchos nabos, pero sí muchas calabazas, siguieron con la tradición cambiando la linterna-nabo por una linterna-calabaza. De ahí que en la fiesta de Halloween, aún hoy, se hagan farolillos vaciando calabazas, que en inglés llaman «jack-o'-lantern». Y como Halloween ahora se relaciona con las historias de terror, pues esas linternas se hacen con rostros monstruosos que den miedo.


De la linterna a la cabeza


Pero para entender del todo este asunto, hace falta hablar de otra leyenda: el jinete sin cabeza. Al parecer, hay muchas leyendas europeas sobre almas en pena que toman la forma de jinetes sin cabeza. Un escritor estadounidense llamado Washington Irving, autor entre otros, de Cuentos de la Alhambra, publicó en 1820 un relato breve titulado «La leyenda de Sleepy Hollow». Quien lo haya leído sabrá que tiene poco que ver con la película de Tim Burton, pero en fin. En el relato, los colonos holandeses de Sleepy Hollow hablan de su propia leyenda del jinete sin cabeza, y al final del relato entra en juego una calabaza. Pues bien, de algún modo que todavía no alcanzo a comprender, y con el paso el tiempo, algunos artistas malentendieron el detalle de la calabaza y empezaron a dibujar el jinete sin cabeza portando una cabeza de calabaza o sosteniendo en la mano una linterna con forma de calabaza de rostro diabólico. Tal vez simplemente fusionaron la leyenda de Jack el de la linterna con la del jinete sin cabeza. O no. Vete a saber. El caso es que la combinación de ser humanoide con la cabeza diabólica de calabaza resultó ser algo que daba bastante miedo. Supongo que de ahí también proviene ese héroe malote de Marvel, el motorista fantasma, que es una evolución más moderna de esta extraña fusión, aunque en este caso la calabaza se sustituye por un cráneo ardiente. Incluso hubo un archivillano llamado Jack O'Lantern. Pero me estoy yendo por las ramas. El caso es que ahora ya tenemos un tipo que da miedo y que es un fantasma con cabeza de calabaza. Ahora ya solo falta un tercer componente para terminar el cóctel del jack o'so.

Detalle de una ilustración de Fabio Leone del relato La leyenda de Sleepy Hollow, con la errónea fusión de linterna y jinete.


El bugbear de Dungeons & Dragons


Aunque esto va de RuneQuest y Glorantha, el juego de rol Dungeons & Dragons desempeña un papel crucial en el origen del jack o'so. Cuesta creer, pero fíjate en la ilustración de la derecha:

En la página 67 de Greyhawk aparece la ilustración del bugbear y sus amigos.

Esta ilustración creada por Greg Bell muestra varios monstruos y el más alto es un humanoide peludo con una cabeza extraña que recuerda a una calabaza. De hecho, es una calabaza. La ilustración aparece en un suplemento de la primera edición de D&D, el Supplement I: Greyhawk, publicado en 1975. Al final de todo de este libro, Gary Gygax describe por primera vez un monstruo emparentado con los hobgoblins: el bugbear. Como tantos otros monstruos, está basado en el folclore. En este caso, el bugbear es la versión medieval anglosajona del hombre del saco, un monstruo con forma de oso que vive en el bosque. Las madres usaban el cuento para aterrorizar a sus hijos y así forzarles a obedecer. Gary Gygax describe el monstruo algo así como «grandes goblins gigantes peludos». Al parecer, el aspecto del monstruo en la ilustración se debe a un error de comunicación entre Gary Gygax y el ilustrador, Greg Bell. Gygax le dijo que lo dibujara con «una cabeza como una calabaza» y el ilustrador se lo tomó literalmente y lo dibujó con una cabeza con forma de calabaza. En este caso, creo que debió pensar en esos jinetes fantasmales con cabeza de calabaza de los que he hablado antes. Debido a eso y durante años, los primeros másters de D&D describieron los bugbears a sus jugadores como monstruos con cabeza de calabaza. Finalmente, el error se corrigió cuando más tarde se publicó el Monster Manual y allí sí la ilustración fue la del monstruo peludo que Gygax había ideado. Y desde entonces, los «osgos» (traducción española del bugbear) tienen la forma actual que tienen (puedes ver uno aquí).


El verdadero origen del jack o'so


Cuando Greg Stafford estaba preparando el juego de rol RuneQuest (la primera edición de 1978), habló con la empresa Archive Miniatures para hacer una línea de miniaturas de Glorantha. A Stafford le ofrecieron la posibilidad de contar con muchas más miniaturas inmediatamente si aprovechaba algunas de las miniaturas genéricas que ya tenían hechas y las convertía en criaturas de Glorantha. Una de esas miniaturas «genéricas» era la del bugbear de D&D, esculpida a partir de esa ilustración demasiado literal que he comentado antes (ver imagen de la miniatura a la derecha). Greg Stafford creó sus datos de juego para RuneQuest y le cambió el nombre de «bugbear» a «Jack O'Bear», que seguramente le pareció un nombre mucho más apropiado debido a su cabeza de calabaza. Para crear el  poder paralizante se inspiró en una creación propia anterior (ver bonus track, más adelante). Y así, sin más, fue cómo estos monstruos pasaron a formar parte de este mundo de fantasía.


El jack o'so en tus partidas


De todas formas, el origen caprichoso de este monstruo no es motivo para que en tus partidas ambientadas en Glorantha tengas que representarlo de una forma que no te gusta. Tal como yo lo veo, el jack o'so no tiene por qué tener una ridícula y literal calabaza por cabeza. Si te gusta la idea, pues adelante, al fin y al cabo es un monstruo del Caos y con el Caos todo vale. Por otro lado, si te parece ridículo, es muy fácil cambiarlo. La descripción de este monstruo dice que sus cabezas «semejan calabazas», no que tengan una calabaza por cabeza. Me imagino que un aterrorizado granjero, al acudir a los aventureros y describirles el monstruo que ha devorado a su hermano, podría usar esta descripción, igual que hizo Gary Gygax al describir al bugbear, pero la cabeza en sí sería simplemente deforme y monstruosa. De hecho, así se representa al jack o'so en el bestiario de RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. Puedes ver una imagen del monstruo en mi reseña del bestiario. Pero mis ilustraciones favoritas de este monstruo están en el fanzine Hearts in Glorantha n.º 2. En el artículo de John Harding se representa al jack o'so con una cabeza monstruosa, pero no vegetal. Además, incluye un extenso tratado sobre estas criaturas, con varios mitos que explican el origen del monstruo. Otro caso que ilustra mi punto de vista es la película de terror «Pumpkinhead». Aquí el monstruo no tiene una cabeza de calabaza como sugiere el título, sino una cabeza deforme y monstruosa que alguien podría describir como una calabaza para hacerse entender rápido.

Me encanta esta ilustración de un jack o'so en el n.º 2 del fanzine Hearts in Glorantha (aquí solo un detalle).

Por otro lado, el nombre debería cambiarse al referirse a esta criatura dentro de la ficción de una partida de rol. La coña con las calabazas de Halloween está bien, pero los habitantes de Glorantha desconocen esa leyenda y nunca llamarían al monstruo así. De hecho, ya se le ha cambiado el nombre en otras publicaciones. Por ejemplo, en el bestiario para el juego de rol Hero Wars, predecesor de HeroQuest, se le llamó do-karal. Otros nombres con sentido que se me ocurren son: paralizador, oso del Caos, kara'safra o yakhoso, como se los denomina en este magnífico relato. En este cuento de Thorkrim se describe además una posible explicación para el origen del monstruo.

Finalmente, solo recuerdo una vez en que haya aparecido un «jack o'so» en una partida de rol de RuneQuest. Los personajes estaban en el Condado Solar en Prax y sus poderes paralizantes estuvieron a punto de provocar un «total party kill» de los buenos. Por eso, si sospechas que pueda haber uno cerca, estate muy atento, protégete de inmediato con conjuros como Contramagia o Escudo, y llévate un Disipar Magia para salvar a tus camaradas si el monstruo los hipnotiza. Si quieres incorporar este monstruo a tus partidas con Mythras, descarga gratis sus datos de juego.



Bonus track: el devorador hambriento


A Greg Stafford debió hacerle gracia aquella miniatura del bugbear con cabeza de calabaza, porque años antes él había creado un monstruo parecido (!). Se trataba de una calabaza gigante y monstruosa con el poder de atraer a sus víctimas hasta sus fauces. Este monstruo apareció por primera vez en un relato publicado en el número 1 del fanzine Wyrms Footnotes. En el relato, el héroe Sir Ethilrist se enfrenta al extraño ser. Más tarde, cuando Greg Stafford reeditó su wargame White Bear & Red Moon, situado en Glorantha, y lo renombró como Dragon Pass, añadió esta criatura como una de las unidades del juego y la llamó Hungry Jack.

La ficha negra y blanca de Hungry Jack en el centro de la imagen (foto de Ray, usuario de Board Game Geek).

Años más tarde, en los suplementos Dorastor: Land of Doom y Lords of Terror para RuneQuest 3.ª edición (la de JOC), se incluyeron de nuevo estas calabazas gigantescas de pesadilla. Hungry Jack se describe aquí como un ser legendario «de forma parecida a una calabaza» de cuyas semillas nacieron los devoradores hambrientos (hungry eaters) iguales que el primigenio. Que yo sepa, en ninguna publicación se asegura que los jack o'sos y los devoradores hambrientos tengan alguna relación, pero hay dos cosas que sí están muy claras: que a Stafford le fascinaban las calabazas y que hay gente que se toma las cosas demasiado al pie de la letra. ;-)

sábado, 14 de marzo de 2020

Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes

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The year is 1618 S.T. The Flame of Sartar has been extinguished. For generations, our wise kings and powerful magicians fought against the armies and demons of the Lunar Empire and kept us free. Now the people suffer under the tyranny of the Red Moon. In every hill fort, village, and tribe, there are prophesies of a new liberator who shall start the Hero Wars and free Sartar - the Argrath. Is it your destiny to be this Argrath and relight the Flame of Sartar?

Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes is a supplement for the HeroQuest role-playing game that includes background information about a particular place in the fantasy world of Glorantha, rules for creating characters from this place and an epic campaign ready to play set in that place. That place is the Kingdom of Sartar and the characters belong to the Orlanthi culture, barbarians who worship the Storm pantheon, similar to a mix of Bronze Age cultures between central European Celts and Anatolian Hittites. The campaign allows the player characters to become true heroes whose deeds may well kick off the final rebellion against the Lunar Empire. Yes, that's right. But let's go bit by bit. First I'll deal with the look and then the contents of the book.

<<<Puedes leer esta reseña en español aquí>>>

First things first


Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes was published by Moon Design in 2009. At that time, this creative group of people had recently obtained the rights to Glorantha and the first thing they did with them was to release this huge book with material from Greg Stafford himself and additions from Jeff Richards and many long-time contributors. The goal was to finally have all the information about the Orlanthi from Sartar you need to start playing in just one book. Later, in August 2015 Moon Design took over the management of Chaosium and now they sell it with the logo of Greg Stafford's publishing company on it.

You may wonder why this book was at all necessary. After all, Greg Stafford had already published several supplements detailing the Orlanthi of Sartar in the early 2000s. The reason is that back then the information was very dispersed in several supplements. For example: Thunder Rebels for the Orlanthi culture, Storm Tribe for the deities and their plethora of subcults, the Sartar Rising series for the scenarios, or Dragon Pass for the maps. On the one hand, Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes condenses all this information is in just one book that eliminates everything that was deemed superfluous. So everything you need is in this core mega-pack of juicy Gloranthan information. On the other hand, the previous books published under Issaries Inc. offered a massive amount of information that was difficult to digest. In particular, the myriad subcults of Orlanth and other major gods made the inexperienced player, and even veterans, dizzy! It was a realistic way of looking at the Orlanthi religion, but it was rather overwhelming in terms of gaming, so this return to a simpler and more accessible concept was well received by the fans.

Look and feel


Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes is a 378-page black-and-white paperback with a multitude of full-color maps. The layout is typical of the Gloranthan products laid-out by Rick Meints, that is, double-column and with many small texts in the margins that further detail or explain some aspects. I like this style because it allows you to include more information on each page without the text looking crammed.

The cover art is by John Hogdson and depicts the Feathered Horse Queen, a key character in the history of Sartar, surrounded by other important characters such as Sartar himself and his companions. In the background, there is a stylized representation of Wintertop, an impossibly tall mountain in Dragon Pass, that seems to split the Red Moon in the sky. The first edition of the book had a different cover, by Simon Bray, but they changed it when the book was reprinted, because some fans considered it too amateurish. I agree it has some mistakes in anatomy and perspective, but I still prefer it to the current one, first because I find it more colorful and appealing and second because it shows a scene that is easier to understand (see below). On the contrary, the current cover (see above) looks rather abstract.

The interior art includes more than 200 pieces. Above all, I like Jed Dougherty's dynamic comic book style, and Juha Makkonen's and Regis Moulin's realistic style. Glorantha fans will also spot many pieces from older publications, such as Tales of the Reaching Moon and the French editions of some Gloranthan books. A lot of art from the King of Dragon Pass videogame is featured. There are also more than 20 color maps. The political maps of the Kingdom of Sartar by Colin Driver are clear and functional, in the style that would later be used for the encyclopedic Guide to Glorantha. In fact, these maps make this the first Gloranthan publication with color pages (!). The city maps by Gillian Pierce, in black and white, are a great addition, although they look more sketched than finished. In general, all the art is good despite the variety of styles and quality. Finally, there is a series of illustrations by Simon Bray towards the end of the book that are very detailed and very Gloranthan in feel, but whose technical quality leaves a lot to be desired.

N.B.: In later publications, starting with the two-volume The Red Cow campaign, the look of the Orlanthi changed and became much more inspired in the Bronze Age Mediterranean civilizations. For example, some readers might be startled by the differences in look between the town of Clearwine as depicted in this book and the one in the RuneQuest GM Screen Pack. Fortunately, this is purely an aesthetic matter that does not have any impact at all in the enjoyment of the book or its gameability.

The cover of the first edition shows the initial scene of the campaign included in the book. Can you spot the duck?

The contents


Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes is divided between rules, background and then a truly epic campaign. After the introduction, you find four sections. The first two, Making your Orlanthi character and clan, and Magic and Religion, make up the rules part, which is fully intertwined with the background. On the other hand, the third chapter, The Orlanthi Book is pure background, lovingly detailed and useful. Finally, The Colymar Campaign describes a campaign in four scenarios. Let's now have a look at each chapter in more detail.

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Before the introduction there is a double preface by Greg Stafford and Jeff Richard in which they comment on how much and for how long they had hoped to get their hands on a supplement like this. Not surprisingly, as a future supplement called "The Sartar Campaign" was announced, based on Stafford's campaign material, already in the second edition of RuneQuest, back in 1979!

The introduction itself is six pages long and begins by saying that you only need one copy of the HeroQuest rules and this book to play epic campaigns in the Kingdom of Sartar. After briefly commenting on the book's structure, there is a basic introduction to Glorantha, Dragon Pass, the Orlanthi culture, the Kingdom of Sartar and the gods and goddesses of the Storm pantheon. It's a short and straightforward introduction, very useful for beginner gamemasters or to print out and give players a rundown of what it's all about. In fact, the authors thought about the latter and offer a free downloadable PDF with a Player's Primer. In addition, the two maps included help you place this region within the larger map of Glorantha. Finally, this section ends by defining the main themes of this setting: the relationship between the mythical and the mundane, the tension between freedom and oppression, the desires of the clan and the individual, and the tension between tradition and change. Of course, already on the first page the Orlanthi slogan "your Glorantha will be different" is recalled. This adage basically frees gamemasters and players from the unnecessary obligation to follow the background as if it were written in stone.

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Character and Clan Creation


Making your Orlanthi character and clan takes up 56 pages of the book. The book refers the reader to the HeroQuest rules with the appropriate details for Sartar. Since this book was published before HeroQuest Glorantha, the rules refer the reader to the generic edition of the rulebook. However, this supplement includes some details, especially as far as magic goes, that would later be included in the rulebook focused on Glorantha. For example, even though the Glorantha section of the generic rulebook specifies that characters can begin play with up to 3 runic affinities, here it is already stated that they start with 3.

Click on the image to see it better.

Unsurprisingly, character creation is as fast and easy as in HeroQuest, only here you get the keywords all characters in this region must have, such as "Clan member", "Occupation" and the 3 runic affinities. You learn about the background as you go. For example, in order to know what exactly you can do with the keyword "Clan member", there is a brief description of what is an Orlanthi clan like and what every clan member in Sartar can do. The same applies to the list of occupations you can choose from: farmer, priest, skald, lawspeaker and up to 15, each of them with their favored deities, most common runes, "wergild" or ransom and living standard. Of course, to know what "wergild" is, there is a small glossary that solves doubts about the Orlanthi social strata, and some others, like what is the clan's "tula" or "wyter". However, all this is dealt with in further detail in the section about the Orlanthi culture. The next step is choosing the runes of your character, which in most cases will be Air for men and Earth for women, and then a power rune or a condition rune. To help round up your character you can choose a name from a list and there are 5 example characters.

The character sheet is detailed and themed to the setting. I like that it includes a sort of mannequin you can draw your character on top of. Finally, you get a section about basic useful background to get a clearer picture of how is your character, and the basics you need to know "to get around" properly in the Orlanthi culture where the campaign is set. Daily life, food, villages, clothes and, most of all, the clan.

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Characters belong to a clan, and you need to create it. In HeroQuest, the communities characters belong to are important and in this case the basic community is the clan. All characters can belong to different clans, but it is far better for all of them to belong to the same clan, as this basically solves the perennial question of "Why do you all know each other?". Creating a clan is an easy and fun activity that achieves two goals: players create part of the background together and they learn about the background of the setting, as well as the history and relationships of their clan. The way to do it is by responding to a series of questions with multiple choices: the clan creation questionnaire. Glorantha being a world rooted in myth, some questions are like "What was about to exterminate your clan during the Greater Darkness?", up to the most recent history, like: "What did your clan learn after the Dragonkill War?" or "What did your clan do after the Lunar army occupied your land?". Every answer matters in game terms, usually a +1 or -1 to different scores in several aspects that define your clan that you can note down in the clan sheet. When you finish, your character's clan is perfectly defined: main resources, main virtues of its members, magical powers, and friends, allies and ancestral enemies. Of course, you also get information about how a clan works and a sample clan on the clan sheet. If you like to see it up close, a man called Charles Corrigan did the web version of the questionnaire, which makes all the math for you.

The whole process is very similar to the clan creation system in the first Gloranthan videogames starting with King of Dragon Pass and later Six Ages, where the concept was stolen from. It was even exported into RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, where it is used to create a character's family background.


Magic and Religion


These two words are central to the world of Glorantha, and so this is the longest section of the book. Herein are described the kinds of magic that the Sartarites use. The most common is rune magic, derived from the different deities of the Storm Pantheon, so you also get the HeroQuest rules for it, as well as a description of the Orlanthi religion, its main cults and their mythology. This is not applicable to all of Glorantha, because it is written strictly from the Orlanthi point of view.

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First you get a rundown of all the runes, plus some new ones that are specific to the region of Sartar. This was later repeated in HeroQuest Glorantha. Interesting aspects are what traits of personality every rune is connected to, the visibility of magic and then a small section about other, less common magic among the Orlanthi, like the fetishes of shamans, spells and natural magic talents.

The description of the Orlanthi religion goes to such level of detail as to include what it means to profess the religion of the Storm Pantheon, or what the initiation rites are like. Those who worship the gods do magic by using the runic affinity that matches one of the runes of a particular god or goddess. For example, to be initiated into a cult, you must first have a runic affinity in that god's runes of at least one mastery (1W). In this way, an initiate of Orlanth (god of storms) can use her affinity with the Air rune to create a gale or to have the wind turn aside her enemies' arrows. At a higher level of devotion to the cult, devotees not only use runic affinities, but they can also perform "feats". That means god-talkers, priestesses and runelords can reenact a mythic undertaking of their deity while on the mortal world. Devotees thus identify themselves so much with their goddess or god, that they can channel their magic as if they were the deity. This is the most powerful Orlanthi magic, but it entails some risks, which makes it both natural and ripe for telling epic stories.

Other topics covered in this section are temples, cult leaders, ritual magic, holy days or clan and even tribal magic ceremonies. Minor gods, wyters, (minor gods protecting a clan or tribe), and community magic. I love it that culture and magic are intertwined, because gods and goddesses can punish their followers when they act contrary to the ancestral traditions. For example, hospitality is sacred, and to transgress it means suffering divine wrath. The same goes for breaking an oath made in the name of a deity or the ancestors, or when you take too long to avenge an affront to the clan's honor. If you dare to do that, the gods will send reprisal agents to punish you and your community for your offense!

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Under Orlanthi mythology the core myths of the Orlanthi culture are collected, starting with the Celestial Court and up to the Lightbringers Quest (the myth of how Orlanth and his allies saved the world from destruction). And all the heroes from before Time and after, until the confrontation between Orlanth and the Red Goddess. I find it odd though, that the Lightbringers Quest is cut in half in two different sections.

Then in Cults of Sartar you can read about the most important gods and goddesses worshipped in Sartar. Each includes a rough number of worshippers and other details that help you understand its relative weight in the region: Issaries, Ernalda, Eurmal, Storm Bull, Chalana Arroy are some of these deities. Uralda, the cow goddess, is missing even though she is quite important in King of Dragon Pass. Since Orlanth and Ernalda are the main deities of the Orlanthi culture, they get the longest descriptions (14 and 10 pages respectively). Foreign deities present in Sartar are also described, such as the Red Goddess or Yelmalio. The main cult centers of the region are also described, such as the mountain Kero Fin, the hill of Humakt or the sacred city of Whitewall, all of them conveniently marked on a map.

I like that every cult description also includes one well-known devotee. For example, Minaryth Purple in the case of Lhankhor Mhy. This helps see the religion in action and also provides some NPCs for you to use.

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Heroquesting


Heroquests are one of those aspects that make the world of Glorantha unique. In this section, you can read one of the most accessible, clear and complete accounts on what they are, what they are used for and how to run them in your games. Of course, HeroQuest Glorantha also deals with this topic, but here you get 13 pages more, always from the Orlanthi point of view. A heroquest is described as "a magical voyage where you reenact the mythic deeds of the gods and heroes. It is the source of the most powerful Orlanthi magic and it allows your community and you to interact straight away with the Other World".

There are three kinds described: holy day ceremonies, heroquests undertaken in the Mortal World and heroquests in the Other World (the hero plane). After that, a great number of pages are devoted to show you how to run a heroquest. Starting with the basics: choosing an appropriate myth, how to go out of its limits and its risks, the preparations and up until the goal of the quest.

Then the book goes on to tell you how to develop them: how to begin, how to structure them, how to narrate them, their collateral consequences, what happens if they go wrong, etc. Every section is accompanied by a brief example of play that goes a long way to understand how this is played. The example follows the Lightbringers Quest as a "This World" heroquest, and you get a sample of what enemies and obstacles your players may face if they ever attempt this important but difficult heroquest that takes 14 days to complete.

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So far I have only covered the first 205 pages and there is still a bit to go through...! I mean, this could have well been published in 2 or three different books, but having it all together in one thick volume is great, in my opinion. Are you ready for more? OK, let's go on then...


The Orlanthi culture


This comprises all you ever needed to know about the Orlanthi in Dragon Pass. The level of detail is higher than any other book about them (although I haven't compared it to the contents of the old Thunder Rebels). Following the style of King of Sartar, it is said that this is a collection of real in-world documents about the Orlanthi, but it actually is written in a clear way, just as any other good roleplaying book. The first 13 pages focus on the several core concepts that define individuals pertaining to the Orlanthi culture: age, gender, sort of marriage, status, religious hierarchy and occupation. Each of these contains details about this culture, such as what it means to be elderly, the differences between men and women, the 7 kinds of marriage, the different social strata, and the responsibilities of every individual. Only funerals are strangely absent from this analysis, and only mentioned in passing in several points along the book.

Then you get a description of the Orlanthi social organizations in increasing order of magnitude. Firstly, the blood line, then the clans, and finally the tribes. Politics are included here, of course, as the several different kinds of clan rings are described, as well as the benefits and responsibilities of clan chiefs and tribal kings. Finally, you get a section about how Orlanthi justice works. Again, all this will ring a bell if you have previously played the King of Dragon Pass videogame. But do not worry if you haven't yet, because everything is clearly explained without giving anything for granted.

The book also tells you about the history of the Kingdom of Sartar. In 9 pages you will learn it all, from the recolonization of Dragon Pass by humans (the timeframe in King of Dragon Pass). Then the arrival of Sartar and all his deeds that culminated in the foundation of the kingdom that bears his name. This is followed by a list of all the later kings and queens, together with a family tree of the House of Sartar. Afterwards the Lunar invasion is described, and of course, the rebellion. As is only appropriate, this includes also information about famous rebel leaders such as Kallyr Starbrow and Broyan of Whitewall.

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One of the sections that most surprised me was the one dealing with the different tribes of the kingdom. I wasn't expecting to find so many tribal kings allied with the Lunar Empire. But of course, the state of affairs must be dire for our heroes to lead an epic fight against the occupation forces. This is accompanied with a handy map of all the tribes. There are also other maps signaling the main cities and then a gazetteer of the main places of interest in Sartar, which includes human cities like Alda-chur or the Sun County, inhuman cities like Dragon Eye, and geographical spots such as the legendary Snake Pipe Hollow or the Upland Marsh. I also liked a lot the extensive section about Boldhome, the main city in the kingdom, and the maps of this and other smaller towns like Jonstown, Swenstown and Wilmskirk.

Of interest to any GM will be the adventure hooks that can help inspire simple scenes or whole scenarios, which remind me of the "rare events" of the old Genertela supplement for RQ3. This section should also have included some encounter tables, with scenes to throw at your players, but due to space limits, these tables had to be included into the Sartar Companion.

The neighboring kingdoms and other inhabitants of Dragon Pass are also described in the book: the Volsaxings and Esrolians to the south, the Tarshites to the north, the Sun Dome templars, the fearsome Telmori werewolves, the Grazelanders on the western half of Dragon Pass (including a map), the Praxian nomads to the east or even the Black Horse mercenaries. Even the inhuman enemies: Aldryami, dwarves, Uz, dragons and dragonewts, beast men and tusk riders. I love it that each of these descriptions is written in the 1st person, as it helps roleplay them. For example: "We are the subjects of Pharandros, King of Tarsh" or "We live in Esrolia, the land of 10,000 goddesses". All of them finish with the general opinion that the Sartarites have of them. For example: "The Tarshites are much like us, except for those that copy the ways of their Lunar masters". Finally, 9 pages are devoted to the invaders: the Lunars in Sartar. These are "the baddies", the occupation army, so their description takes much more space. You get brief descriptions of the main kinds of Lunars and then a long section about their armies and leaders, like Fazzur the Wideread or Tatius the Bright. It even explains the terms of the Peace Treaty in Sartar and the taxes the Empire uses to bleed the Orlanthi tribes and clans under their foot.

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Before the campaign proper, the section about the Orlanthi offers specific information on the Colymar tribe, which is the suggested tribe for the playing characters. Describing in detail the 20 tribes of Sartar would have taken up hundreds of pages, so this one serves as a sample. There is background about the tribe's history, and a list of the tribal kings starting with Colymar himself, the first Orlanthi to lead the recolonization of Dragon Pass and ends centuries later with the current king: Kangharl Blackmoor, "who sold his tribe to the Lunar way, and forced his people to swallow the bitter Lunar poison so he could be king". The tribe's 12 clans are also briefly described, with the Orlmarth clan as the suggested clan for starting players. You also get a short gazetteer of the tribal lands, with places such as Clearwine, the fort of the tribal king, the Rainbow Mounds or even a small village of no importance called Apple Lane, among many others. Obviously, this is accompanied by 3 color maps detailing the history, the main towns and the different clans' lands. All of this provides the basics for your players to move around during their first adventures.


The Colymar Campaign


These are 169 pages devoted to start adventuring in the Kingdom of Sartar. The campaign is made of 4 scenarios that work as the basic frame the GM can flesh out with further adventures to create a truly epic campaign. If you do not want to get creative, you can purchase the Sartar Companion supplement, which includes seven scenarios plus encounters or use the old scenarios from the HeroWars game, such as the Sartar Rising series.

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This is "a gameable campaign that places you and your players at the center of an epic storyline of love, vengeance, and mythic adventure". It includes advice on how to prepare the campaign and how to create characters and their clan. It describes the Orlmarth clan as the immediate surroundings of the player characters, including a small gazetteer of important places in the clan's lands, and two maps. It is the best approach to begin a campaign in Glorantha, a world where new GMs are sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of background there is to digest. Here it is only necessary for your players to know the most immediate elements to their characters. Then, both players and their characters can learn more little by little as they get out of their starting small piece of land.

A detail that surprises many people who do not know about the HeroQuest rules is that its scenarios do not include NPC stats. This means there is more space for adventure material and if you plan to run this with another RPG, such as maybe RuneQuest Glorantha, you can use more of its contents. In fact, I would say that 91% of this book is still usable even if you do not plan to play with the HeroQuest rules, which is remarkable. The reason why HeroQuest does not need any NPC stats is because its rules allow the GM to just wing them as you go (although of course you clan prepare them beforehand), which saves a great deal of prep time.

While the beginning of the campaign is slightly railroaded, the authors have really made an effort of offering lots of alternatives to accommodate possible decisions of the player characters all along the four episodes. I like that the campaign starts with two flashbacks that set the tone for what is coming afterwards. The first scenario is "The Feast of Beasts" and is the introduction to the campaign, which will take several fictional years in the world of Glorantha to complete. This scenario presents the campaign arc, which is deeply rooted in the myths of the god Orlanth and the goddess Ernalda, and thus a perfect way to get your feet into this mythical world.

SPOILERS AHEAD: If you want to enjoy playing this campaign, skip this section! In the first scenario, during a holy festival, one of the player characters falls in love with a beautiful priestess of Ernalda and starts wooing her. The priestess sets 3 "impossible tasks" to prove his worth, tasks only fit for a hero. So the three following scenarios are these three challenges. By successfully completing each of them, that player character will not only win the hand of his beloved, but the party will become heroes and heroines that will kick off the rebellion against the Lunar Empire. The second scenario is the first task: retaking the hands the Lunars cut off from the priestess' father no other than Hofstaring Treeleaper, a well-known Orlanthi hero. There is only one problem, those hands are now a trophy in the palace of Temertain, the current prince of Sartar, in Boldhome. If that were not enough, and old adversary will try to make the PC's mission fail. The third scenario is the second task: retrieving the lost sword of a great follower of Humakt, the god of Death. His legendary weapon lies in a dark tower in the depths of the Upland Marsh, home of Delecti the Necromancer and his hordes of undead. So the characters will need to face the dangers of the marsh and unexpected twists. Finally, the fourth scenario is the most epic. Your player characters will have to descend to the Underworld and find the particular hell where the Lunars sent Hofstaring after defeating him in battle, for him to be tortured for eternity after cutting off his hands. In other words, a journey beyond the land of mortals to rescue a legendary hero from hell. In this heroquest the player characters are going to risk everything in order to gain a powerful ally with whom to relight the flame of rebellion among the Orlanthi in Sartar. No small feat!

What I liked the most when I played through this campaign with my friends is that you don't just complete random missions even if you are playing with beginning characters. Quite the contrary: you dive deep into the thick of the setting, dealing with important NPCs and even accomplishing great changes for the good of your people. It is heroic and it is mythic. I thoroughly enjoyed it!


Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes concludes with an appendix with several pieces of useful information: the languages spoken in Dragon Pass, time in Glorantha, a calendar with all the holy days and a chronology of events in Dragon Pass. After that, an alphabetical index of names.

Wait... There's more!


You can find some handouts to download for free from Glorantha.com including a Player's Primer, the clan creation questionnaire and the character sheets. Chaosium also sells the Sartar's Campaign Pack which includes all the maps in the book for 3$ ready to print. There is also the Sartar Companion, a supplement with all the information that could not be included in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes due to lack of space. It includes seven additional scenarios. The first one is free to download from here and is set in Apple Lane. I would also recommend any GMs and players to play the videogame King of Dragon Pass because it can provide lots of ideas for further scenarios.

The Colymar Campaign can be linked with the RuneQuest scenarios set in Dragon Pass, with Pavis: Gateway to Adventure, another thick supplement with background and scenarios, or with the The Coming Storm campaign. Finally, the old Hero Wars and HeroQuest scenarios are still available in PDF at Chaosium for just 5$. With all this material and your own imagination, you can run a big campaign for years.


Wrapping up


Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes is available at Chaosium for 20$ in PDF. You can also find it at DrivethruRPG. As for the printed book, after a long time with no new print run, it is now again available in print on demand through Lulu. It is quite expensive, but it contains everything you need to enjoy a truly heroic Orlanthi campaign. Other publishing companies would have divided those 378 pages in several different supplements that together would have cost more than the actual book. It is also a perfect introduction to the world of Glorantha. A GM can read this book and start playing without needing to know anything else from the setting. As for the players, they empathize quickly with the Orlanthi barbarians who value honor, vengeance and freedom, and who can wield powerful magic like casting lightning from his hands or teleporting or making the land crumble beneath their enemies.

All in all, a great supplement. It will surprise both those who already know about Glorantha and those who would like to start running epic adventures in a mythic world.

You will love this book if:


  • You are planning to run an Orlanthi campaign in Sartar, either with HeroQuest or RuneQuest or even 13th Age Glorantha or any other ruleset.
  • You know nothing about Glorantha, but want to start somewhere.
  • You like complete roleplaying supplements that include extensive background information paired with scenarios.
  • You are running The Red Cow epic campaign, but need background information and extra scenarios.

You don't really need this book if:

  • You don't like the Orlanthi culture.
  • You are running a Gloranthan campaign set somewhere far away from Dragon Pass.

It takes 2 minutes to browse through Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes in this video:

Have you run or played the campaign in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes? Are you planning to? Tell me about it in the comments below.
 
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