sábado, 25 de abril de 2020

Roleplaying in Glorantha: How to get started

21 comentarios
Glorantha is a huge fantasy world that its main creator, Greg Stafford, started exploring in the 60s. Since then, it has been developed to a level of detail that can seem daunting for newcomers. There are so many different books, roleplaying games and editions, that it can be difficult to really know where to begin. Below I offer my approach to this topic, divided into 3 questions: "Where should I start reading?", "What roleplaying game should I choose?" and "What are good beginning scenarios or campaigns?"

First of all

The most common and sensible piece of advice that veterans give to beginners is: start small. That is, you don't need to know everything to start playing, it is better to focus on a small region of Glorantha and place your players' first adventures there. This reduces the amount of information you and your players need to soak in and you can play entire campaigns in those regions. Besides, 90% of the inhabitants of Glorantha never cross the borders of their homelands, so it makes perfect sense. The two regions of Glorantha that have the most support in terms of background and published scenarios are the Kingdom of Sartar in Dragon Pass and the city of Pavis in Prax. Therefore, these are the two regions that are the most easy to start in, since most of the work has already been done for you. Another good piece of advice is to have all player characters belong to the same culture, usually the same clan or city. This reduces the amount of information you all need to know, and provides the reason why they all know each other from the start.

Dragon Pass (blue outline), the Kingdom of Sartar (red), the city of Pavis (pink) and Duke Raus's grantland (green).

Another common misconception is that Glorantha is a complex world and that you need to have a degree in Ethnography or Mythology to be able to play it "right". This is nonsense. You will always play Glorantha right, as long as you and your players are having fun. Greg Stafford even coined the adage "Your Glorantha Will Vary" YGWV to indicate that everyone will change, forget, ignore, or add things to Glorantha, and that will be perfectly cool and advisable. When canon gets in the way of fun, forget about canon! :-)

Where should I start reading?

One of the easiest ways is through the webcomic Prince of Sartar. You may not understand everything (and there's no need to, at this point or ever), but it will give you a good overview of what Glorantha is like. And it's free. Unfortunately, it has been on hold for a long time and it is not likely that it will be continued. Still, there are plenty of colorful pages to enjoy. You can read an interview to the artist here (bottom of the post).

Another recommendable place to start is Chaosium's RQ Wiki, as it contains an introduction to Glorantha. On top of that, there you can also get a taste of the rules for the latest edition of RuneQuest, but more on that later. 

Another fun way to get your feet wet is by playing the Gloranthan video games: King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages: Ride like the Wind (follow the links to read reviews). They are available for a variety of platforms. While each of them is focused on a particular culture of Glorantha, they include encounters with other cultures and monsters, and both include heroquests, which are a unique element of the setting. Oh, and you don't need any previous knowledge about the world to enjoy them, everything you need to know is included in the game.

As for books, the best thing is to start with the basic roleplaying rulebook of a game that has Glorantha as its setting (see the next section further below), as each of them obviously contain a fairly good introduction. However, if you don't want to commit to any particular game yet, there are books about Glorantha containing zero rules, only background:

- The Glorantha Sourcebook (read a review). While not exactly an introductory book to Glorantha, it really is the closest thing there is to it (aside from RPGs, that is) and it has a reasonable price as well. It focuses on the history of Dragon Pass and the Lunar Empire, as well as on the mythical ages of the world, while providing a solid overview of the main pantheons and gods.

- The Guide to Glorantha. This is a huge gazetteer of the whole world, but at 750 pages, this is too much information and too expensive for beginners. Still, I could just not mention it here.

- Fiction set in Glorantha. There are a few short stories and novellas set in Glorantha. For example, The Complete Griselda is a collection of picaresque short stories set in the city of Pavis. Greg Stafford's King of Sartar is not proper fiction, more like a compilation of in-world documents detailing the history of Dragon Pass.

The Glorantha Sourcebook, the two volumes of The Guide to Glorantha and the book King of Sartar.

What roleplaying game should I choose?

This obviously depends on your gaming orientations and gaming goals. However, one thing is certain: the easiest point of entry are games that have Glorantha as its basic setting (see the list below point #1). But if you prefer some other ruleset, you could adapt it to play in Glorantha after some work on your part (see my list of recommendations below point #2).

1. RPGs with Glorantha baked in the rulebook:

RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha (read a review) may suit you if your players and you enjoy RPGs with a medium level of crunch, with hit points, magic points, damage dice, etc. Combat rules provide a lot of detail, so they describe the action for you. Detailed Gloranthan magic, passions, runes and reputation. The first obvious choice is the RuneQuest Starter Set with rules, introduction to Glorantha, 3 scenarios, a soloquest to learn the rules, beautiful maps, dice, 14 pregens, already available and targeted to showing the system to newcomers, for only 30$! If you want to have a peek at the rules right now, I recommend you to download for free the RuneQuest Quickstart. You can also play the Starter Set Soloquest "The Battle of Dangerford" online, and get to experience the basic rules in a fun way. If you consider this is the game for you, I would recommend you to get the slipcase set, which includes the rulebook, plus the Bestiary and the GM Screen Pack.

HeroQuest Glorantha (read a review) may suit you if your players and you enjoy RPGs with very light rules that focus on telling a story. Very low level of prep for the GM, since you don't need to prepare NPC stats. Players have more freedom to create characters. The adventures flow quicker, as they are not bogged down in combat or crunch. Moreover, non-combat "skills" such as social skills, relationships, and even abstract concepts like "Peaceful Aura" become as important as combat-oriented skills because they all have the same weight in game terms. If you want to have a look at the rules, the generic ruleset, now called QuestWorlds, is available for free. A good introduction to Glorantha can also be found in the Sartar Player's Primer, which is free to download.

13th Age Glorantha may suit you if you prefer rules similar to those of D&D: character classes, hit points, class-based powers, niche-protection, etc. Of course, if you are already familiar with the rules of the 13th Age RPG, this is a no-brainer. The rulebook also includes an epic campaign. However, there aren't any supplements for it yet.

RuneQuest 2nd edition (read a review): This is the classic, old-school edition of RuneQuest from the 70s. Some fans like it, but I wouldn't recommend it over the current RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha. Both editions are backwards and forwards compatible, though.

Covers of the current RuneQuest 7th edition, HeroQuest Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha and RuneQuest 2nd edition

All these rulebooks (except HeroQuest/QuestWorlds) are currently sold from Chaosium's website and DrivethruRPG. Avalon Hill and Mongoose Publishing also produced editions of RuneQuest with Glorantha as an add-on setting, but I haven't included them in this list because they are no longer in print. If you are curious, follow the link to see a picture of all the editions of RuneQuest and HeroQuest in order of publication.

2. RPGs with generic rules:

This can be whatever ruleset you prefer, but of course they require some work on your part, as you will need to create rules or adapt them to the setting of Glorantha. The easiest ones to adapt are those that have a similar system to the ones mentioned above, and specifically to the D100-based system that started with RuneQuest. For example:

Mythras: Formerly known as RuneQuest 6th edition, it almost got a supplement for playing in Glorantha (Adventures in Glorantha), but their authors lost the license before they could publish it. It has a level of crunch slightly higher than RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha, but this also means it is also a lot more strategic. Read a review.

OpenQuest: This a simpler version of RuneQuest, made for people who want lighter rules that are still similar to RuneQuest. The basic rulebook without art is free to download. Plus, D101 Games also sells fanzines and adventure books for the world of Glorantha.

Legend: This used to be the 5th edition of RuneQuest until Mongoose Publishing lost the rights to the RuneQuest name. Now it does not contain any reference to Glorantha, but the rules are similar to the 6th edition. However, Mythras is a much more refined version of these rules, so the biggest appeal of Legend nowadays is its price: 1$ for the PDF version.

The covers of Mythras, the unpublished Adventures in Glorantha, OpenQuest and Legend.

What are good beginning adventures to run?

For RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha, you have the RuneQuest Quickstart (read my review), which is free to download. Then you have the 3 scenarios in the Starter Set all focused on a town and its surrounding lands. There is also this other adventure free to download: The Rattling Wind. Then the next best thing is the Gamemaster Screen Pack which includes 3 complete scenarios focused on a small region of Dragon Pass and a mini-sandbox setting (read a review here). Six Seasons in Sartar is also excellent.

The RuneQuest Quickstart, The RuneQuest Starter Set, The Rattling Wind and the Gamemaster Screen Pack

For HeroQuest Glorantha, all these books are currently out of print, but they will hopefully be reprinted when the physical edition of QuestWorlds. However, there is a free to download scenario called Return to Apple Lane in case you want to check it out. The books that ought to be reprinted after QuestWorlds are: Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, which includes a fabulous campaign (here's a review). Or The Eleven Lights campaign, in two volumes (The Coming Storm includes all the NPCs), lots of factions, NPCs and an epic story. You could also choose to start your campaign in Pavis: Gateway to Adventure, which contains background and 4 scenarios set around a small city in the arid region of Prax, occupied by an invading empire and right next to massive ancient ruins.

Sartar Kingdom of Heroes, the two volumes of The Red Cow campaign, and Pavis Gateway to Adventure

Aside from these, you can find more scenarios and campaigns originally published for earlier editions of these two games, that are still compatible.

As long as RuneQuest goes, the campaign books published for the 2nd edition are great. They focus on small regions, contain lots of background and scenarios and are very easy to use with the latest edition. What's more: they can be easily connected to each other:

- Griffin Mountain: An classic sandbox campaign where your players have free reign to decide what to do. A huge wilderness full of monsters, three citadels, and lots of adventure.
- Borderlands: The players become mercenaries for Duke Raus, a nobleman exiled from his homeland and forced to tame a wild grantland in the Valley of Cradles, south of Pavis, in the arid region of Prax. His fort is surrounded by Praxian nomad tribes and roaming monsters.
- Pavis & The Big Rubble: Brave the dangers of the huge ruins of Old Pavis for treasure and glory, and perhaps join the rebellion and kick the Lunar Empire out of the new city! The city of Pavis is set in the semi-desertic region of Prax, so it is a bit like the Tatooine of Glorantha.

You'll notice there are two of each with different covers, but I recommend these because they include a bit more material.

For HeroQuest you can easily include in the above mentioned campaigns all the scenarios published for HeroWars, the 1st edition of the rules, set in Sartar: Barbarian Adventures, includes 3 pretty low-key scenarios that immerse you in the clan life of the Orlanthi (much as in the King of Dragon Pass video game); Orlanth is Dead! offers you information and two pivotal and epic scenarios for your campaign. Finally, Gathering Thunder provides a heroquest where you meet important NPCs and do heroic stuff.

Barbarian Adventures, Orlanth is Dead! and Gathering Thunder

The adventures published for RuneQuest are also usable for HeroQuest. The other way round is also doable, but it requires a bit more work, since HeroQuest scenarios do not include any stats. All these adventures and campaigns are available from Chaosium's website and from DrivethruRPG.

OK, but what would you do, Runeblogger?

If I knew nothing about Glorantha, I would start reading first the free materials I have mentioned along the text, to see if I like it in general: the RQ Wiki, the online SoloQuest, the webcomic, the RuneQuest Quickstart, the Sartar Player's Primer. The "What my Father Told Me" sections are also cool views from inside a culture (just be aware that some parts may have changed a lot in later publications). Then I would buy either the RuneQuest Starter Set and, if I liked it enough, I would then buy RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha together with The Glorantha Sourcebook. After that I would choose between one of the two best supported regions for starting gamemasters to start a campaign: either the Kingdom of Sartar in Dragon Pass or the city of Pavis in Prax, and I would buy one of the scenario books set in that region that uses the rules of the game of my choice. Years ago, with a friend, we arranged it this way: he would buy all the scenarios set in Dragon Pass for his campaign and I would buy all the scenarios set in Pavis and Prax for mine. :-P

Well I hope I have given you some clues to help you get started running adventures in Glorantha. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. :-)

21 comentarios:

  1. Respuestas
    1. Yes, my dear friend Kenrae, but we'll see what happens when the White Bull arrives in Sartar, at the head of a Praxian army! :-P

  2. Hell! It depends on too many factors! Do you like pre-created adventures or do you prefer to run your owns? Are you a canon obsessive guy or do you care a crap about it? Do you like a detailed and rich context or a very light and free setting? If you like freedom and create your own stuff, man, run fucking away from the Dragon Pass. Read a short description of each region. Choose the one you like the most, and go ahead! Whatever you pick you will have less to read than the Dragon Pass setting and a faster starting. But if you like to have plenty of material available, then plunge yourself in the Dragon Pass. I'm not joking, you have cool and epic books to read. But let me warn you, if you go for the last option, then I hope you like to be playing in a sort of Barbarians vs Romans thing :P

    1. Thanks for your comment, Master Gollum. I agree with you. 😄
      In that last line, that "sort of" is very big. It could also mean "sort of" fantasy Spartans against Persians. 😋 You could also play troubleshooting adventurers in a land of myth and magic, without even mentioning the occupying forces, specially in the newest scenarios, where the Lunar Army is no longer as powerful as before.

    2. Come on! It's not that big. Call Odín or Thor Orlanth, Loki Eurmal, Tyr Humakt, Fenrir Telmor, and so on. Pick a huge axe, a nice raw bear hide, paint your body, and start to cut falangist Lunar heads. If you don't have Lunars at hand, well then go against that neighbor clan :P

      What make you think about Spartans and Persians? It was mostly a naval invasion, with huge sea warfare. It was not Spartans vs Persians thing, that's just a glorified episode of the long conflict of the Greco-Persian Wars (Guerras Médicas in Spanish). It was a fight between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states. A lot of polis senate politics involved here. I can't see any resemblance with the Orlanthi clan based society or how the Lunar expansion is pictured.

  3. Recomiendas utilizar los suplementos Barbarian Adventures, Orlanth is Dead! y Gathering Thunder junto con la campaña de Colymar de Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes y Companion?

    1. La respuesa corta es: sí. :) La respuesta larga es: no me los he leído, pero pueden combinarse perfectamente. Convenceré a Kenrae de que nos escriba un post sobre cómo crear la campaña definitiva usando los distintos módulos publicados.

      In English: Short answer: yes, you can combine those scenarios with the Colymar campaign in Sartar Kingdom of Heroes. Long answer: I haven't read them yet, but I'll convince my friend Kenrae to write a post about how to combine all the published scenarios about Sartar into the ultimate epic Gloranthan campaign. :)

    2. Genial! Muchísimas gracias! Me llega esta semana (si todo va bien) los libros de Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes y el Companion, y era para hacerme también con esos libros.

    3. Aunque supongo que no son imprescindibles, tienes un montón de material de trasfondo en ellos. Ambos traen un gran número de cultos en gran detalle, además de describir la sociedad orlanthi y dar pautas par crear los clanes y personajes. Si te van los orlanthis, pues son casi imprescindibles. Es lo que comentaba, que el problema del Paso del Dragón es que hay una cantidad abrumadora de información sobre él.

    4. Ya te digo que yo voy a usarlos después de haber dirigido la campaña Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes.

    5. Por cierto, tengo trozos de SKoH y el Companion traducidos. Antes estaban en los ficheros de la lista GloranthaHispana pero ahora ya no hay ficheros... deberíamos tener algún repositorio en algún sitio.

    6. Master Gollum: yo estaba más interesado en las aventuras. Información de trasfondo como dices hay mucha, yo ya he leído unos cuantos libros sobre el tema, pero con lo obsesivo que soy con estas cosas seguro que eso van a caer también.

      Kenrae: gracias por tu consejo, lo usarás con la campaña de Colymar o con The Eleven Lights? Y esas traducciones resultan interesantes, a ver si las subís a algún sitio para poder hacerme con ellas.

    7. Bueno, es que lo voy a juntar todo. Los jugadores crearán otros personajes para jugar The Eleven Lights y cuando lleguen al punto temporal en que acabó SKoH (el año 1621) empezarán a jugar en paralelo los dos grupos de personajes. The Eleven Lights mola mucho pero no vi cómo aprovecharla bien con el mismo grupo que había acabado SKoH así que al final decidí esto.
      Intento explicar todo sin poner spoilers que hay jugadores leyendo :P.

    8. The Eleven Lights también la tengo, pero pendiente de lectura, no sabía muy bien porque campaña decidirme para empezar a jugar, al final he elegido la de SKoH.
      Aunque bueno, estoy en el inicio de la preparación, falta mucho.

    9. Por cierto, si me mandas un mail a mi nick con cuenta de gmail te mando lo que tengo traducido.

  4. Nowadays, there are a number of promising series in the Jonstown Compendium community program that lend themselves for good starts. The White Ruin as part one of the Namoldin campaign gives you a start in the conflicted area between the Colymar and the Malani tribes. The Sandheart Militia saga is into its second installment, and builds on MOB's RQ3 supplement Sun County (which is sadly still out of print, as are the other RQ3 Renaissance products). For a ducker take at Glorantha, Yozarian's Bandits offer a good one-off or possibly a jump-off to a dungeons and drakes campaign, with The Quacking Dead offering some supplemental horror. The announced Six Seasons in Sartar and the Dundealos project of the Jaldonkiller Saga (both briefly covered in the current episode of Wind Words) have a similar scope.

    Urban adventures can be quite Gloranthan, too. If you don't mind canon too much and are willing to spend 5$ for the pdf of the Midkemia Press City of Carse book, you can play that in Glorantha. The Chaosium house campaign in all likelihood did so (with their licensed version of that supplement that is out of print and no longer licensed). You can tie a naval campaign to that, too - Men of the Sea offers the concept of Ports of Call, and is available in the HeroQuest and Glorantha vault at chaosium.com for another 5$. While there may be a new and official and canonical version of Karse somewhere on the far horizon, I don't think that you will see that within the next three years. In the meantime, there is quite a lot of material available that requires only some general conversion.

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment and suggestions, Sartar. :-)
      I agree completely that The Jonstown Compendium is a good source for beginning scenarios, such as the ones you mention.

  5. Very good overview, you helped me get into this awesome game!

    1. Thank you! 😄 What game did you choose to get into Glorantha?


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