lunes, 31 de agosto de 2020

Treasures of Glorantha - V1 Dragon Pass review

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Released in spring 2020 on the official RuneQuest Glorantha community content site at DrivethuRPG, Treasures of Glorantha is a publication by several fans containing lots of magic items for Chaosium's iconic first roleplaying game. The book has been put together by Austin Conrad, author of other RuneQuest publications under the Akhelas seal. Below you can read my review.

    Cover of Treasures of Glorantha volume 1 Dragon Pass, art by Sasha Radivojevic

I remember many years ago when I ran the Griffin Island campaign with RQ3, how cool it was when the players finally got the fabled Wind Sword, how much it changed the status quo of the campaign, and the consequences it had. I also fondly remember how another player got a branch of a magic tree that he could fly on as a sort of fantasy Silver Surfer. Other examples are Wrath, the lost sword from the Colymar campaign that a fellow player managed to own, or even Balastor's Axe from the ruins of Old Pavis.

Aside from these powerful, one-of-a-kind magic items, in RQ3 player characters also tended to end up carrying lots of unnamed, more common magic items they had looted from defeated enemies. Items such as magic points enchantments, spirit spell matrixes, and POW spirit bindings. In some cases, they had so many of them, that they were no more special than a belt of magic ammo. I have always liked much better the former kind of magic items. The legendary game-changing ones, but most of all, the ones with enough background to make them unique. In a Pavis campaign I ran some years ago, I was initially very stingy with providing characters with magic items since I didn't want them to unbalance the game as fast as it had happened in previous campaigns. But then one day I asked the players for feedback, and one of them said: "Look, I am enjoying your campaign a lot. I can only think of one thing you could do to improve it a little: hand us more magic items, pleeeeease...". Fortunately, I owned a copy of Plunder, the supplement that inspired Treasures of Glorantha - V1 Dragon Pass.

Plunder was a supplement for RuneQuest 2nd edition released in 1980. In its 58 pages, Rudy Kraft described hoards of treasure but, most importantly, 63 magic items with interesting Gloranthan background. Each of these items was described using a format that includes its relationship with Gloranthan cults, how well known its powers are, the procedure to make one (if there is any), its history, its powers in game terms, and finally its monetary value.

Thread on BRP-Central next to the cover of Rudy Kraft's Plunder

Twenty-six years later, Chaosium's president Rick Meints encouraged everyone on the Glorantha subforum at BRP-Central to come up with new Gloranthan magic treasures using the same format as in Plunder. "The best may very well end up in a future publication", he said. Lots of fans submitted their creations and you can still read them here. Three years later, Chaosium's vice president Jeff Richard started another thread at BRP Central called "PLUNDER competition!", with similar results. I remember submitting a couple magic items to these threads. Another fan who did so was Austin Conrad.

These two threads inspired him to publish Treasures of Glorantha, a 64-page-long full-color publication that compiles some of the best magic items that he and other fans contributed. There were so many, that he curated the best for a first volume focused on Dragon Pass. The cover art, by Sasha Radivojevic, shows the Temple of Multitudes, one of the many temples along the Great Staircase at Ezel, where you can visit the holiest temple of Ernalda in all of Glorantha. Perhaps it would have been more fitting to show the Temple of Treasures that stands at the beginning of the way, but still, the cover has a grandiose feel. Moreover, the artist has drawn inspiration from that well-known Nabataean mausoleum in Petra commonly known as... The Treasury. Wink-wink!

List of contents of Treasures of Glorantha V1 Dragon Pass

Treasures of Glorantha volume 1: Dragon Pass not only includes 32 magic items to make your players happy, but also 8 pages about how to handle treasures in Glorantha, and more specifically, in the lands of the Orlanthi. Austin Conrad talks about three types of rewards: physical, social, and magical, and offers useful advice to make each of them more interesting in the Gloranthan context. The part about communities and how to distribute treasure is also interesting, as it includes the cultural aspect. This topic is also addressed in the classic Borderlands campaign, but here there is a different option. All in all, this section will prove particularly useful for newcomers to Glorantha, but it also provides food for thought for veteran GMs.

As far as the magic items go, the first two in Treasures of Glorantha are described in several pages because they are actually a magic item category with many possible varieties. In the case of True Dragon's Blood, its power depends on how much of the blood is available and attuned by the character, as well as a random die roll on a table of draconic powers. Some of these powers are identical to the ones dragonewts can use, like Firebreath or Sprout Wings (as described in the Bestiary), but others are completely new. And I love that all of them entail some negative consequences.

Medicine bundles, on the other hand, are a whole new set of magic items shamans can create by using a specific Craft skill and performing a new specific enchantment ritual. The fact that this new skill and spell are needed to create them is a clever way to balance the powers they provide. These rules were created by Simon Phipp and provide a lot more flexibility for shamans and sometimes their closest friends. The amount of different medicine bundles shamans can create with these rules is overwhelming. God bundles, ancestor bundles, and spirit weapons are still visible in his huge Gloranthan website, but in Treasures of Glorantha they have been updated to the rules of RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha. Spirit traps sound incredibly useful, as they allow shamans to have more spirits bound than their Charisma dictates. And, of course, spirit needles are a nasty weapon to inflict upon a hated enemy. Apprentice shaman PCs will be extremely happy with this, and with so many options available they will have a hard time deciding what to create next.

The next 30 magic items have shorter descriptions, but they cover a wide range of abilities and powers. From amulets that help you resist poison to a magic paintbrush that creates illusions. I love that you can find items that are ideally suited (but not limited to) to reward different kinds of characters, so you can find powerful weapons for your Orlanthi warrior, for your Yelmalian warrior, or for the odd troll warrior among the PCs. There are also different magic items for the Grazelander in the party, for the Issaries trader, for the hunter, funny trinkets for the trickster, etc. There is even a nasty weapon designed to be wielded by an enemy of the adventurers.

One of my favorite magic items is Atalantea's Spear, designed by Jerry Thorpe. It is fit for an Orlanthi adventurer and will provide lots of magical power. However, it also has some drawbacks, because the heroine that inhabits the spear has a personality of her own, and if the wielder does not behave according to her ideals, she may cause trouble. Even better than this is Fallen Star, another magical spear designed by Austin Conrad that is the perfect reward for a Yelmalian warrior. The powers of this spear are only revealed to its wielder little by little, as he or she ascends in the cult hierarchy and performs specific deeds. It fuses together cult obligations with cool powers, exactly like Gloranthan cults do, and so it encourages the adventurer to act in a certain way. Very Gloranthan! It is a pattern that can be used to create many other weapons for other cults. Finally, I just can't fail to mention the Singing Sword, also designed by Jerry Thorpe. It is as useful as it can be annoying, but I'm sure it can provide lots of laughter on the gaming table, and that makes it great.

All in all, this supplement is a must. Firstly, magic items are useful in any campaign and you can never have too many of them. Secondly, they are well designed, because the most powerful ones have drawbacks that GMs can use to balance the extra powers they provide. On top of that, they all have some relationship to the cultures and myths of Glorantha. I once read a piece of advice on a blog, maybe it was the Alexandrian, but I'm not certain, about how to make players more interested in the lore of the setting. Since players are always interested in their magic items, the answer was to give them only magic items that had big ties to the setting, so you can teach them that setting background through the magic items. And for that, the magic items in Plunder and Treasures of Glorantha are invaluable.

Unfortunately, I can't enjoy this supplement as any other fan would, because of one little detail that I can't ignore. I contributed a magic item to Jeff Richard's thread in July 2019, called Garzeen's Earring of Understanding. And Treasures of Glorantha, published in May 2020, contains Garzeen's Earrings with the same powers and some details added... by Jerry Thorpe. I talked to Austin Conrad and Jerry Thorpe about this. Austin claims this was an unfortunate case of "convergent development". However, I can't shake off the feeling that my idea has been used in the book without my permission.

My magic item and Jerry Thorpe's - Click to enlarge

The good

  • The section on how to handle magic items in Glorantha
  • All magic items have interesting backgrounds and are well-thought in game terms.
  • The creativity behind most of these creations.
  • Useful for almost any campaign. Even if your players aren't Orlanthi, you can still use these magic items as inspiration to create your own.

The bad

  • That some fans won't buy the book knowing most of the information is available on the BRP-Central forum.
  • The price is a bit steeper than usual (to pay for the interior art, I suppose).
  • I will always look at this book as the one containing my idea, used without my permission.

Treasures of Glorantha v1 Dragon Pass is available at DrivethruRPG in PDF for 15$ and in print plus PDF for 25$. I hope you enjoyed reading my review. If you'd like to share your opinion about it, that would be great.

5 comentarios:

  1. Que feo que no te reconozcan tu contribución...

    1. Gracias por el comentario, Miguel.
      Reconocer mi contribución supondría que han usado mi idea sin mi permiso para ganar dinero, así que no creo que lo hagan. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  2. Vaya, vaya. No cuesta ningún trabajo reconocerlo al menos.

    1. Según el autor ha sido coincidencia. Y al aprecer fue mala suerte que olvidara haberme pedido permiso para publicar mi objeto mágico cuando Jerry le ofreció incluir un objeto mágico prácticamente idéntico. Ajo y agua. 😣


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