domingo, 23 de octubre de 2022

Gloranthan fanzines: Tales of the Reaching Moon

12 comentarios

In 1996 I was walking around London. I have forgotten how, but I managed to find a role-playing shop, Orcs Nest, which is quite centrally located, and I went in. As soon as I passed through the door, I noticed a magazine being displayed on a stool. It looked like it had a broo drawn in full colour on the cover with a white background. Could it be? As I got closer, my suspicions were confirmed when I saw the word Prax on the cover. I excitedly flipped through the magazine and my little geeky started pounding: the whole content was focused on Glorantha! It was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.

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Back then I knew no other fanzine entirely focused on RuneQuest and Glorantha, so it was a great find. In fact, I did not even now about the great books Chaosium had produced during the so-called intense but brief "RuneQuest Renaissance", titles like Sun County, River of Cradles, Shadows on the Borderlands, Strangers in Prax or Lords of Terror. So I came out of the shop also with Dorastor Land of Doom in the bag, but that's a review for another time. This post is about Tales of the Reaching Moon.

There have been a number of RuneQuest and Glorantha focused fanzines over the years. One of the first was Pavic Tales, as nine issues were published on the late 80s. As it dwindled, the publication of Tales of the Reaching Moon started and their authors published 20 issues between 1989 and 2000. They started by publishing two issues annually, and from 1995 onwards only one every year, but the quality and page number increased little by little. For example, starting from issue 12 covers became full-colour. The main editor of this fanzine was David Hall, who started out with a couple of friends, writing and laying out the fanzine. However, from the fourth issue onwards several die-hard fans joined the team like Rick Meints, who took care of layout, or Michael O'Brien, who edited, wrote, and distributed the fanzine in Australia. I wonder if they had believed anyone telling them at that point that they would one day become president and vice-president of Chaosium (!). Other contributors and subscribers joined the growing team.

Covers of issues 1, 7, and 8 of the Tales of the Reaching Moon fanzine

This fanzine included a good mix of everything:

  • Latest news: In a time when no one or only few people had access to the Internet, Tales of the Reaching Moon informed about the newest and upcoming releases, both official and fan-created. First about Avalon Hill's 3rd edition of RuneQuest and towards the end about Issaries Inc's HeroWars (released in 2000), but in between also about a great number of fan-related stuff.
  • Articles about varied topics. Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen also published articles in this fanzine, almost right from the first issues, so the editors got on very well with Chaosium. Most of these articles included RuneQuest stats, but most are simply about the world of Glorantha. For example, there was this recurring section titled "Holiday Glorantha" dealing with a different place in Glorantha in every issue, usually a small region or town, with a detailed description and adventure seeds: Adari, the Oronin Valley, Greydog Inn, etc. Some issues had a main topic. For example, issue 5 focused on the humakti. Issue 7 focused on heroquests, and it is fun to read the different approaches to it that several authors contributed on how to play them, on top of several Odaylan myths. Issue 8 focused on Chaos, and #10 on the seas of Glorantha. #11 dealt with Pamaltela, basically Pamalt's cult and Jolar. #12 was all about the Malkioni West. And if you are interested in knowing more about Prax, issues 14 and 15 put together basically make up a small sourcebook about the place. Issue 16 focused on the Lunar Empire. Finally, mostly in the last three issues you can read a lot of material from the RQ3 Orlanthi campaign run by David Hall and John Quaife in the Greydog clan of the Lismelder tribe, west of the Colymar. This material might have influenced somehow the clan-based adventures in the HeroWars and HeroQuest sourcebooks released during the 00's.
  • Cults: Just to name a few, in issue 4 you can read the cult description of Gagarth, the Wild Hunter, in issue 8 the cult of the Crimson Bat, or the Lunar cults of Jakaleel the Witch and Yanafal Tarnils in issue 17 (see below), all for RQ3.
  • Rules: In the 4th issue Sandy Petersen shared his Warhamster rules for mass combat, which are actually like a wargame. Funnily, in issue 6 Greg described a new skill for RQ3 called "Battle", and in issue 12 you can read several suggestions on how to improve the rules for divine magic, and both aspects are now included in the rules of RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha.
  • Tales: The fanzine included many short stories about Griselda, a bandit and con woman that was included as an NPC in the Pavis book. Later on, Issaries Inc. compiled these picaresque stories and released them in the book The Complete Griselda. Still, there are other Gloranthan stories in the fanzine that are great to see Glorantha at street level.
  • Scenarios: In general, these were short and of variable quality, but always original and with salvageable ideas. The best are Melisande's Hand in issue 4, which would later on be included in the Sun County sourcebook for RQ3. My friends and me had tons of fun when we played it in our campaign. The Old Hare Riddle in issue 7 also looks very good for Orlanthi campaigns. In issue 15 the scenario The Hell Hound gave us nightmares when I played it with my friends, as the adversaries in it almost caused a total party kill. And we thought our PCs were seasoned warriors!

Wonderful covers of issues 12, 13, and 14 by Daniel Barker

Aside from the new information about Glorantha and RQ3 scenarios, plenty of art grazed this fanzine. The main illustrators were Daniel Barker, Simon Bray and Dario Corallo, but also many others. It was great because at that time there was precious little good art about the world of Glorantha. As for an index of contents of those 20 issues of Tales of the Reaching Moon, see this index by Shannon Applecline and this list at Below I am briefly reviewing issue 17 (the one to the right side of the first image in this post).

The cover art by Simon Bray depicts a group of Vormaini pirates attacking another vessel by walking on water thanks to the rune magic of their barracuda god. It is colourful and a good choice for an issue with many articles dealing with Gloranthan ships and the Eastern Isles. On the first page, the editor informs about the latest news of the time (1998): Greg Stafford was creating Issaries Inc. and Robin Laws was working on the new game, Hero Wars, which had not even a title yet, but it was sure it was not going to be BRP-related. As for Avalon Hill, they were working on RuneQuest: Slayers.

The first article in this issue is a 10-page long description of Seapolis, a city on the Right Arm Islands in the Holy Country. It includes places of interest, a timeline, several factions, local figures and myths, and a lovely map of the city. I just need to glance at the map and I'm instantly daydreaming about running a game set there. This is followed by the 8-page long scenario "Wet and Wild in Seapolis", where the PCs are escorting an ambassador, so he can participate in an important ritual in Seapolis for the welfare of the archipelago. Intrigue, ludoch, sea trolls and Talari magic all make an appearance, and although the scenario is far too railroaded for my taste, I would steal much from it. Interestingly, the stats provided for the NPCs use the Pendragon Pass rules from issue 6.

Part of the article about Seapolis with the beautiful map by Martin Hawley

Then the focus changes to the East Isles. First there is a small article with description and RQ3 game data for some East Isles ships, like the Haragalan Tallship, the Ratuki Requiem Galley or even the Submersible Sharkboat! After that you can read a cameo set in Haragala, "Tall Ships and Tall Tales". A "cameo" is how the editors called a scenario that is not fully described, so the GM needs to prepare some details. This one involves a merchant hiring the PCs to steal something. The most interesting part is the loosely described Dream Magic, which according to the author is the kind of magic used in the East Isles. Some people master it to the point where they can use High Dream Magic, allowing them to turn dreams and nightmares into reality, although that comes with a price. The downside is GMs will need to flesh out the actual effects of this magic or handwave them, and then also flesh out the actual adventure itself.

Next you get a description of the cult of Tsankth, the Vormain god of piracy, in Pendragon Pass terms. It includes the description of a new weapon and skills very much influenced by samurai. The same author then describes two Vormaini ships in the next two pages, and rules for creating Pendragon Pass PCs of the Vormaini "Kenshi" caste. After that there are two short tales, both written as letters. One narrates the attack of Vormaini pirates to the writer's ship, and the other is by a Lhankor Mhy scholar who writes about her trip to faraway Vithela.

Part of the article about East Isles ships, with art by Simon Bray depicting a Ratuki ship.

The next article describes the island of Haragala, and one of the authors is Sandy Petersen. It includes a bit of history, society, geography, culture, religion, and important personages, with a simple map on the last page on the fanzine. Also in a side column in several pages you can read brief descriptions of 40 other islands of the East Isles, like Pregezora, Faranvogath or Tamanjary. I have not checked, but this may have made it into the Guide to Glorantha. Of course, this will be very useful for any GM who is planning a campaign in the East Isles, perhaps using the Jonstown Compendium publication Pirates of the East Isles, and even Korolan Islands and The Fires of Mingai.

Then the fanzine changes its focus completely. First there is a short tale about a Grazelander clan that chose to herd and eat cows. Then you can read a long description of the Lunar cult of Jakaleel the Witch. I find this cult fascinating, with its interests in mad individuals, its covens and the cavalry regiment of the Hell Sisters. I think the cult description in the upcoming Cults of Glorantha for RQG is going to differ and be more shamanistic in nature, but this version is very cool anyway. After that comes the usual "Rumours" section, each of them marked with "True", "False", "Too Awful to Even Think About" and other categories. That's always fun to read in every issue of the fanzine. Then there is the second part of the cryptic tale "The Seleric Verses", which I think deals with the ritual of the Seven Mothers. This is followed by "The Tale of Manlavus the Star Buseri", wherein a Dara Happan emperor decides to go adventuring and ends up joining the Empire of the Wyrms Friends.

Part of the cult write-up for Jakaleel the Witch, by an unnamed author, with art by José Quiñonero and Álex Fernández.

One of my favourite articles in this magazine is the long description of the cult of Yanafal Tarnils, including gifts and geases, Yanafali duels, and details of regimental organisation and the Lunar code of war. This cult write-up is based on the one Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen left unfinished, rewritten by Nick Brooke and other contributors. By the way, the cool illustration on page 58 seems to depict one the Hell Sisters, the regiment previously described in the cult of Jakaleel. This 17th issue of Tales of the Reaching Moon finishes with the description of two Lunar regiments: one is 1st Tarshite Hobilars, who follow the Yanafali subcult of an exhumakti hero. The Lunar army uses them as atrocity troops, and the cult provides the spell "Forget" so the horrible deeds performed by its soldiers are erased from their memories. The other regiment are the Moonrunner Peltasts, who can run great distances and hurl their javelins at night whenever the moon is visible. Right after the map of Haragala, on the back cover there is an ad publicizing several products by the Reaching Moon Megacorp.

That is because the people who published Tales of the Reaching Moon did not only publish the fanzine: under the name of the Reaching Moon Megacorp they organised 6 conventions between 1992 and 2002 focused on RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon that Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen used to attend as guests of honour. These were the Convulsion cons and they always included at least one freeform game set in Glorantha. Every player received information about their character, with certain goals, and a booklet with background information. These texts were later on sold to the general public and made up unofficial supplements. For example, for the Life of Moonson freeform they created the Rough Guide to Glamour that many years later Nick Brooke would publish for the Jonstown Compendium. Other freeforms they created were Home of the Bold, with Sartarites and Lunars scheming in Boldhome, and which had its own Rough Guide to Boldhome. Then How the West was One was a freeform about a Malkioni ecclesiastical council to establish the orthodox faith in the Invisible God, which produced the booklet University of Sog City: Conference Guide. They also published a freeform titled Tarsh War about the clash between the Lunar army and the Old Tarsh rebels. Later on, to help fund a couple Gloranthan conventions in Melbourne they published two fanzines called Questlines. This was organised by Michael O'Brien (who would have told he would become Vice-president of Chaosium many years later!). Finally, the also published a book called Wyrms Footprints which was a compilation of the best articles previously published in the Gloranthan magazine Wyrms Footnotes Chaosium had published in the 80s, adding some art and additional material.

Covers of several publications by the Reaching Moon Megacorp and the updated Life of Moonson book

In the year 2000 the Megacorp published the 20th and last issue of Tales of the Reaching Moon and the editors focused on other ventures. Still, it is impressive they made it that far for a fanzine, and it is an example of what can be achieved when a game, or more precisely, a setting, is backed by such a dedicated group of fans. Nowadays this fanzine is only available in the second-hand market in sites like eBay and it seems unlikely we can one day legally get PDF versions, because you would need to get permission from all the people who contributed to it, as the copyright of every particular article always belonged to the authors. Even so, some authors like Nick Brooke have already started updating material from that time and selling it on the Jonstown Compendium.

The three last issues were mainly devoted to the Lismelder tribe, the Upland Marsh, and the Lunar region of Arrolia.

I hope you have enjoyed reading all this. If you have ever read any of these fanzines, please consider leaving a comment below with your opinion or recommendation about your favourite bits in the old Tales. I am going to write about other great Gloranthan fanzines I found later (like Tradetalk and the Pavis Companion series), but that is for a future post.

12 comentarios:

  1. Tales of the Reaching Moon widened our horizons :_)

  2. The Cult of Jakaleel the Witch was written by Mike Hagen.

  3. Well, thank the gods and goddesses for David Hall and Crew or we might not have El Runeblogger today!

    1. Hahaha! xD Well, they didn't influence me directly to start the Runeblog... or so I think!
      Many thanks for the comment though! ^_^

  4. I did say "might"...

    Excuse the hyperbole, I am sure we would have had you grace us with your presence even without the Reaching Moon folk. They were my inspiration years ago.
    But today... I mean, when I discovered that RQ was making a comeback a few years ago this Blog was one of the first I saw and it inspired me enough that I got the courage to put my name forward when you asked for assistance with Yozarian's Bandit Ducks.

    Thanks for taking my name to Ernesto, as I am still working with Jonstown Compendium folk to this day.

  5. As opposed to a vicious cycle, this cycle of passing on inspiration is quite nice!

  6. For me Tales (found in Le Temple du Jeu, at Bordeaux) opened the gate in 1995 to the Glorantha Daily / Digest, and that involved me enough in Glorantha (after not having played RQ since 1988) to attend Convulsions 96 and Tentacles 98 to meet all those smart internet people. Meeting all the great people in the fandom also got me publishing small pieces in Tales and Tradetalk, mainly because that meant a free issue if accepted... Conventions and correspondence with David Hall or Ingo Tschinke (from Tradetalk) also opened the door to buying old issues and other arcane works.
    My dislike of the Hero Wars rules and the realities of job and marriage had me disconnected from the hobby for 20 years, but I still played RQ in Glorantha.
    The 1st Tarshite Hobilars filler piece in the 17th issue is actually mine, based on several exchanges on regiments in the Glorantha Digest.

    1. Oh, then I know your real name! :-)
      I really wish I could have attended those Convulsions and Tentacles!
      Did you reconcile yourself later with HeroQuest?

  7. No, it is only with RQG that I decided to return to official Glorantha, going through Mongoose.


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