26 September 2014

Umathelan "Grain" Goddesses

Cereal or Legume?
Another gem from the Google+ Gloranthan community.

Umathela is an Orlanthi land, and all Orlanthi lands have their Grain Goddess. So I asked the following on the Google+ Gloranthan community:

Who is the Grain Goddess of Umathela?

To which I received quite a number of interesting comments; here are some of them:

 - The old Gods of Glorantha supplement doesn't list a Grain Goddess for Umathela as a whole, but does list Vrala for Vralos and lists her main cereal as being peas (which aren't actually a cereal)
 - I feel such sorrow for those poor tribesfolk of Vralos as they struggle to make an acceptable flour out of dried peas... :-)
 - [Jeff]  The Land Goddesses of Umathela are Enklosa and Vrala. Note that Ernalda is also worshipped in Umathela and is associated with barley and wheat.
Enklosa was a daughter of Gata and Pamalt and a lover of Flamal; she welcomed Aldrya. When trolls killed Flamal, Enklosa went into mourning and withdrew into the Underworld. She was guarded by High King Elf until the world was revived with the Dawn. She is associated with broad beans and lentils.
Vrala was another daughter of Gata and Pamalt; and like her sister she welcomed Aldrya. She took many lovers, including Flamal, Pamalt, Umath, and later his son Orlanth. When Flamal was slain by the trolls, Vrala followed Ernalda into sleep, and the land slept until the Dawn, guarded by High King Elf.

13 September 2014

13th Age In Glorantha Isn't Merely 13th Age Set In Glorantha

The Kickstarter project for 13th Age in Glorantha has been live since the day before yesterday and it has already funded — just as I had predicted. However, 13th Age in Glorantha is not merely an adaptation of the rules and of the icons of 13th Age to allow GMs and players to play in Glorantha. I'll explain you why, but first— some history.

RuneQuest, the very first Gloranthan role-playing game, by the Chaosium, was set in the Third Age of Glorantha. The RuneQuest rules do not indicate any clear "canonical" date for playing, but the time-line on page 7 ends with the following entry:

1613 - Starbrow leads another Sartarite rebellion, quickly crushed by the Empire.

so we may consider that the implied time frame of the setting was the late 1610s.

The second Gloranthan role-playing game, RuneQuest by Avalon Hill, doesn't indicate any canonical date for playing either. The Glorantha chapter of RQ3 indicates that:

Gloranthan supplements to come take place during the beginning of the Hero Wars

which puts the corresponding time-frame at 1621~1625.

After a long hiatus, Gloranthan role-playing came back to us fans in the form of the Hero Wars role-playing game by Issaries. Given its title, you would have presumed that Hero Wars was set during the Hero Wars, yet in reality it was set just before them: it is mentioned that the Lunar Empire conquered Dragon Pass 20 years before present. Since that happened in 1602, it results that Hero Wars is set in 1622.

The imperfect Hero Wars game was followed quite closely by the much perfected HeroQuest, which stated:

HeroQuest is a Game of Adventure. The game is set during the Hero Wars.

However, further supplements quite clearly set the game at the beginning of the Hero Wars, meaning a time-frame of 1621~1625 again, much like RQ3.

The next Gloranthan role-playing game in line was the Mongoose version of RuneQuest. MRQ was set in the Second Age of Glorantha (fantastic idea) but the game alienated the fan base with error-ridden books and too many departures from canon.

In parallel, HeroQuest by Moon Design grew and prospered. It is now canonically set in the year 1621, according to page 111 of the 'canonest' book of all, the Guide to Glorantha:

The current year is 1621 ST.

So, in a nutshell: we've heard and read so much about the Hero Wars in the last 30+ years, but the latest any Gloranthan role-playing game has ever let us play was actually 1625.

Enter 13th Age in Glorantha. According to its Kickstarter page, the setting of the game will be Peloria and Maniria. But, more interestingly, the KS project does not simply entail a book explaining how to play 13th Age in Glorantha, it will also entail a second book with lots of fantastic new system-agnostic stuff. Let me quote from the KS page:

We are also introducing The Glorantha Source Book, a 128+ page full-colour hardcover book that is the perfect companion to the 13th Age in Glorantha rulebook. Containing no gaming rules, it is a wonderful resource for people wanting to begin their journey into the mythic world of Glorantha.

The Glorantha Source Book will include:

 - Introduction to Glorantha and the Runes
 - Cosmology, History, and a summary of the Gods of Glorantha
 - Overview of the major regions of the world with a focus on Dragon Pass and surrounding lands
 - Who's who in the Hero Wars – the dramatic conflict at the end of the Third Age of Glorantha!

On the Gloranthan G+ community, Jeff added the following:

The Glorantha Source Book will be set in 1627 during the Dragon Pass Hero Wars.

Yup, 1627, the latest any Gloranthan role-playing game will let us play and, at last, during the Hero Wars, not just before them!

08 September 2014

Deluxe T&T − Excellent Kickstarter Update

The latest deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Kickstarter update is truly a marvellous piece of news.

I have already mentioned on this very blog how elated I was by the playtest copy I'd received of the dT&T rules as a backer, most notably by its high production quality, and by its content. I was even able to use the PDF to GM an adventure with my kids. Well, the spells were missing from it so I had to use the previous editions of T&T whenever my kids' characters (both rogues) would cast their spell.

Guess what, the latest KS update by Liz Danforth is about SPELLS! What she has sent is so cool I will simply copy it here. Again: I am happy this KS is going in the direction it is going. Who cares about being late! Honestly, for a 30+ year-old role-playing game, what kind of difference do a few months make?

Let me tell you about magic in deluxe T&T. This section has probably taken longer to revise than anything else in the game. I didn't expect that, but once I started digging into it, it proved to have more conflicting bits and pieces, more potential for confusion or problems, than anything else I'd worked on. Magic doesn't have any real world analogues, so Ken's core instruction to "Do what's logical" led down a blind alley. I found problems with how similar spells scaled to each other, how they scaled up with themselves when raised to higher levels, how spells might or might not interact or "stack," and where the tropes of fantasy faltered in the face of "but I can imagine a spell that does XYZ" wish-fulfilment. 


We built an Excel spreadsheet of spells, and I assigned one column to hold all the questions that came up about how each spell was written. Bear and I spent hours on the phone over the course of several days, discussing each spell one at a time. Ken weighed in on email. The KISS rule was applied over and over. If it couldn't be explained briefly, then something had to give. If a spell would work fine in a novel but badly in a game, then it was appraised more critically. Sometimes spells were rewritten; a few were ultimately thrown out. 

We broke down each spell by type — was this a summoning spell, a mind-control spell, a weapons-enhancement spell? That let us compare like to like — should a powered-up Vorpal Blade be better than a Whammy if both were cast at the same level? No, so maybe the way the spell powered up had to be restricted. Did a Banishing spell work on an Invisible Fiend or on an elemental? What was the determining factor, so players could use it consistently? If a spell could power-up in more than one way (say, by potency or duration), could you mix and match the effects, and if so how? (We decided against that: pick one aspect to power up and stick to it.) If a Wink-Wing powered up, how was it different from Blow Me To...? Bear and I discussed how the spells were used, back in the day, and that led to some clarifications — Wink-Wing is always shorter range and the Blow spells are always longer range now. 

We reconsidered what level certain spells should be at, and Stefan was particularly helpful here. Were first level spells apprentice spells, the equivalent of a high school education minimally preparing you to enter the work force? Then a powerful mind-control spell capable of permanently enslaving another person to your bidding (Spirit Mastery) shouldn't be as low as second level. If the first level Call Wind spell (a puff of air) could become a raging gale at higher level, then what made that different from the old spell known as Wind Whistle? Could Wind Whistle get a makeover into something more dynamic? Storm Force Five was created as something quite different from a simple wind spell, and interacts with Divine Disapproval (thunderbolts) to make a weather mage a force to be reckoned with. 

Ken wanted us to be sure similar spells did not stack. You should not, for example, be able to cast a Vorpal Blade on an enchanted mega-sword like Stormbringer, or even a Vorpal on top of a Whammy. He wanted to be sure two mages couldn't each cast Little Feets on a warrior to make him fight four times as fast instead of twice as fast (as intended). It took us all awhile to come up with some simple guidelines and rules that could be consistently applied, but we did. (At least I think that's what we accomplished!) 

So what does this mean to you? Will you recognise anything in the spell list, in how magic is used in the game? 

I say YES. Your magicians will still cast a Take That You Fiend! to slay monsters, and a Poor Baby to heal their friends. The casting cost points still come off their WIZ rating. A staff will still reduce casting cost for wizards, and rogues can still learn new tricks from a Teacher spell. But magicians won't risk fumbling every time they cast a spell any more than archers spill their arrows on the ground whenever they're under the frequent, familiar pressures of an adventuring life. 

Almost all the old familiar spells you've always known remain in the book. Some old spells may be at different levels or have slightly different specifics, but the descriptions should be a little less fuzzy (but not burdensomely detailed even so). Actually, most of the legacy spells needed little or no alteration; they were clear back in 1978 and they're still perfectly clear today. The Wall Spells have returned. You will have new spells to experiment with. (Some of those needed extra work.) We filled in holes here and there — we always had more ways to enchant weapons than armour, for example, and now that disparity has been improved a bit. And so on. 


Most of the pieces are in place now, and I expect Steve Crompton can start laying out pages this week. After he has performed his own brand of magic, the Kickstarter backers will get the Magic section to drive around the block and tell us if the wheels fall off. I hope and honestly expect you'll be pleasantly surprised with the result.