A while ago I wrote an article with a similar purpose, but never finalized and posted it. Your post inspired me to give it the finishing touches, so here it is. Some of it overlaps with what you wrote, but there’s also stuff, that you didn’t mention, so I hope it will be useful for new players interested in Glorantha.
As the question of getting started in Glorantha seems to pop up every now and then, here’s some advice from somebody, who about 3 years ago decided to get reacquainted with the setting after a 15 year hiatus. Disclaimer: All of the following is based on my personal experience, and thus should not be taken as absolute truth.
Table of Contents
- Source material
- Glorantha 101
- Converting stuff to RQ6
- Getting started
Glorantha is an old setting with the first supplements dating back to 1970’s. There’s a plethora of material available and enough campaigns to keep even the most active groups busy for years. But to a new player, the amount of material might feel overwhelming. Another problem is, that none of the material has been released for RQ6. While very much compatible with RQ6, all the material will still require some amount of conversion work.
The RQ2 and RQ3 material was released in 80’s and early 90’s. (RQ2 age is generally considered as the golden age of playing RuneQuest in Glorantha). Pretty much all of the material has stood the test of time exceptionally well and provides still excellent gaming. Conversion work is pretty straight forward, most of the work needs to be done with magic. (See conversion notes below.) Some of the classic RQ2 campaigns have been rereleased by Moon Design in the Gloranthan Classics -series, which is highly recommended.
Mongoose RuneQuest 2 (MRQ2)
(Obviously there was also Mongoose RuneQuest 1, but I’m not familiar with it and I have understood, that several of the design aspects were quite flawed.)
MRQ2 (technically the 5th edition of RQ, nowadays rebranded as Legend) was the immediate predecessor of RQ6, having also been designed by Pete and Loz. Most of the elements of RQ6 are already there, but to me RQ6 feels more polished and has generally a better flow. The Glorantha material released for MRQ2 is rules wise very compatible with RQ6, but is considered non-canonical for many parts. Also, all MRQ2 material takes place during the 2nd Age, while all of the classical material, as well as the upcoming RQ6 Adventures in Glorantha, is 3rd Age. Despite these problems, I have found MRQ2 Cults of Glorantha to be a valuable sourcebook, but it isn’t generally available anymore.
Moon Design (the owner of Glorantha) is nowadays publishing a game named HeroQuest (previously known as Hero Wars). HQ is a rules-light narrative RPG, and has a lot of Glorantha-material available. The HQ Glorantha material is relatively easy to take into use with RQ6, but requires some effort as you need to create all stats and skills for NPCs and monsters. (Alternatively you can use the RQ6 Encounter Generator to generate the stats.) Despite requiring some effort to take into use, they are excellent source books. Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes (together with Sartar Companion) is the most inspiring RPG source book I have ever read. It details the area of Sartar in Dragon Pass and the Orlanthi culture and gods. Pavis: Gateway to Adventure is the other great new book, detailing the valley of the River of Cradles.
Guide to Glorantha
The upcoming Guide to Glorantha, published by Moon Design, will be a completely systemless introduction to the world of Glorantha. It will describe Gloranthan cultures, races, geographical regions, and a lot more. But, despite being a massive tome, it’s more of an overview. It won’t go into details with cults, NPCs or more specific locations. It’s a good source for background material, but it doesn’t replace proper campaign settings.
Adventures in Glorantha
AiG is the upcoming RQ6 Glorantha sourcebook from The Design Mechanism.
To help you put all that you will read to a context from the very beginning, here’s some very basic info about Glorantha.
There are two classical adventuring areas in Glorantha: Sartar/Dragon Pass and Prax/The River of Cradles.
Sartar is home of the barbarian orlanthi, named after their chief god Orlanth. Orlanth is a storm god with many aspects and he’s worshipped by adventurers and kings alike. In addition to Orlanth, they worship Ernalda (Earth Goddess, wife of Orlanth), Issaries (communication and trade), Lhankor Mhy (knowledge), Humakt (death and war), Urox (the chaos killer, also known as Stormbull) and many others. The orlanthi value Courage, Wisdom, Generosity, Justice, Honor, Piety and Freedom. The orlanthi are currently (3rd Age) waging a losing war against the Lunar Empire. A primer is available at (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/8 … ers-Primer).
Prax is an inhospitable area east of Dragon Pass, populated by nomad tribes. The most important feature of Prax is the Zola Fel river, also known as the River of Cradles. The Valley of the river is a lot more hospitable, and is populated by farmers who have immigrated from Sartar and the Lunar Empire. Prax is also where the city of (New) Pavis is located. The city is next to Old Pavis, nowadays known as The Big Rubble, an area inhabited by trolls and monsters and full of ancient ruins, which makes it popular among adventurers. Pavis was conquered by the Lunar Empire some years ago.
Another legendary area for starting a campaign is that of Balazar and the Elder Wilds (north of Prax, beyond impassable mountains), detailed in The Griffin Mountain supplement.
Lunar Empire is a civilized empire with a unique philosophy. As they embrace certain aspects of chaos, they are violently opposed by the orlanthi. I wouldn’t recommend making lunar player characters in the first campaign.
Here’s some advice for converting older material to RQ6.
RQ2 to RQ6
- RQ2 Battle Magic is Folk Magic in RQ6.
- RQ2 Rune Magic is Theistic Magic in RQ6.
- In RQ2 initiates generally got one-time use Rune magic by sacrificing permanent POW. Only priests got reusable Rune magic, but they also had to sacrifice POW.
- Hit locations have changed.
- New characters in RQ2 had considerably lower skills than what characters created with RQ6 rules. To keep the challenges challenging, you may need to increase some skills of the monsters and NPCs.
- All NPC’s, that will participate in combat, should have Endurance and Willpower added. I have used the following simple formula: Rabble gets Endurance of CONx4 and Willpower of POWx4; normal foes get a multiplier of 5 and formidable foes/bosses get a multiplier of 6.
- Or you can use the RQ6 Encounter Generator (http://skoll.xyz/mythras_eg/) to create all the NPC/monster stats. There are over 600 Gloranthan creatures specified in the generator.
- Spirits could exists also on the physical plane, and it was possible to have Spirit Combat also on the physical plane. The only requirement was, that one of the participants was in spirit form.
- If you are wondering, what does this or that spell mentioned in the old supplements actually do, they are all described in The Magic Book (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/8 … Magic-Book), available from Chaosium.
MRQ2 to RQ6
There’s really not much to do in terms on conversion, but in case you are unfamiliar with MRQ2/Legend, some terms might be confusing.
MRQ2 – RQ6
Common magic – Folk magic
Divine Magic – Theistic magic
Resilience – Endurance
Persistence – Willpower
HQ to RQ6
If you get just the Glorantha supplements, and don’t have the HQ rule book, the skill level notation used in the books will probably be unclear. HQ is a d20 game, and all skills are described with a number from 1-20, bigger being better. A W-symbol (actually it’s the mastery rune) behind the number means, that mastery has been achieved, meaning the skill is beyond 20. (e.g. 7W is actually 27). A number beyond the W-rune is the level of master. (e.g. 7W2 is 47).
If this all has been too vague, and you’d like some more concrete advice on getting started, here’s one option:
Get the Borderlands-campaign book and Cult Compendium (both available in the Gloranthan Classics -series, http://www.glorantha.com/product-catego … -classics/). Borderlands is straight-forward campaign, that takes place in and near the Valley of Zola Fel. The characters are mercenaries hired by duke Raus, to clear the nearby area and make it safe for settlers, who will arrive one year later. It introduces the players (and the GM) bit by bit to several of the cultures of Prax.
Give the following background-options to the players:
- Exile/immigrant from Sartar worshipping Orlanth, Humakt, Urox, Lhankor Mhy or Issaries.
- Sun Dome Templars worshipping Yelmalio.
- Praxian nomad worshipping Waha or Stormull.
(The restricted list is just to help you get started, without needing to read about dozens of cults. Feel free to give your players access to any cults you are comfortable with.)
After finishing Borderlands, get Pavis and Big Rubble.
If you want more background info, get Pavis: Gateway to Adventure, and Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes and Sartar companion (The Sartar books are excellent source books even if you play in Prax, as they give an excellent introduction into the Orlanthi culture).