Re: Changing THE Glorantha

From: Nick Brooke (
Date: Mon 26 Jan 1998 - 18:49:50 EET

Richard's back!

> I'm sorry you ran out of steam before answering some of my points
> at the end of my last post.

You're probably alone in that, the way I waffle on! But I'll have a
look at the Emphasised Bit, and see what I can suggest.

> I want to run my campaign in THE Glorantha. I am faced with the
> situation where my knowledge of the world is partial, though I
> want my players, ultimately, to be able to play a significant
> part within it.

This is natural, admirable, understandable, etc. etc. We *all* have
a "partial" knowledge of the world; I'd imagine most of our players
and characters want to achieve Significant Things; the definition
of "significant" is not worth quibbling over. The only problem would
be with your notion of "THE Glorantha" -- most of us are happy to run
Gloranthan (or semi-Gloranthan, etc.) games, without worrying about
enforcing absolute adherence to any unpublished/unwritten Truths.
The Game's The Thing!

Take an example: is the campaign "Tarsh War" describes significant?
Well, yes, of course, if you were there; and it paves the way for
Fazzur's invasion of Kethaela, which would have started off rather
differently without Thrax et al. on the spot (i.e. it'd have started
with the Governor-General nobbling the Tarshites himself, using his
superior numbers, firepower, strategy, etc.; and with any surviving
officers from Thrax's expedition facing a very uncertain future). And
the invasion of Kethaela is surely a "significant event". But, win or
lose, the result of "Tarsh War" needn't cock up Gloranthan continuity,
*even though* it puts the players in command of thousands of troops
during a major Lunar military campaign. (Now, *could* it cock up the
future? Of course, if you wanted it to. But it doesn't *have* to,
whatever the outcome may be: and that's a spectrum from Glorious
Victory to Abject and Ignominious Defeat, involving the deaths of
hundreds or thousands at either extreme).

> I can only do this if it is made clear to me what parts of THE
> Glorantha which I know are sacrosanct and what parts are individual
> GM controllable. If you say it's all sacrosanct, then my players
> will not be able to affect events. If you say none of it is sacro-
> sanct then at some point or another (probably pretty soon) I'm going
> to go wildly divergent...

OK, this is obviously a tricky one, as there isn't a Yes/No, Either/Or
answer to your question. Clearly there's a bunch of different "parts"
to consider, and they aren't all of equal importance.

To begin with, are you trying hard to use the established Gloranthan
background "as is", or are you making changes (e.g. friendly trolls;
Vikings in Pent; timeline advanced by 100 years; new cults from your
own mythology replacing existing Gloranthan ones)? If the latter,
then worrying about what else might be "sacrosanct" is rather odd:
implicit in deciding to make a Big Change, surely, is the understan-
ding that it will change some parts of the way the world works. If
there are no trollkin IYG; if the Pent Nomads are a civilised trading
state, or a horny-helmed Scandinavian mob, then your own campaign is
likely to drift out of touch with the rest of ours, in proportion to
the emphasis you place on the differences. (In my Glorantha, there
may or may not be Grotarons. Does this mean I'm "not playing in THE
Glorantha"? I don't see why: it's irrelevant to me whether or not
the species exists, and I don't plan on setting a game somewhere it
would become an issue).

If the former, the first "point of consistency" is established back-
ground: *don't* go changing huge swathes of published "fact" without
considering the knock-on effects. (Example: Harrek's sack of Sog City.
I'd imagine almost all games in the modern period assume this happened
at the date given in the timeline, 1615 ST. If you change this, doubt-
less for a good reason, have a think about what else might change).
Changing minor or local stuff is fine, and even exemplary -- a lot of
the best material on this list is when people say, "I read about XXX
in the Genertela Book, and that got me thinking..."

Next, what do you think the future timeline of Glorantha looks like?
(I'm not being facetious, here: although there's a published version
in "King of Sartar", this *obviously* leaves out events outside of
the Dragon Pass region, and lurches into the mythic after the CHDP
leaves off). If your game is outside Dragon Pass & Prax & the Holy
Country, you have a pretty free hand deciding what will happen and
when: the "Events of the Hero Wars" are there to suggest themes,
and none of them are attached to a firm timetable. If you can extract
the One True Timeline from KoS & GB, and want to stick to it, do so.
I'd recommend you give yourself a bit of leeway, here: nobody will
really mind if you have events happening slightly earlier, or later,
than they are in print -- especially not if they're your players, who
know full well they oughtn't to be keeping track of such things --
so knock together a draft timeline for the events you want to have
happen, and maybe start working out which of them your PCs can get
involved with.

Next, what are the Big Events of your campaign, and are they also
Big Events in the "established" future history? If you want to be
100% compatible with the Cradle scenario, but your players happen to
be in Teshnos when it happens, you don't really have a problem, do
you? Likewise, the Dragonrise of 1625: fun event, well described,
plenty of room for PC involvement, and no worries if you decide
not to game it through (it can happen "offstage").

Next, and *very* important -- who are the heroes of your campaign,
and what are their heroic deeds? I ask, because it seems clear to
me that your player characters ought to be *the* heroes: outsiders,
like Argrath or Jar-Eel or whoever, may be Heroes with a capital H
to the rest of the world, but a game spent scuttling around under-
foot trying hard not to derail their character continuity won't be
much fun for anyone. Instead of following them around, find things
to do where they *can't* accompany you, or bail you out, or steal
your credit: Significant Heroic Deeds that your PCs can accomplish,
which complement the Great Events of the Hero Wars (or maybe even
develop some of them in greater detail), but which aren't identical
to the (few) known Heroic Accomplishments of the heroes from WB&RM.
These are your scenarios; the rest is narration, background colour,
briefing papers and known recent events.

Finally, have a sense of proportion. There are many *great* campaign
themes in the "Genertela Book" -- your campaign probably won't cover
them all. If your players never venture north of Aggar, then the
Unveiling of Charg, the Defeat of the Kingdom of War, the Wizards'
Invasion of Seshnela (etc.) aren't likely to have much effect on
your game, other than as "noises off". (Consider the "Revolt in the
Redlands" event from WB&RM/DP: something happening on the far side
of the Empire draws away personnel who'd otherwise be used in Dragon
Pass. As GM, when should this happen: randomly, at a fixed date, or
when it becomes Dramatically Appropriate?). You'll have enough on
your plate keeping your players under control, without needing to
worry about the (unknown) hero in the (unknown) distant land who
overcomes the (unknown) foe using the (unknown) secret and thereby
Saves the World! NB: all those (unknowns) could well be the events
in someone else's Gloranthan campaign; or those in your next game,
for what it's worth. Don't resolve them all this time around!

On to the afterthoughts:

> I do not like to run God-killing campaigns. I like to run well
> balanced campaigns in a believable world. However, I like to
> give characters, eventually, an opportunity to be *special*.

That's good. The example you gave of "special" rune-level PCs was a
mission where, in your game, win or lose, the outcome of the Hero
Wars would be irrevocably altered. Now *that's* what I call special!

> I do not like to have pre-determined scenarios where people have
> to be killed, defeated, whatever at some point.

OTOH, you did propose this as the kind of thing you wanted to see
*more* of (scenarios with set dates and known future consequences)
when you were asking for Blank Events. Now, if *you* don't like it
either, let's not chew on it any more! :-)

> All I'm asking for is a little bit of extra information, which you
> may well have, and which would give me flexibility within my own
> campaign.

Well, with a polite request like that, what can I do but reply with
a parable from the Good Old Days?

I heard this one from Greg in '85, when he attended the Games Day
con in London. Seems there'd been a RQ tournament game at a US con
where you could bring your own characters (it must have been tough!).
And three characters turned up holding Balastor's Axe, each with a
first-hand account of how they retrieved it from the Big Rubble.

Greg said this was a good example of what some Gloranthans call the
"RuneQuest Effect". As the End of the Third Age draws near, Chaos
threatens to destroy Glorantha -- as it always does. Reality starts
to warp and ripple. Things change. Events go awry. Places twist and
fall. People are credited with different deeds in different sources:
the "Annotated Argrath's Saga" is just the most obvious example of
this. It's a known Gloranthan phenomenon, it's part of the End of
the Third Age, and it's why you'll be lucky if the events in your
own campaign ever exactly reproduce those of "THE Glorantha".
Whichever that one might be...

In fact, the RuneQuest Effect means that if you do manage to follow
the "official" timeline with 100% accuracy, *that's* not Gloranthan!
Or, at least: the existence of THE Glorantha, including the Rune-
Quest Effect, means that all other Gloranthas should suffer from the
same effect in order to be considered identical with THE Glorantha,
which of course they are. And aren't. If you see what I mean...

In short, why worry? Set a game in a part of Glorantha you like the
look and feel of; use what we know about the Hero Wars as a dramatic
backdrop for your own great adventures, sweeping historic events,
blazing cities, lost treasures and unspeakable evils; and *nobody*
will hold you to account if you're having fun while you're playing.
Your players won't ('cos they're having fun); you won't ('cos they're
having the fun you wanted them to); and we won't ('cos you don't want
to post all the campaign details to us as they unfold). So where's
the problem? Be consistent with what you know (up to a point), but
don't lose sight of the aim of the game, which is to enjoy yourself
while allowing the players to achieve their Significant Goals.

'zat "flexible" enough?



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