The Bruke's Lair

A personal website for gaming and coding.


My Glorantha Campaign

Background & Campaign Setting

This campaign is set in the fantasy world of Glorantha, a fictional world created by Greg Stafford and first incarnated as a board game in the mid 1970's. Glorantha has been represented by many different game systems over the years and now I am attempting to use the rules for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition to reflect the rich blend of varied magics, divine influences, and distinctive cultures that are the hallmark of this world. I do not make any claim to be a true Glorantha 'grognard' but I do intend to delve as deeply into the mythos as possible, given that I have to eat and sleep and occasionally earn some money at a day job.

Due to switching game systems, from Runequest to GURPS to D&D, the start of my campaign has been a bit... perhaps messy is the right word. Couple the switches with everyone's summer schedule, in which sometimes as much as seven weeks would pass between game sessions, and honestly it's surprising that my campaign is even alive at this point. None-the-less, I've decided to double-down and try my best to make this campaign into something glorious and memorable. Bear with me as I explain here what happened prior to our switch to D&D.

With Runequest

I initially started my campaign with the 3rd edition Runequest rules but within just a few game sessions some of the players chaffed under the game mechanics for combat. While it was quite impressive for the 80's, apparently modern gamers (i.e. my players) required something more tactical. We agreed to switch to GURPS and I discarded pretty much all of the initial material, considering it to be a false start and not officially a part of my campaign. Everyone made new characters and we started fresh.

With GURPS

My campaign officially on December 21st of 2014. In terms of the game calendar, it started during the Sea Season in the year 1621. It was on a Waterday evening in the week of Harmony and the player characters were trudging south together in a heavy rain, struggling as the dirt road under them quickly turned to mud. Since we had just switched over Runequest and I wasn't sure if my house rules for the magic system were balanced, I announced that the first two game sessions (it actually ended up being the first three sessions) would be played as a "flashback" sequence in which no player characters could actually die. I made it clear that I would be evaluating the (heavily house-ruled) magic rules and that things might get over-hauled before the flashback ended and 'official' rules became permanent. Any disparity between the final rules and the 'flashback' rules would be attributed to "that's just how your character remembers it - but memory isn't perfect". The flashback sessions would be what the characters were remembering as they trudged through the rain.

The flashback for the first game session was set in a cheap tavern in the Tarshite city of Furthest. All but one of the players had made Orlanthi barbarians (Tarsh natives, except one from Sartar) - the lone exception was a would-be sorcerer that was a Pelorian from the heart of the Empire. None of the characters where envisioned as particularly political and only a few of them had back-stories that explained how they knew each other (shared time in the provincial army) but that was ok as the opening scenario was designed to bring them together and give them a common cause. Although the player characters didn't realize it at the time, the tavern they had selected was a meeting house for a small band of radical Tarsh Exiles that had, with the aid of a renegade priestess of Maran Gor, been performing acts of terrorism against the local 'legitimate' authorities. Shortly after the first game session began, such authorities raided the tavern in over-whelming force. The players approached this with different methods - some violently resisted and some tried to bargin or flee - but ultimately all were captured and held under suspicion of being allied with the Tarsh Exiles.

The flashback for the second and third game sessions played out in a dungeon underneath a temple to the Red Goddess. The players came to know (and hate) a particular priestess named Markessa and her companion - an actual broo spellcaster. While it wasn't unknown for members of the Lunar Empire to be tolerant of 'civilized' broo, it was not something commonly seen in Tarsh and elicited much suspicion and distrust from the player characters (as well it should have). After seeing the company that Markessa kept, the player characters decided that they couldn't rely on anything resembling a 'fair' trial and that they needed to escape; an opportunity arose during their second week in captivity, when a minor earth tremor caused a chasm to open up in the floor near their cell's latrine. Exploring the chasm and the subsequent cavern system eventually took longer than planned and, as the flashbacks were never intended to be the real start of the campaign, a 'deus ex' ending was applied and their final escape was handled via a narrative.

The fourth game session opened with the party trudging through the rain, just north of the Tarshite city of Dunstop. In the opening narrative I explained that, although they had escaped from the dungeons through the cavern system, they had seen signs of pursuit shortly afterwards and that they had been just one step ahead of a troop of Imperial soldiers that had been tracking them ever since. Most of the fourth game session was spent in the city of Dunstop, in which the party gathered information, made plans, and secured equipment. Just as the party finished their last purchase of supplies, one of them spotted a patrol of Imperial soldiers with a Red Goddess priestess among them; the party quickly fled south to evade the patrol.

The fifth game session involved a slow chase, as the players struggled to evade their persuers. Despite their best efforts, the Imperials seemed to have an almost magical ability to find their trail - an ability which did, in fact, turn out to be based upon magic. Once the players figured out the that one of their possessions was being tracked, they were able to ditch it and effectively make a clean get-away. They drifted south, then east, following the river into the foothills of the mountains near the Shaker Temple. Along the way they encountered a strange obelisk which appeared to be connected to dragonnewts, at which they fought a troll. The fifth game session ended after the battle with the troll, and just as the party discovered that their battle had been observed by a priestess of Maran Gor and her escort.

The campaign got a bit shaky after the fifth session. There were several gaps for vacations and holidays; several players had family stuff that took precedent over gaming and that happens. Still, it felt like the momentum had been lost and I personally stumbled a bit to recapture some of the original enthusiasm. I experimented a bit to try and rekindle the campaign and, in hind-sight, made some bad choices. In particular, I regret an entire (very lengthy) game session that focused too much on tactical combat and not enough on the story itself. Under the paper-thin pretense of having the players prove to the priestesses of Maran Gor (and thus to the Tarsh Exiles) that they could be trusted I set up a battle between the players and a small band of Imperial soldiers. While I (and a few of the more war-gaming-minded) enjoyed the session, it was too much for some of the players and I began to hear talk about the combat rules in GURPS being too slow and time-consuming for large battles. We began to discuss other game system options and began to seriously consider 5th edition D&D.

With D&D

There was a span of about two months during which there were more vacations and birthdays, and during which we tried to convert the existing characters over to D&D. We were all learning the rules and I was trying to create some of the house-rules that would be needed to mimic the unique magic of Glorantha. The new rules for sorcerers seems like a pretty good fit and needed almost no changes; clerics, on the other hand, were difficult because there is no equivalent in D&D to the powerful divine magic that I loved so much in the 3rd edition of Runequest. Eventually I settled on a fairly reasonable set of house rules, characters were finalized, and we could begin playing again.

I opened the first game session with the D&D rules by letting the characters explore the area around the Shaker Temple. They learned a bit more about the politics of the different tribes of Tarsh Exiles, as well as some of the details of the Shaker Temple itself. It is at this point that the campaign log picks up; check here for more details and the current status of the campaign.

Common Knowledge

Every character that reaches adulthood in the Dragon Pass region of Glorantha would reasonably possess a fair bit of basic 'common knowledge' about the world he (or she) inhabits. What follows is an attempt to outline some of this common knowledge so that it is easily available to the players.

Time

The conquered barbarians of Sartar (and much of the rest of the world, although the rulers of the Lunar Empire would be loath to admit it) use a common calendar which dates time in years since the Dawn (the first rising of the sun); in this calendar it is the year 1621.

The Lunar Empire uses a system of what are called "Wanes"; each Wane is a span of 54 years and by that calendar it is currently the 50th year of the seventh Wane. The campaign begins in the spring, shortly after the first snow thaws, in what is known as the week of Harmony in the "Sea Season".

Language

Most of the humans in the Dragon Pass region speak some language that is derived from the Theyalan language; this language is further sub-divided into five sub-languages, which each have multiple dialects. A character that knows one of the dialects has one-third of their skill in all other dialects within the same sub-family and one-tenth their skill with dialects outside their sub-family. Citizens of the Lunar Empire generally speak New Pelorian, the Empire's official language, but additional regional dialects do exist.

Currency

Coins in Glorantha come in four compositions - Gold Ducats, Silver Lunars, Copper Pennies (aka "clacks" in some regions) and Lead Bolgs. Only trolls commonly use Bolgs but the other coins are common in most larger human settlements. Barter and trade is the accepted norm in rural areas and in some barbarian and nomad lands.

The player-characters

My current group of six players is quite balanced, with three men and three women. Their characters are mostly barbarians from the lunar province of Tarsh, in the Lunar Empire, but there is also a civilized sorcerer from the City of 10,000 Magicians. I've listed them here in order of their Basic Speed, in the order in which they most commonly act in combat.

Artorius Vault, former member of the Imperial Legions

As a graceful, highly skilled and exceptionally clever warrior, it was expected by many that Artorius would have risen high in the ranks of the Imperial Legion. However, despite his promising start he eventually ended up instead as part of a rag-tag band of mercenaries and adventurers. He is an honorable man, by a soldier's standards, but given to fits of melancholy and an excess of alchohol.

GURPS Stats

ST: 10   HP: 10   Basic Lift: 20 lbs.
DX: 12   Will: 10   Basic Speed: 5.50
IQ: 13   Per: 10   Basic Move: 5
HT: 10   FP: 11   Encumbrance: Light(1)

Languages: Tarshite (Native/Native)

Cultural Familiarites: Barbarian (Theyalan)

Reaction Modifiers: None

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15p]

Disadvantages: Alcoholism [15p]; Chronic Depression (≤12) [-15p]; Code of Honor (soldier) [-10p]

Skills: Skill Name (effective level) [1p]

Sten, muscular rogue and thug-for-hire

Description

GURPS Stats

ST: 13   HP: 13   Basic Lift: 34 lbs.
DX: 11   Will: 10   Basic Speed: 5.50
IQ: 11   Per: 10   Basic Move: 5
HT: 11   FP: 11   Encumbrance: Light(1)

Languages: Tarshite (Native/Native)

Cultural Familiarites: Barbarian (Theyalan)

Reaction Modifiers: Situational - Bully (-2); Situational - Merchants (+1)

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15p]

Disadvantages:

Skills: Skill Name (effective level) [1p]

Dradalis, immensely strong woman-warrior

Description

GURPS Stats

ST: 14   HP: 14   Basic Lift: 39 lbs.
DX: 11   Will: 10   Basic Speed: 5.25
IQ: 10   Per: 10   Basic Move: 5
HT: 10   FP: 10   Encumbrance: None(0)

Languages: Tarshite (Native/Native)

Cultural Familiarites: Barbarian (Theyalan)

Reaction Modifiers: None

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15p]

Disadvantages:

Skills: Skill Name (effective level) [1p]

Jax, a skilled minstrel and story-teller

Description

GURPS Stats

ST: 10   HP: 10   Basic Lift: 20 lbs.
DX: 11   Will: 10   Basic Speed: 5.25
IQ: 11   Per: 10   Basic Move: 5
HT: 10   FP: 10   Encumbrance: None(0)

Languages: Sartarite (Native/Native) [0p], New Pelorian (Accented/Accented) [4p], Grazer (Broken/Illiterate) [1p]

Cultural Familiarites: Barbarian (Theyalan), Nomad (Pentan), Civilized (Lunar Empire)

Reaction Modifiers: +1 from Appearance, +1 from Charisma, +2 from Voice; +1 from listeners of your music.

Advantages: Appearance (Attractive) [4p]; Charisma (+1); Musical Ability (+1) [5p]; Voice [10p]

Disadvantages: Compulsive Carousing (≤12); Truthfulness [-5p]

Skills: Acting (10) [1p]; Area Knowledge - Dragon Pass (11) [1p]; Axe/Mace (11) [2p]; Brawling (11) [1p]; Carousing (10) [1p]; Dance (11) [2p]; Fast Talk (12) [1p]; History - Tarsh (10) [2p]; Thrown Weapon - Knife (11) [1p]; Literature (10) [2p]; Musical Composition (11) [2p]; Musical Instrument - Lute (12) [4p]; Occultism (10) [1p]; Performance (14) [4p]; Poetry (10) [1p]; Public Speaking (15) [4p]; Riding - Horses (10) [1p]; Sex Appeal (11) [1p]; Singing (14) [2p]; Writing (11) [2p];

Nonamii, skilled scribe and initiate of Chalana Arroy

Description

GURPS Stats

ST: 10   HP: 10   Basic Lift: 20 lbs.
DX: 10   Will: 10   Basic Speed: 5.25
IQ: 12   Per: 11   Basic Move: 5
HT: 11   FP: 11   Encumbrance: None(0)

Languages: Tarshite (Native/Native)

Cultural Familiarites: Barbarian (Theyalan)

Reaction Modifiers: None

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15p]

Disadvantages: Alcoholism [15p]; Chronic Depression (≤12) [-15p]; Code of Honor (soldier) [-10p]

Skills: Skill Name (effective level) [1p]

Tanix, would-be sorcerer.

Description

GURPS Stats

ST: 10   HP: 10   Basic Lift: 20 lbs.
DX: 10   Will: 10   Basic Speed: 5.00
IQ: 12   Per: 10   Basic Move: 5
HT: 10   FP: 11   Encumbrance: Light(1)

Languages: New Pelorian (Native/Native) [0p], Tarshite (Accented/Accented) [4p]

Cultural Familiarites: Civilized (Lunar Empire)

Reaction Modifiers: None

Advantages: Combat Reflexes [15p]

Disadvantages: Alcoholism [15p]; Chronic Depression (≤12) [-15p]; Code of Honor (soldier) [-10p]

Skills: Skill Name (effective level) [1p]

Most Recent
Game Session 2: January 3, 2015
Waterday, week of Harmony in Sea Season, 1621

The session began shortly before nightfall with the three original characters (Tanix, Hektor, and Gwenta) noticing several broo heads mounted on posts outside of the southeastern gate of North Post (area 19 on the player's map of North Post); Tanix approached one to investigate but did not approach it too closely. After his brief investigation, the entire party entered North Post via the southeastern gate (area 1 on the player's map of North Post) under the watchful eyes of four confident Grazer warriors who were standing as guards.

Immediately after entering North Post the party turned north, towards a large enclosed barracks area (area 5 on the player's map of North Post) that seemed to be the center of Grazer authority in the town. Upon entering the barracks courtyard they proceeded towards a two-story stone tower but were interrupted by a Grazer that seemed insistent upon inspecting their draft animals - particularly Tanix's draft horse. After a short bit of frustration caused by language barriers, a nearby barbarian from Sartar (the player character Jax) volunteered to interpret for the party; it turned out that the Grazer wanted to buy Tanix's draft horse. A nearby vendref (a subjugated caste of ethnic Orlanthi barbarians that serve the Grazers) became involved and Tanix's draft horse was sold for a small sum of silver Lunars.

The party realized the true arrogance of the Grazers and their contempt for outsiders when Tanix followed the sale by trying to pat the departing Grazer on the back; angered by the touch of a "grounder" the Grazer retaliated with a powerful punch to Tanix's belly that laid him out on the ground, barely conscious and writhing in intense pain. The characters stared in shock but the quick-thinking Jax called for a (fortunately) nearby Tarshite scribe that she had recently met (the player character Nonamae). Nonamae was able to heal much of Tanic's injury, leaving him with a large bruise but no lasting damage.

Still shaken by the Grazer's violence - and the fact that the other Grazers seemed unconcerned by such a violent act taken against a non-Grazer - the players quickly spoke to the nearby vendref (who had handled the sale of Tanix's draft horse) and, for a small bounty, turned over their two captured bandit prisoners. They then quickly departed the Grazer barracks and followed Jax and Nonamae to the Golden Eel Inn (area 12 on the player's map of North Post).

Once at the inn, Hektor arranged a room for himself and his sister Gwenta for the night; Jax and Nonamae already had a room rented through the end of the week. The party then proceeded into the inn's attached tavern for food and drinks. While eatting, Hector made a friendly overture towards a trio of Tarshite merchants at a nearby table and Tanix spotted a lone Sartarite barbarian seated at a far table whose behavior caught his interest. After the party bought the young barbarian a drink he seemed to loosen up a bit and introducted himself as Berek Gondsson, an initiate of the Storm Bull and a warrior against Chaos.

Berek told the characters of his religious visions regarding the need to fight against Chaos, particularly how the visions led him to North Post. He explained that his god, the Storm Bull, granted him the power to sense the presence of Chaos and that he had indeed sensed Chaos in the person of a nearby farmer's wife. Despite his first efforts to cleanse the Chaos from the world, the foolish members of the tainted woman's family unknowingly aided Chaos by defending her; they denied the accuracy of Berek's visions and mocked his god by claiming that his Chaos-sensing ability was wrong. Berek asked the party to serve as distractions to keep the family away while he slipped into the barn where the woman now resided and destroyed her. After some discussion, the characters agreed to accompany Berek to the farmstead northwest of North Post.

The party departed North Post via the northwestern gate (area 18 on the player's map of North Post) without incident, noting that the six Grazers guarding the gate seemed alert but unconcerned by the party's departure. The party followed the trail northwest through a few hundred yards of clear terrain before the trail led them into a large grove of trees. It was Hektor who first spotted a lone broo standing roughly eight yards north of the trail, drawing back an arrow and preparing to fire. Before anyone could stop it, it fired and it's arrow struck Gwenta in the abdoman, inflicting a dire wound. Nonamae the scribe stooped to try and heal Gwenta while the other characters entered into battle with the broo. Their attention focussed on their own battle, none of the players realized that Berek had disappeared into the bushes to the south of the trail to battle a second broo by himself. After the battle the party was triumphant but the diseased arrow of the broo had inflicted a terrible wasting disease on the delicate Gwenta; her frail constitution was no match for supernatural sickness contained within the broo arrow and she expired after only minutes of painful delirium.

The session ended then, with the characters still on the trail northwest of North Post, roughly an hour after nightfall.

Game Session 1: December 21, 2014
Waterday, week of Harmony in Sea Season, 1621

The first game session began on the day of Water in the week of Harmony during the season of the Sea, 1,621 years after the first Dawn. The first thaw of spring was only two days ago but already the air is warmer. The scene opens on three civilized citizens of the Lunar Empire - named Tanix, Hektor and Gwenta - who have left their homes for various reasons and struck out on the path to adventure.

Only a few hours after dawn, as the characters walked west along the southern bank of the Oslir river towards the Grazer village of North Post, they encountered a small gang of bandits who demanded their livestock (two oxen and a draft horse). Never ones to surrender, our heros insulted the bandit leader and the encounter descended into a chaotic melee.

After most of the bandits were defeated the characters accepted the surrender of three of the surviving bandits. The characters offered one his freedom in return for some small information (which turned out to be most disappointing for them) and then continued on their way to North Post with two prisoners tied over the backs of their oxen. By late in the day the characters finally arrived at the gates of North Post shortly before nightfall and there the game session ended.