30 November 2012

Monster Island Art

from Russ Nicholson's blog
I've already mentioned en passant the upcoming RuneQuest 6 product called Monster Island. It now turns out that legendary British illustrator Russ Nicholson will be doing the art. Now that's inspirational!

26 November 2012

Umathing Musical Instruments

As befits their name, Umathings favour wind instruments. Here are the most widespread ones:

overtone flute


Umathing flutes


25 November 2012

My Umathelan Campaign

My tabletop campaign is set in central Umathela, around the year 950 ST — I haven't decided the exact year yet, but since the players are barbarous Umathings who reckon the years in terms of "three years after the passing of the Rune Priest of Ropotes", it isn't really important.


The campaign is centred around the landlocked cities of Arstranwal and Varanswal. Both are but a shadow of their former glory; both, however, are ruled by a strong-willed ruler who does not accept Malki decadence, and who is doing his best to have his city live up to its past grandeur. Both are also extremely jealous of their neighbour, and the Count of Arstranwal and the Duke of Varanswal are always competing in everything; lately in trying to revive the ruined cities that dot central Umathela, like e.g. Rampart.

Count William of Arstranwal, a direct descendant of Loftusus the Ragged, has managed to keep the small community of Iqari in the city, even though the Soul Net Observatory is but a shadow of its former self, and is now home to a single astrologer.
The city has recently been attacked by three gigantic Cold Daimones. The monsters have wrought much destruction upon Arstranwal, especially in those parts of the city inhabited by lower caste Malki and civilised Umathings. Most of these people have either died or fled to the suburbs of Varanswal. The Cold Daimones were killed by an alliance of heroes from neighbouring Varanswal and distant Tarien. The fact that his city has been saved from destruction by adventurers from its rival has mightily angered the Count. It has also been a source of considerable mirth for the Duke of Varanswal.

Duke Roderick of Varanswal rules a large city that has been relatively spared by the vicissitudes of 10th century Umathela. The relationship with the surrounding barbarian Umathings is good, and what little trade still goes through central Umathela stops in Varanswal.
After the False Gods Revolt in 901 ST caused by the experiments of the God Learners from the University of Varanswal, the Hwarosian Mystics and the Jogram Witnesses were expelled from Varanswal, and the College of Immediate Expansion was forced to stop meddling in other peoples' myths. Now heavily reduced in membership, the University focuses its curriculum on orthodox Malkioni theology, and on more mundane subjects such as history and geography. A single God Learner remains amongst the academic staff; a well-known Emanationalist, he is known for his opposition to the School of Hwarosian Mysteries.

23 November 2012

Time Reckoning in Umathela - Part One: Calendar

Umathings are an illiterate, barbarian people. As a consequence, time reckoning in Umathela is of Malki (and especially God Learner) origin.

In a first approximation, time reckoning in Umathela conforms to the generic Gloranthan dating systems. As in most other Gloranthan cultures, seven days make up one week; eight weeks make up one Season; five Seasons, plus 14 extra days called Sacred Time, make up one year. A Gloranthan year thus is 294 days long. Irrespective of culture, the year always starts on the vernal equinox (New Years Day).

However, the Malki influence is obvious in the presence of months in the Umathelan calendar. The concept of 'months' is unknown in Glorantha; only the Westerners use them.

The Umathelan calendar is hence as follows:

SEA SEASON (days 1 to 56)
  month of Sementis (days 1 to 28)
    Disorder week (days 1 to 7)
    Harmony week (days 8 to 14)
    Death week (days 15 to 21)
    Fertility week (days 22 to 28)
  month of Vernus (days 29 to 56)
    Stasis week (days 29 to 35)
    Movement week (days 36 to 42)
    Illusion week (days 43 to 49)
    Truth week (days 50 to 56)

FIRE SEASON (days 57 to 112)
  month of Fervidor (days 57 to 84)
  month of Aestival (days 85 to 112)

EARTH SEASON (days 113 to 168)
  month of Messistide (days 113 to 140)
  month of Aeror (days 141 to 168)

DARK SEASON (days 169 to 224)
  month of Frigidor (days 169 to 196)
  month of Brumastide (days 197 to 224)

STORM SEASON (days 225 to 280)
  month of Turbidor (days 225 to 252)
  month of Nex (days 253 to 280)

SACRED TIME (days 281 to 294)
    first week (days 281 to 287)
    second week (days 288 to 294)

Each pair of months within a given season follows the same pattern of eight weeks with the same names: Disorder, Harmony, Death, Fertility, Stasis, Movement, Illusion, Truth.

Each week within a given month/season always has the same names for the days in the week:
Day 1- Freezeday (Umathings), Hilmday (Malki)
Day 2- Waterday (Umathings), Fronday (Malki)
Day 3- Clayday (Umathing), Haranday (Malki)
Day 4- Windsday (Umathing), Orenday (Malki)
Day 5- Fireday (Umathing), Ulerday (Malki)
Day 6- Wildday (Umathing), Acoday (Malki)
Day 7- Godsday (Umathing), Oneday (Malki)

RPG Review - Issue No.17

I have already blogged about the RPG Review, a most excellent free on-line Australian webzine devoted to role-playing games, with a good mix of game reviews, industry news, interviews, historical articles about our hobby, and short gaming aids.

The latest issue is a GURPS special issue, so it does not have a particular interest to us Glorantha fans. However, it also features a thorough description of the two latest incarnations of RuneQuest: Mongoose RuneQuest II, and RuneQuest 6.

19 November 2012

The Guide to Glorantha KS and Umathela

OK everybody already knows about the kickstarter campaign for the upcoming Guide to Glorantha by Moon Design. If you're just back from a ten-year heroquest, here's the link:

Now would you flipping believe it... the stretch goal for having Umathela at the same level of detail as >>yawn<<< Genertela is $90,000, so keep those pledges coming!!!!

Dakon Ven Dalorin

the following was posted by Keith "kmnellist" on the WorldofGlorantha Yahoo! group on 4/10/2011 — reproduced here as a cool scenario seed for Second Age Umathela

998: Jrusteli scholar Dakon Ven Dalorin demonstrated that Basmoli of Tarien spoke Basmoli

Dakon Ven Dalorin is the hero of this story. Deconstructing this sentence, we have to come to the conclusion that Dakon wasn't in Jrustela when he demonstrated that Basmoli did indeed speak Basmoli like wot it woz spoke in Seshnela. He certainly didn't capture some Tarien Basmoli and move them to sunken Jrustela to demonstrate it. It seems more likely that Dakon was from Jrustela, but had left before it sunk and lived in Umathela (say, from 950). He probably knew the Lord of the World's Knowledge. He might even know that guy who "proved" that the elves of Enkloso were extinct. Perhaps he was that guy. His expertise in Enkloso lore recommended him as the leader of the expedition to travel through apparently Elf-free Enkloso, into the Basmoli country in Tarien.

So, here's the game— player characters are the assistants, guards and scouts of the famous scholar Dakon Ven Dalorin, who is setting off to prove his theory that the Fiwan of Pamaltela and Hsunchen of Genertela are related and share common ancestry. Perhaps one of the player characters is a Basmoli "specimen" from Genertela.

I'd set it in 976, just after the Errinoru dynasty gets ended by insects, further proof if any were needed, that Dakon's theory on Enkloso elves is correct. The plan is to go where no man has gone before— Hangofey and Guruch Tomoni, where "Umathelan humans have never penetrated this far south". Lively dinosaurs, trolls, slarges, and the occasional Basmoli lion man to talk to.

16 November 2012

A Hidden Gem

In this short article, Gred Stafford explains to wargamers what a role-playing game is, and why RuneQuest is the best rpg out there.
This is from issue No.2, Vol.20, of the General (July-August 1983)

14 November 2012

Umathing Names

Female Names

Female names usually stem from two juxtaposed words, one denoting the expected character of the child — an adjective — and another one with a reassuring or a religious meaning.

1st word
Fair, happy, clear, blessed, gentle, good, faithful, bountiful, snowy, kind, peaceful.
2nd word
Blessing, gift, home, grace, faith, hope, earth, land, love, wind, rain, season.

The juxtaposition of the two words may hence end up in Umathing female names such as Fair-season, Blessed-home, Snowy-land, etc.
 Male Names

Boys are given disparaging names until their coming-of-age ceremony; this is supposedly to fool evil spirits: why would a spirit harm a boy who isn't loved by his parents?
Names such as dick-head, piece-o'-shit, ugly-toad, fart-breath, troll's-crap, etc are very common.
Upon reaching adulthood (at about 13) boys are given their real name, which, like female names, consists in two words, again according to the adjective+noun pattern, except that these are now bombastic or warlike names:

1st word
Young, firm, glorious, famous, cunning, high, angry, healthy, rich, sharp, long, strong, fierce, heavy, wild, free.
2nd word
Man, fate, fighter, warrior, honour, vengeance, sword, spear, wolf, bear, storm, thunder, cold.

Rulers and leaders, like clan chieftains or rune priests, usually have a name made up by a sentence containing the name of their deity, e.g., Tyloque-drives-my-arm or Eler-floods-my-enemies.

Delvers usually have a nom de guerre. Reasons for bearing a pseudonym vary:

  1. Tomb robbers don't want to be known by their real name. Any living relatives of the entombed may be upset. And you don't want to upset a God-Learner.
  2. Mercenaries in the employ of the various Malki robber barons want to protect their kinsmen from any retaliatory actions by the relatives of their victims.
  3. Umathing names can be difficult to pronounce [this post provides mere English translations], so Umathings who operate in a Malki environment end up using an easy-to-pronounce nickname.
  4. Umathing society is extremely conservative and traditional. Choosing a new name is a way for an Umathing delver to show that he has severed all ties with his previous life.
For all the reasons listed above, delvers' pseudonyms are short and easy to pronounce.

Dinosaur Parade

Dinosaur Parade, James Gurney (1989)
A Umathelan God-Learner city at the time of their splendour. [Remember: no horses in Pamaltela]

13 November 2012

Second Age Umathelan Runes

Before the fall of the Middle Sea Empire, Second Age Umathela was a major centre of God-Learnerism. New Hrestolket possibly housed the best and most celebrated God-Learner university within Glorantha. "It graduates more God Learner HeroQuesters per year than any other" (Glorantha: the Second Age, p 105).

The Gloranthan runes themselves are believed to be God-Learner in origin, or at least it was the God-Learners who spread their use throughout Glorantha. As a consequence, they became very popular and well-known in Umathela, even amongst the illiterate Umathings. After the fall of the Middle Sea Empire, their use was not discontinued — contrary to other legacies from the God Learners. The simplicity and the clear shapes of the Gloranthan runes made them even favourite tattoo patterns or shield motifs amongst the uncivilised Umathings.

At the time of my campaign, the runes in use in Umathela are categorised in the manner described hereafter.

32 Core Runes, subdivided as follows:

5 Elemental runes






8 Form runes









14 Power runes, in opposing pairs:















5 Condition runes






Amongst the above-mentioned 32 Core runes, both the Malki and the Umathing add a further subdivision between 15 Major Core runes and 17 Minor Core runes.
The Major runes are: Darkness, Water, Earth, Air, Fire, Plant, Beast, Man, Dragonewt, Spirit, Chaos, Infinity, Law, Magic, Mastery.
The Minor runes are: Dragon, Mineral, Cold, Heat, Death, Fertility, Disorder, Harmony, Fate, Luck, Movement, Stasis, Illusion, Truth, Light, Shadow, Trade.

There are many other Minor runes that are not Core runes, but which are nonetheless quite common throughout Umathela. These have several different origins:
Personal runes
These were found by the God Learners during their HeroQuests. They convey personal power to whomever manages to get them in a HeroQuest, like Defence, Force, Perception.



Ethnic runes
These correspond to the peoples within or close to Umathela: Malki, Umathings, Fonritans, Doraddi.





Deity-specific runes
These are mostly linked to minor deities— major deities are linked to major runes. These are the ones used in my campaign: Aleshmara, Balumbasta, Eler, Nontraya, Rabilis, Ty Kora Tek.

Special interest runes
These are linked to special "groups" that are neither really ethnicities nor deities: God-Learners, Undead.

Note: the runes not depicted here can be found among this list.