Tribes of Eyha – Campaign Excerpt

Chris Gilmore is a member of the RuneQuest Rules List. After using a creature I dreamed up in one of his adventures, he sent out some notes. I thought it was a really good example of Role Playing, both from the players and GM’s perspective. He has kindly shared these notes here for all to read and hopefully gain inspiration from.


This is an excerpt from the Tribes of Eyha campaign log, a campaign which is currently being played by four players plus game master. The campaign can be classified as a Bronze Age fantasy campaign which draws inspiration from many sources, both historical and fictional. The specific inspiration for the first session comes from an episode mentioned in the tales of Sindbad from the 1001 Nights. A similar myth is also described in the travels of Marco Polo. The inspiration for the second session comes from a creature created by Tony Den (the Razor Shells) and featured on his website.

The inspiration for the third scenario is the Fritz Leiber tale “The Howling Tower” which appears in Swords Against Death published by Ace Fantasy.

Characters: Baran and Clovis are two Tribelanders from the distant north. Baran is on a quest to discover something of the strange tattoos which adorn his body. Clovis, his brother, has come along as his protector. Clovis was a respected March Warden of the Tribes, and likes to blow his Warden’s Horn before charging into battle. Eshubir and Lugesha and both agents of house Suzur in the southern city of Pavonis. The two Tribeslanders helped them out with a spot of trouble in the City of Pavonis, and they now travel together. Maram, a slave girl of unknown origin, is a non-player character recently rescued from scorpion men.

Location: The Kingdom of Assaria which, landscape-wise, can be likened to Iraq in our own world. This story takes place in the summer, and so the weather is hot and dry.


In previous sessions, the party had been travelling westward, following the course of the great river. After a series of adventures in the hinterland of the Empire of Pavonis (which involved freeing slaves from the larder of Scorpion men in an ancient desert city and a desperate chase on the river by pole-propelled reed barge) our Heroes have finally crossed the border into the Kingdom of Assaria, where they hope to finally be free of Pavonian political intrigue.

This session begins in a small Assarian village not too far from the border. There is a merchant’s enclave here where the heroes have put up for the night where they hoped to sell two of their donkeys to earn some money.

In this village, the Heroes were introduced to Pap Hallu, a small Assarian man with a long beard, and who offered to purchase their donkeys. By means of payment, he offered a small handful of crystals which, upon inspection, turned out to be uncut diamonds. Eshubir estimated that these were worth more than the donkeys and so the group was naturally intrigued by the whole transaction. After some discussion, Pap Hallu offered to pay them yet more diamonds if they would perform a service for him. Needing money, they agreed to meet him the next morning in the village.


The next day Pap Hallu was waiting for our heroes in the village with one of the two donkeys he had bought from them the day before. He led the group away from the village on foot, trailing the donkey with a tether. They travelled in a vaguely southeast direction, passing through fertile and irrigated farmland with young crops of corn, wheat, flax, and barley.

The Assarians, like the Pavonians, have dug numerous canals in from the river to assist with the growing of crops. After some hours, the farmland gave way to a tall grass savannah, and they followed what they took to be a game trail through the grass. Lugesha, the tallest of the party, was given the task of scanning the horizon looking for beasts or other things that Pap Hallu called ‘dancing sticks’ (evidently the long spears of Zalamaran tribesmen, when seen over the tall grass in the distance, look like dancing sticks).

Luckily they did not see anything except for an occasional flat-topped tree on the horizon.

By mid afternoon the little band of travellers could to see an elevated piece of ground in the distance, and by late afternoon they were climbing up the sides of some sort of old volcanic plateau. Nothing grew on this rock outcrop except for the sparsest of weeds, and there were signs of small animal life and birds. Pap Hallu led them to a small, roughly circular valley near the middle of this plateau where a jagged chasm cut across the floor.

He set most of the party to keeping a lookout in various locations while he proceeded to kill, skin, and butcher the donkey he had brought. Baran and Clovis, who had the most experience with these things, helped him. When finished, Pap Hallu threw the pieces into the chasm at various points while the rest of them watched. He then instructed everyone to keep a lookout in the sky and said that soon great birds called Rukhs would come.

He explained that these great birds would fly into the chasm to retrieve the donkey meat, which would now be studded with uncut diamonds from where they grew on the bottom of the chasm. He said that the bottom of the chasm was inhabited by dangerous snakes, so this was the only way to retrieve the diamonds. Explanations done, he crouched under a rock, sheltering from the hot sun while our heroes stood on the rock ledges and watched.

After a while Clovis noticed some birds approaching and called to the others. Everyone descended from their lookouts and hid near Pap Hallu in the shadow of the cliffs. Soon five very large birds arrived and perched at various places on the cliff-tops which circled the valley. The Rukhs stayed there for a while, looking around apprehensively until they determined that it was safe to descend. Then one by one the giant birds left their perches and flew into the chasm, and one by one they re-emerged with a large hunk of donkey meat in their talons and returned to the cliff tops. Once back on the cliff tops, they set to tearing at the donkey meat with their colossal beaks.

At this point Pap Hallu told Adventurers it was time to climb up, in pairs, and kill the birds and to be sure to bring back the donkey meat when they were done.

Baran and Lugesha chose to attack the bird on the west side of the valley while Clovis and Eshubir chose the bird far to the southeast. Maram the slave girl and Pap Hallu remained below, under cover of some rocks. While Baran and Lugesha were climbing up the west side, Clovis and Eshubir began to attack their bird from the bottom of the valley by launching arrows and sling stones at the bird.

This drew the ire of Pap Hallu, who came out of his shelter to scold the two – telling them go up on top and fight like men so that they could bring the donkey meat back. Slightly chastened and slightly annoyed at this bossy little man, Clovis and Esh began to haul their bodies up to the top of the cliff.

Baran and Lugesha reached their bird first and, while Baran distracted the bird by limping around, Lugesha threw his combat net over the bird’s head, preventing it from flying away. The two then quickly killed their bird with a few quick blows from their spears.

Meanwhile, Esh and Clovis had reached the top of their cliff and drew their melee weapons. From their cliff-top vantage point Clovis surveyed the surroundings and noted the four remaining birds scattered about, tearing off pieces of donkey, and he also saw that Baran and Lugesha were already engaged with the fifth bird far on the other side of the valley. A familiar idea formed in Clovis’ mind.

He drew out his March Warden’s horn from its case. He held it up above his head and let it catch the light of the afternoon sun for a moment, admiring it. It was a family heirloom, won by a distant ancestor from the King Ram of the Mountains in a bygone era. The bony ridges of the horn had been worn smooth by the hands of generations of esteemed March Wardens, and the marbling of the bone was clearly visible in the western sunlight.

Both ends of the horn were plated with bronze, and the bronze was in turn embossed with raised images depicting the victories of Clovis’ ancestors. The horn sat comfortably in his hand, like the breast of Mother Noahe Herself. It was like an old friend, a mentor, a lover, and a reminder of the nobility and greatness of the Tribe. He smiled at the horn and it smiled back at him.

Clovis arched his back and drew in a great breath of air. Then he put the horn to his sweaty, eager lips. It had the taste of blood, and of victory. With a great exhalation, he blew into that horn for all he was worth, and from it came the sound of Mothers of the Tribe crying over lost sons, of lambs bleating in the folds, of waves crashing onto the shore of the lake, and of all the proud songs of tribesmen rolled into one. It was the sound of home, and it brought a tear to Clovis’s eye.

And the moment he blew that horn, the great birds caught a frisson of fear that told them a mighty warrior was nearby, and one by one they put to flight, lazily winging their way toward the west and taking their hunks of diamond studded meat with them. Only the bird that Baran and Lugesha had killed remained behind, slumped over the cliff top.

Well, needless to say neither Pap Hallu nor Clovis’ brother Baran (who held the party’s purse) was very pleased with Clovis. Both gave him a stern talking to for foolishly scaring away the Rukhs and tried to make his see the error of his ways (which, I think, he did). And the group stood about for a minute looking at each other, wondering what to do next, for most of the diamonds they had risked their lives to get had now flown away.

And then Baran said “I have an idea.” Everyone looked hopefully at him.
”What is it?” asked Clovis, hoping that this would mean the end of the negative attention he had been getting.
“First, let me see that horn” Baran replied, stretching out his hand.”

”Sure” said Clovis, handing it over. And what followed will forever be etched in Clovis’ mind, for with a rebel yell, Baran heaved the priceless horn over the brink of that demonic chasm, and it tumbled into the depths to lie like a fallen warrior in eternal silence amongst the poisonous snakes and precious diamonds at the distant bottom.

What followed was the kind of argument that only brothers can have. Clovis accused Baran of abandoning tradition for the sake of a little money, and Baran pointed out that Clovis blew that blasted horn each and every time they needed discretion (which was most of the time), warning the foes that the rest of the party was trying to sneak up on. It seemed the rest of the group sided with Baran and so Clovis was cowed and apologized, saying that what he had hoped to do was to scare the birds away, but thought they would leave their meat behind.

Luckily for the group, Eshubir thought he had seen where the birds had gone to, so as a group all four of the warriors scrambled over the broken, volcanic landscape for a difficult hour to find the Rukh’s nest in the west on a flat-topped pillar of rock. Maram and Pap Hallu followed a little way behind

The four young Rukhs were now perched safely in their nest and were finishing off their meal of delicious (if gritty) donkey meat.

So the four adventurers tried to climb up the side of the rocky pillar and into the nest to grab what they could of the diamond-studded flesh from the Rukhs. Esh was up first, being the nimblest, and Baran next. But Esh took a blow to the head early in the battle and was knocked unconscious. Clovis climbed up next and he and Baran fought the birds for as long as they could, killing two of them.

Lugesha, in the meantime was stuck halfway up the side of the rocky pillar, not being able to find a foothold to move any further in any direction.

Then with a lucky scan Clovis spotted an even larger bird approaching from the distant west, the Mother Rukh, and called for a retreat. He picked up the unconscious Esh and was about to attempt to leap down to the ground with him (or throw Esh down first – this part of the tale is not clear) while Baran fought off the other two young birds, scaring them to take flight out of the nest.

Baran then called on the spirit of Elienna to heal Eshubir, and Clovis and Esh climbed down. Baran picked up what scraps of meat he could still find in the bottom of the nest and followed seconds later. While Baran was still climbing down, Clovis killed one of the circling young birds with an arrow from the ground, and as the great mother bird approached, all three of them were running for the shelter of the cliff face. They looked back only to notice poor Lugesha still clinging to the cliff face, unable to find his way down.

At that point, the great bird arrived and circled the great rock pier on top of which the nest was perched. It grabbed Lugesha by the head with a single great claw and tried to lift him into the air. But Lugesha is a big boy, and the bird struggled with the dangling warrior who writhed beneath. Lughesha grabbed at the leg of the bird and held on, which was lucky as he was unable to see very well. Seconds later the great bird was filled with arrows (and sling stones), for Baran, Eshubir, and Clovis had returned to rescue him.

The great bird was knocked unconscious by an arrow to the head, whereupon it let go of Lugesha who dropped to the ground and sprained his ankle. Half a second later the great Rukh fell on top of him. Luckily, Lugesha escaped being wounded by this as it seems most of the bird’s bulk was feathers. Lugesha killed the great bird with a spiteful blow, but it was decided not to take souvenirs since they might cause more trouble with the local tribes (who held them sacred) than they were worth.

They harvested what remaining diamonds they could and made a camp for the night in a sheltered location. The next day they returned to the village and Pap Hallu gave them another handful of diamonds for their trouble. They parted ways amicably enough, but they could not help feeling that Pap Hallu would be hiring other people the next time he needed Rukh hunters to do a job for him.


The party of five then proceeded to the west, entering the City of Assaria a few days later. It was here that, through a chance encounter, Eshubir and Lugesha found their old employer from Pavonis, the traitorous Procurer Sagga Mal.

With the help of a rival agent from their own house (a man named Sharuris the Shucker for his habit of leaving fish-eyes (pearls) as a calling card with his victims) they finally put an end to their political troubles back home. They decided to reward themselves to a stay in the city of Assaria, and to hire a master to train their bodies to greater strength. The master’s newly developed ‘Beer Swilling Technique’ looked promising…


Having trained for 7 weeks with no result in an effort to build up some muscle tissue (which they hoped would allow them to carry their heavy armour better), Baran and Lugesha decided they needed to give the training another go. Unfortunately the first bout of training depleted their funds, so their trainer introduced them to a friend of his who was willing to hire them for a service. This man was named Gigiris – a chariot maker.

Gigiris’ business had been very busy lately, with a lot of Akkanians wanting to purchase chariots. In a normal year he would collect all the young wood he needed for the chariot rails in the winter, but this year he ran out early so he sent his young apprentice (Amar) and a labourer (Degdega) to go and cut some more. These were cut from a specific copse of Dimshilum trees located about a day’s travel out in the Savannah to the southeast of the city.

Unfortunately, it had been a week ago since he had sent them and neither the boy nor the labourer had come back. Gigiris’ business was about to stall, his client was getting anxious, and the apprentice’s father was starting to ask questions. So Baran, Eshubir, Lugesha, and Maram agreed to go and look for them. They tried to find Clovis to go with them, but he wasn’t around – probably out with his latest girl – so they left on this venture without him.

The party made their way south into the savannah by foot. They camped the first night in the long grass and carried on in the morning, following what appeared to be a week-old wagon trail. By noon, the shoulder height grass of the savannah started to become shorter and then rapidly fell to nothing. They had come to a clearing in the tall grass that was about 300M across. The floor of the clearing was caked with mud which was dry and cracking on the surface but still moist down below – it appeared to be an ephemeral lake which was now drying up. Annoying flies of all types buzzed around the place, never settling long enough to swat. Clear tracks of a man on foot, an ox, and a four wheeled cart led straight into the heart of the clearing, and at it’s centre could be seen a wagon lying on it’s side, and in front of it a dark lump which appeared to be a dead ox.

The group started to walk out into the clearing toward the wagon when first Baran and then Lugesha felt a sharp pain in their foot. They had not been wearing armour due to the heat of the season, and whatever had stung them cut right through their skin. On looking down they found that they had each been pierced with a small barb attached to leathery tether that disappeared in the mud. The tethers had the appearance of tough intestines and were about 2M long when pulled taught. Baran reacted first and tried to run back to the edge of the clearing, but was almost tripped up by the tether which held him fast to the place where it emerged from the mud. So instead he hacked at the tether with his axe until it broke, and then ran for the edge of the clearing with Maram still at his side. He was narrowly missed by another barb as they ran, but she was struck and cried out in pain. Baran rapidly cut her tether and the two of them dove for the edge of the clearing where they gingerly removed the barbs and healed themselves with magic.

Lugesha had a harder time of it. Armed only with his spear and net and lacking a good cutting edge, he decided to try to pull the offending dart-launcher from under the mud while the barb was still stuck in his foot. After several good heaves, though, he couldn’t dislodge the culprit (though he could see the mud heaving slightly where it was buried), so he resorted to yanking the barb from his foot instead, causing himself more pain and leaving a large purple wound. He limped to safety at the edge of the clearing.

Meanwhile, Eshubir, being light of foot, managed to avoid getting barbed at all and sat on the side of the clearing shouting advice to the others.

Rather than attempt to cross the mud again, the group circled the clearing to the west. After travelling around about a third of they way, they discovered a flattened spot in the grass – a place showing signs of recent activity by many people. Examining the ground here, they also noticed a series of small, round holes leading out towards the fallen wagon. These holes were about 2-3” in diameter and 6-12” deep, but the party could make no sense of them. The party then followed the flattened grass as it lead away from the clearing to the west came to a north-south running game trail.

They followed the game trail north for ways, then south and found that it led to a copse of trees that had been pollarded for the harvest of many supple young stems. This was apparently the place Gigiris got his wood. Upon seeing this, Baran had the idea to cut two long straight stems with his axe. He then drove one knife into the side of each of them at about waist height, tying the knives in place. He held the posts upright and stood on the horizontal knife handles and found that they just might hold his weight and, with some agility, he could walk on these artificial legs, which he called ‘stilts’ after his uncle Stiltibris back in the Tribelands who had long legs.

They returned then to dried up pond and Baran coaxed Esh (who was the most agile of the group) up onto the makeshift ‘stilts’. Esh practiced a bit on the makeshift legs and then walked carefully out into the mud where he could hear the occasional popping of a dart beneath him. He made it to the fallen wagon without incident and upon investigation found it to be empty.

The black ox, though, was clearly dead and was lying on its side and was still harnessed to the wagon. A thick cloud of flies hovered over ox, buzzing angrily when Esh came near. From this vantage point on top of the ‘stilts’, Eshubir could see a single set of human footprints heading from the wagon to the opposite (east) side of the clearing. Judging by the tracks, whoever had made them must have fallen about halfway across, then got up and continued but this time dragging something behind them. Esh shouted his discovery to the others and, wiping the sweat of the afternoon sun from his brow, set off on the stilts again to the east.

The others ran around the south end of the clearing and joined up with him. Lying in the long grass a few yards from the edge was a human body – probably that of Gigiris’ labourer, Degdega.

The body had been dead a few days, too. One of the sharp barbs was stuck into the inside of the upper thigh and this connected to a two yard long tether. Attached to the other end of the tether was an oblong object caked in dried mud. It was about 1M long and 20cm wide and 5cm thick and seemed to be made of two hard shells held tightly together with a round protuberance at one end from which the tether extended.

Baran pried this thing open and found it to be fleshy inside – like the inside of a clam from the lake near his home in the distant Tribelands. He cleaned out the insides and fashioned a makeshift pair of ski-like shoes, tying them to his feet with rope. He was about to set off again toward the wagon when Eshubir spoke up.

”Hey – wait a minute. Didn’t they see that those tethers are about 6 feet long? Those shell shoes of yours aren’t going to protect your groin! Look at this poor sap lying here dead, pierced in the upper thigh!” he said, pointing to Degdega’s body.

”You’re right.” said Baran, and so took off the shoes and donned his armoured pants, then put the shell shoes back on, and at last marched out toward the wagon.

On the way, he could hear the pops of more darts, but nothing penetrated his pants. He reached the wagon just at the moment that the ropes holding his shoes on fell apart, and so he jumped into the wagon and tied them up again. Then he hopped back to the ground and untied the ox harness and, with a great heave, righted the wagon. He then took hold of the harness and, walking backwards, slowly dragged the wagon about 3M closer to the edge of the pond, whereupon he hitched a rope to it and, with the help of those on the edge of the clearing pulling on the rope, pulled the wagon the rest of the way. In the last few yards he heard a ‘POP’ sound and a dart nailed him in the groin, just piercing his armoured pants through the seam. With a yell he cut the tether and leaped for the edge of the grass where he once again lay down and healed himself.

The group spent the rest of the afternoon hauling the wagon through the long grass to the copse of trees and set up camp there for the night. The next day they awoke to find that all those who were stuck by the barbs had a fever, and deduced that they had been weakened by a poison which came from the barbs. One of the effects of this poison (besides a physical weakening) was a loss of memory which seemed to impact Lugesha the most.

They spent that whole day recovering from the poison and taking turns (when they had the energy) cutting stems with Baran’s axe and piling them into the wagon. On the third day in the savannah, they set off north again, this time following the game trail they had previously discovered. It was a tough slog, but taking turns they managed to make progress. They camped one more night in the open, and on the last day they came across a party of Zalamaran nomads coming south, their long spears seen dancing high above the top of the grass long before they themselves were seen.

Eshubir seemed to be able to communicate best with them, despite not speaking their language. First he tricked them into selling a number of exotic striped animal hides for a pittance, and then he seemed to get across to them that they were looking for a boy – one who might be injured. At this, the Zalamarans gestured that they had seen just such a boy and rescued him (making stilt-like walking motions) and brought him to some farmers at the south of Assarian territory. With that, the two parties left, the Zalamarans continuing south and our Adventurers heading north.

Soon the adventurers arrived at a small farm on the edge of the settled lands of Assaria. Sure enough, they found the boy in the care of the farmers and so they took him back to Gigiris. The boy, it seemed, had been so impacted by the poison of the razor shells that he had forgotten who he was and where he belonged. Gigiris was happy to have his wagon load of wood (and paid the adventurers fairly for it) but not too glad to hear about the death of Degdega and to now have an apprentice who couldn’t remember any of what he had learned.

“At least,” said Baran “he also doesn’t remember his bad habits.” Gigiris only sighed and paid them their money. Our party then departed to get a good night’s rest in a reasonable bed and look for Baran’s brother Clovis, whom they had not seen now in four days.


Upon returning back to the ‘inn’ (so called, it seems to the Tribesmen, because these camps are located ‘in’ the city) from the escapade with the Razor Shells, Baran was hoping to find Clovis, his brother, in the room they shared. But there was no sign of Clovis having been in that day, nor in fact for any of the last several days.

The boy Baran had paid to give a message to Clovis hadn’t seen him, so Baran started to worry and expressed his worry to his friends Eshubir, Lugesha, and Maram. They agreed to look for him.

First they went to this ‘inn’ with the dancing girls that Clovis had been frequenting. They spoke to the owner there and a few of the girls and found that the girl that Clovis had been seeing, one Ilati, had also not been seen in several days. When they suggested that maybe foul play was afoot, the owner of the establishment agreed to help them. Together, they convinced one of the girls who knew Ilati to lead the adventurers to Ilati’s house, where Esh discretely climbed over the roof, let himself in a window, and then let the others in the front door.

A thorough search of the place revealed a broken sandal strap under the bed apparently from Clovis’ sandal because it matched one from Baran’s sandal, and they had purchased them together in the now distant town of Telpa. They also found a number of small containers on a shelf, most of which were empty but one of which had a bit of lemon-smelling liquid in it.

They asked the girl who led them to the house about the vials and she said it clearly wasn’t perfume – in fact it could have been a love potion which she believed Ilati might have been using on Clovis. When asked where Ilati might have bought a potion like this, they were directed to a seller of elixirs in the fashionable east end of Assaria.

Taking the potion to this seller, she recognized it immediately as being the shoddy work of one Geshpapalis, a potion-maker who had tried to sell his poor work to her on numerous occasions. She didn’t trust this Geshpapalis, however, and refused to deal with him, so she consequently didn’t know much about him. The party asked if she could direct them to a reputable potion-maker to identify the ingredients and tell them whether it was addictive or not (which she did) and also to a less reputable shop-keeper who might agree to sell Geshpapalis’ poor potions (which she also did).

Here the party split up. Eshubir took the sample of love potion to the reputable alchemist and found out that it would take many experiments and more of the sample potion than was available to suss out the actual ingredients, but a quick sniff of the stuff led him to believe that it likely wasn’t that addictive over the short term (which had been one of their fears). Esh (keeping the remaining love potion for his own potential use) left and returned to the ‘inn’ where our heroes were staying and waited for the others.

Meanwhile, Baran and Lugesha went to the disreputable shop keeper in the west end to inquire after Geshpapalis. After warming the man up by purchasing some Crotch Crab ointment, they finally offered him a small amount of money to reveal the location of Geshpapalis’ workshop out in the country, which the man gladly took. As they left, Baran turned and said threateningly to the man “And remember, we haven’t been here.”

To which the shopkeeper jingled his newly earned bag of shekels, smiled a toothless grin, and replied with a wink “And they remember that I ain’t been here, neither”. With this new information, Esh, Baran, and Lugesha marched out into the country that evening to find this Geshpapalis. Following the disreputable shopkeeper’s directions, they came across a lonely wood-and-reed house in the middle of a wooded area surrounded by bushes and date palms. There they heard the faint sound of Jackals attacking prey as they approached.

Esh crept up to the window of this house and looked inside – and the sounds of jackals grow louder as he did so. Peering in, he saw that the room was hung with dried herbs, animal intestines, and other parts of things less easy to describe. The walls were lined with clay amphorae and there was a variety of smaller containers on shelves on the walls. A man was puttering inside over a copper cauldron.

When Baran and Lugesha tried to sneak up to the window, this man apparently heard them and made a hasty retreat out the back door, leaving it open. Esh watched him as he slunk across a fenced in enclosure and into another, smaller hut on the other side of the yard.

Baran and Lugesha entered the main house and looked around for a moment before following the man out into the fenced yard and to the door of the smaller hut. Esh, meanwhile, crept around the outside of the yard and climbed onto the roof (ever the refuge of a small man) of the hut. When they entered the fenced enclosure, Baran and Lugesha heard the sound of the Jackals quite clearly, but still there was no sign of any such beasts to be seen. They hesitated only briefly at the door of the hut and then, with two hasty kicks, they broke in the door while Esh listened from the roof. What they saw inside startled them, for Baran’s brother Clovis was lying unconscious on a bier in the middle of the small hut and was swathed in bandages, some of which were bloodstained. As they looked on in horror, they saw Clovis’ body jerk and a fresh patch of blood spread across an otherwise clean bandage. The potion-maker, Geshpapalis, stood behind the bier looking at the two intruders over Clovis’ body…

Baran and Lugesha circled the bier on either side of the tiny room and trapped the man between them. Esh, meanwhile, dropped down into the open doorway and blocked all escape. And so they put the question to him: “What in the name of the Great Spirits is going on here?”

Geshpapalis stammered out an explanation, saying that Clovis was here to do a job for him. But a little threat of violence can often straighten a man’s tongue and the truth came out:

Geshpapalis had been selling a love potion to Ilati to help her in her amorous conquests. It wasn’t a particularly good potion, so she had to buy a lot of it. One day she told him about this fierce northern barbarian who she was seeing and Geshpapalis developed an idea. Instead of love potion, he gave her something to knock this barbarian unconscious for a few days.

Sure enough Ilati came running to him worried she had given Clovis an overdose of the potion and that he was dead. Geshpapalis told Ilati that he would “take care of it” and that she should go into hiding for a week or two. Geshpapalis then loaded Clovis into a cart and brought him home, tied him to this bed and fed him another potion to send him into the spirit plane. Geshpapalis explained that he was haunted by the ghosts of the jackals he had captured, mutilated, and killed over the years in this very enclosure, using bits of them for his potions. He had sent Clovis’s spirit in alone to fight these jackals, while he watched over the body and healed its wounds as well as he could.

Baran looked down on the body of his brother. It jerked occasionally and his lips were pursed as if blowing into a phantom horn. At that moment another bloody patch spread across a bandage and Baran realised Clovis had been lying here for days now and this travesty must be stopped. He told Geshpapalis to put an end to it now, but the potion-maker explained he couldn’t bring the body back so simply – the only way for Clovis to come back was for him to kill all the jackals.

He then said that, if Baran and the others would be willing, there was enough potion left to send the adventurers into the spirit plane to help Clovis fight, and that this would end the battle sooner and ensure victory. Geshpapalis would take care of their bodies while they were gone, so they needn’t fear. Baran and the others stepped outside the hut to confer a moment while Geshpapalis dabbed at one of Clovis’ fresh wounds with a healing compound.

In conference outside, the three friends agreed to go into the spirit plane if they must, but said that Geshpapalis must be forced to go first. So they re-entered the room and told the alchemist they would do as he suggested. Lugesha then took the potion and, at that moment, Baran reached across for Geshpapalis in a grapple. Unfortunately, he missed the wiry old man and grabbed Lugesha’s arm instead.

Alarmed, the alchemist climbed onto the bier and dove for the door of the hut, intending to knock Eshubir aside and run away. But Esh kneed the man in the groin as he did so, causing him to fall to the ground in pain and the three friends pounced on him and forced that potion down his throat.

As soon as Geshpapalis swallowed the potion, the baying of the Jackals grew wild and large gashes started to appear all over the alchemist’s body. He writhed in pain as his flesh was flayed by ghostly teeth, and in moments it was over. The alchemist lay dead, and Clovis woke up. They explained to him what had happened and tended to his wounds.

Afterwards, the party spent a little time searching through the alchemist’s belongings for valuables. They found a number of vials and skins of suspicious liquids, as well as a number of dry ingredients. They took these, hoping to get some money for them from another alchemist in the city, and then they left to return to the ‘Inn’ and finally get that good night’s sleep.

No-one noticed as Clovis, lingering behind in Geshpapalis’ house for a moment, pocketed one item of particular interest from the potion-maker’s apparatus. It was apparently some sort of bronze tube-like instrument with a long, straight neck and a flared end down which liquids would be poured, apparently useful for getting liquids and powders into small-necked jars.

Clovis gave it a quick rinse in a barrel of water and wiped off the small end of the funnel. With a twinkle in his eye, he put this narrow end of this object to his lips and held the other und up high. But then a wiser thought crossed his mind, and he quietly tucked the instrument into his pack and left to follow the others with a smile on his face. He was sure it would come in useful later.


From here, the Adventurers eventually travel into the lands of the Akkanian Empire where they fall into the clutches of Amalnukris, the Sharru of Kish, who imprisons them and puts them to work in the Lirum, an ancient arena where gladiators fight beasts of legend and race chariots around. It is in the catacombs beneath this arena that they will learn something of the strange tattoos which adorn Baran’s body…

This article was originally published on VII July MMIX

How to Carve Out a Setting in Glorantha

A guest article submitted by a RuneQuest Lister – Bjorn Are Stolen

The sourcebook Genertela must be one of the ultimate teasers ever published in the RPG milieu. It is stuffed with intriguing notes on cultures, people, history and places of interest. These notes were never complete sourcebooks as we know them in other RPG’s (like Warhammer) though. So the box set made people wait in excitement for the books covering parts of Genertela in detail. -They had to wait for 12 years…

What I have done, and what I guess others have done, is to “develop” regions on their own, based on the few notes given in the official books. What I plan to do on this site is to share some of those regions that I have “developed”, so others can use it if they want to. There are types of regions that I’m going to avoid; those developed by Avalon Hill (Dorastor, Dagori, Inkarth and the Zola Fel Valley), and the blank lands. There might be a miracle; Jesus might turn up and become a Heavy Metal Vocalist, Ariel Sharon and Arafat could start a RPG club and make peace in the Middle East, and new sourcebooks might be published for Genertela. In that case things I have made should of course yield.

Then we have the grey zones; very good material published in Tales of the Reaching Moon”magazines (the Palmatelan Praxian and Sartari regions), and some of the stuff made by Etyries and Issaries inc. I really like the stuff they’ve written, and I think I should buy the Lunar Empire sourcebooks and see if they can be used in a traditional Glorantha setting before making anything for the Dara Happa region myself. (I am optimistic, and think they will be worth buying.)

When I carve out settings in Genertela, I some times alter the geography a bit, and with good conscience. I think the maps in the original RQ publications were intentionally made not to fit each other for two reasons:

  • To simulate the Genertelan population’s ability to make accurate maps (maybe also because of the influence magic’s have on the world).
  • So that GM’s could make the geography fit into their settings; to avoid any curriculum.

You can feel free to choose how your geography should be like in my settings if you don’t like my altering of the Genertelan geography.

I have made settings in two Blank Lands; Retrint in Fronela and Balazar east of Peloria, and if someone is interested, I could share them, but I will stick to my principle that the Blank Lands are for any GM to decide what is.

My next article will cover a small area along the southern shores west of Corflu. The name of the setting is “Skoddeheimen” (Norwegian for “home of the fog”).

This article was originally published on X October MMII

Salgrin’s Transmuting Snakes

Very powerful artifacts which can be interesting and deadly.
Very rare.
POT 14, Charges 1D4

History: Salgrin was a powerful alchemist whose enchanted artefacts became legendary in his own time. Perhaps some of the most bizarre items he created were his transmuting snakes. Due to their dangerous nature, not many were demanded and all record of how many he actually created has long since been lost in the mists of time.

Description: The snakes appear as a highly ornate golden arm torque, made of two snakes loosely intertwined so that a head appears at each end. The torque is about 15 centimetres in length and gives the appearance of the snakes coiling around the upper arm. The snakes are relatively lose, allowing the torque to be bent to fit anything form a SIZ 5 to a SIZ 18 arm. When properly fitted, the fangs of each head will push against the skin near the elbow and shoulder. The eyes in each head can be of ruby, emerald or sapphire – they will not be mixed, i.e. if one head has ruby eyes, so will the other. (See below). Snakes with other kind of gems as eyes have been rumoured to exist, but whether these rumours are true and what effect the snake has is unknown.

Usage: The snakes are a combination of the fine craft, alchemy and powerful enchantments. Normally they appear as an item of exquisite jewellery, but when worn, they quickly change. To be activated, the torque must be worn in such a manner that most of its inner side is in contact with skin, the fangs must specifically be touching flesh. Wearing the torque over armour or in such a manner that it is not tight against the flesh will not activate it

When donned, the torque will remain inactive for up to an hour, after which the snakes will appear to come alive. The first sign of their activation will be that they constrict the arm coiling so tight that the wearer will be unable to remove them. Once this has occurred, causing the veins to rise under the skin, needles protrude from the fangs, easily penetrating the skin and injecting the alchemist’s toxin into the bloodstream. Once this process complete, the needles will retract and the snakes will loosen their grip, returning to their inanimate state.

The toxin has a POT of 14 and must be resisted like a poison. Should the wearer fail his or her resistance roll, the toxin will poison them as per the Rune Quest poison rules. (I.E. 14 points of damage to global hit points). Should the character successfully resist the following effects will occur, depending on what type of snake “bit” them.

Ruby Eyes: STR enhanced by 1D3. Side Effect: As the alchemists brew burns its way through their veins, the character convulses and is overtaken by an unbearable pain and nausea. They may pass out and or vomit as the potent brew warps their muscles. Resist vs. POT again and if roll fails, loose 1 CON point. The character will also have his/her fatigue points reduced to 1 and must rest up o recover from the ordeal. (Remember to adjust stats to reflect new STR). This process is instantaneous.

Emerald Eyes: Shapechange into a Lizard Man. (Use Shapechange Sorcery Rules). Side Effect: As the alchemists brew burns its way through their veins, the character convulses and is overtaken by an unbearable pain and nausea. They may pass out and or vomit as the potent brew warps their very being and scales push through their skin. Resist vs. POT again and if roll fails, loose 1 CON point. The character will also have his/her fatigue points reduced to 1 and must rest up o recover from the ordeal. (Remember to adjust stats to reflect new STR). this process may take a few hours to run its course. Note: One of the strongest rumours evidencing other types of snake revolves around one with jade eyes that turned someone into a dragon or ogre, depending on who tells the story.

Sapphire Eyes: Stone skin. Increase characters hit points in each hit location by 1 point. Global hit points do not change. The characters skin becomes leathery to form a type of natural armour. This process takes up to a week to complete. Side Effects: As the effect of this snake is more gradual, most of the severe side effects associated with the other two snakes are avoided. Characters may feel nausea and temporarily loose up to 1D6 Hit Points. Once the process is complete however, the characters Fatigue pints will be reduced by 1D4 to reflect the extra weight they now carry around. Any tight fitting clothes and armour would also have to be replaced or adjusted.

Note: Other snakes may well exist, their effects beneficial or deadly, on GM’s discretion. No one has been able to replicate Salgrin’s potent brews although many have tried, with sometimes disastrous results. Thus, when the charges on a snake are finished, they are finished for good. What is left is a nice piece of ornamental jewellers which occasionally “bites” the wearer. A critical success Devise roll will allow an appraiser to access the cavity in which the potions were kept.

This article was first published on XIII July MMII

What is RuneQuest?

This is one of the oldest articles from this sites origina incarnation published. While it had received small edits in subsequent years, it is presented here, in the state of its last version, circa I October MMVI, for posterity.

Please read the History of RuneQuest for a far more accurate account of the games history.

RuneQuest is a role playing game designed primarily for play in an “ancient” setting, such as Europe was in the days when the Rome was just a city state and Alexander the Great was busy conquering Asia Minor.

Avalon Hill - RQ 3rd Ed
RuneQuest Third Edition (Deluxe) – Avalon Hill

The game had its heyday during the 1980’s. In its time, many considered it to be one of the best role playing systems and Glorantha (The RQ fantasy world at the time) was considered to be the best, most detailed and fascinating world available.

Different editions have been published by various companies, but the most recent (and well known), is the third edition, published by Avalon Hill. Although this edition is now out of print, some shops still have copies of the game and its supplements in stock. The third edition is also the only edition we have ever played, so unfortunately we are not in a position to comment on the previous two editions (which many have said to have been very good).

The main game came in the form of a Basic Boxed Set or a Deluxe Boxed Set. In later printings, the Deluxe Box was reworked as a book. Several supplements came out in the forms of adventures and boxed sets. Many of these were dedicated to the world of Glorantha. Herewith a list of RQ products. (I have worked from memory, so if I left anything out, please e-mail me and I will add it.)

RQ Basic Box
Sufficient rules to wet your appetite but not enough to get any real role-playing done.

RQ Deluxe Box / Book
All the rules, if you want to play Rune Quest, buy this box. The Deluxe box is probably a better buy because the information inside is split into 5 booklets, which allows for use by more people at the same time. You also get dice and a map of ancient Europe with the box.

RQ Players and GM’s Boxes
The Deluxe Box split in two. Why, we don’t know! You have to won both if you intend to play, so rather get the Deluxe Box, it will work out cheaper in the end.

Vikings Box (Earth)
One of the best supplements, lots of information on Viking culture, some new monsters and magic, well worth the money.

Land of Ninja Box (Earth)
For adventures in Japan, or so we believe.

Glorantha Box
Pretty impressive. Detailed look at Generatala and what Glorantha is all about although leaves one wondering if Avalon Hill ever planned to cover other continents.

Gods of Glorantha Box
Contains inter alia a book listing all/most the gods of the Glorantha and more importantly a cults book which gives more detail about many of the important gods, cult spells etc. If you plan to play a priest,the book is invaluable. Even if not playing on Glorantha, certain cult spells can be associated with your own adventure world deities.

Elder Secrets Box
More information on Glorantha. Quite entertaining except for the poor artwork.

Trollpack Box
In Tony’s opinion, the best of all supplements. goes into great detail about trolls, what they are like, their history, culture and much much more. Especially liked the Thunderbreath Gobbleguts menu. Make mine a plate of batter fried pixies please.

Troll Gods Box
After buying the Trollpack, the Troll Gods will be a disappointment. Poorly compiled, poor art and more than a few unforgivable errors – as in text just stops half way through a sentence and doesn’t pick up anywhere else. Still, has lots of details on Troll Gods, so can be of use.

Monster Coliseum Box
Has plenty of pre rolled adversaries, so can be of some use. Probably the best feature was the chariot history and charioteer occupations. Also has a nice floor map of a coliseum.

Griffin Island
A boxed campaign. It is still in transit so no further comment available at this time.

Eldorad – The Lost City (RQ Gateway)
Nice maps, decent art but we didn’t really enjoy playing it. Will have to give it a second chance someday.

Daughter of Darkness (RQ Gateway)
Adventures and plots on a random peninsular. There could be valuable material here, but the names of some characters sound silly.

Apple Lane Module (Glorantha0
Some nice adventures, and interesting people. Haven’t played it but it looks like it could be good.

Snake Pipe Hollow Module (Glorantha)
We think that Snakepipe hollow forms part of a trilogy (With Haunted Ruins and Troll Realms). More information will be forthcoming once we own it.

Into the Troll Realms Module
Adventures in the troll realms. Bought this in 1996 and still haven’t played it. looks very entertaining though.

The Haunted Ruins Module
Further adventures in the troll realms. Looks like it could be very entertaining. Nice art.

Sun County – Prax Campaign (Glorantha
The first of the Prax campaign books. Very impressive with plenty adventure potential and nice artwork.

Strangers in Prax Module (Glorantha)
Assumable the follow-up to Sun County.

Shadows on the Borderland (Glorantha)
Another comparing journal set in or nearby Prax. Impressive artwork.

River of Cradles (Glorantha)
The last and apparently the best of the Prax campaign books.

Dorastor – Land of Doom Campaign (Glorantha)
Dorastor is a dangerous place full of nasties. If you want to mete swift death out to foolish parties, send them to Dorastor. Very useful and decent art.

Lords of Terror Campaign (Glorantha)
We think this is a book of chaos cults.

Glorantha Bestiary (Glorantha)
Lots of new monsters endemic to Glorantha. Also has a small section attempting to make Basic RQ more playable by providing Deluxe RQ information such as additional magic spells etc. Nice art and some really weird monsters.

RQ Cities
We know little of this although rumor has it that it is a RQ Badged version of Midkemia Cities.

Adventure Sheets – Human
No, Tony is not gullible. Just attempting to own the entire Avalon Hill Rune Quest collection. Unfortunately that means buying unnessiary, money making scheme items, like pre printed adventure sheets. At least, when looking at the numbers on the sides of the boxes, all will be there.

Adventure Sheets – Non-Human
As above.

GLORANTHA is now a separate game, published by ISSARIUS INC.

AVALON HILL was bought by HASBRO INC during 1999. To date there has been little news as to whether Hasbro intends to publish further RuneQuest items or to sell the game rights to another company. Word through the grapevine has RuneQuest being managed by Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary.

Updated I October MMVI MONGOOSE PUBLISHING has been licenced to publish a new version of RuneQuest, which includes Gloranthan material. This new version deviates somewhat from previous versions in terms of rules. Alternately known as RQIV and MRQ, only time will tell if it is successful.

Grunts! by Mary Gentle

Grunts! Corgi/Bantam - Les Edwards
Bantam(UK)/Corgi Cover by Les Edwards

Possibly the original book depicting orcs as the main protagonists, Grunts! by Mary Gentle first saw publication in 1992. I am not one to make a habit out of re-reading books, yet this is one of the few exceptions I have made. Simply put Grunts! Is a very fun book to read!

Without giving too much away, the story starts off as pretty much standard old school high fantasy cannon. The Dark Lord is gathering his forces for the Final Battle. It is at this time that we meet band leader Ashnak of the fighting Agaku. Let us just say shortly thereafter things go pear shaped and then the story takes a sharp left and heads off into non High Fantasy territory. All in all an entertaining read that I can recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different.

But that’s not the whole point of this post. I am sure far more qualified people have reviewed this excellent book since its publication.

For me the most exciting thing about Grunts! (over and above the great read) was that it depicted orcs as the heroes. Well lead protagonists or maybe anti heroes if you like. It gave one a glimpse into what orcs could be about and came up with a bit of a standard for orcish names. Marukka, Dakashnit, Razitshakra etc all found their names used as time went by when I was Game Master in our local RuneQuest group. Suddenly orcs had names and eventually, after much winging on my side, the other core GM (Willo) caved and allowed me to play an orc. But that’s a topic for a future blog.

Roc cover - Romas
Roc cover by Romas

I think the key contribution Mary Gentle made by publishing Grunts! was to prove it could be done. There were punters out there eager for this type of novel. We were not out looking for a treatise explaining how orcs were misunderstood gentle creatures, but wanted to see them in all their violent glory, something Mary Gentle achieved.

So if you have not read Grunts! Yet, go out and get it. From what I can see on the net it has been republished, so it should be easily available.

Roc/New American library cover.
Roc/New American library cover.

For those willing to search about for old magazines, look for Orcs Drift by the same author. This is a sort story that was published in the old Valkyrie RPG Magazine (Volume 1, Issue 3 of 1994). It also saw publication on in Odyssey Magazine Volume 0, 1997 as well as the authors Cartomancy collection which was published in 2004.

This article was originally published XXVII April MMXII

Gateway Essentials
Gateway Essentials cover

The Mystery Bowls of Azun ka Nut

Religious talismans from the cult of the vulture god – Azun ka Nut.

Rarity: Very rare.

History: The mystery bowls of Azun ka Nut were used for religious ceremonies. Azun is a benevolent vulture god, but also a bit of a deceiver. All is never what it seams with Azun.

Description: These two ancient bowls are ceramic, set into a beaten tin outer shell. The lips of each bowl are purely of tin and thicker on the inside, so as to hold the ceramic portion in place. Each lip is inlaid with copper hieroglyphs on the inside and outside. The ceramic of one bowl is stained red with ochre while the other is stained blue with lapis lazuli. They are both 7 centimetres in height, the tin lip being 2 centimetres wide and have a top diameter of 15 centimetres. (Base diameter is 7 centimetres).

The bowls are of ancient origin and, for their age, are well crafted. What is more interesting is what they do. When placed outdoors over night, they will gradually fill with liquid until the whole ceramic portion is filled to the tin hieroglyph inlaid lip. This process will take the whole night.

The red bowl looks to be filled with blood, the blue bowl with water. The nasty bit is that these are illusions, and the reverse is true. Drinkers from the red bowl will only taste cool refreshing water, while the liquid in the blue bowl, when tasted, will be warm blood, which is quite refreshing to certain creatures, but not most adventurers choice of drink.

This article was originally published on XIII August MMII

Dragontales Magazine

Dragontales was an apparently one off anthology of short stories published under the auspices of Dragon Magazine back in 1980. The stories therein, at the time were original and had not appeared in previous editions of Dragon Magazine.

I picked this magazine up for USD1.00 some years back, along with a job lot of Dragon Magazine back issues. One of various reasons I bought Dragon Magazine was to read the short stories therein.

Little did I realise that the magazine, in excellent condition I may add, is apparently highly collectible, according to what people are asking for it on eBay anyway. That aside, is it worthwhile reading, or has its genre based fiction aged beyond readability?

Dragontales magazine cover

First and foremost the magazine has a striking wrap around cover depicting a priestess standing in front of a party of adventurers (one would assume) in an avenue of Mayan / Incan / Aztec / (Insert Alternate Mesoamerican Culture here) snake headed pylons leading up to a stepped pyramid type temple. Already impressive stuff, that set my GM’s mind scheming about plot ideas for our ongoing RuneQuest campaign.

In the sky/background of the picture one can see ghostly images of snakes – vipers by appearance – fighting warriors, distant landscapes and skeleton covered treasure troves. The artists signature is M Carroll.

Contents wise I felt it was a mixed bag. I did not enjoy the first story, The Wizards are Dying by John L Jenkin, at all. In fact it was so old school genre (1st edition D&D) based that I almost put the magazine away never to look at it again. But I persevered and took days to read a story that should have taken me a short train ride to work. It was the typical party gets together and makes their way (along with the obligatory stow away) off to stop a lich whose sealed tomb had been disrupted. Yawn. The story had a number of holes in it and was just not my cup of tea. That said the action did get better towards the end and well, I suppose it was a product of its time. It does explain why many a fantasy magazines writers guidelines vociferously state their disinterest in genre fiction.

Fortunately the rest of the stories vary from a bit, to remarkable better. Dragons Fosterling by Ruby S W Jung was light hearted and clever. Likely more so when it was published as I suspect there have been many takes on the same subject since.

Out of the Eons by Gardner F Fox was one of the stories I enjoyed the most. The story was a clever take on the standard hero with his goddess’ avatar wife. There were one or two small inconsistencies, or rather glossed over facts that had me paging back in case I missed a paragraph. Just a thought, but isn’t spelled Aeons?

Sir George by Carl Parlagreco was a decent attempt at fantasy humour writing. Bearing in mind this was written before the Colour of Magic saw light, or the likes of Craig Shaw Gardner, Tom Holt et al made names for themselves in this field. The story gave me a few chuckles, well worth a look.

Black Lotus Moon by Tom Moldvay was also a favourite. A tale of a protagonist thief, and betrayal at various levels. It was clever and well written. It may have been little risqué for its time, in its art and content, which I am sure helped push whatever boundaries existed at that time.

Some short work such as Honor (sic) Among Thieves by Roger Moore (Dragon Magazine Staff Member, not the actor), Ice Dreams by David F Nalle and Birth of a Wizard by Marie Desjardin were reasonable enjoyable but all too soon forgotten in my opinion. Call Me Albert by Martin Mundt was also an attempt at humour which alas failed as far as I was concerned. It was okay I suppose but also fell into the easily forgotten category. Writing humour is harder than one would think and I would point anyone keen to read fiction to a cowardly, reluctant protagonist to rather look up the excellent tales of Dao Shi by Iain Rowan, which are far superior.

Lastly, and defiantly the best story in the collection is The Darkness Hunting by Janrae Frank. It is a tale of an amazon warrior who has per necessity had to make her life amongst the strictly patriarchal society of planes nomads. Once again there have been plety of stories of woman living secret lives as men over the years, but this one, for its age, is still fresh and memorable. In my opinion that’s the mark of good writing.

In conclusion I would say Dragontales is a not just product of its time and the genre that spawned it. For sure there are aspects of D&D in more than one story, but at least three of the thankfully longer stories stand out on their own merits and satisfactorily span the decades since their writing to still be enjoyable today.

This article was first published XXIV December MMXII

The History of RuneQuest

A RPG orientated magazine called Gygax Magazine appeared on the market in January 2013. The initial issue included an article that paid homage to how Dungeons & Dragons inspired so many games, but only mentioned RuneQuest as a passing reference. To me this was not good enough, as RuneQuest’s pedigree and major influence on the industry cannot be denied. I approached the magazines editors and suggested a follow up article.

Sixth Edition - The Design Mechanism
The Design mechanism – Sixth Edition

This translated to a solicited article submission to the same short lived journal. Do note this was not an opinion piece. The article received review, helpful input and sanction by none other than Steve Perrin, Rick Meints and Lawrence Whitaker, RuneQuest alumni of the highest standing. The original submissions has been presented below verbatim:

RuneQuest Article for Gygax Magazine

Minerva and Thoth protect this text from detractors and disbelievers.

Third Edition (Deluxe) - Avalon Hill
Avalon Hill – Third Edition (Deluxe)


The inaugural issue of Gygax magazine had several articles that looked back with nostalgia at the history of role playing games, dwelling mostly on the familiar subject of Dungeons and Dragons. An article called The Cosmology of RPG’s detailed how certain games could be considered as alpha, beta and so forth waves in terms of when they arrived on the market as well as design principles. 

This article has been inspired by the aforementioned and hopefully serves to sufficiently expand upon, while not getting bogged down in details, the contribution that the RuneQuest game has made to the RPG industry. 

First Edition (Sepia) - Chaosium
Chaosium – First Edition (Sepia)

Canon and Cont-roversy 

RuneQuest and the world of Glorantha! The two are historically bound to one another. While many RPG systems came into existence and were followed by a supporting world, RuneQuest was possibly the first RPG system that was created to support an existing fantasy world.

Glorantha is the brainchild of Greg Stafford. He conceived and detailed Glorantha during the 1960s and eventually brought it to the market in the form of the war game White Bear Red Moon in 1975, published by the company he founded for this purpose, Chaosium. Unique, complex and detailed, Glorantha also has a substantial mythology. As the RPG phenomenon grew it became the ideal medium to allow players to better interact with Glorantha. A rules system was required and by 1978 RuneQuest debuted at the Origins convention. 

Fourth Edition - Mongoose Publishing. Aka MRQ1.
Mongoose Publishing – Fourth Edition (MRQ1)

The first edition was well received by Glorantha fans as well as role players in general. Initial feedback and review soon caused the Chaosium designers to determine that a second edition was required, to fix certain faults that one, in those days, may expect with a brand new game. A feature unique to RuneQuest at the time was players were allowed to play certain creatures or monsters as characters. 

The second edition of RuneQuest was much loved and garnered a large following. Gloranthan supplements were well received and were in many ways superior to most of what was on the market. Items such as Cults of Prax (1979), Griffin Mountain (1981), Pavis (1982) and Big Rubble (1983) gained cult status and are still well respected to this day. 

Second Edition - Chaosium
Chaosium – Second Edition

Chaosium eventually entered a tactical agreement with the Avalon Hill Games Company to produce a new third edition of RuneQuest and bring it to a wider audience. The rules were much revised with numerous additions. As with any revision some people received it well, but some disliked the changes. To this day there are still arguments as to whether RQII or RQIII is a better system.

Avalon Hill published the RuneQuest III rules in various formats, including a Deluxe boxed set which combined the standard Player’s and Games Master’s boxes, and a single perfect-bound Deluxe softcover rulebook. A Basic edition was also available. One of the key philosophical shifts between RuneQuest II and III was to delink Glorantha from the rules. RuneQuest III came with a Mythic Europe default setting. That said, Gloranthan material was published alongside Alternate Earth and Gateway supplements and a small booklet of Gloranthan material was made available with the Deluxe Edition.  The aim of this was to make RuneQuest available to a broader audience who may not have wished to use Glorantha as a campaign world. 

Avalon Hill published the RuneQuest III rules in various formats, including a Deluxe boxed set which combined the standard Player’s and Games Master’s boxes, and a single perfect-bound Deluxe softcover rulebook. A Basic edition was also available. One of the key philosophical shifts between RuneQuest II and III was to delink Glorantha from the rules. RuneQuest III came with a Mythic Europe default setting. That said, Gloranthan material was published alongside Alternate Earth and Gateway supplements and a small booklet of Gloranthan material was made available with the Deluxe Edition.  The aim of this was to make RuneQuest available to a broader audience who may not have wished to use Glorantha as a campaign world. 

Third Edition (Standard) - Avalon Hill
Avalon Hill – Third Edition (Standard)

Some supplement bashing was performed. Either to align to RQIII rules or setting requirements, while at times bringing back previously out of print material. Thus, for example, the Glorantha based Griffin Mountain became the Gateway based Griffin Island (slightly ironic since the initial submission of Griffin Mountain was as a Gateway supplement), while venerable items  such as Apple Lane and Snake Pipe Hollow were rereleased with expanded material.   For newcomers to RuneQuest these reprinted items were generally welcome, but existing players who already had these supplements would have preferred totally new material. In the early 1990’s new material in the form of Sun CountyRivers of Cradles and Strangers in Prax sparked what became known as a “Runequest Renaissance”. They were well received and gained favourable reviews in Dragon Magazine. Unfortunately, Gateway items such as Daughters of Darkness and Eldarad – The Lost City were thought to be sub-standard by many. 

First Edition (Colour) - Chaosium
Chaosium – First Edition (Colour)

One should perhaps note at this point that while RuneQuest did not spawn the volume of content that D&D did, much of said content until this time had been of a very high standard and was more aimed at thick sourcebooks than thin modules. Supplements such as Daughters of Darkness were thought to be a sign of Avalon Hill pushing shoddy content under the RuneQuest banner. That said some Gateway items were of a high standard, such as Land of Ninja and Vikings

RuneQuest took a publishing hiatus in the late 1990’s. At that time an unsuccessful attempt was made to re-integrate Glorantha back into the rules system. This was called RuneQuest – Adventures in Glorantha, but it was not approved and the playtest was halted. Just before the turn of the century another version of RuneQuest was mooted, called RuneQuest Slayers. It too never made it to publication and had nothing to do with the RuneQuest system, other than the name re-engineering using a totally different system. The rules were not even percentile based. To quote the authors: “RuneQuest Slayers is a completely new game. The campaign worlds are brand new and the rules reworked from the ground up”.

By this time Avalon Hill (and many other games companies) had been hit hard by changes in the industry. Hasbro bought Avalon Hill, WOTC bought TSR, and Hasbro bought WOTC. Before long a new version of AD&D emerged and many RuneQuest players started hoping for a similar outcome for their system.


By 1998 Greg Stafford had parted ways with Chaosium, taking Glorantha with him and publishing Gloranthan material under the auspices of his new company, Issaries Inc. The RuneQuest trademark was acquired by Issaries via mutual agreement with Chaosium and Steve Perrin. In 2005 Issaries licensed Mongoose Publishing to produce a new version of RuneQuest and also publish Gloranthan material.

A new, much revised edition of RuneQuest was finally available to attract new players to the marque. While it differed from RQIII, the core system was still very much recognizable. The “4th edition”, issued as First Edition but termed MRQI by many an owner of previous editions, was soon followed by a “5th” edition, officially RuneQuest II – MRQII. Mongoose RuneQuest II was welcomed by newcomers and old school players alike. It addressed a few “mistakes” previously made and provided a platform to launch a few aligned settings, such as Deus Vult and Clockwork & Chivalry. More recently Mongoose ceased publishing RuneQuest after mutual agreement with Issaries to part ways. Their RuneQuest II system was re-launched as Legend, along with a number of Legend specific supplements. It should be noted that Mongoose produced an Open Games License for RuneQuest (and Legend). Companies such as Otherworld Creations and Sceaptune Games have produced material under this OGL agreement. 

Moon Design Publications acquired a licensed to publish Gloranthan material in 2006 and are still doing so as of this writing.  The Design Mechanism is currently publishing RuneQuest 6th Edition, and have a number of new supplements in the pipeline. They also have a nonexclusive licence to publish Gloranthan material.

Fifth Edition - Mongoose Publising. Aka MRQ2
Mongoose Publishing – Fifth Edition (MRQ2)

System Design Principles 

Here we are going to compare the RuneQuest rules system to D&D of the same era, vis-à-vis the mid-to-late 1970’s. 

The first major differentiation between the two systems was that RuneQuest is percentile based whereas D&D is based on a D20. The second major difference is that Runequest does not use Character Classes with experience points for advancement. Both systems have their own merits and detractions but this article is not the forum for that (never-ending) debate.

RuneQuest requires that any success or failure be based on a characters skill in the task being tested. Thus a character requires a skill score and the test is as simple as a roll of D100 where 01 is the best possible roll one can make and is by its nature a critical success, no matter what, where 00 (100) is the opposite, the worst roll and destined as a fumble/critical failure, no matter what. 

That said, while success and failure may be percentile, other dice are still used to determine damage, hit location and a few other eventualities, so the prospective RuneQuest converts need not be heading to the dustbin with their non-ten sided dice. 

Second Edition - Games Workshop
Games Workshop – Second Edition

RuneQuest also employs a set of core characteristics much like D&D. Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Size, Intelligence, Appearance (or Charisma depending on which version) and Power. These are determined much like D&D insofar the roll of a few D6 where the max for a human is 18. These characteristics are then extrapolated to Attributes through certain formulae (also depends on version) to determine Agility, Knowledge, Manipulation, Stealth, Communication and Magic. Skills are then determined per attribute and these are the skills that one checks against when rolling D100, where <= skill on D100 is a success and > a failure. Extremely good rolls may be deemed critical or special with certain bonuses given where extremely bad rolls may be fumbles with certain penalties. 

Combat is also based on these skills augmented depending on weapon and other factors (such as culture in 3rd Ed) to determine an Attack and Parry skill per weapon or shield. Some versions also break combat rounds into a series of Strike ranks, which allows for a realistic flow of events for opponents with certain weapons r skills to get the drop on others, while at the same time making it a little easier for the GM to keep track of what is going on. One key factor of RuneQuest is the body map, which in terms of combat adds a degree of reality so that one can know where one was hit, which limb was lopped off etc. It is possible that RuneQuest invented the usage of the body map for RPG’s and this concept has been emulated by many games since. Combat in RuneQuest is realistic and as such can be quite deadly, as more than a few players who have had experience in other less lethal systems have discovered.

In terms of magic, a whole book could be written regarding this. Very simply stated and once again version dependent, there are three primary forms of magic: Spirit, Divine and Sorcery:

  • Spirit magic uses communion with the spirit plane where various spirits are bound to perform various tasks, which translate into effectively a spell. A famed RuneQuest spirit magic spell is Fireblade, which is relatively self-explanatory. (No it does not give the character a Honda Superbike). 
  • Divine magic calls upon the gods to grant magical boons. While powerful and more or less guaranteed to work, it takes much preparation by a priest to gain spells and so can cost quite a bit. If ones character happens to have a divine heal spell, their popularity will be guaranteed. (See deadly combat above). 
  • Sorcery comes from within, and takes a degree of skill to perform this kind of magic, which can also drain ones power rapidly if not used sparingly. 
Third Edition (Basic) - Games Workshop
Games Workshop – Third Edition (Basic)

Different versions have alternate takes on magic, these definitions are based on 3rd Ed. 

This brief synopsis of some core design principles can be used as a yardstick to measure other systems of similar age, where certain commonalities and divergences will be evident. 

Third Edition (Advanced) - Games Workshop
Games Workshop – Third Edition (Advanced)

Dead Ends

Official RuneQuest non starters:

  • RuneQuest Adventures In Glorantha (Avalon Hill) – 1994
  • RuneQuest Slayers (Avalon Hill) – 1997

Non RuneQuest but Glorantha Related

  • Hero Wars system for Glorantha  (Issaries Inc.)
  •  HeroQuest (Issaries Inc.)

Direct Offshoots

All of the below were published by Chaosium:

  • Stormbringer
  • Call of Cthulu
  • Worlds of Wonder
  • Superworld
  • ElfQuest
  • Ringworld
  • Hawkmoon
  • Nephilim
  • Elric!
  • Basic Roleplaying (BRP)

Offshoots from other publishers:

  • Legend (Mongoose Publishing). Effectively a rebranding of RuneQuest Fifth Edition aka MRQ2
  • Mythworld (Paul Cardwell)
  • OpenQuest (d101 Games)
Mongoose Publishing – Legend (Fifth Edition rebrand)

Special Branches

  • SPQR (Steve Perrin’s Quest Rules)
SPQR (Steve Perrin's Quest Rules) - Steve Perrin
Steve Perrin – SPQR

Other Systems

These are systems which have been identified as having been influenced by RuneQuest. This list is based on purely anecdotal evidence:

  • Element Masters (Escape Ventures)
  • Hârn Master (Columbia Games)
  • Other Suns (FGU)
  • Warlords of Alexandria


The much anticipated RuneQuest resurrection that occurred during the watch of Mongoose Publishing included an Open Game Licence. Some small press publishers embraced the OGL and published RuneQuest material:

  • Otherworld Creations
  • Sceaptune Games


Special thanks to the members of The RuneQuest Rules List; especially Steve, Lawrence and Rick for helping fact check this article

Core Timeline

Subsequent Developments

Events that have occurred since the compilation of the article.

Life moves on. The much anticipated Gygax Magazine turned out to be very sort lived , resulting in the article submission never seeing the light of day, until now!

By all appearances, after the long RuneQuest hiatus, the rejuvenated RuneQuest juggernaut was not content to stay where it was. Since the writing of the aforementioned article, RuneQuest has changed again insofar:

  • RuneQuest 6th Edition remains in publication by The Design Mechanism, renamed as Mythras.
  • RuneQuest 7th Edition has is the current official edition in terms of the RuneQuest canon. It is published by Chaosium, the company who originally created the game way back in the 1970’s.
Mythras - The Design Mechanism
The Design Mechanism – Mythras (Rebraded Sixth Edition)
Seventh Edition - Chaosium
Chaosium – Seventh Edition