It Takes a Thief (or, "How to Steal from Glorantha for Your Own Campaign")
Copyright 1998 by Dr. Rich Staats
King Phineas the Black surveyed the carnage. "If only these Hemenisch halflings would stop their futile on-slaught, the killing could stop" Phinease thought.
"Tremire" Phineas bellowed across the din.
Within the span of a dozen heartbeats, Tremir of Gebnick Glade, long time associate of Phineas and a gray elf, appeared at the monarch’s side.
"Tremire, take your Aldryan archers and the half-orcs cavalry to the hillock to the east. Grab the healers while you’re at it. Move quickly Tremir! Ready the Yelmalians for a charge. We’ll prevail over this hobbit rabble before the rising of the Isban moon!"
In creative circles there is an old adage that "talent imitates while genius steals." Glorantha began as the vision of a bright Beloit College freshman in the late 1960s. Sartar, the Prax, and Magasta’s Pool have grown from their inception to encompass books of tales, board games and role-playing games the world over. Glorantha is an incredibly rich and deep world, but many gamemasters are fearful of incorporating Gloranthan elements into their own worlds and campaigns.
This article will describe some guidelines for integrating the best of Glorantha into your own campaign in a non-Gloranthan setting. There are eight key factors to consider: Sample, Try, Aspect, Filter, Fearless, Own, Revise and Develop (STAFFORD). We will explore each of these factors below.
Glorantha is huge and full of unique races, mythologies, and geographies. Many gamemasters are daunted by the sheer magnitude of that which is Glorantha. The first step in creative Gloranthan purloining is to Sample. Try a small bit before you attempt to assimilate the whole world. Do you like Dragon-newts? Well, go ahead and add them to your current campaign setting. Build on success, and it generally is easier to add a little than to add a lot. Before you know it, Prax will appear as a terrain feature on your campaign map.
One of the biggest difficulties in integrating in Gloranthan elements are the game mechanics, or the flow and feel of the game. It is absolutely essential to be willing to Try various modifications or combinations of modifications to your current rule set to capture that special Gloranthan look and feel. Be willing to modify background information to make the Gloranthan portions seem more at home in your campaign.
One warning is critical at this point. As you begin to add Gloranthan elements, make sure that you retain the key Aspects of Glorantha that made you select the elements to begin with. RuneQuest I & II were designed with Glorantha in mind while other gaming systems were not. You might find that what originally attracted you loses its luster when it is applied to your existing mechanics or campaign background. (Seehttp://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/9329/staats2.htm for more information – the link on designing a campaign world for a methodology for "top down" or "bottom up" world creation is the most appropriate.) If you introduced the Maidstone Archers into a level based system, some of their terror disappears. "Yeah, it took quite a few hacks to slay those funny three armed archers. Hey, they shot me five times, but I still had 50 hit points in reserve. They weren’t so bad." In the case of the Maidstone Archers, you might want to add a "quick kill" mechanic, or not, Try a variety of options out.
There is an old adage "what is the best way to eat an elephant?" The answer is one piece at a time. In the same way, be willing to Filter out those other aspects of the creature or mythology you do not like. I really liked the multi-staged life cycles and rebirth of the Dragon-newts, but there were elements of the Dragon-newt culture that didn’t work for me. So, I Filtered those "difficult" aspects out.
There is likely at least one Glorantha "purist" who has swooned from my heresy by now. (You know who you are.)J "By the crimson Goddess! He means to change Glorantha!" To this I reply be Fearless! Gary E. Gygax chimed in the hallowed pages of Dragon that those who modified D&D™ weren’t playing D&D at all. P’shaw! The keepers of Gloranthan lore will not burn down your house and cry "purity above all!" Greg Stafford, the creator of Glorantha, has publicly stated on more than one occasion that he actually favors modification of Glorantha in the gaming context if it increases the group’s enjoyment of the setting.. (Ask Greg about Redwing sometime.) J Don’t be afraid to change key facts. In my own long running campaign, Time is a deity born of Chaos’ interaction with the other elements. Times key feature is entropy. Be a heretic; you’re in good company!
Whatever you decide to purloin from Glorantha, make sure you Own it once you bring it into your own world. Take pride in the way that aspect fits into your own campaign. Make that aspect a unique, highlighted part of your world. It might have been Glorantha inspired, but , once, you’ve taken a piece into your own world, make sure you are willing to run with your own creative energies.
Along these lines, be willing to Revise the aspects of your world based on reflection and gaming experience. You might be able to figure out all the ways that your players will abuse the new aspects, but the players will surely figure them out in quick order. Giving the Humakti reusable Sever Spirit seemed like a good idea on paper, but in a world without resurrection, the idea didn’t work so well. Change things to suit your needs, do play testing. It will work out better all the way around. Conventions are a great place to try out modifications. You get a new set of eyes on your campaign, and you don’t have any idea how the new players will react to it. Also, there is no laundry list of past decisions to haunt you. You are free to modify your world at will.
Last, integrating Glorantha into your world will likely mean you’ll have to Develop other aspects yo your own campaign. Hear, hear! Even if you ultimately reject the Gloranthan spark that motivated you, if the spark promoted you to further develop your own world, then the effort was not in vain.
Using STAFFORD, you can bring the mystery, depth and excitement of Glorantha into your own campaign.
Best wishes, and visit my web site athttp://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/9329/inline.htm for more examples of a Gloranthan based world and "how to" articles for the aspiring GM and player. (Oh, and send money! I have a family to support here!) J You can also contact me via e-mail at email@example.com