I think it was around 1992 or 1993 that I was first introduced to the world of role-playing games. The first thing I remember was having a slip of paper with some numbers on it and my friend telling me: “You proceed deeper into the cave and encounter a bear. Roll the die! You hit, the bear dies. You keep going deeper.” I don’t remember the order of things that followed. There was a Marvel superhero game that we played for a couple of sessions. There was a long D&D campaign that consisted of going further and further down an underground complex. That ended, when the GM told us that he is throwing the toughest things from the monster manual at us and we are beating them, so this is getting boring.
At some point my parents bought me the Finnish edition of RuneQuest. We started playing with just that, but soon I got the Glorantha pack and I was completely hooked. Glorantha was my world. The non-human sentient races were truly alien and imaginative. The mythology entranced me although a lot of the nuance was lost to me back then. The varied human civilizations and cultures seemed lifelike and imaginative, and they had real reasons for conflict instead of just “these guys are evil, so they fight everyone and everyone fights them” that seemed to be the norm for many D&D settings back then. The rules were combat heavy, but not as combat heavy as D&D.
There were obviously problems in the system. Reading the rules as written, if you are a professional brewer, your skill at brewing might be 70%, which would mean that 3 barrels out of every ten you make fail – that obviously isn’t very professional, but for some reason we managed to think of some of the skills as qualitative and some as quantitative – a brewer at 70% skill would probably make good beer every time, but a brewer at 90% skill would make even better beer. The sorcery rules seemed completely broken and we couldn’t figure out, why – we couldn’t connect the description of the world and the rules that well.
Years of fun were had on our early teens campaign… And then my friends got into their late teens and quit playing. It took me nearly 10 years to find gaming friends again, but I kept buying all things Glorantha regardless. I read and re-read everything I had and I scoured the early Internet for more things to read and I the world kept me in thrall.
The first publication that introduced the world of Glorantha, was a board game called White Bear and Red Moon from the year 1975. The Guide to Glorantha, published 40 years later, is the most important publication about the world of Glorantha, and represents the collected wisdom of dozens and dozens of people, who have contributed to what was originally Greg Stafford’s world. The book is a gazetteer or an encyclopedia about the world of Glorantha. It’s not the first publication of that type about Glorantha, but this is the biggest, most detailed, and most complete collection of Gloranthan minutiae ever published.
Despite much of the content of the book being familiar to me from previous publications, I couldn’t start skipping through sections at any point. The world still brings a smile to my face. Be it the truly epic myths and heroes, the pervasively magical nature of the world, the varied cultures, the alien non-humans, and the weird humor sprinkled here and there, everything about it is completely enchanting to me.
The Kickstarter campaign used to fund this book (actually two books, but the page numbering doesn’t reset between them, so they are literally inseparable), was the first KS campaign that I pledged into. I don’t think I had an option about this. I didn’t have too much money back then, but this simply was not optional. The KS campaign ended in Dec 2012 and promised delivery in Feb 2013. Not surprisingly, the book was finally delivered two years late in 2015. It was worth the wait.
The grand shaman of gaming, Greg Stafford, is no longer with us, but his world is alive again. I think this book really literally kick-started a resurgence in Glorantha – we now have Gods War, an immense board game about the pre historic wars of Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha and a new edition of RuneQuest, there’s Six Ages, a long-awaited video game successor to the great King of Dragon Pass. There were years and years, when the world was kept alive only through dedicated fans through fanzines and forums.
I don’t think I would be the person I am, without the influence that Glorantha has had on me. It taught me that things change. It taught me about shades of grey and points of view. It taught me that there is always another way. It taught me that there is magic in the world, if you want to see it. Glorantha is a beautiful world and this is a book worthy of that world.
- Title: The Guide to Glorantha
- Author: Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, Sandy Petersen
- Year: 2015
- Finished in: 12th Jul 2019