Monday, 20 April 2015


Fresco from the Great Temple of Pavis depicting a Unicorn
Unicorns were one of the earliest kinds of beast to walk across the surface of Glorantha, and records of their existence were dated by the God Learners to extend all the way back to the Green Age.
Here they dwelt amongst the forests of the Spike, as yet untainted by war or strife. They were said to pull the chariots of gods, and were the favoured amongst all wild animals.

But paradise cannot last forever, and when strife came to the world, nature was inevitably separated from the worlds of gods and men. The unicorns stayed with nature, to be their protectors. Led by Sorza, their king, the unicorns acted as guardians when man or other creatures attacked wild beasts, slaying any who wished harm on the natural world.

During the Great Darkness, chaos horrors and creatures from the Underworld emerged, the unicorns suffered greatly. They alone could not protect the wilderness, and their wives were devoured by Chaos. The remaining male unicorns would have perished after this, but Sorza showed them how they could join with the animals they protected, to produce new unicorns. These new unicorns were less noble than their ancestors, but they survived.

Eventually, the great forest of the world was destroyed, separating many beasts from one another, and the unicorns were no exception. Their once great forces were now many smaller bands, eventually dwindling into solitary figures, each guarding a small portion of nature.

Yet still they fought on, with whatever allies they could find against monsters and Chaos, even allying with Aldryami or humans for added strength. When the dawn came, unicorns were almost extinct. Still, they survived, and have so far proven immune to the grasp of time, with no unicorn dying from old age since the sun returned to the sky.

From a distance unicorns appear to be nearly identical to horses, with only their legendary horn proving the difference. But when studied, several notable differences appear. Firstly, their toes are cloven, like that of a deer, with two toes and two smaller dewclaws behind them; and secondly, unicorns possess a long tail that ends with a tuft of fur concealing a small bone spur. Despite this armament, the tail is not used in combat, and instead the tail seems to be used mainly to balance the Unicorn.
The unicorn's coat is made of soft, downy fur, like that of a rabbit, this provides the beast with great protection from the weather, although it has made it a target for hunters.
The infamous horn of the unicorn is unlike that of other creatures, for it does not curve or bend, but rises straight out of the beast's forehead, with a spiral ridge around it.

The God Learner Ocran Everseer called the Unicorn "Unicornis sylvanus" in his records, classing specimins under the same species and taxonomic name. Later investigation reveals that although this is the most common type, others do exist.
  • The Fronelan Unicorn (Unicornis valindus) lives in the Winterwood, on the edge of the glacier. Larger than the pony-sized common unicorn, the Fronelan unicorn is equal in size of larger warhorses, such as the Daron or Sered. Its pelt is also much thicker than that of other unicorns, resembling the Mastodons and Kunkorns of the region, leading to its other name of "Woolly Unicorn."
  • In the Wastelands there exists a small population of desert adapted unicorns. commonly named the Praxian Unicorn (Unicornis generti), who are are leaner and more agile than their kin. Their coats, unlike the simple snow white of the Fronelan and common unicorns, are marked with darker patches, often appearing as stripes or rosettes, especially on the legs and face. The presence of facial markings, combined with their shaggy and unkempt manes, has given them the appearance of being in mourning. Alone among the other unicorns, the Praxian unicorn's dewclaws are enlarged, even touching the ground when the beast jumps or is in soft sand. This makes it more sure-footed in the wastelands, where there are no trees to hide behind, and speed is even more important.
  • The Monoceros, or Greater Unicorn (Unicornis regina), are the last remaining of the original noble unicorns from before the great darkness. They are now native to the otherworld, and only rarely enter the world of mortals, and even then do so reluctantly. They stand nearly as large as a Rhinoceros, with a coal black coat, and a golden mane. Few beings have ever seen a monoceros, and they are believed by most to be extinct.
  • Although not a true unicorn, the Praxian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros praxianis) was believed to be descended from them by early Malkioni scholars. They claimed that the Rhinoceros was the result of a unicorn who became too cowardly, and retreated from the forests, into the wastelands. In doing so, they became monstrous beings, ugly and unnatural. The God Learner Ocron Everseer dismissed these claims, pointing out, amongst other things, bore five toes upon its foot, marking it as completely unrelated to the even-toed unicorns.

Mosaic of a Monoceros from the Great Temple in Voi
Although as intelligent as humans, it is a mistake to think of unicorns as if they were another Elder Race. They lack any form of culture, or language. In fact, unicorns do not even associate with members of their own kind, even when in close quarters (such as in the grounds of a Yelornan temple, or within the Unicorn Tribe of Prax) individual unicorns will ignore each other as they go about their business.

Unicorns are browsers, preferring to eat leaves, berries, flowers, and other tender parts of trees and similar plants. Unusually, their diet consists predominantly of poisonous plants, seeking out wolfsbane, nightshade, hemlock and similar plants. This stems from a natural immunity to such toxins, and it also proves an effective defence, for their body absorbs many of these toxins, making the flesh poisonous to any who might try to prey on them.

So powerful are a unicorn's digestive systems that even their dung has proven to be anathema to the forces of Mallia. Elves and Yelornan cultists have been known to follow unicorns around to collect this dung to form into healing poultices. This practice seems to amuse the unicorns to no end.

Lacking any females, unicorns reproduce with other animals, typically deer, horses, or goats. This is a rare occurrence, for unicorns live long lives, and would view any other unicorn, even their own offspring, as a rival. Still, when such matings do occur, the unicorn protects the mother, even at the risk of its own life. If the offspring is male, it is another unicorn. If female, it is a perfect example of the mother's species. These does, hinds, or mares are sought after by hunters for their beauty, and a unicorn-fathered mare, if caught early and tamed, makes an excellent steed.

The young unicorn foal resembles its father in all respects, save the horn, which takes several years to grow from a small nub on its forehead. Until the horn is grown, the foal cannot use magic, and is near defenceless, requiring the foal to stay close to its father for protection.

Like all other sentient beings, unicorns know of the otherworld, and possess a connection with it. When in the wild, a unicorn will often spend its time in a trance-like state, meditating on the power of the natural world. From this meditation, unicorns are able to work magic, which acts much as wizardry does, manipulating the magical nature of the world.

Most of the magic used by unicorns involve healing, cleansing diseases and closing wounds. Even wild animals know that unicorns possess this gift, and a unicorn's home is often filled with wildlife, each waiting, almost unnaturally still, for the unicorn to heal them. This calming power has led wizards to claim that unicorns are a combination of the Beast and Harmony Runes, and the unicorn was one of the Forty Ancient Beasts of Danmalastan.

Unicorns and Others
Unicorns have ever been wary of creatures of the Man Rune, even viewing many of the Elder Races with the same distrust. Only amongst the elves have they found long standing allies, with them regarding each other as near kin. Still, the elves sometimes find unicorns as pests, for they devour many of the warding plants of the elves, to feast on their toxins.
Many elf groves will instead present tribute to a nearby unicorn, in the form of poisonous fruit, to avoid the unicorn destroying their defences when hungry.

Yelornan Silver Star coin
Amongst humans, unicorns have found unusual allies in the worshippers of the goddess Yelorna.
This goddess is native to Vanch, where she is said to be the daughter of the Sun God and the Green Lady. They say that during the darkness, Yelorna acted as a protector of the unicorn king, and the unicorns seem to agree (or at least do not care enough to denounce this).

During the Bright Empire of Nysalor, Yelornan worshippers spread as guardians of the Sun Dome temples, along side the Yelmalians. They acted as cavalry, riding horses and other steeds when there were not enough unicorns to carry them all. When the empire collapsed, the cult of Yelorna fragmented, and now many of them have been wiped out.

Of the groups who are still known to exist, the following are well recorded:
  • In the wastes of Prax exists the Unicorn Tribe, who claim to follow their own, older traditions, the God Learners claim that the Sun Daughter they worship to be another form of the goddess Yelorna. Certainly the Unicorn maidens of the city of Pavis do not see a difference, and are strongly allied with the Yelmalians of the city, and each of their temples bears shrines to the other's deity.
  • The guardians of the Karia March Sun Dome temple are still allied to a small tribe of unicorn riding Yelornans. With the collapse of the Bright Empire in the first age, this tribe has become far more insular than the surrounding peoples, having retreated to the woods to live in harmony with their unicorns and wild animals. Because of this self-imposed isolation, when they do appear in the cities of Delela, they have been mistaken for a band of unicorn Hsunchen.
  • Amongst the cavalry forces of Mirin's Cross is a small group of unicorn riders, made from the remnants of the protectors of the Sun Dome Temple, these warriors first fought against the Lunar heroine Hwarin Dalthippa, but when she came amongst them astride her own war unicorn, they became her loyal followers. Reformed as some of her elite warriors, these unicorn riders are also followers of the Lunar Way, and worship Hwarin Dalthippa alongside Yelorna.
  • In Seshnela, the soldiers of the land are organized into many martial beast societies. One of these is the Unicorn Society, which dates his history back to the first age, when Arkat attacked the Tanisorian allies of the Bright Empire. The Yelornans were amongst the forces the Empire sent against Arkat, but when he defeated them, the Yelornans were convinced that the Bright Empire was corrupt. The unicorn riders became absorbed by the Seshnegi, and became another one of the martial beast societies, their pagan origins almost entirely forgotten.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Malkioni HeroQuests

Inspired by this discussion a month ago on the Google+ community for Glorantha, I figured I would try my hand at some Malkioni HeroQuests, or as they might call them great ritual invocations, with HeroQuesters taking the title of Invokers.

The Ritual to Create a Grimoire

To create a grimoire, the invoker must first know their ultimate goal. By performing research and similar activities, they study the source of their magic, the Runes themselves, and the manner in which they may be manipulated. This takes many forms depending on the Sect the invoker belongs to. While the Zzaburites and Rokari devote themselves to performing meditations on the ultimate logical perfection of the Runes themselves; the Hrestoli instead research the actions performed by the Ascended Masters, examining their deeds in an attempt to follow in their footsteps to uncover a great truth about the cosmos.

First Zzabur's Sigil must be marked upon the ground, a pentacle with each point bearing one of the five Elemental Runes, progressing from Darkness, through Water, Earth, Fire and finally into Air. In the centre stands the invoker. When this is done, the invoker may breach the barrier between the material and the essential world. 
The difficulty for invoking the power of the runes is Very High, although the resistance is reduced one or more resistance classes if performed on a day or at a place where the barrier between the material and essential worlds is weaker.

The Road of Trials
When the initial invocation has been made, and contact with the essential world has been performed, the invoker must then send their psyche through this connection to the essential world.
  • Obstacle 1: The Symbolic Plane: The first of the essential worlds reachable to the invoker is the Symbolic Plane. Also known as the Spell Plane, Adept Plane, or Magic Plane; this is where the Third Action, Multiplication, takes place. In this plane, Runes combine with each other, forming the interactions which create magical effects. The invoker may choose to end his journey here, to create a spell (either within a grimoire they already possess, or as an independent spell); and most invokers do so.
  • Obstacle 2: The Idealised Plane: Those invokers who are not satisfied with creating a single spell must instead travel past the Symbolic Plane to the Idealised Plane, by following the flows of runic essence. This journey has been referred to as going "Past the Sun". The Idealised plane, also known as the Philosopher Plane, Founders Plane, or the Thoughts of God; is the result of the Second Action, Manifestation. Here the runes themselves exist; singular, primal manifestations of the elements, powers, movements, and forms.

Confrontation and Transformation
Now the invoker has come into the presence of the primal runes, they must focus on the one associated with the grimoire they seek to create, and come into contact with it. When they do so, they may study the rune, and how it manifests and combines with other runes.

Return and Integration
Having studied the primal rune and principles, the Invoker must now internalize this knowledge through meditation and revelation. If the invoker is successful in this, their psyche returns to their body on the material world, filled with the knowledge of their discovery. This allows them to develop their grimoire, and teach it to others.
The invoker tests their rating with the appropriate rune (or grimoire if learning a spell) against a Very High Resistance to integrate their knowledge. This becomes a breakout of their rune.

Ritual to become a Man-of-All

"Seeing his father's lands attacked by the lion men, the Krjalki, and worse, Prince Hrestol wept. He saw his people attacked by monsters, but knew he could not do all he might to help him, for he was a Noble, and could not fight, nor work, nor teach what must be done. He stood alone at night awaiting for an answer, and felt the Prophet Malkion's spirit with him. He felt Joy in His Heart, and knew what must be done."
This great ritual allows a Hrestoli who has known Joy to become a Man-of-All.
Before being performed, the invoker must have performed years of study in the duties of each caste, as well as a deed of great service to his community.
He must spend a night in deep meditation, communing with the divine for guidance.

"Hrestol's father stood by him, golden skinned and shining haired, and gave him his crown to carry with him, that he may guide the lost."
"At the gate stood a soldier, scarred and armoured, who offered Hrestol his brazen sword to carry with him, that he may defend the weak."
"In the fields stood a worker, tireless and loyal, who shared the lands' bounty with the Prince to carry with him, that he may feed the hungry."
"Alone stood a wizard, who revealed to Hrestol a sign, that he might teach those who did not know."
The invoker first surrenders all that he owns to his community, that he might confront Creation as he was Created. He must gather his companions to him: a lord, a soldier, a worker and a wizard, who each give him something he may carry along with him on his journey.
Then the invoker must leave his community, following the secret Map of Hrestol. 
The gifts given by each of the four companions may take many forms, and may even be that companions themselves, although even in this case, they offer a token gift as well. Leaving the community via Hrestol's map (said to be in the shape of the Truth Rune), acts as the crossing of the threshold. Invoking the powers of the Other Side.

The Road of Trials
"When Hrestol left, he felt the presence of Malkion, and knew Joy; although he could not see him. All was silent about him, and he knew that he was alone."
The Invoker finds themselves alone, and without allies. Armed only with their gifts, they feel the presence of Malkion with them, and must now face their trials. These come in many forms, and obstacles may be in a different order to how they are presented here, this is merely the order most commonly recorded.
  • Obstacle 1: The Worker: 
"Finding himself alone, Hrestol found the way ahead blocked by thorns. He took the flail, and threshed them, revealing hidden seeds. At this the Hungry appeared, and Hrestol gave them fullness." 
The invoker finds themselves confronted with an obstacle blocking their path. This may be a large boulder, a field of weeds, a ravine, or any number of things. It cannot be avoided (doing so would take the Invoker off the known path, and make them Lost,) but must instead be shattered, cut, or bridged, depending on the form it takes.
  • Obstacle 2: The Soldier: 
"Finding himself alone, Hrestol was beset by Krjalki. When he slew them, he found the Weak that they preyed upon, and Hrestol gave them freedom." 
The invoker is set upon by enemies, often ones already known to him, but sometimes an unknown threat arises instead. They cannot be reasoned with, and must be defeated in combat.
  • Obstacle 3: The Noble: 
"Finding himself alone, Hrestol was among strangers, who knew not the right way to behave. Hrestol showed them wellness, and the strangers became men." 
The invoker finds strangers, and must civilize them by convincing them of his right to lead. Many methods have been performed over the centuries, through trickery, bribery, intimidation, or diplomacy. None have proven more effective than any other, and it has become a common matter for debate as to which is the better method.
  • Obstacle 4: The Wizard: 
"Finding himself alone, Hrestol found people worshipping demons. Hrestol showed the people how the demon fooled them, and the demon was destroyed."
Here the invoker finds themselves confronted by a spirit, demon, or other entity. He must understand how it performs its magic, and replicate it via wizardry to prove it is not more powerful than man. Failure at this point will often lead to the spirit being freed to work its magic upon others, and is rightly feared for the horrors it brings.

Confrontation and Transformation
"At the centre, Hrestol again met Malkion, enthroned on Ferbrith. To him he offered his Right Hand, which was accepted."
After completing his trials, the invoker must now meditate, seeking access to the deeper levels of the Invisible Measure. This is the most dangerous and difficult part of the ritual, and involves travelling to the Law Plane (also known as the Venerable Plane), where Malkion still exists. All who the invoker aided must lend him their power, for this is protected by the blessings of Malkion, and the curses of Zzabur, and few men may enter unaided.
The resistance of this barrier crossing is at least Very High, and usually Nearly Impossible. Any lingering benefits from success at the earlier obstacles apply, as do any penalties. Community support is usually saved for this point as well, for journeying to this realm is nearly impossible otherwise.

Return and Integration
"Returning home, Hrestol showed he had worked, fought, led, and knew. Joy was upon him and all could see it, he was not worker, soldier, lord, or wizard, but all of them. And so all would call him Teacher and Master, and he was the Man-of-All."
Having achieved oneness with the divine, the Invoker is now a Man-of-All, able to perform the duties and magic of each caste without fearing spiritual contamination. They are now supported by their community, and are addressed by the title of Sir.
The Man-of-All receives a New Keyword, described later. Other participants often find their gifts filled with the power of the invisible measure, such as weapons or tools becoming made of pure runic metal. The community, as well as having certain problems solved, now also has a great protector.

Source of Magic: Trade Guild, Warrior Scociety, Ascended Master, School of Wizardry
Living Standard: Prosperous
Occupations: None
 Born into one of the Malkioni castes, you have followed in the footsteps of heroes such as Hrestol and Gerlant, becoming a member of the other castes as well. You have taken new oaths to your Lord, and often lead his warriors into battle. He listens to your council, and others respect you for both your position, and your knowledge.
 To become a Man-of-All, you were sponsored by a member of each of the other castes, your deeds exalt them for their wisdom for sponsoring you, and so they are your allies and friends, and you are able to call upon them for aid, although they expect you to respond in kind when they are in need of assistance.
 You are skilled in the arts of each caste, being a student of a specific art or craft, familiar with all kinds of arms and armour, a devoted scholar and you possess a silver tongue and are skilled at matters of state.
 As a Man-of-All, you are not allowed to spit, deceive, interrupt, offer sacrifice to demons, gods or spirits, dress badly, guffaw foolishly, or gesture with the left hand; you have also sworn to protect the innocent, the weak, and the poor, to show courage, to be gallant, obedient, to swear off cowardice and baseness, and to be a just champion of good against evil.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Gustbran Bonesmith

Mythos and History
Gustbran was the son of Veskarthan the deep fire. He was born deep under the earth, where he was taught by his father's servants, the Dwarves. They showed him how he could use his fire to make new things from the bones of gods.
As his talent flourished, words of his deeds reached the ear of the Evil Emperor, who summoned him to his court. Upon showing his talent at making new things, the Emperor and his slaves were aghast and cast him out, for the Emperor had declared that making new things was the same as rebellion.
During his exile, he continued to make new things, and took many students, who he taught his secrets. His students and family grew until they could build their own tula, and form the Making Clan.
When Orlanth sought clans to join his new tribe, the Making Clan joined, so that Orlanth would have strong weapons and armour, although they often quarrelled with the Bad Wind and Rumbling Cliff clans, for they had opposed his father in the past.
When the Darkness came, and Orlanth embarked on the Light Bringer quest, Gustbran stayed behind to aid the Storm Tribe. He was often captured by other jealous gods who sought to steal his powers over metal, although the Thunder Brothers rescued him each time.

Nature of the Cult
Gustbran is the Boneman, the smith of the gods, and his worshippers follow in his footsteps. His worshippers are all redsmiths and smithing is as much an act of worship as it is a mundane role. As such all his worshippers are Priests, known simply as Smiths, and are accorded a high place in their clans, equal to any carl.
Few clans have more than one Smith at a time, although each Smith will have several apprentices learning the craft from him in the hopes of one day succeeding him. They perform minor acts of crafting, and when following an itinerant Smith, act as tinkers.

Gustbran is commonly depicted as a strong and ruddy Orlanthi male, his skin baked as red as the metal he works. In his hands he carries smithing tools or a brazen godbone.

Cult Organization and Holy Places
As so few Smiths live near one another, there is little communication or organization between them. Most will only know of other smiths by reputation, or through meeting at a tribal moot.
Each Smith's forge is a shrine to Gustbran, and the mighty smithies of Sartar's towns act as temples, where the greatest of Smiths practice their craft.
Gustbran's high holy place is Smithstone, which was the Making Clan's tula back in the storm age. Here many Smiths meet to exchange secrets, and many mighty treasures can be bought and bartered.

Holy Days and Sacrifices
Gustbran's cult has infrequent holy days, for Gusbran prefers his worshippers to spend their time smithing, rather than offering him homage. The few holy days they do celebrate are Forge Day, which celebrates the birth of Gustbran and is celebrated on Clay Day of Fire Season's Harmony Week; the other is Bonfire Day, held on Fire Day of Harmony Week in the Earth Season. Bonfire Day holds rites reenacting Gustbran's exile from the Fire Tribe, and his acceptance into Orlanth's Storm Tribe. At Dawn, all Smiths are thrown out of the clan's tula until nightfall, where they are welcomed once again as kin.
Gustbran cares not for gifts and treasures. While he occasionally looks favourably on a masterpiece sacrificed in a Smith's forge, his worshippers instead gift their best works to the tribe to arm champions.

Anyone wishing to become an Initiate of Gustbran must first become an Apprentice to an existing Initiate, where they spend their time learning the methods of heating and shaping bronze.
An apprentice must be a crafter, and are soon taught the common magic spell of Aid My Master.
As apprentices are unsuited for play, heroes may overcome a major plot obstacle to compress many years of training into a short period of time, and quickly become an Initiate as described below.

  • After having spent a long and arduous period of time as an apprentice to an existing Initiate, during which time they must have raised an applicable ability to 1W or more, a hero can become an Initiate of Gustbran. 
  • Initiates may spend two hero points to be instructed in the secrets of the Scroll of Bone. This acts as a grimoire and is a breakout ability from their Crafter keyword. 
  • An initiate who takes a relationship to the Scroll of Bone may choose up to five spells from the grimoire as breakout abilities. These do not have to be decided all at once, and may be determined later.
The Scroll of Bone
The grimoire of Gustbran is his anvil, named the Scroll of Bone because it is made of the bones of the gods, and the scrapes and marks left by the Smith's tools resemble the Dog Scratching script of the Knowing God.
Although these marks are not magical, and do not spell out anything, they help the Smith memorize the correct way to work his magic by rote. The teachings of this grimoire contain many helpful spells, although only a handful are common to all smiths.
  • Beat Metal Tirelessly: This spell combines the Movement and Man Runes, granting the smith new reserves of stamina, allowing him to carry on forging metal, regardless of fatigue or injury. 
  • Contain Fire in Forge: This spell commands the Fire Rune, allowing the smith to force the flames of his forge to remain there, regardless of their intensity, protecting the smith and others from their fury. 
  • Intensify Fire: This spell summons the Fire Rune to manifest within an existing fire, granting it new life, and a greater intensity. 
  • Keep Fire Burning: This spell combines the Fire Rune with the Stasis Rune, making the forges' flames last through the night, without needing to be renewed or refuelled. 
  • Purify Bronze: This spell separates the Movement Rune from either the Earth or Air Runes, to turn a bronze alloy into a small amount of either pure copper, or pure tin. 
  • Repair Metal Item: This spell separates the Movement and Disorder Runes within a metal object, bending it back into shape, rejoining any breaks, and rendering it as good as new. 
  • Resist Heat: This spell separates the Fire Rune and the Man Rune, making the smith resist even the greatest extremes of heat and flame. 
  • See into Bronze: This spell combines the Movement Rune with the Truth Rune, allowing the smith to transfer his sight into a piece of bronze, allowing him to see its strengths, flaws, and other impurities. 
  • Strengthen Metal: This spell combines the Fire and Earth Runes within a piece of metal, granting it great strength and resilience.

  • An Initiate of Gustbran who reaches 11W in their relationship to the Scroll of Bone may become a Devotee of Gustbran. They must overcome at least one significant plot obstacle to achieve this rank.
  • As a Devotee, the Smith never fails in their attempt to reach Gustbran's Forge on the Other Side; at most, these attempts are treated as Costly Successes. 
  • They may also discover new spells within the Scroll of Bone. By travelling to Gustbran's Forge and overcoming at least one dangerous obstacle, they may learn a new secret of Forging from Gustbran himself. They must test their rating in the Scroll of Bone against a Very High resistance. If successful, they memorize the forging technique and are now able to practice it, and teach it to others.