Following on from my review of Thirsty Sword Lesbians, here’s an example setup to run a game set on the fringes of a drifted Glorantha. You’d be wise to check out that review, and/or the game itself, before deciding if this is for you – if Heroquest/ Questworlds will give you loose story-driven fun, Runequest gives you crunch and immersion, and 13th Age Glorantha gives you big damn heroes smashing chaos – this will give you flirtatious outcasts where the big bits of the Gloranthan setting are secondary to the lives (and loves) of the protagonists.
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These notes follow pretty closely to the campaign set-up advice in the TSL book, with the exception that I’ve provided THREE toxic powers – you can choose any of them to be a focus in your game. I wanted a rival clan, the Lunars, and of course the trolls to all feature.
There’s also an implicit deconstruction of Glorantha’s gender roles in this – while Glorantha has always been openly inclusive of differently-gendered folks – and this might be why your clan has been marginalised by traditionalist clans.
As with all my stuff on Glorantha, canon can get in the sea – some of this deliberately contradicts established Glorantha guidance, and some of it (due to my own limited knowledge of the setting) probably does so accidentally. Your Glorantha May Vary, people – change it back if you want to! Thanks to Newt Newport and Doc Cowie for helping to avoid the most glaring canon errors.
Genre And Tone
Genre: The story is bronze-age mythic fantasy; magic is everywhere and commonplace, as are brutal monsters and cruel Lunar empire guards
Tone: High fantasy, with a side of pulp – fast-talking fast-spearing heroes defending their tribe and slaying monsters.
Palette: (TBC) by the players
You all live in the Red Bison Tribe, a free-spirited community that has broken off from several other tribes in Dragon Pass
Scale: 50-60 adults live in makeshift huts, a small, isolated tribe who have to broker help from other, stronger, meaner tribes
Positive: The tribe is a welcoming place for any who have ‘offended’ the other tribes – they actively seek refugees. They usually get away with this, as a tribe that is useful for negotiation. They have no defined gender roles – Orlanth and Vinga are one, and Ernalda can have followers of any gender.
NPC: Sorlan, Priest of Ernalda. Spiritual leader of the tribe, they chuckle about how stuffy the free-thinking barbarian tribes are. They still hold such magical power that the other tribes respect them, and they will oversee any dispute. They want the PCs to bring honour and glory to the tribe – make them noticed among the others.
Serious Flaw: Gradually, the other tribes are wary of your spiritual practices. Without official contact with the spirit worlds and other shamans, your faith – and connection to magic – will fade.
NPC: Dorashal, a duck merchant who has turned in with them. She wants the PCs to broker peace with the other tribes, even if it means compromising their values and accepting traditional gender roles.
Location: Behind the village square, a vast Waterfall pours down into a (mostly) shallow pool with stepping-stone rocks across it.
Toxic Power 1: The White Hare Tribe
They threaten the Red Bison Tribe from within – they are an allied tribe, and were sponsors of Sorlan when they broke away from the tribe. They want order – for the Red Bison to conform, and follow the practices of the other Orlanthi tribes, who have already begun to see the Red Bison as a laughing stock. They are dangerous because they hold so much power in the region – politically and militarily – and are brilliant manipulators.
They appeal because they are the richest, most successful tribe – at best, the most Red Bison could aspire to is to be almost like them. Their village sits amidst rolling fields of tall wheat, where hidden hills and paths could trap the unwary swordsman.
Their representative is Parappos, a tall, white-haired beauty whose soft voice belies a ruthlessness.
Toxic Power 2: The Lunar Garrison
They threaten the Red Bison Tribe from without – while most of the Lunars have been pushed out of the Sartarite lands, a garrison remains in an uneasy peace – and they see the welcoming Red Bison as the ideal go-betweens to gain an advantage for their leaders back in Glamour. They are dangerous because their swords and spears are sharp and well-drilled, and they have mysterious moon sorcerers who can parlay with chaos beasts.
They appeal because they have rid themselves of many of the other clan’s superstitions and prejudices, and brought a peaceful civilisation to their cities back home. The garrison roves out from a tightly-built fort on the edge of a hillside, where thin wooden battlements and steep bluffs provide an excellent setting for a duel.
Their representative is Garlia, a stout-armed, shaven-headed warrior who commands respect from all who see it.
Toxic Power 3: The Bright-Eye Trolls
They threaten the Red Bison Tribe from without – their trollkin and man-trolls rove out from their caverns and eat their livestock – rumours are they’d eat the clan themselves if they had the chance! They seek peace – and to be left alone in the caverns – but the human clans are always rustling up trouble, the Red Bison included. They are dangerous because they are massively physically powerful, backed up by hundreds of trollkin, and able to command giant insects and spiders.
They appeal because they have an enlightened matriarchy, where those with spiritual power can divine the correct course of action. They live in natural caverns underground, with treacherous underground rivers and forests of glowing fungus.
Their representative is On-Mokk, a juvenile troll matriarch who often wanders the surface world and is chosen to parlay with humans.
Playing TSL in Glorantha presents a few challenges, key of which is what to do about the looming threat of chaos. Chaos isn’t really a toxic power in the traditional sense – rather, the ongoing fight against it is a backdrop to more interesting, and flirtatious, activities of the PCs. You and a Lunar patrol might end up battling a Gorp in Larnste’s Footprint in the course of your adventures, but the dramatic question isn’t whether you win, but if you catch the eye of that cute himbo moon sorcerer – particularly when you have to wash all the chaos goop off. Also, let’s just not Broo – the whole reproduction thing, along with worshipping the god of disease, makes them problematic.
Instead, see the ongoing fight against Chaos as a faceless backdrop to the more interesting human (and duck! and troll!) relationships that can develop over time.
There is a concept of Chaos as a manifestation of the breakdown of society – corruption and insidious wrongness that manifest through the evils men do. If you want to lean into this, you can make Chaos the outward effects of toxic masculinity – which helps to give your enemy a face, so while you’re fighting Broo with the lunars the real reason they’ve overrun the valley is the arrogant and corrupt tribal leader – you’ll have to convince him to give it up or the Broo will just keep coming back.
- Storm Bull devotee
- Telmori (werewolf) refugee
- Ernaldan priestess
- Tribal leader/orator
- Chosen of Orlanth / Vinga – a mighty warrior
- Tribal champion and protector
- Refugee from a troll tribe
- Lunar moon-sorcerer refugee
- Veteran of tribal wars – on the other side
The Nature Witch
- Speaker of Ernalda
- Kolat Shaman
- Centaur / Duck from Beast Valley
- Spear-fighter of Orlanth Adventurous
- Heretical follower of Yinkin
- White Hare refugee
- Disgraced Lhankhor Mhy scholar
The Spooky Witch
- Conjurer of Ghosts / Spirit-Talker
- Outcast Troll shaman
- Chosen one of Eurmal
- Trickster – maybe a Duck, maybe a human