The Glorantha Sourcebook reviewed here is a lavishly illustrated 226-page pdf. Released alongside the triumphant new Gloranthan RPG, 13th Age Glorantha, the Sourcebook is system agnostic, and would be a valuable tool for Runequest or Heroquest campaigns. Less comprehensive than 2014's Guide to Glorantha, the Sourcebook is a much better introduction to the setting, concentrating just on those aspects which make Glorantha so beloved. Drawing on long out-of-print sources, and including new materials, this belongs in the collection of new Glorantha fans and old timers alike.
Of The Glorantha Sourcebook's 226 pages, more than half is given to mythology. "Theogony," the longest chapter, is a God Learner* inspired overview of Glorantha's creation myths and her great pantheons (Darkness, Water, Earth, Fire and Sky, and Air). The Gods War is detailed, a mythic conflict that cracked the world and allowed Chaos--the power of corruption and entropy--to enter. Long-time fans will of course know all of these stories, but their retellings here, complete with beautiful illustrations showing the gods and their relations with one another, are extensive and deep. For my money this was the best overview of Gloranthan mythology we have seen.
Alongside this in-depth look at Gloranthan myth, an entire separate chapter is given to describe just a single pantheon, the "Gods of the Lunar Way." A dead goddess reborn inside of Time, it makes sense to single the Red Goddess out. Unlike the other deities, she lived among mortals in the Mundane World, her presence changing the entire cosmic order. The Empire she left behind (detailed in the following chapter) is one of the most important political structures at the time and place the sourcebook focuses on.
When and where exactly is that? The Sourcebook is set around 1627 ST in the Third Age of the world. This is the Hero Wars, when the rebellious, freedom-loving Orlanthi barbarians are throwing off the yoke of the Lunar imperium. Argrath, the exiled Prince of Sartar has returned to his kingdom, liberating it. Because the Hero Wars are the focus of this work, the Sourcebook does not go into great detail on the rest of the world. Glorantha's geography and cosmology is discussed, but the only regions given great detail are Dragon Pass (where the Hero Wars ignite), neighboring Prax, and the Lunar Empire. If you are looking to run a campaign in Pamaltela, this is not the resource for you.
It's hard to argue with this design choice. All three Glorantha RPGs made pretty much the same decision, focusing on Dragon Pass. Again, focus allows the Sourcebook to lavish attention on this region, not in details like demographics and exports, but on the cultures, myths, and history which make Dragon Pass so mesmerizing. For long time players, moving the date forward into Argrath's return follows the trajectory set in recent Heroquest materials, and opens up new features to explore, such as the entire chapter on the "Sartar Magical Union."
Like the myths that form the core of Glorantha, the Sourcebook is not an explanation, it is a journey. There is just enough here for newcomers to understand Glorantha and for long time fans to (re)discover little treasures and fascinating details. This isn't a campaign book, or a setting book in the traditional sense. It doesn't tell you the population of villages or the names of local rulers. It is a collection of histories and myths for you to use in discovering your Glorantha. It's vividly told, beautifully illustrated, and inspirational. Do not expect crunch, or the extensive details and maps from the Guide to Glorantha. This is a book (when Chaosium finally prints it) you will want on the shelf next to the Guide.
* The God Learners, dear reader, are a cautionary tale. A Second Age seafaring empire, the God Learners believed that myths were things they could rewrite, retell, and synthesize at will. To them, human rationality--reason--was superior to myth. They thought the universe could be studied and understood. In the end, it destroyed them.