"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Saturday, August 28, 2021


I MAINTAIN THAT STEVE HERBERT PERRIN (1946-2021) gave the hobby not only its first true "universal" game system, but also one of its simplest. The Basic Roleplaying System, as it came to be called, was based on a single, intuitive mechanic that could easily be tweaked to model any conceivable situation. This core mechanic could be explained and grasped in literally just seconds. Having said this, BRP does come with a fair amount of detail. First, it is a skill-based game, and characters can possess a lot of these. Second, different applications of BRP have varying extra layers of detail to better model their respective settings. Call of Cthulhu has "Sanity" mechanics that model the way Lovecraft's protagonists suffer mental collapse in the face of the Old Ones. Superworld had comprehensive lists of powers, with optional features and limitations, energy costs, etc. Runequest, the game that started it all, had an elaborate magic system and combat rules which took into account hit locations, the armor worn on each location, and the hit points in each location. So while BRP is in essence easy to learn and play, there can be a bit of bookkeeping. This is seldom an issue for players, who have one character to worry about. For GMs, it can mean lengthy prep time to detail all the NPCs in the scenario.

Some are comfortable "winging it." This has always been my favored approach, and in both Six Seasons in Sartar and The Company of the Dragon I included systems to help other GMs whip up NPCs as needed nearly on the fly. Other GMs, and especially ones new to Runequest and or to gamemastering, might prefer fully fleshed out NPCs.

Well ladies and gentlemen (and any of the four other Orlanthi genders), have I got the product for you.

QAD: Pimper's Block The Complete Collection is the kind of product we have not seen in decades. The only thing I can think to compare it to was William Keyes' Rune Masters back in 1980. It is, well, a collection of ready-made characters. But while my last sentence was substantively true, calling Pimper's Block a "collection of characters" is like calling Mt. Everest a "hill" or the Sahara a "few grains of sand." This is a collection of characters the likes of which no one as ever seen before. Let me just quote you the contents;

19 Occupations, 76 Detailed Characters, 380 NPC Squad Characters
14 Occupations, 56 Detailed Characters, 280 NPC Squad Characters
Lunar Tarsh
19 Occupations, 76 Detailed Characters, 380 NPC Squad Characters
Old Tarsh
17 Occupations, 68 Detailed Characters, 340 NPC Squad Characters
Prax Bison Tribe
10 Occupations, 40 Detailed Characters, 200 NPC Squad Characters
Prax Impala Tribe
10 Occupations, 40 Detailed Characters, 200 NPC Squad Characters
Prax High Llama Tribe
10 Occupations, 40 Detailed Characters, 200 NPC Squad Characters
Prax Pol-Joni Tribe
11 Occupations, 44 Detailed Characters, 220 NPC Squad Characters
Prax Sable Tribe
11 Occupations, 44 Detailed Characters, 220 NPC Squad Characters
20 Occupations, 80 Detailed Characters, 400 NPC Squad Characters

Table of Contents from the Sartar PDF

What you are getting here, then, are 520 fully detailed characters from ten different cultures and 2600 more lightly described NPCs. The fully detailed characters are not quite like the pre-gens in the Runequest Roleplaying in Glorantha corebook. They are left intentionally vague in some areas to be fleshed out, recycled, and reused. Each comes with magic, skills, weapons, and armor, and none feel cookie cutter however. Each feels fleshed out and fully formed. Simply put, you might never need to create your own NPC stats ever again.

A fully-detail character example

The 2000-page collection is divided over ten PDFs, each around 200 pages each, Some of the material (the first ten pages or so) is repeated in each booklet, and covers how the collection is set up, how to make the best use of it, and a fair amount on slavery in Glorantha and the business of Pimper's Block. The rest is all glorious NPCs. While the collection is not illustrated, it is handsomely presented and edited. 

"Squad" characters

Look, if you run Runequest this product is worth ten times its price. I cannot imagine any GM regretting the purchase. Most of the detailed characters could easily be tailored into the major NPC of your choice, and the squad characters are ideal for the supporting cast. There is simply so much here. The PDFs are even terrific for showing new players what a character might look like. Many new players might want to use them as templates. 

Really, this is the sort of thing the Jonstown Compendium was made for. Pimper's Block The Complete Collection is the kind of utility that a publisher like Chaosium would not want to tackle, but which in retrospect everyone is going to want. I certainly will never been hard-pressed for NPCs again.  

Get it here

Wednesday, August 25, 2021


"I WAS INTRODUCED to Glorantha back in 1983.  Thirty-seven years later I found myself writing a love letter to this setting in the form of Six Seasons in Sartar.  As much as this was a love letter to Greg Stafford’s world, it was also one to the game that introduced me to it, “classic” RuneQuest or RQ2.  As so many characters were in that game, the characters in Six Seasons were “newly-minted” adults, without previous experience, a cult, or even much magic.  This was to capture the feel of those early RQ days.

When it came time to write the sequel, however, I had a very different love letter to write.  RQ might have been my introduction, but that very same year I was also introduced to the Gloranthan war game White Bear and Red Moon, freshly republished back then as Dragon Pass.  This game blew my mind.  It shared the same setting with RQ, but the two seemed to exist at completely opposite ends of the spectrum.  In RQ, you were this individual, scrounging around trying to get yourself some decent armor and some magic.  In WB&RM, you were commanding massive armies, battling over the destiny of the world.  RQ was Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but WB&RM was the Iliad, it was the Mahabharata.  Inasmuch as The Company of the Dragon is the sequel to Six Seasons in Sartar, the two do not take their inspiration from the same source.  Company is my love letter to White Bear and Red Moon.

And so, while the first book confined you to a small mountain community, the second has you sweeping back and forth across Dragon Pass.  You may not be Heroes, but you cross paths with them.  Argrath is there.  And Ethilrist.  Delecti.  Cragspider.  In Six Seasons, there was nary an Elf or a Troll to be seen.  In The Company of the Dragon most of the Elder Races get their moment in the spotlight.  Gods fall and a Dragon rises.  And 420+ pages after it all started, the saga of the Haraborn comes to an end.  In my heart, I see them laying down their swords and going home to till the soil and make babies.  But of course, all that is up to you..."

from the "Afterword," The Company of the Dragon

This week The Company of the Dragon became available in hardcover, and I figured this was a great opportunity to answer a few frequently asked questions about it. So, without further ado...

What is it?

The Company of the Dragon is a 27-episode, five-year long campaign for Runequest Roleplaying in Glorantha, Questworlds, or 13th Age Glorantha. Set between 1620 and 1625 ST, it covers the final years of the Lunar Empire's occupation of the mountainous land of Sartar. The player characters are the leaders of a warband, the "Company of the Dragon." The band is about 150 people strong, but the membership will fluctuate. They are sworn to Kallyr of Kheldon, the "Prince in Exile," and work against the forces of the Lunar Empire remaining in Sartar and their many collaborators. Near the end of the campaign, they become the central players in the event known as the "Dragonrise," which breaks the Empire's grip on Sartar and sees Kallyr return to be crowned Prince.

Is it the sequel to Six Seasons in Sartar?

Yes...and no. If you played Six Seasons in Sartar, then The Company of the Dragon picks up exactly where that story left off, and your player characters will move effortlessly from one to the other. If you haven't played Six Seasons, however, The Company of the Dragon contains full rules and support for creating new characters and putting together your warband. It plays perfectly fine without any relation to Six Seasons at all.

What exactly is inside?

The best way to answer that is to just show you the table of contents. The Company of the Dragon is a campaign, but it is also a sourcebook. Most of if can be adapted for any Glorantha campaign. You get;

- "Sartar Before the Dragonrise" which details the land in the final years of the Lunar Occupation. I worked under Jeff Richard on the upcoming Sartar Campaign from Chaosium, so I made every effort to ensure The Company of the Dragon's vision of Sartar would match the official campaign. 

- "The Company of the Dragon" details the structure of the warband, how it operates, supports and arms itself, recruits, etc. New mechanics are introduced here for running large groups--military units, temples, towns and cities, even a nation. These mechanics measure their strength and influence, resources, health, etc. All of this could be used in any Gloranthan campaign.

- "Draconic Consciousness" is a look at the mysticism of the True Dragons and the Dragonewts, complete with mechanics to model it in the game. Player characters can practice this path and gain new powers and abilities.

- "Characters" is a MASSIVE chapter. It starts with rules for creating new player characters for the campaign. There is a section of "character arcs," a new idea that gives each PC their own personal journey inside the major plot of the campaign. Next the book introduces a streamlined system for creating and running NPCs, including more than 30 templates--Young Clansman, Seasoned Clansman, Chieftain's Thane, Wind Lord,  Young Clanswoman, Young Vingan, Earth Priestess, Eurmali Clown, Issaries Trader, Street Urchin, Young Apprentice, Guild Master, Kolating, Lunar Soldier, etc etc etc. Basically any NPC you might need over the course of the campaign you can whip up with these templates and rules.

- "Initiations" talks about joining cults. It explains what initiation means in the Gloranthan context, and includes full initiations for martial cults like Humakt, Vinga, Babeester Gor, and the like. There is also the initiation for joining the Company of the Dragon itself.

- "Running the Game" is another massive chapter. It walks the GM through setting up their campaign, how to make use of the new community characteristics system, running battles, heroes and superheroes, a new optional system of "plot points" to let players better guide the narrative, and finally my thoughts on Glorantha and making your campaign feel "Gloranthan."

- "Episodes" makes up the last 160 pages of the book. These are the "adventures." Some resemble full-length scenarios, some are adventure seeds. Most are something between. The majority of the episodes can be played in any order, and the GM gets to decide which ones to include and which to exclude from their campaign, making everyone's experience of The Company of the Dragon different. There are some episodes that are part of the main plot, however, like "The Dragonrise" and "Prince Kallyr." 

Is it usable with Questworlds or 13th Age Glorantha?

Yes. Building on the rules in the Six Seasons in Sartar 13G/HQG Conversion Guide The Company of the Dragon is fully playable in those systems.

Is it "canon?"

No. As I mentioned, however, I worked with Jeff on the upcoming Sartar Campaign and worked VERY hard to make sure The Company of the Dragon doesn't contradict anything in there. The idea has always been for Six Seasons in Sartar and The Company of the Dragon to transition you from the "classic" RQ era to the new timeline. 

Wait...no PDF bundled with the book?

No. DriveThruRPG is a PDF vendor, not a publisher. Print on Demand is a service they offer on only specific titles. For the Jonstown Compendium, a PDF needs to reach Electrum bestseller status to qualify for POD. That means as an author, I cannot guarantee a print version will ever exist. I need to sell PDFs first. Unfortunately, because of this there is no mechanism to subtract the cost of the PDF purchase from the print (when and if it happens), and it would hardly be fair to make PDF buyers pay full price for print while giving those who waited for the hardcover a PDF for free. My hands are tied on this one.

Two hardcovers???

DriveThruRPG offers two print options; standard color and premium color. The premium color is a bit more expensive, but the images look crisper and deeper. Having said this, the standard color books look superb too. I don't think people who buy standard color will feel cheated in anyway. We released The Company of the Dragon in both formats to give the audience price options that were right for them.