Glorantha in Solar System

Related to the reading I’ve been doing, here are some notes on a Solar System implementation for Gloranthan gaming. I’m mostly going by the 2nd edition Heroquest book here, particularly its tripartite cosmology and emphasis on the social role of heroes. The idea is to give some mechanical backbone to the whole idea of three separate Otherworlds, as outlined in my earlier post on the cosmology.


I’m going with two standard Pools that all material, mortal beings have:

This Pool represents a character’s finite being. Characters with low Experience are usually sickly, inexperienced or unremarkable, while those with a high Experience are skilled, powerful and confident. Experience is refreshed by having a good time in the usual Solar System manner – partying and whatnot.
This Pool represents a character’s  aggregate position in society. Low Community is typical of outcasts and shy loners, while high Community indicates that the character has many friends and is appreciated in many social circles. Community is refreshed by interacting with the character’s community.

In addition, all characters have one or more of the following metaphysical Pools which depict their various brands of magical strength. These Pools work otherwise normally, except that they cannot be determined independent of each other: instead, the player determines the value for the highest one and gives the other two a value one and two points below that one, respectively. So if you had your highest Magic Pool at 4, you’d get the others at 3 and 2, as an example. Each magic Pool starts play at a minimum of one point, however.

A character’s Essence indicates the strength of their wizardry. I don’t really know whether this reflects in any appreciable way on their demeanor, really; it’s just a measure of how developed their ability to interact with the invisible Creator and his cosmology is. Essence is refreshed by participating in the practice of Veneration; I’m a bit unclear on whether this is what wizards do as well, but at least that’s probably how it works for Liturgists and common peons. Maybe wizards refresh their magical power by some more direct means?
A character’s Soul indicates the strength of their theism. As above, it seems to me that you can’t really say that a character with high or low Soul is this or that in terms of personality or abilities or anything; we can just say that a character with Soul is capable of sacrificing to the Gods and deriving magic that way. Sacrifice is how Soul magic is refreshed, incidentally.
A character’s Spirit indicates the strength of their animism. Again, no idea what this would mean in concrete terms, I just know that the cosmology makes this the key attribute for anybody capable of worshipping spirits.Spirit Pool is refreshed by Ecstatic Rites.

The Pools might seem a bit zany in that those three magic Pools are largely defined in mechanical terms. That’s my confusion with the tri-partite Otherworld showing through right there. The theory is that while I can’t really say that a character’s nature is influenced by what sort of essence/soul/spirit they have, at least these things tie firmly into the setting of Glorantha: if your character is an Orlanthi, then he’s going to either be one of the majority soulful pantheists, or he’s going to be a crazy kolating hermit spirit worshipper. Similarly we know that if you want a smart wizard-type character, you’ll want a high Essence and so on; the setting and character type pretty much dictate which is going to be the important magic attribute for a character.

Anyway, when we create characters, we distribute 10 points between the three Pools, with two of the magic Pools deriving their value from the one the player puts points in. Later on the three Pools develop individually. This set-up is a bit complex in that you could just as easily give characters just one “Magic Pool” and have that reflect the Gloranthan setting as well or even better than this; however, I figure that this is worthwhile in that separating the Pools in this way allows us to have all sorts of crunch concerning them. Like so:

Secret of Concentrating Magic (Magic Pool)
The character can improve his magical potency by rigorous and single-minded religious practice. Each time he refreshes the chosen magic Pool, he may move one Pool level from any other Magic Pool into this Pool, thus lowering the other Pools and increasing this one. Cost: 2 points from this Pool.

My theory is that insofar as we wish to explore the fault lines of various Gloranthan cultural spheres, this rules set-up is much friendlier than the Heroquest thing that absolutely forbids so many things. I could easily see the aforementioned Kolating character who’d likely have both a Soul and a Spirit, for example; he effectively lives on the border between the two magical worlds.

In this set-up there are no specific penalties limitations for using magic from several different Otherworlds. The only difficulty is that a character will likely not have the wherewithal to develop all facets of his being equally, so he’ll be weaker in some of the magical aspects than others. A devoted magician of a certain cult will probably trade in his unnecessary (from the cult’s point of view) Pools for some advantage, anyway.

If a character ends up with a zero-valued Magic Pool due to the various manipulations that are no doubt possible, that indicates that the character has managed to eradicate that aspect of himself completely. Such a character cannot participate at all in the rites that target the magical aspect in question; a good Rokari who doesn’t have a Soul couldn’t use a Theist ritual to travel to the Godworld, for instance, because the Theist ritual transports Souls, not Essences. Even any hostile magics that depend on the existence of a certain Magical facet will be ineffective against him; a supernatural Essence Sight type ability wouldn’t pick up a character who doesn’t have Essence at all, for example.


I figure that any and all mundane skills are associated with the Experience Pool, whether physical or mental. Some simple examples:

Fighting (E)
We could distinguish between fighting styles further, but for illustrative purposes it’s enough to note that all people can try their hand at resolving their conflicts with violence.
Literacy (E)
Thinking of the typical Orlanthi game, this Ability would probably cover all there is to academic knowledge in that setting.

Community Pool associates with Abilities that depict a character’s relationships. There are no general social Abilities, only relationships to different people. For example:

Clan Member (C)
Orlanthi clansmen would have this Ability, which they’d use to get a good share of the clan’s resources, to convince the clan to help them where needed and so on. Whenever the clan does something for the character or the character does something for the clan, this Ability is used.
Relationship with [person] (C)
A relationship with a single person could be used to convince that person of something. It’s also used if the other person does something for the character, or if the character does something for that person.
Wealth (C)
Wealth can only exist in relation to the community that preserves and respects it, so that’s why I associate it with this Pool. Wealth can be used to buy things, so it’s an easy source of Effects related to equipment and such.

As you see, the setting model here is considerably less realistic than that used in The Shadow of Yesterday; it’s mostly a matter of style, I’m focusing on the story-like and mythic aspects of Glorantha here. Using the above scheme we might say that loving another very much makes a character a better defender of their person, for example. Whether you’d use a Community-based or Experience-based Ability as the primary one in conflict would be pretty much up to the player in this scheme, as long as the character had suitable Abilities for the situation. I would probably require a mandatory support check from a concrete Experience-based Ability in situations where the character would need a real skill for doing something, though; having a character successfully perform a highly specific feat just because they’re acting in defense of their clan is a bit much for my tastes.

Common magic

I don’t really understand the function of common magic in Glorantha, the Heroquest book doesn’t really tell me why it exists except to confuse me. I’ll go with the idea that common magic is a very limited method for giving a bit of extra zing to the mundane Pools and Abilities derived from them, like so:

Secret of Talent (specify)
The character has a common magic talent that is basically an idiosyncratic, exceptional feat that is not explained by any magical belief system in particular. When using the talent, the character has no Pool cap on any mundane (Experience or Community) Ability used with the talent. While the talents can do things that would be naturally impossible, they always utilize mundane Abilities to do so.
Secret of Common Magic (Pool, Ability)
The character has some minor Otherworld magic that allows him to associate a given mundane Ability with one of his Magical Pools. This allows the character to spend that Pool as bonus dice for the mundane Ability.

I figure that there might not be other Secrets related to the mundane domain aside from the above two. Or if there are, they’re very mundane things like Secret of Owning a Warhorse or some such. A character focusing on improving their natural Abilities in a Glorantha game isn’t looking for crunch depth anyway, I figure.


Keywise I think that this HQ-Gloranthan vision would make do with mainly two types:

Cultural Keys
These would be culture- and cult-specific ways of gaining experience.
Goal Keys
These would specify personal goals of a given character.

Specifically, the rich Key tapestry of TSoY could be reduced into just these two types to focus the game. Glorantha certainly has width for a much more varied game, too, but for now I’m keeping things simple. It’s all about Key Elements (provided by the rich setting), cultural expectations and personal passions that drive heroes to greatness.


I’ll have to see, I might be inspired to sketch out something specific about the various magic systems of Glorantha at some point, too. Also, heroquesting.


11 Responses to “Glorantha in Solar System”

  1. Brand Robininizki Says:

    So, I don’t know about the magic pools — but that’s because of the sort of thing we were talking about in the other post.

    But this? “Community Pool associates with Abilities that depict a character’s relationships. There are no general social Abilities, only relationships to different people.”

    That hit me like a bolt of lightning. The second I read it, I felt like I was a fool for not having thought of it before. So perfectly right for the clan-based-anthropological-hero game.

  2. Olorin Says:

    Quite well put, I think, although I’d drop Common Magic (like it has been dropped in HQ2).

    As an added benefit, this write-up ascertained a few things that I had been wondering, frex if there can be more than three pools.

    With this, the chances of me writing my Gaia-setting for the Solar System just went up several notches.

    And now that I think of it, I really can’t rule out the possibility of writing it for both SS and the new HQ…

  3. Kaj Sotala Says:

    Unrelated to your actual post, but I suspect you might enjoy the browser game Continuity.

  4. Jasper Flick Says:

    Hey Eero, talking about Solar System settings:
    Will there be a PDF available at some point for The World of Near?

  5. Eero Tuovinen Says:

    That’s a fortunate question today, Jasper. I’m just updating the website, adding a preview for the WoN book. After I get this done, the plan is for me to lay out the pdf version of the WoN book next. If nothing untowards happens, I should get it done this week, after which I can get to writing my genealogy without the pdf thing swinging over my head. (Not a joke, that one – have to arrange, edit and lay out a 1,000 page genealogy of the Tuovinen family this spring.)

    • Jasper Flick Says:

      Great news!

      Have fun with your ancestors.

    • Jasper Flick Says:

      I like that you used the separate vampire bit for a preview, instead of a sample straight out of the book!

      • Eero Tuovinen Says:

        I happened to have it around, wrote it before deciding not to include it in the book. Might as well publish it.

        I’ll have to get the character sheets done as well and then spam some places in the Internet. Maybe I’ll get some sales and, eventually, actual play that way.

  6. Asgard Says:

    Hi Eero. Same question as Jasper. I would really like a PDF for WON. Would that be possible?

    Asgard (of Heroes Browser Game)

  7. Eero Tuovinen Says:

    It’s a good question. I’ll answer with an actual post, as people seem to be interested.

  8. Olranthi Crunch Landscape for Solar System « Game Design is about Structure Says:

    […] regards the wider cosmological viewpoint on Glorantha, I’ve written a bit about how to present the setting in Solar System before, and I’m still reasonably happy with the basic ideas there. Still haven’t read […]

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