Recent Releases & Other News

It’s been a while since I wrote an update on the website! I’ve been continuing to write game content for the Jonstown Compendium, the community content program on DriveThruRPG for Chaosium’s game RuneQuest. What I’ve been working on there is the focus of this update.

Monster of the Month

MOTM issues #1–4

As I mentioned back in April, I’ve been writing a monthly series of monsters for RuneQuest. I’m happy to share I’ve been keeping up with this! Each issue comes out toward the end of the month. Sometimes I do cut it a little close (twice I’ve been down to the last hours!) but I’m proud that I haven’t missed a month yet in 2020.

The issues since my last post are:

  • Hunters of the Sky describes deadly nomadic bird-shaped people who roam the space between the Earth and the Sky. They worship the stars, and hunt humans for sport. Plus, some odd fiction to round the issue out.
  • Heortlings of Sartar is a collection of printer-friendly non-player character humans. They provide a wide variety of generic humans of RuneQuest‘s Heortling culture, from thralls and bandits to merchants and priests.
  • Petty Spirits is a short collection of four spirits encountered throughout the game world. They provide a simple magical (rather than scientific) explanation for common phenomena, like bronze tarnishing or the feeling of déjà vu.
  • Dolorous Edd is all about a single, peculiar creature. He’s the size of a house, can leap over canyons, and is very sad. I love him very much.
  • Finally, Storm Rams provides a magical explanation for clouds, rain, and thunderstorms in describing a spirit adventurers can summon and ally themselves with.
MOTM issues #5–8

Each issue varies in length from about 5 to 15 pages, depending on my time and writing inclinations. They’re mostly intended for gamemaster use, but I try to also include player-focused content (like spirit cults to join or other powers to gain) and fiction (like short stories or vignettes) in most issues. My goal is that they’ll be interesting or useful for anyone who’s into Glorantha, not just gamemasters of RuneQuest.

This month’s issue is called Children of Melikaphkaz. It’s drawn from the manuscript of a longer project I’ve been working on, titled Melikaphkaz: O-God of Traps (which I’ll talk about more in a bit). Children of Melikaphkaz previews a short-form version of his cult suitable for use by adventurers or a gamemaster’s antagonists alike, in addition to describing three monsters commanded by Melikaphkaz’s worshipers.

While I don’t want to give away too much of the future (or promise more than I can achieve), I do have a few thoughts to share. First, I plan to do a follow-up to Heortlings as part of MOTM. It will be a similar product, providing printer-friendly generic NPCs, although this time set in the Wastelands of Prax. Tentatively titled Nomads of Prax, my hope is that this product will make gamemasters’ lives easier when playing in that region.

I’d like to do a similar product for each of the Homelands in the RuneQuest core rulebook, but honestly, doing the layout and statblock calculations is pretty tiresome. Despite not having much “written” content Heortlings absolutely was the most popular, but also the most time-consuming issue thus far. That’s why I haven’t already followed it up with Nomads—I found creating the prior draining. So I’m willing to promise that Nomads will happen eventually, but for other Homelands it’s just a “we’ll see.”

On a more upbeat note, if you’d like to win free copies of the first eight issues of MOTM, you should submit to the Glorantha Has Talent? competition being hosted by Wind Words. Wind Words is a fan podcast about Glorantha. They’re doing a sort of talent contest/open mic night for an upcoming podcast, and are looking for more entries. Bill, one of the hosts, asked me if I’d sponsor a MOTM collection as a prize—and of course I said yes!

They’re looking for 3-minute recordings of whatever Glorantha-themed thing you’re into—songs, jokes, and so on. MOTM isn’t the only prize; Nick Brooke and the team behind A Rough Guide to Glamour are providing a copy of their PDF, and Chaosium’s putting up PDFs of their recent RuneQuest adventure collections, The Smoking Ruin & Other Stories and The Pegasus Plateau & Other Stories as well.

Finally, a monstrous teaser: at present I have something duck-themed in mind to round out the year this December…

Treasures of Glorantha

Last time, I also shared that a magic item compendium, Treasures of Glorantha, was nearly completed. It’s now out, and even better, it’s available in print! You can get it on DriveThruRPG as a print-on-demand book. It’s gorgeous and I love it.

While there were a few unexpected delays toward the end of production, I’m still very satisfied with the final result. It’s a beautiful book, and I still can’t stop staring at Sasa’s wonderful cover illustration some days.

Many thanks to everyone who has bought it—it’s all because of you that I’ll get to make more books like this. (Not that I’d stop writing, but if no one buys ’em, then you’re stuck with my illustrations, and they’re, uh… not so good.)

See what I mean?

Inevitably, naming a work “Volume One” implies the existence of a sequel. I do intend to publish further volumes of Treasures. In fact, I’ve already decided upon the theme of volume two!

Volume one focused on Dragon Pass, which is the main play area for RuneQuest and other Glorantha roleplaying games. I felt it made the most sense to start off by presenting magic items found throughout that core area. One of my favorite elements of Plunder—the old 1980’s RuneQuest supplement from Chaosium which inspired Treasures—is how it wasn’t just a magic items book. It was a collection of short myths and stories, which explored and explained various parts of Glorantha. That made what could have been a very blasé book instead eminently readable. I still, on occasion, return to Plunder just to page through for ideas.

One of my goals when writing Treasures of Glorantha wasn’t just to describe shiny trinkets for the game, but to introduce some of Glorantha’s weird stories (like how horses are actually birds) and also make up a few of my own (like the story of Ompaga’s Beard). It looks like a magic items book, but it’s not-so-secretly a lore primer.

Volume two, then, retains those design goals. The sequel is currently subtitled “Relics from the Second Age”. The Second Age of Glorantha is set about 700 years before most editions of RuneQuest. It’s filled with awesome stories—it’s the age of empires, when dragons and sorcerers fight for control of the world. The fabric of the universe is nearly ripped apart by human hubris. But it’s also a big, complicated period. One of the challenges of any corner of Glorantha is that there’s always more lore to find, more stuff to learn and know.

There’s no way “Relics from the Second Age” will get to cover everything, but my plan is that it will explore what secret powers, arcane knowledge, and, of course, magic items have survived from that era, all across Glorantha. In particular, I’m planning to include an article giving an abridged history of the era—which means I’m going to have to do a whole lot of learning myself!—as well as something on the secrets of the alchemy used by the nefarious God Learners. And just like last time, I’m hoping to include other collaborators writing articles, content, and so forth.

This won’t be coming for a while. I’m just starting to lay the groundwork, and do the mental portions of this. I’m estimating that I’ll be doing the principal research/writing this winter, and aiming for another spring or summer release.

Alright then, What’s next?

Well, as hinted at earlier, I’ve been working on a book called Melikaphkaz: O-God of Traps lately. I’m really enthused by the book concept. It’s basically a traps compendium and a guide to dungeon-building in RuneQuest framed within a new cult. Melikaphkaz is a deity which oversees defense. He’s a master of traps, and the defender of sacred spaces. He’s also—and this was a bit of a surprise for me, too—a patron deity of trollkin, who worship him as The Savior who will protect them from a prophesied apocalypse.

At the moment, I’d say I have about a third of the manuscript done. This consists of the cult, and most of the cult spirits (some of which will be featured in this month’s MOTM), in a long-form format similar to that found in Cults of Prax and, I believe, Chaosium’s forthcoming Cults of Glorantha (or whatever their working title is now). There’s still a chapter of traps to go, and a chapter on temples—which is the disguise I’m giving the dungeon-building portion of the book.

I’d also like to provide a fully described temple/dungeon with non-player characters, traps, and a scenario or two—I have two interesting ideas, but I’m not sure how they’ll play out—but I might save that for a “Volume Two” on the topic, depending on wordcount and what my attention span does.

In addition, I’m still chipping away occasionally at my previously-mentioned project, The City of Sylthi. This one’s been harder than I expected, but lately I’ve had some progress writing by word-vomit. Which is good, because the writing’s finally getting done, but is also bad because that means it’ll require a much longer editing process. It is what it is.

So far, some of what I’ve been tinkering with for Sylthi is what I think of as a two-purpose design: for use by gamers, but also for pleasure-reading. In my head, the distinction matters because I’m trying to think of it this way as an intentional design choice. I got the idea during my armchair-read of A Rough Guide to Glamour. Some books—whether game books, fiction, nonfiction, or other genres—just plain feel better as a lounging pleasure-read than as a game reference. So I want to try making a book which does both.

The main way I’ll be doing this is by including within Sylthi a collection of short stories and/or novellas which relate the city’s mythology, and episodes from the city’s history. I like writing fiction. When I started including fiction in a few issues of MOTM, it was creatively satisfying. Initially I ended up on this long RuneQuest writing kick because I was having struggles with my fiction work. If I can find a way to profitably blend the two in a creatively satisfying manner, all better!

That doesn’t mean that Sylthi will just be fiction. As I noted, it really needs to blend both to achieve my current vision for the book. The merging point is in the cults of the city, the worship of its deities. At the moment, I’m planning to include three or four long-form cults in the work. Some of them are, in a sense, re-skins of cults from the core rulebook, but viewed through a different lens. Throughout I’m trying to take a very “close to the ground” look at this corner of Glorantha, whereas the core rulebook (and, I’m told, the forthcoming cults book) use a “top-down” approach instead.

For example, the cult of Hevduran Dege, who the local knowledge library worships, shares many aspects with the cult of Lhankor Mhy. The locals attribute some actions of Lhankor Mhy (who was Hevduran’s teacher) to Hevduran, but also have their own set of tales. The results of worship are broadly the same, and someone who knows the ritual secrets of Lhankor Mhy can worship Hevduran Dege without any problems. They’re the same god (in a gameplay sense), and yet they’re not (in a worldbuilding sense). At least, that’s the paradigm I’m currently working with—it might change as I continue drafting the book.

I’ve got lots of cool ideas and plans for Sylthi, but actualizing them is still a long way off.

That’s not to say I can promise a date or time for either of those books. Just that they’re what I’m working on. When I have more news (or occasionally, like today, when I have no particularly interesting news) I’ll make sure to say something.

As a final note, I’ll share that I’m also outlining something for another National Novel Writing Month attempt this fall. Whether I actually go in on it or not will depend on how the outline and story design goes. At the moment, I’m starting to feel a bit hyped to write another novel. Which is always a good thing. If I go ahead with that, I’ll share more details about the story in October.

Until next time, then.

Want to keep up-to-date on what Austin’s working on through Akhelas? Go ahead and sign up to the email list below. You’ll get a notification whenever a new post goes online here.

You can also find Austin over on Facebook, and a bit more rarely on Twitter.

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