Sartar Rising

Sartar Rising

Submitted by Ian on Tue, 13/09/2011 – 09:42

Last time I wrote about influences on The Coming Storm, I focused on products from the RuneQuest era. This time I wanted to focus on products from the Hero Wars era. I suspect some of this may be more controversial than the first post.
Supplements in the RuneQuest era got little further forward in time than 1621 – and the Pavis campaign’s Cradle adventure. Most of the background material from the Chaosium house campaign in Wyrm’s Footnotes was even older, set around Starbrow’s Rebellion of 1613. I always found this a little frustrating. My first introduction to Glorantha was White Bear and Red Moon (WB&RM); a boardgame set amidst the Hero Wars, were Sartar and the Lunar Empire struggled for control of Dragon Pass. This was the period I wanted to play in, alongside Harrek, Argrath and JarEel.
Of course every story needs a beginning, and beginning play before such world-shaking events is necessary if we are to appreciate what is at risk. Still the Hero Wars of the boardgame White Bear and Red Moon (WB&RM) seemed far off in day-to-day play during the RuneQuest era.
All that seemed to change with the release of the Hero Wars RPG. Hero Wars pitched itself as taking place during the conflicts. It caught this idea just right (in a way that HeroQuest 2003 seemed to miss). The Hero Wars were the end of the 3rd Age of Glorantha and the PCs actions would shape the 4th Age. This idea was truly epic in scope: the next age of Glorantha hangs in the balance and you can tip the scales. It finally seemed that we were going to take in the Hero Wars, especially as we now had King of Sartar for a timeline of events in Dragon Pass.
Sartar Rising was the Hero Wars campaign that sought to capitalise on this idea, pitched as the struggles of Sartar, seen through the eyes of a clan, in the years from 1618-25. It was an inspired idea, giving the PCs both a grounding in a community but the chance to interact with events shaking the world. I was thrilled – this was exactly what I had been looking to play for years, the kind of involvement in the grand sweep of events the Cradle scenario had previously hinted at. Three books were eventually published: Barbarian Adventures, Orlanth is Dead, and Gathering Thunder.

However, as someone who was fortunate enough to contribute to the Sartar Rising campaign, I have mixed feelings about how well we achieved that.
First, I have to mention that Sartar Rising was an aborted effort, because the 4th book in the series, which would have covered the Dragonrise, never appeared. I don’t want to go into the pain of that, although its worth pointing out that the 4th book has never been ‘awaiting print’ to my knowledge.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, for me, that original vision got lost somewhere. By the time of Gathering Thunder the idea of seeing the Hero Wars through the lens of a clan seemed to have been replaced with ‘nail’ missions for the rebellion and general adventures in Sartar.
Now there is nothing wrong with these kind of adventures, and execution of some of them was very good. My sadness was that somewhere the vision: your clans struggles to survive the great events in Dragon Pass, the core of the original idea, seemed to fall by the wayside. For my part, other publications should have covered these other strands, leaving Sartar Rising to focus on the key events as experienced by a clan. (And they could probably have done them greater justice).

I suspect that the choice to make the material generic focused on ‘your clan’ rather than a specific clan in Sartar made it harder to sustain that vision across the series – because it became harder to speak of the evolving clan history with any certainty.
In addition it could not relate events to the clan’s history, friendships, enemies and prejudices. I believe that it is easier to show this kind of game using a continuous example, and allow a GM to adapt to their own game if they need to, than have no context.
In addition, the splitting of the story over successive parts, made it harder for narrators to run, because they could not see the sweep of events, and their interconnections, unless they wanted to await publication of the whole series.

However, I think there was much to be liked in the Sartar Rising series. I liked the way that Barbarian Adventures and Orlanth is Dead tried to give you the tools for running a clan game in Sartar during the rebellion – personalities, common episodes, clan background. But most of all, I liked the way Orlanth is Dead had the courage to tackle the great events of the Hero Wars which affected the clans of Dragon Pass.
With The Coming Storm I try to take that part of the Sartar Rising campaign vision: the struggles of a clan between 1618-25 and do it justice. It’s all in one book, not split across several volumes, so you can see the grand sweep of the events that affect the Red Cow in this period. The approach here takes inspiration from the Great Pendragon Campaign: a description of the year and then some adventures for the Red Cow in that year.
Gone is the generic ‘your clan’ in favor of a specific clan: the Red Cow of the Cinsina. We describe the movers and shakers of the Red Cow and the Cinsina tribe, fractious neighbors in the Dinacoli and Culbrea, Wulfsland and the Telmori as well as the Woods of the Dead.
The impact of the Hero Wars will change the lives and destinies of many of these people. And your PCs will be at the thick of that action, not passengers on some other hero’s journey; their actions will decide the fate of the clan through this part of the Hero Wars – they may or may not survive, they will almost certainly be changed if they do.

Now of course, some of you will want to mine the material for your own game – and I welcome that. Some of you will want to use the material indirectly as detailing neighbors or a place to visit, and I welcome that. And some of you may want to take one of the less or more detailed neighbors and define your own game there, and I welcome that too. But I hope orienting the story on the Red Cow will make it easier for you to see how to run this period with your own game.
Most of all though, I hope this let’s you begin playing the Hero Wars.


Submitted by Jim Groves (not verified) on Fri, 04/11/2011 – 10:34.
@Ian,

I enjoyed this article! I have known of HeroQuest 2 for sometime but not pursued it. I did play in a HeroQuest 1 campaign (with heavily houseruled mechanics), which I enjoyed. However I was always somewhat disappointed that the Sartar Rising campaign just never seemed to live up to the promise. Such that when I had to move away from that gaming group, I didn’t stick with HeroWars or Glorantha.

Believe it or not, back in 1996, not long after King of Sartar was published, I wrote Greg Stafford (and I have no idea how I found his address). I was a younger man than, and knew less about the history the license. I begged him to use his influence with Avalon Hill to steer the product like towards Dragon Pass. At that time I (and to some extent I still do) felt that it was the heart of the Hero Wars, and it was where the emphasis needed to be… not in Prax.

(Though I should say, 15 years later I think any area that is well developed and supported is cool. So I look forward to Pavis, no worries.)

I was amazed when Greg wrote back personally, with his apologies, his frustrations, and an explanation of how little influence he actually had with Avalon Hill. As to say, none.

I encourage you to continue with this Coming Storm project, and I hope Moon Design puts it through the editing cycle with care but all due expediency. Part of me was thinking of waiting till Runequest 6 comes out, but your article has convinced me to check out this new edition of HeroQuest.

(and I’ll check out R6 too, but that’s not coming out any time soon either)


Submitted by ian (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2011 – 10:29.
@Harald. I agree that idea: Argrathsaga was something Sartar Rising began to pick up on. Though I think it was more explicit in Gathering Thunder. I think it’s well worth exploring, but doing it justice requires a separate book (or books for different Argraths). Again, I think Sartar Rising got off track, because it could not cover it all. I think it needed to narrow it’s focus and let other series cover that material.
Submitted by Harald Smith (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2011 – 04:18.
I, too, found much that to like with the Sartar Rising series, though my interpretation of the central vision was a little different. Rather than seeing “your clans struggles to survive the great events in Dragon Pass” as the core, my focus was on “you can be Argrath” which really allowed you to connect to both WB&RM and King of Sartar.

On that front, the first book gave you a good grounding in your clan (though I felt it could have used some stronger scenarios) and Orlanth is Dead then showed how the Hero Wars really started and broke that foundation. The Battle of Iceland was a great climax (which I rank second only to the classic Giant’s Cradle scenario for dramatic action) and you really felt that the characters were caught up in something greater.

I had a similar feeling to yours, though, that the vision got lost and I think it had to do with the scenario choices in the 3rd book. The scenarios themselves are generally good, but they did not play to a story line whether around your clan or becoming Argrath. Most of the scenarios felt like they belonged to the period before Iceland and I think that impacted the feel of moving forward.

The year of Iceland was the Great Darkness returned, clans broke apart, a great battle was fought. Yet, after the battle you have a feeling that all has largely returned to the way it was — and it shouldn’t have. Iceland was a victory, but not the great defeat that the Dragonrise would be to the Lunars. The heroes should be at the heart of either gathering, rebuilding, or reforming their clans; and/or finding the tools to do so. I think the Thieves Arm publication came much closer to this sense that you could fashion something new from the relics of the old.

If played differently the Planet Rise could have been a great climax to this part of the story — something where the heroes unite the goals of Kallyr and their personal goals for their clan/hero band/etc. Yet while I liked the concept, something about that scenario fell flat and left you feeling like there was a missing drama.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve put together for the Coming Storm. It sounds like it should be an interesting, and alternative, perspective to the Sartar/Sartar Companion pieces.


Submitted by Chris Green (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2011 – 20:52.
Ian, Thanks for the update.
Submitted by ian (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2011 – 09:35.
@Chris, I recently handed another version of the TCS manuscript to Moon Designs. I have high hopes this will be the final major revision from me. Fingers crossed, the next stage is for Moon Designs to do final edits (of course I might have to make minor revisions as part of that). Now that the manuscript is closer to done, we might also be at the point where Moon Designs can think about art to match the text. Once final manuscript and art are together it will go into layout. But, as you can tell, that’s still a little way off.


Submitted by Chris Green (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2011 – 00:28.
Please can you give me an idea of when this might be published?

Ian Cooper's archived blog from moondesign.com
The Classics

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes