Monday 24 September 2012


Redwyrm is one of the sacred sites of Balazar, a 100m long artifical mound shaped like a snake about to eat an oval object. The mound itself is turfed over but the whole area has a peculiar form of red ochre under a thin layer of topsoil. The ochre is red when the Red Moon is full, and darkens as the moon darkens to become black. It is dug up from a pit in the oval at the mouth.

According to the shamen there the ochre used to be always red, until the rising of the Red Moon 375 years ago, when its peculiar transformations began. Legends say the Redwyrm was a vast monster that terrorised the land during the Godtime, slain by Foundchild and buried on this site and the ochre was its congealed blood, and he showed the warriors of prehistoric Balazar how to paint themselves in the ochre and gain great power. Later, when the dragonewts and their human servants dominated the land the Redwyrm warriors were their great foes and never accepted their rule, and were suppressed and the site abandoned. When Balazar came the Red Wyrm itself raised itself out of the ground and attacked him only to be defeated once again, and the Redwyrm warriors were re-formed and went with him to Dragon Pass to fight in the Dragonkill War.

The site was a mustering point for the old rulers of Elkoi on their raids into the lowlands, but when the Lunar Empire invaded the Redwyrm warriors allied themselves with them and helped overthrow the Tiger clan (who ruled the city at the time) and install the Black Dog clan. They are allies still, and act as guides and scouts to Lunar patrols, and they hire themselves out as mercenaries to the lowland kings and queens of Tarsh, Holay, Imther and Vanch.

The Redwyrm warriors are great rivals of the Crow warriors, and bands of men from the two warrior societies at least hurl insults at each other whenever they meet and frequently fight.


To enrol as a Redwyrm warrior one must dance the length of the mound on a night of the full moon painted in red ochre while being avoiding being assaulted by spirit-snakes, a Heroquest of Resonance 40%. The River Snake clan has always been an enemy of the Redwyrm and the resonance is at +10%, and if the person has ever been an ally of the Crow Stone is is at +20%.

He must make the right moves (Dance 20%), avoid the snakes (Evade 40% or Stealth 40%), survive being bitten if he fails (Resilience 60%), and stare the wyrm itself in the eyes without flinching (Persistence 20%). Failure results in the warrior having a mortal fear of snakes until he gets it right.

The Shamen teach followers Speedart, Mobility, Javelin, Club and Shield combat, Spear and Shield combat and Lore (Tribal Warfare). The follower can now see snake spirits, and gets +20% on resilience rolls when resisting snake venom.

He may be called up by the cult to serve for a maximum of 49 days in every year with no pay, and while on operations must wear non-magical black and red warpaint and must obey the commands of his superiors explicitly and without question or face immediate dismissal and cursing by the snake spirits. This is a great contrast to most tribal warbands who fight only if they feel they have a stake in the fight, and may abandon their warchief and go home if they disagree with him with no more than a few harsh words exchanged.

Redwyrm Warrior (Votary)

The Redwrym cult skills are: Stealth, Resilience, Evade, any Ranged Combat, Lore (Tribal Warfare), Lore (Poisons) and Athletics. Any follower with 30% in five of these skills and the Speedart spell can try and become a Redwyrm warrior. There may only be 49 members of the cult at any one time, and when a member dies a competition is held at the Redwym to see which follower will be promoted, or a follower may challenge any existing member to a single combat and take his place.

Warriors get to wear the ochre warpaint of the cult (see below), and bind one snake spirit, and carry the distinctive snake club and shield. This is a heavy baton with a round head with two stone fangs which may carry poison, and a small round hide shield marked with a sinuous red snake.

He must obey the orders of his superiors without question, even if it means taking part in a suicidal attack. Redwyrm warriors are respected for their devotion and any who disobey orders are subjected to the snake bite ordeal. He gets one share of any proceeds in loot or pay.

Redwyrm Captain (Seer)

Must have 75% in five cult skills and may learn Oratory, Lore (Lunar Provinces), Speak Lunar and Lore (Lizardkind). This last skill gives them the ability to know what wyrms, dragons, wyverns, dragonewts and snakes weaknesses are and increases their chance of a critical hit against them in combat. Captains may bind up to ½ their Charisma in snake spirits, with spirits increasing stealth, movement speed and strike rank being the most popular. Fetishes involve snake skulls and snakeskin headbands and clothing. He gets seven shares in the proceeds of any mission.

Captains can quest to bind curse spirits, phantom snakes that sneak up on enemies and bite them and enchant reptile slaying arrows and darts, which does not make them at all popular with the Crocodile and River Snake clans, as these weapons will also slay their clan members due to their spiritual connections.

One of the most famous captains, Cadwallaun is not even a Balazaring, but a Holayan soldier who worked alongside the Redwyrms when he was part of the Lunar garrison at Elkoi and decided to join (or was perhaps ordered to by his superiors, the better to impress this potentially dangerous native unit and get them 'onside'). Another captain, Razadan Longtooth, is a Tiger clan member and a Seer of Jakaleel as well, commanding moon spirits.

Redwyrm Shaman (Shaman)

There is only one shaman, Ulvarang Seven Snakes of the Great Sable clan, and he rules his warband with an iron rod, literally; he has a an iron warclub that was gifted to him by the current head of the Lunar garrison, and wears a Lunar officers chainmail hauberk. Since he can claim 49 shares from any pay or loot whether present on an operation or not, and the Redwyrms have been pretty much taken on full time as scouts and enforcers by the Lunar Provincial army he has accumulated a lot of personal wealth for a Balazaring. He wears a gold ring, dresses his wife in fine linen clothing and jewelled necklaces and indulges himself with imported wine from a silver tankard. He is a friend of King Glyptus, has a house in Elkoi and spends a lot of time at the palace. He also has a well made lodge out at the mound he has been planning on replacing with a lowland style thatched roundhouse.

The shaman appoints his successor from among the captains, and his word is final. Cadwallaun is the current number two, and Ulvarang is confident that his warband will stick to their oaths of loyalty and accept him without question, for all the fact that he is a foreigner. Mutterings among the troops have been ruthlessly quelled with administration of the poison ordeal and in some cases a smart blow to the back of the head with his iron club.

Redwrym Shaman may only serve until they are 49 years old, or until they are too old, ill or wounded to do the snake dance. After that they are ritually sacrificed to the snake spirits and, after sky burial for a few weeks, their bones are interred in the oval earthwork at the snakes mouth. Ulvarang is 47, but still hale and hearty and likely to remain so as he hasn't personally led a warband for a decade or more, so the issue of his 'retirement' and the succession is going to be a live one quite soon.

Hiring Rates

Redwyrms can be recruited for 7 or 49 day contracts, minimum 1 lunar a day for a follower, 7 for a Warrior, 49 for a Captain. More is charged for a known danger and the Shaman will negotiate looting rights and a cut from the ransom of any captives taken. Ulvarang only accepts Lunar Empire minted coin these days, and expects the money to be paid directly to him, up front. The days when they would fight for bundles of hides and right to take a few slaves are long gone. On the plus side the Redwryms are very reliable, and will fight to the death for their employer.

The Red-Black Ochre

The shaman enchants lumps of this in a yearly ceremony at the sacred time, in batches of 49 lumps good for 3+1d3 applications each.

Full Moon (Red) +1 AP, +10% Persistence, +10% Resilience, +10% Combat
Crescent Come/Crescent Go +1 AP, +10% Persistence
Empty Half/Full Half +10% Stealth
Black/Dying +20% Stealth, -10% Persistence, +3 magic points

Favourite Poisons

Sleeping Wyrm
Potency 60+1d20%. Injected, Onset Time 1d3 rounds, Resistance time 1 round, Duration 1d6 hours, Resistance: Persistence, Conditions: Exhaustion
Each failed resistance roll causes one extra step of fatigue until the target is asleep.

Red Venom
Potency 20+1d20%, halved at Black/Dying Moon, doubled at Full Moon, Injected or Ingested Onset time 5 minutes, Resistance time 1 day, Duration 2d6 days, Resistance: Insight, Conditions: Sapping, Confusion, Hallucination
This slow acting poison is a potent hallucinogen, making the victim a gibbering wreck, convinced the snakes are writhing out of the ground, the trees and ultimately even his comrades,and unless restrained he will run away and cower in terror. A favourite for hit and run attacks on large groups, slows advance of enemy forces immensely as they have to care for insane comrades for days before they calm down. If the Rewyrms can sneak into a camp and poison the food, so much the better.

Black Venom
Potency 20+1d20%, Injected, Onset time 1d3 rounds, Resistance time one roll, Duration 5d10 minutes, Resistance: Resilience, Conditions: Paralysis
Affects the hit location only, doing 1d6 extra damage, which is regained at 1 HP per hour after the effect ends. If it hits the chest, breathing is affected causing exhaustion, if it hits the head the victim must roll 1d4; on a 1 they become dumb, 2, deaf, 3 blind and 4 roll twice.

Ordeal Poison
Potency special%, Ingested, Onset time 1d10 minutes, Resistance time 1 hour, Duration 6+1d6 hours, Resistance: Resilience, (Dance, Athletics) Conditions: Death
Taken by disobedient Redwyrms, the effects are mitigated by constant movement, usually constant strenuous dancing, but in fact merely running and jumping will do the trick. The first instance of disobedience is punished with potency 30+1d20% poison, the second by a more potent batch of 50+1d20% and so on. Each hour of dancing will cause a check vs fatigue, and the poison will reduce DEX permanently by 1, even if resisted.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Sample Lunar Cults

Jakaleel, the Lunar shaman

Lunar missionaries have had some success in spreading the cult of Jakaleel the Witch in Balazar, as in many ways it resembles the native cult of Votank. Five Spirit Moons and Jakaleel the Witch are separate practices, but Jakaleel shamen always follow both. The Tiger clan are almost all converted, and followers and votaries can be found in many other clans. A coven of Jakaleel shamen is based at Elder's Rock.

Cult Skills: The Lunar Way, Spirit Walk (Jakaleel), Spirit Binding (Five Spirit Moons), Spirit Binding (Jakaleel the Witch), Speak Lunar, Persistence, Lore (Ancestors), Perception, Meditation, Dance, Craft Mask.


Followers may see and identify Five Moon or Ancestor spirits within range, and may be taught the Common Magic spells Countermagic, Countermagic Shield, Detect Magic and Glamour.

They may hold one spirit fetish (the Jakaleel cult likes to use human bones decorated with silver and red cords or ribbons).


Votaries need 30% in five cult skills and can speak with ancestor spirits in their own language and with moon spirits in Lunar. They can hold up ¼ CHA in spirits, but cannot bind spirits themselves.
They may learn the common magics Spirit Bane and Bearing Witness.
They may be part of a group of six bound to a Moon Guardian (see below).


Seers need 50% in five cult skills, and may bind Moon spirits if they have Spirit Binding (Five Spirit Moons) 60%+, and ancestors if they have Spirit Binding (Jakaleel the Witch) 60%+. Ancestors will be hostile if not themselves Lunar worshippers, but may be converted to Lunarism by a successful Spirit Combat followed by a Lunar Way averaged with Influence roll. This aggressive conversion of ancestors is becoming a major source of disquiet among the Balazarings. They may have a maximum of ½ their CHA in spirits.

Balazaring Seers may also summon and bind Nature spirits of their own totem using their Spirit Binding (Jakaleel the Witch) skill.


Needs 75% in five cult skills, one of which must be a Spirit Binding skill, and may summon ¾ of their CHA in spirits. May gain the use of a Moon Guardian Spirit, which is bound collectively to six followers of Jakaleel of rank Votary or above. Shamen can summon Spirits of the Dead using their Spirit Binding (Jakaleel the Witch) skill; the shaman need not be related to these ancestor spirits, and they will always initially be hostile. They may be converted to the Lunar Way as per ancestors but the roll is always at least hard (-20% per intensity of spirit).

Their fetch is a moon spirit and can be seen using Spirit Walk or Second Sight as an unearthly red glow around the shaman.

High Shaman

Needs 90% in five cult skills, including both forms of Spirit Binding taught by Jakaleel and Spirit Walk. Can bind up to CHA in spirits.

High Shamen can also lay the dead permanently to rest, conducting a funeral ceremony such that the person's spirit cannot be cajoled back to earth by anyone but its rightful descendants as an honoured ancestor. This will work on any spirit, even malevolent ghosts and undead if you can get hold of a part of their physical remains.

There is only one High Shaman in Balazar, Marusa the Moon-Woman, who wanders the country trying to convert the locals, and spirit plane trying to convert their ancestors.

Available Spirits

Spirits of the Five Moons Tradition are Full Moon, Half Moon, Hollow Moon, Waxing Moon and Waning Moon, and a shaman may have no more than one of each. Full Moon spirits are of the intellect and mind, Half Moon spirits are combat oriented, Hollow Moon spirits are demented curse spirits that drive people insane, Waning Moon spirits cover fertility, innocence and healing, while Waxing Moon spirits aid hunting, including hunting other spirits.

In addition a shaman may also have a Guardian Moon spirit as part of a group of six worshippers. This is created in a ritual involving a masked dance and spirit quest (Dance of the Empty Mask, Resonance 40% +10% per intensity of spirit). Combine the POW of the six worshippers, and divide by 5 to get the POW of the Guardian Moon, plus 1d6 per intensity of the spirit, combine the INT of all worshippers and divide by 7 to give the INT and combine CHA and divide by 8 to give CHA. It can donate magic points to any of the six people it is bound to, pass messages over any distance, add its POW as a bonus to any Persistence or Common Magic rolls, its INT to Insight and its CHA to Influence. It knows Countermagic at 1/3 its INT and may cast it at a worshippers request. If the mask it was originally summoned with is destroyed it will be banished, and if the worshipper loses the fetish they lose contact with the spirit.

Spirits of the Dead can be used to enhance skills and mental stats, but the best ones are curse spirits, though the shaman releasing them must be very careful that they don't turn on him. Using a Spirit of the Dead will earn the enmity of any of that spirits living descendants.

The shaman's own ancestors may be used as personal Guardian spirits, no more than one at any one time. Shamen may also bind an ancestor into a mask he has made himself, and when he dons that mask he allows that ancestor to possess him, hopefully temporarily.

Order of Jakaleel the Spindle Hag

This is a sorcerous school based on the teachings of the wizard Tetese, who journeyed to the spirit realm of Jakaleel and found other ways of working with the spirits of the dead, and going beyond what Jakaleel achieved to summon Lunar Demons. The Spindle Hag and Witch cults are separate entities, even though they both follow the same Immortal, and it isn't common for a single practitioner to join both. Jakaleel shamen are usually found on the fringes of the Empire and in poor peasant communities, Spindle Hag is more urbanised. Cyriel Endlekar is rumoured to have a Spindle Hag adept on his payroll.

Cult Skills: The Lunar Way, Manipulation (Spindle Hag), Grimoire (Book of Vile Secrets), Read/Write Lunar, Persistence, Insight, Meditation, Perception, Stealth, Lore (Demonology), Dance


Novices of the Spindle Hag order are usually only required to watch corpses to ensure they do not revive without permission, bless funerals where foul play is suspected, and perhaps cause a little light mayhem themselves, with minor curses and mischief.

They may learn the common magic spells Bandit's Cloak, Bearing Witness, Detect Spirit, Push/Pull and Fate. The only sorcery they may learn is Mystic Vision.


Requires 30% in five cult skills. The Apprentice may learn more common magic, with Darkwall, Demoralise, Disruption, Chill and Boon of Lasting Night. They may also learn more of the Book of Vile Secrets and can have up to INT x ¼ in spells. They must have Mystic Vision, and can learn Resist Spirit, Speak with Ghost, Manifest Ghost, Blind, Silence, Attract Spirit, Banish Spirit


Must have 50% in five of the cult skills, including Grimoire (Book of Vile Secrets). The Adept may learn up to half their INT in spells, including Bind Ghost, which enables them to take the spirit of a newly dead person and ensure it becomes a ghost. It is bound to a charm made of human bone decorated with silver and red ribbons and may be hidden in a house to ensure its haunting. They may also learn Darkvision, which enables them to see normally in darkness, Animate Darkness, Project Vision, Diminish (STR, CON, INT, POW, CHA) and Protective Ward.

Adepts sometimes find jobs as house exorcists or assassins for noble families where ghosts and spirits have been used as part of Dart Wars.


Mages of the Spindle Hag need 75% in five skills, including Grimoire (The Book of Vile Secrets) and can learn ¾ of their INT in spells, and get to use the most feared and potent spells of all, Summon (Demon), Command (Demon), Command (Monster) and Tap (Spirit).

Each class of demon has its own summon and command spells, and the size of demon is determined by the Manipulation (Spindle Hag) skill. Demons that are available include Strix, Destixin, Shades and Lunes, but others are possible, even demons serving deities such as Ikadz and Deshkorgos. Since it is not possible to banish a demon, these creatures are not summoned lightly.

Command (Monster) is also a separate spell for each class of creature. The cult knows how to command snakes and spiders of all kinds, wraiths, cave trolls, Voralans (Dark Aldryami), Broo and possibly some other chaos creatures as well.

Tap (Spirit) can only be used against disembodied spirits, but can absorb POW and CHA with the one spell.


There is only one Archmage of the order, the crone Tetese herself, who serves at the court of Takenegi as exorcist and demonist. She has a network of loyal spies, and is trying, unsubtly, to take over the Jakaleel shamen.

Polytheism and the Lunar Way

Over the years the many many books have been published about Glorantha's Lunar Empire and its major feature – it's supposedly unifying universal religion. Since MRQII was set in a period before the rising of the Red Moon nothing was written about it for the MRQII/Legend rules, so here is my take, adapted freely from Issaries' Publications Imperial Lunar Handbook volumes I and II and Champions of the Reaching Moon.

Polytheism and magic

The natural state of the Gloranthan public is polytheism. A spirit worshipper calls on many spirits from his local area and traditions; a theist prays to the farming god when he plants his crops, the gods of the elements and weather when he wants them to grow, the god of war when danger threatens and so on, and even the monotheistic westerners call on multiple saints and guilds.

And all these gods, spirits and orders allow the person to use magic. Trying to combine magic from different pantheons gets difficult however, if the hierarchies controlling them will even allow you to do so. For example an Orlanth cultist might be able to go up to a Yelm temple and drop a coin in the collection plate, but the hierarchy will be deeply suspicious and will want him to repudiate his previous god before letting him in. A Balazaring shaman who binds a Praxian spirit will be seen as being guilty of kidnap and worse and Praxian shamen will pursue him and punish him, and the fate of a Rokari churchman who is found to have learned spells from a heretical Hrestoli Idealist grimoire will be painful to say the least.

And it is even harder to combine types of magic. Adopting the mindset required to command and control spirits makes the subservience to divine will and the logical frame of mind of sorcery harder and vice versa.

There are exceptions of course, there always are. The Lankhor Mhy Temple at Jonstown contains a grimoire of sorcery spells reformulated and blessed for use by their sages, and priests of Orlanth Thunderous have often controlled wind spirits of the Kolat tradition, but on the whole people who try and combine two or more forms of 'higher' magic are limited to mere dabbling.

Game Mechanics:

Each PC has a maximum number of spells based on his highest rank in any religion, which is his Primary Religion. Each spell from a different pantheon counts as 2 spells, each spell from a different style of magic counts as (Rank in primary religion+1) spells.

For example Tazos of Trilus is a Soldier of Tharkantus (Rank 1) with POW 12. He can have a maximum of POWx0.25 = 3 divine spells. He is also a Hawk Warrior of Balazar (Rank 1), but since his Pact skill is 50% and his Spirit Binding only 30%, Tharkantus is his primary Religion.

Tazos binds a Hawk spirit, counting as 2 spells (his rank in Tharkantus+1). He can now only have one divine spell.

If Tazos joined the cult of Orlanth and sacrificed for an Orlanth divine spell this would count as 2 spells, as Orlanth is from a different pantheon to Tharkantus. If he tried to bind a wind spirit from the Kolating spirit tradition it would count as (2x2) = 4 spells, as it is a different pantheon and a different magic type, and he just couldn't do it.

Primary religion can change if the character puts more effort into learning the new cult theology than in increasing his current one; his access to spells will change if he does so and jealous gods and spirits may well withdraw the magic hey have granted him.

The Lunar Religion

The Lunars are the big exception. The Lunar 'pantheon' is bewilderingly broad and diverse and it includes spirit traditions, gods and sorcerous orders. Lunar worshippers are positively encouraged to follow multiple gods and their most powerful mages will deploy a mix of spirits, sorcery and divine magic.

Lunar gods fall into three main categories:

First are the Moon goddesses. Sedenya and her priests demonstrated that she had always been a part of most Pelorian pantheons, and that the diverse and obscure moon goddesses were all in fact one and the same and were all reincarnated in her, the glorious Red Moon. Ulurda, Gerra, Lesilla, Natha and so on are all older moon goddesses whose worship has been updated to take into accont their status as previous incarnations of Sedenya.

Then there are the 'Healed' deities, mostly minor gods or demons from other pantheons who were converted to the Lunar way through heroquests by Sedenya or major Lunar heroes. These include Yara Aranis, Erelia and Verelia, Alanthor, Blaskarth and others. One favourite Lunar tactic is to find a demon from an enemies pantheon, such as Yara Aranis from the Horse Nomads, convert it and deploy it against them as an Imperial ally.

And finally a there are a whole range of Immortals, mortals who have raised themselves to godhood through devotion to the Red Moon. These are motley crew to say the least, including the original Seven Mothers, deified charioteers and accountants and living demigods like Hon Eel and the Emperor Takenegi, who are descended from the Goddess herself. They include the founders of various sorcerous orders such as the Orders of Borovich, Makabeus and the like.

Most people in the Empire worship these gods from time to time, but are not initiates. A worshipper of the Dara Happan pantheon still owes his primary allegiance to Yelm and will possibly be an initiate of one of the gods of his divine court, but will occasionally pray to Sedenya or one of her aspects as well, and will accept the Red Emperor as his legitimate ruler.

Any Lunar initiate of any cult who knows something of The Lunar Way (see below) can learn and use any moon related spell from any other with no penalty. A Sorcerer of the Order of Makabeus will have the skill Grimoire (Tome of Bleak Despair) and a head full of Makabean spells, but can also learn Pact (Irripi Ontor) and use his Divine magic with no penalty, and Jakaleel the Witch's Spirit Binding (Five Spirit Moons) and have a spirit or two handy as well.

Without this skill the Lunar worshipper has the usual penalties for learning spells from other gods of the same pantheon and different magical traditions.

In addition many of the Lunar gods count as being in a local pantheon as well as the Lunar one. The Red Emperor is not just a Lunar deity, he is a Dara Happan one as well, and a dedicated follower of the Emperor can learn the magic of Yelm, Lokarnos or any of the other Solar deities at no penalty.

Game Mechanics:

If you know the Lunar Way to any level, all Lunar spells count as 1 spell against the maximum known, no matter what type and no matter what rank you are in your primary religion.

The Lunar Way

This is a skill that any initiate of one of the specifically Lunar deities can learn as an Advanced skill.

The starting score is POW, but there is a bonus of 1% per 10% Speak Lunar and 1% per 5% in any Lunar spell casting skill such as Grimoire, Pact or Spirit Binding. This skill cannot be increased by improvement rolls, and training is very scarce and limited to high ranking members of the Lunar hierarchy. Gains can also be made through deeds benefiting the Red Moon.

This link between the Lunar Way and the Lunar language is one reason why barbarians sometimes refuse to learn it, to speak the tongue of the Moon really is to become it's servant.

The Lunar Way can be used to substitute for any Lunar magical skill such as Spirit Walk, Theology or Manipulation, a Lunar learning any new moon-related magical skill can start at this level if it exceeds the usual basic %age.

The skill also affects how influenced a character is by Lunar cycles beyond the Glowline. On the day of the full moon he adds his Lunar way skill, or 20%, whichever is higher, to any Lunar magic roll, on half moon days the bonus is half the Lunar Way or 10%, on crescent moon days there is no penalty or bonus and on Dark Moon days the penalty is the skill in The Lunar Way or -20% whichever is greater. Within the Glowline there is never any penalty or bonus as the magic influence of the moon is 'evened out' by the Temples of the Reaching Moon.

The Lunar Way is also used in the rites of the so-called Lunar Illumination or Sevening, a key stage on the way to becoming a Lunar Immortal oneself. Illuminates receive a bonus of +the crit range of their Lunar Way skill to all magic skills if within the Glowline.

Most initiates of Lunar cults will know the Lunar Way as the knowledge is required to become a Lunar Citizen and is always useful in advancing in the hierarchy of these religions.