Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RPG session report 2

Our second RuneQuest session was far more intense than the first. Events followed as:
The group made camp, having decided not to follow the horse thieves through the night. They rose early the following day to continue the pursuit. Within a few hours, however, Flavias had once again lost the tracks of the bandits. A debate followed; should they give up the chase or should they attempt to follow in the general direction of the brigands (roughly north-east)? They chose the latter. Luckily, within a few hours, Flavias found the tracks.

The party arrived at a steep hillside. They saw bare rock and cliff above and steeper ground ahead. They smelt cooking meat. More debate; approach from the sides, sneak in, or approach up-front? Flavias, this time in the role of sneak, went in to gather information. A minute later she'd alerted a goblin lookout who'd been on watch from the second lowest branch of a tree. The first Flavias knew of it was a stone (from a sling) that struck her lower back. She yelped in pain. This cry alerted the other goblins nearby.

The adventurers sprung into action. After catching up to Flavias, Ben Polio and Soliste lingered underneath the goblin's tree, unable to reach it. Flavias fired arrows at the goblin. One arrow hit, but only grazed the creature. Trax arrived and threw a javelin into its right side. The goblin faulted and fell to the ground. Moments later the goblin was pierced through it's right thigh by either a short-spear or an arrow, but events where moving too quickly for anyone to take note. The goblin was overwhelmed by pain and fell unconscious.

Soliste noticed another goblin, further away, also skulking on a branch of a tree. She went off to deal with it. As she did so, she noticed four more goblins, this time on foot, coming down the hillside.

Regrouping around the bleeding goblin, the adventurers attempted to make a deal with their adversaries; the life of the hostage for their horses. The goblins refused. Our travellers opened hostilities. The goblins prepared spells.

Soliste prepared a complex sorcery spell targeting all the goblins. She intended to poison their senses, leave them incapacitated and overwhelmed by a phantom, burning taste in their mouths. Through all her intent, the spell failed and fizzled into the æther.
Nevertheless, within seconds three goblins were dead. The survivors hastily surrendered. They were bound and forced back up the hill to their camp. A quick glance around the camp revealed that Ben Polio's and Soliste's horses were missing. The goblins had sold them to a barbarian tribe for two hundred silver, far less than they were worth. Collecting the silver (two hundred and twenty eight in total), the goblins' weapons and the horses, all that remained was to deal with the survivors. More debate; take them as slaves, leave them bound, kill them?

Our band left the dead bodies near the burning fire at the cave entrance. Anid had acted decisively and brutally. Six dead goblins, carelessly abandoned to rodents and maggots.

When we left our adventurers, they'd had reached the borders of the Black Grove Clan, only hours from Verstead.
I hadn't intended that the party fight the goblins. I think it was partially my fault. I'd considered that they might sneak into the camp, but didn't think about what would happen if they failed to move stealthily. It made sense for the lookout to attack Flavias. However, when the goblins refused to hand-over all the horses for their dying companion, they should have at least offered to give them one horse in exchange (they were certainly never going to give up all three.) I didn't think of bartering. Obvious in hindsight.

We learnt one thing; the adventurers are brutal and not afraid to make gritty decisions.

Even though there was a fight that I thought was going to be avoided, the action played out relativity quickly. I even made the mistake of giving the goblins more combat actions than was permitted (I forgot to count parrying as a combat action). Six goblins are no match for five adventurers. (Note: I need to buy a few coloured glass beads to keep track of combat actions.)

Goblins aren't normally part of Glorantha. I wanted some tricksters that were good at getting about during the night. Goblins fitted well. Nevertheless, these weren't the goblins of D&D. They weren't evil. They were just out to make a living and provide food for their clan. They paid dearly.

This was the first time we were hit with the full impact of the RuneQuest rules. I've read the core rules at least three times. I used about 40% of them correctly and forgot about 30%. Getting so much of it wrong definitely made me anxious. Rules make the game more objective rather than "what the game master says," so I wanted to get them correct. At the same time, one needs to be ready to instantly dismiss a rules if they're forgotten or don't fit well with what the players are trying to achieve. It's quite difficult to balance. It went okay, but I wish the rules were simpler. However, I really like things like hit locations and combat manoeuvres. I've been waiting for those to manifest in RPGs for years and they're done very well in RuneQuest. Maybe in a few more sessions we'll know and remember the rules better and they won't get in the way.

Through the last two sessions, one of the issues I've had is that I've assumed the characters will succeed in what they do. I've been thrown a number of times when dice results go against what I've imagined. It's a foolish assumption. They're inexperienced, I should assume failure, not success. But, I need to plan for both.

Chris' observations are here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shrines and Temples in RuneQuest II

There are four types of magic in RuneQuest II; common, sorcery, spirit and divine. Divine magic requires devotion to a god. Only cult members that worship a particular god are granted spells and only if they pray at a shrine or temple. From the Mongoose Forums:
Both shrines and temples are made - consecrated - through the Consecrate spell. Note its description: 'The consecrated sphere is sacred to the spellcaster's god'.

A temple, then, is a site that is the subject of numerous and sustained Consecrate spells, kept in place by the presence of the permanent clergy.

Shrines are much smaller and local, their consecration kept in place by a sole Rune Priest responsible for that area. A shrine's consecration may lapse; it may not. It will depend on who looks after it and what else he or she has to do.

Creating a shrine or temple is thus a case of casting Consecrate on an appropriate area, object or building and then maintaining it. Once cast, its ties-up the dedicated POW used to cast it, putting it beyond other use (spells, usually) so a single person could maintain a shrine within a certain range if he has no other duties requiring dedicated POW or magic.

So the answer to your question: 'A character can scratch a holy symbol on a rock, or just wave his hands and say, "it's a shrine!", or what have you, and the location works as a shrine forever after' is Yes, sure he can. But he must cast and maintain Consecrate to keep it that way. If he doesn't, and the spell lapses, so does the ability to use the shrine to recover spells. Furthermore, a shrine must be recognisable to others of the same faith. Scratching a symbol on a rock might work in one culture but not another. Something recognisable and visible is going to a) declare that god's presence and b) help the divine follower find it and use it.

However, shrines, being local and personal often aren't enough. That's what temples are for, which typically contain numerous shrines to a pantheon's gods. Grouping them together under one roof makes consecration easier, attracts maximum attention, makes a political and religious statement, and so on. (Lawrence Whitaker)
What this means is that a Rune Priest is giving up their power for other people. How different is that from real-world religions?! Real-world religion takes. It takes money, in the form of donations and inheritance from the deceased. It takes time, attendance at mass and prayers from the faithful. Of course, the cults in RuneQuest take time and money too, but you'd never see a bishop or
metropolitan physically reduced by their devotion. Of course, one could reason that devotion to a delusional belief system is reduction enough, but the distinction is real. Importantly, an archbishop probably isn't aware that they're delusional.

A better analogue for real-world religions in RuneQuest is the Empire of Wyrms' Friends. Some of their cults literally suck the life-energy from its members to feed the Cosmic Dragon. This is much closer to Hillsong or the Church of Scientology that take money (i.e., power) and must obviously give something in return, though I'm not entirely sure what. The veneer of community, perhaps?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Probability in RPGs

Dice rolling is one of the core features of basically every role-playing game (except Amber Diceless). However, when probability is involved, people often get sucked into weird beliefs and numerological thinking.

There are a couple of good documents on probability in RPGs. See here and here. I have a few extra comments, especially regarding RuneQuest.

The percentile rolls in RPGs use two ten-sided dice. (I don't think anyone actually uses d100s.) One die represents the tens, the other, units. This means that one of the dice is an order of magnitude more important that the other. Only one in ten rolls of the second die is worth rolling (i.e., you need 64%; only a 6 on the tens die makes the second die relevant). RuneQuest, however, offers a couple of subtleties - critical successes and fumbles - that brings the usefulness up to 3 in 10 rolls. I've also noticed, with opposed rolls, that that number goes up to 4 in 10. Therefore, RuneQuest is mostly a d10 system, rather than percentile. However, the second die is used about a third of the time and gives some rare probabilities that makes it quite intruiging.

Comparing the percentile system of RuneQuest (Call of Cthulu, Basic Role-Playing and others) with D20 (D&D, Star Wars, etc.), I find the d100 system more satisfying. This is because
  1. It's very easy to judge your chances of success when using percentiles. With D20, it's not immediately obvious what your chances are when you need 24+ and you roll 1d20+10. Sure, you can quickly figure it out, but it would be better if you didn't have to.
  2. Little touches in RuneQuest, like fumbles that occur when rolling 99 or 100 and varying chances for critical success (depending on your skill level), break up the standard roll of 1 for automatic failure and 20/18-20 for critical success of D&D/D20.
  3. Critical hits in D20 require re-rolls. This wastes more time.
  4. In D20, the player, when rolling, does not know the chance of success unless they ask the game master. With percentile systems, the player knows the chance of success, unless the game master modifies it. The latter is better as it gives more determinacy of the result to the player.
The above concerns transparency and clarity, there isn't a real difference in probabilities between a percentile or D20 system. It's a single roll and the probability of each result is linear (can just as easily roll 33% or 99% in RuneQuest or 2 or 20 in D20). On the other hand, there are a few other game systems that provide either real differences to the probability or more superficial complexity. They are:
  • Normal distribution systems, like the approach of Traveller, GURPS and Fudge. E.g., roll two dice and add them together. The non-linear distribution is cool in the sense that more often than not you'll roll near the average. However, the downside is the probability of success is tricky to figure out, especially when you don't want to have to put much effort into thinking about it. It also requires arithmetic, slowing down the evaluation of the result.
  • The dice pools (e.g, grab a number of d10s relational to your ability) of World of Darkness, Warhammer Fantasy, d6 Star Wars and The Burning Wheel games also sounds pretty cool, but again, it's not overly obvious what your chances are to achieve a task. Also, more dice means more time to evaluate. Not good.
  • The step dice of Savage Worlds, EarthDawn and Serenity seems very promising. You use 1d4 when unskilled, 1d6 if you're a bit more competent and 1d10 if you know what you're doing. The probability is easy to figure out and it's fast to evaluate. Having said that, Savage Worlds, at least, has complexities. Wild Cards (PCs and important NPCs) have two dice to roll (one normal die and one Wild Die) and re-roll if you ace (get a 6 on 1d6, for instance). This takes time and obscures the evaluation of probability. Nevertheless, I'd really like to play one of these games.
My preferences then, based on transparency and speed of evaluation are:
  1. Percentiles (RuneQuest)
  2. Step dice (Savage Worlds)
  3. Roll and add modifiers (D20/D&D)
  4. Normal distribution (Traveller)
  5. Dice pools (World of Darkness)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Decision making

The last role-playing session ended on a crucial dilemma; does the group continue tracking horse thieves into the night, or do they stop and rest at nightfall, continuing the hunt on the morrow? One player was in favour of pursuing into the night (or at least until the torches ran out - 4 to 5 hours). Three were opposed to the notion. As the game master, I must admit I thought it would be more fun if they continued the chase, so perhaps, one and a half in favour.

We resolved the decision in probably the worst way, flipism. Afterwards, I thought through the ways groups can make decisions. They are
  • Consensus
  • Majority rule
  • Flipism
  • Minority rule
  • Splitting the group
  • Rational argument
Clearly consensus is a terrible idea. It's little more than formalised coercion. Majority rule is better than consensus, at least the dissenters can announce their reservations even though they accept the decision. Still, it's a bad idea (what if the minority are correct in their beliefs?)

Flipism is the worst of the lot, but maybe in things like RPGs it can be fun. I thought it was fun to see the group slowly be influenced into continuing the pursuit, only to see the process break-down on the last person.

Splitting the group is also completely valid, if somewhat dramatic. Nevertheless, there should be nothing stopping one or more people leaving the others behind.

Rational argument, that is, arriving at a decision based on looking at all known options and collectively deciding which is the best, is the finest way to solve a problem. It's too bad that few use it. (I'm not sure how well it fits the fantasy world of Glorantha, however.)

The crazy thing was that - during the session - I'd forgotten all about minority rule. Often in RPGs a leader forms simply because the others aren't very communicative or are disinterested. This wasn't the case with this group/session. I had a bunch of free thinking anarchists roaming Glorantha. This will not do. A leader shall emerge. At the very least, it'll create more interesting dynamics; those that don't lead, rebel. Also, having one more option to fall back on is always a good thing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

RPG session report 1

Our role-playing group played our first "real" session last Thursday night. Background and events occurred as follows:
Our group of adventurers were returning to their stead after fighting against God Learner brigands on the border of Safelster and Delela (in Ralios). They recently departed from the EWF raiding party that was heading for other tribes and clans. They hurried on their way, so they could return in time for harvest during Earth season. However, during the second night, some dastardly thieves made off with the groups' horses. The following day was spent tracking hoof and footprint through forest, stream and hill. Unable to catch-up to the the brigands by nightfall, the group decided to make camp overnight, rather than risk a potentially deadly altercation with the thieves during the night.
So, not a huge amount happened, but it's all about how you get there. (There was also something about a brown bear attending to a corpse by the side of a trail, but they were too frightened to follow that up.)

Generally, the session went well. However, I was thrown by a few questions that I hadn't prepared for, regarding regional information. That was because I hadn't figured out where in Gernetela the group were based. I have now. It's a little region of Ralios called Delela. An interesting fact about Delela is that most clans are subject to The Walker's Curse.
The Walker’s Curse
The clansfolk of the East Wilds suffer under an ancient curse laid upon them by St. Kus, after they rode through the countryside surrounding Kustria and engaged in indiscriminate slaughter. Now they cannot ride horses. Any attempt to place a saddle on a horse or to ride it bareback results in the immediate throwing of the rider. The curse ties to the sufferer’s bloodline. Orlanthi from elsewhere, including Lankst, can still ride here. (Glorantha - The Second Age, pg 110)
I think everyone had a lot of fun. I certainly did. The evening definitely contributed to my belief that role-playing games are the greatest games ever created.

An Assassin in Orlandes

I've been waiting for Tin Man Games gamebooks to come to the iPad. I tried out the first game - An Assassin in Orlandes - last night. I like it. Compared with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, An Assassin in Orlandes is vastly superior.

The art, design and user interface work really well. The writing is decidedly competent. The writing scrapes the borders of try-hard descriptiveness, but never reaches it, so it's an enjoyable read. I like the use of Spanish to give it that exotic flavour. (I speak Spanish, so it's not so exotic for me, but it's a nice idea.) I noticed a few grammatical errors (an occasional missing comma or comma in the wrong place). Nevertheless, generally it was edited well and is easy to understand.

The story is a generic fantasy affair, but that's okay with me. It's quite intriguing.

The decisions - the core of a gamebook - appear decent. It's not just "do you turn towards direction X?" I felt like what I decided to do had a real impact on the game/story. At the beginning, you can choose to have one more drink at the tavern. The outcome is that your stats are lowered for a while. I'm totally fine with that sort of stuff. Most of the time it seemed like it would really matter if I chose one option over another. Of course, it can't matter too much, else you'd get in-exhaustive branching very quickly. It's the illusion of infinite choices that really makes the difference. Thus far, An Assassin in Orlandes holds up to that illusion.

A weird aspect of the choices, however, is the "if you choose to do X, turn to 345." What's with the "turn to 345"? This isn't a printed book, why present the user with worthless fluff? I found it quite distracting.

The achievements are great. It's very cool being rewarded for going off the beaten track. (I wasn't even aware I was off track, which made it even cooler.) Unlocking the pictures is a nice touch too.

One can bookmark various places in the story. That was something I always used to do in the printed books of yore (I used to use my fingers as bookmarks, switching back to a spot in the book and trying an alternate path). It was a clever idea to integrate bookmarks into the game, limiting the number you have access to based on what mode you want to play.

I don't like the combat. It involves watching the dice roll, few (almost no) decisions. What they really need is a rock, paper, scissors mechanic. And I have one:
Each round of combat you can choose to attack, parry or cast a spell. Depending on the class you choose at the start (fighting man, rogue or wizard) you get two dice for one of those manoeuvres and one die for the other two manoeuvres. Fighting man has two for attack, rogue two for parry, and wizard has two for cast.

While fighting, if you attack and your opponent casts, you get a +2 bonus to the die roll. Same if you cast and they parry or you parry and your opponent attacks; you get a +2 bonus. If you both choose the same manoeuvre, there is no bonus awarded. Otherwise, it'll be your opponent who gets the +2 bonus.

Therefore, if you chose fighting man, you'll be inclined to attack more often than parry or cast, but not if you're going up against a rogue. If the computer opponent made random decisions with a slight prevalence for its favoured manoeuvre, it would work well, I believe. Certainly better than watching digital dice resolve.
I haven't actually read all that much of the gamebook as yet, so my opinion may change. In the main, however, I'd say it's very good. The combat is utterly uninventive and redundant, but that's my only substantive criticism. This isn't exactly what I've asked for, but it's getting there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cholera in Haiti

There is some more discussion below from my sister (VL), dad (JL) and I (l) about the Cholera outbreak in Haiti. Nuz has a lot more on her blog too.

VL: [cholera is] getting closer. 12 cases 15 mins walk away from my house, 5 deaths. and still no material to start disinfecting houses. although im supposed to be picking up sprayers during my stay here in city

l: wow, that's getting pretty close. how are they getting it? just because other people have it? is the water sorted out in their areas?

JL: are you distributing chlorine solution ok and managing to maintain some form of hygiene [for others and you]?

VL: yeah its just when they go into nearby towns where there already lots of cases... but its surely going to spread like wildfire now. all villages near me have difficult water access (which is why big water dist scheme was started by other program manager - but still not finished). chlorine solution is supposed to be distributed by each leader of each village (they collect it at my neighbours house), but appears they're not doing a very good job. but i think washing hands is more important than treating water anyway

JL: how much can people restrict their own travelling? do they meet people from other villages when collecting water?

VL: village isnt a good word as its all so spread out, but no, each village generally has one or more water sources for itself. people travel a lot to all the different markets - the only way they can make money...dont see them restricting that. at least one guy caught it when accompanying already infected person to hospital too... and idiots in another NGO had 50 chloring sprayers for house disinfection, some of which they were supposed to give to us, but it seems they have just randomly handed them out to community members. doesnt help.

JL: just when they must be particularly careful

VL: the worst is when they are walking people to the hospital. the patient must be vomiting and shitting all the way along the track, no idea what we're supposed to do about that

JL: yes, can't really clean up. now you can see the conflict between letting locals do things for themselves and doing things for them

VL: but again, as long as people wash their hands or any other object before putting them in their mouth, they wont catch it (to respond to your question about maintaining hygiene), its not that hard

l: it's not that hard, but maybe they've never learnt about germs so it doesn't make any sense to them. all the english thought it was from bad air, afterall.

VL: for sure, i meant its not that hard for me. but yeah, we only worked out hygiene about 100 years ago. plus local mayor received 700 boxes of soap to distribute free - meaning about 100 boxes for each local gov leader - the leader nearest to my house received 4 boxes...hmm... one educated guy asked me if haiti was only country that had cholera... prevalent attitude that haiti is cursed... understandable really

JL: so, you could reassure him ... must seem like that. you are having xmas in Port au Prince?

VL: i guess so. 3 of us girls will probably spend it together here (met new girl who works in totally different zone yesterday, shes really nice). plan to meet an aussie here this week too, found her through couchsurfing

JL: is the aussie an aid worker?

VL: yes. if theyre not haitian theyre an aid worker, pretty much. tis a pretty weird world here. we went out for dinner last night at italian restaurant... mostly whites, lots of different languages and accents, surely all aid workers. try to imagine myself sitting down eating that 25 dollar meal in front of people from my village

JL: When you went out for dinner you could have been in any city or not?

VL: well it would have to be a very multicultural city, but yes. eating pizza and pasta and icecream, prices the same as australia, just slower service and juices made from strange tropical fruits

JL: guess some people in your village would never have gone to Port au Prince?

VL: yeah lots of people havent been here. but lots have family here too

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Philosophy of Glorantha

There is a dearth of information on the Net about RuneQuest and Glorantha. I don't really know why. It's truly intriguing stuff. The best I've found is Mythopoeia. The most interesting is a discussion on Tolkien, Howard, Moorcock and Glorantha.

Consider Tolkien. Middle Earth is a world which has an absolute truth. Eru created the world, and those who live in accordance with the “mind of Eru” are good while those who go against it are bad. Goodness, truth, and righteousness are the rewards of those who side with Eru and the Valar. Those who defy Eru, from Melkor and Sauron right down to the Easterlings, fall into error and ultimately suffer. This is the kind of absolutism offered by Christianity, which is not surprising considering Tolkien's own devout Catholicism.
On the other hand, we have Howard. Howard's Hyborian Age has no absolutes, no good, no truth, and no real evil (its demons may be alien and inhuman, but don't qualify as evil the way Melkor does, because there is no absolute good to be the opposite of). The Hyborian Age is an almost Nietzschean paradigm where strength is the only real virtue.
Michael Moorcock offers a very different paradigm. His work seems to say that any absolute—in his case absolute Law or absolute Chaos—is intrinsically unbearable and that the only wholesome route lies through balance.
With this in mind, let's consider Glorantha. If Middle Earth embraces a single truth, Hyboria mocks truth, and Moorcock's Million Spheres seek a balance between truths, Glorantha says to us that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Truth exists, and can be obtained, but it is a cultural and—to an extent—personal truth not valid for everyone. Truth is a local, rather than a universal, phenomenon. For example, most cultures in Glorantha agree that there was a time when the sun disappeared from the sky. The Orlanthi say that the sun was a tyrannical emperor, and that mighty Orlanth slew him to liberate the cosmos. However, the sun-worshiping Dara Happans say Orlanth merely slew the solar emperor's son(the divine sun himself was far too great to slay), and that the solar emperor died of grief. Now, in any other world, we might just say that these too cultures have different beliefs and leave it at that. But in Glorantha, an objective third party—like, say, a God Learner—could go to Dara Happa, leave the mortal plane, and personally witness Orlanth slaying the solar emperor's son. The same God Learner could then go to an Orlanthi holy site, enter the Hero Plane, and personally witness Orlanth slaying the tyrannical solar emperor himself. In fact, he could get powers from participating in two contradictory myths!
Because of this, Glorantha embraces a pluralism unprecedented in other fantasy settings. Tolkien is culturally pluralistic, but his world operates around a single truth. Hyboria is also culturally pluralistic, but truth is ambiguous at best. And Moorcock may have a Million Spheres, but all are governed by the same struggle. Even Dungeons & Dragons, with its “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to setting design, still has the cosmic absolutes of law, chaos, good, and evil (lawful good is lawful good, from world to world and setting to setting). Glorantha is wholly relativistic.
This pluralism is not the result of a modern, politically correct, “accept all faiths” viewpoint, but rather indicative of the pagan attitude, which is wholly consistent with the mythic, bronze-age world Glorantha portrays. When we examine the religious attitudes of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures, for example, we find that they are perfectly aware of foreign gods, and accept their existence, but view their own deities as being more central to their lives. A clear example can be found in the Ten Commandments of Hebrew scriptures, where Yahweh tells his people “I am your God, and you shall have no other gods before me.” Note he does not say, “I am the only true God, and all other gods are false.” This attitude did not appear until late antiquity, a period which falls long after Glorantha's scope (except, perhaps, where the Malkioni God-Learners are concerned).
Even though I agree that Gloranth attempts to portray a pre-modern world, I wonder how much of a benefit post-modernism was. Post-modernism was in its ascendancy in 1966 - when Glorantha was started. Tolkien didn't have access to those ideas when he was developing Middle Earth. The best he would have had access to were the ideas of Marx and Marxism. Although the former of those, Marx, is superior to post-modernism, Tolkien obviously never got that far, as it would have been awash with Marxism (something even worse than post-modernism.)

It's interesting that besides Glorantha, I know of no other game-world that embraces plurality. Most are modernist (Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Traveller universe, WoW, Midnight, etc.) You really have to go to literature before you start to get anything interesting (Le Guin, Leiber and the ones mentioned above).

Friday, December 3, 2010

It would have been good to know...

I recently found the text below in the RuneQuest II Forum. I'd have liked to have come across it much earlier.
I would recommend that anyone playing in Glorantha read either HeroQuest Voices or the 2nd Age Equivalent material in the Mongoose Books. That you only concern yourself with a few cults at a time. Keep non-humans as the weird and mystical, keep foreign powers the same where you can. Remember that if you take a small area that you can develop your own campaign around and then develop it your own way, rather than trying to tackle a huge amount of detail. If you want to create your own material, but use the Gloranthan material their are lots of little places where this can be done.

Some suggested places to start...

A small Orlanthi clan - It doesn't matter really if this is in Ralios or Kethaela, just create a small village or similar at its heart, some local woods inhabitted perhaps by local spirits, perhaps some elves or even a dragonewt. Then you need a few local hills, perhaps with the odd caves that are taboo, perhaps because they hold monsters or are of a religious nature. This is Glorantha so there should be at least one weird location from a forgotten era, a collossal face in the wilderness, a strange henge or monument or an bizarre ruin.

The inhabitants of this area need to be pencilled out, work out who the chieftain is, his wife, his champion, the local healer, a shaman or priest and perhaps two more local characters (a bully, love intrest or mysterious stranger).

Cults, keep it simple, Have most men worship Orlanth, most women worship Ernalda, then have the Champion worship Humakt, there will be most likely one follower of Lhankor Mhy, Chalana Arroy, Odayla or even Vinga. If you are doing a Draconised clan then you need to use Orlanth the Dragon and Ernalda the Scale. You now need at least one source of conflict, a nearby clan, a troll tribe, nearby foreigners (Coastal Pirates, Praxian Nomads, or a small group of God Learners, is a good source). You will need to know a few protagonist from that enemy, their leader etc. You only need to know a little about this enemy to start with.

If you are playing a Dara Happan game, then instead of a Village you could look at setting the game in a small section of a city, familiarise yourself with the head of the household or Association, your family priest, the local merchants and perhaps a couple of NPC's in the association guard. Keep the cults simple, choose one or two. The opposition in the game comes not from monsters but from opposing Associations. If you want to play a bigger plot then bring in the Golden Dragon Emperor and the EWF cronies. Alternatively why not create your own small town, there are plenty of sources on the net, from maps to building plans (Look a Babylonian, Assyrian sites for inspiration). You can then make the oppositions barbarian raiders, river pirates, foreigner polluting your purity).

If you are playing a game with a nomadic culture, it is not the location that is important, but the journey that is being undertaken. Think about a route and detail a number of encounters along it. You need to know who the chieftain or khan is, who the healers, warriors and potential wives are. Most nomad cultures are shamanic, so encounters do not just have to be of the physical kind, clan members could be possessed by hostile ancestors or spirit animals could be encountered. Again focus on a couple of primary great spirits. Enemies should be traditional ones for Praxians it could be Chaos, Pentans or other Praxian tribes. For Pentans it will be Praxians, Trolls and Foreigners from the east or west. For Agimori it could be God Learners, Fonritan Slavers or monsters. You also have to remember that the weather and elements will play a big part in these stories.

For the God Learners and Empire of the Wyrms Friends it is probably easiest to think about a cell or small group. The God Learners will be seeking to explore the world, perhaps upon a ship. Their scenarios could be a lot more about exploring the world, in some respects you only need to understand the God Learner perspective to do this, they will see each culture in this manner, as resources to be taken, entities to be categorised or people to be conquered, whilst protecting their own interests.

The EWF will be similar, they are seeking draconic connections in the world, to spread the word. Both groups are essentially being sent on Missions in this case, for the better good of the Empire. Thier enemies are each other, and those that oppose their progression, but most of all it is their internal conflicts that will bave the greatest impact on most games. Create several 'Bosses' above the players and some contacts.

- Simon Bray

Even more Glorantha

The cult of Orlanth the Dragon is a male-only cult because Orlanth was the first to split his tongue and so taught all others to do so.
The above is one of my favourite lines from the Cults of Glorantha. It reminds me of the Bible. Almost all of the Bible follows this syntax; "[premise] because [utter nonsense]". If someone were to say such a thing in the real world, I would think "befuddler" or "liar". In Gloranth, it's a sentence paragraph that requires no further explanation. All I think is HeroQuest!

Orlanth was the first to split his tongue, literally, and in doing so he allowed all others that followed him to mystically incise their own. The HeroQuest would involve divining the knife that Orlanth used (a la the Grail from The Last Crusade) as well as following closely to the ritual Orlanth followed in being the first non-dragon to speak Auld Wyrmish.
Auld Wyrmish
This is the language of the Dragonewts and the Empire of the Wyrms’ Friends. Humans who speak it must mystically ‘split their tongue’ in order to be able to replicate the curious sounds made by the forked tongues of the Dragonewts. It is a complex language; mystically rich, including poetry, song and ritual chant. It sounds like no other language in Glorantha and is exceptionally difficult to master. Draconised cultures use both Auld Wyrmish and the tongue for their culture and/or region: Auld Wyrmish is rarely used exclusively.
And now for something that I'm almost 100% certain has never appear anywhere in any version of D&D, a spell called Delivery.
Duration Special, Rank Initiate, Touch

Delivery ensures that a natural childbirth is safe, clean and with managed pain for the mother. The spell lasts for the natural length of the delivery and is usually cast when the waters break although it can be cast when contractions have begun. The beneficiary of the spell feels relaxed and calm, and, although she will still feel the pain of childbirth, it is neither distressing nor overwhelming. The spell dissipates once the child has been born (the spell guards against still births or birthing difficulties) and the cord is cut and tied magically as the closing act of the spell.