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Saturday 2 May 2020

Jonstown Jottings #16: A Rough Guide to Glamour

Much like the Miskatonic Repository for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, the  Jonstown Compendium is a curated platform for user-made content, but for material set in Greg Stafford's mythic universe of Glorantha. It enables creators to sell their own original content for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and HeroQuest Glorantha (Questworlds). This can include original scenarios, background material, cults, mythology, details of NPCs and monsters, and so on, but none of this content should be considered to be ‘canon’, but rather fall under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’. This means that there is still scope for the authors to create interesting and useful content that others can bring to their Glorantha-set campaigns.


What is it?
A Rough Guide to Glamour is a guide to the capital city of the Lunar Empire.

It is a one-hundred-and-ten page, full colour, 31.31 MB PDF.

A Rough Guide to Glamour is well presented, decently written, and includes a wide range of artwork and a reasonable map.

Where is it set?

Glamour, heart of the Lunar Empire.

Who do you play?

Nothing specific. Much of A Rough Guide to Glamour is written as a tourist guide to the city for pilgrims.

What do you need?

RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, although RuneQuest – Glorantha Bestiary might be useful for its more Chaotic features. Cults of Glorantha will also be useful. 

What do you get?

If you are roleplaying—or have roleplayed—in the fantastical, mystical, mythical world of the Glorantha, then the likelihood is that the enemy of choice is the Lunar Empire. Said to be the greatest civilisation in the known world, glorious and glamorous, knowledgeable of both sorcery and religion, fair in its treatment of women, charitable in its largess and treatment of the poor, welcoming of all who accept its all-encompassing faith, carried by the proselytising cult of the Seven Mothers, the Lunar Empire seeks to expand and extend its reach far and wide. Yet the Lunar Empire is an empire of monsters and demons, an empire which embraces and accepts Chaos, which stamps its faith on the territories it conquers, punishes lawbreakers harshly, sends those who fail to pay their taxes to hell dragged by Tax Demons, and commands the Crimson Bat. This great Chaos demon is fed prisoners, slaves, and rebels daily and their souls are lost forever, it constantly wanders the provinces feeding on sacrifices, and is used as a weapon of war against the Lunar Empire’s enemies. 

The latter view is held by a great many of the peoples of Dragon Pass—of Sartar, Old Tarsh, Prax, the Holy Country, and more. Yet as far as the Lunar Empire is concerned, this is the view of rebels and barbarians, of upstarts who would slap the hand extended to them, and for the most part, a minor issue in the far-flung provinces. The Lunar Empire, personified by the Red Emperor, son of the Red Empress who ascended into the Middle Air four centuries ago to become the Red Moon, has other concerns. To carry out the will of his mother, to expand the empire, to maintain its very obvious greatness, and to ensure that Glamour—capital city of the Lunar Empire—keeps its lustre as the shining ruby-red jewel of the empire. It is Glamour, the city at the heart of the Lunar Empire, which is the subject of A Rough Guide to Glamour.

Originally published in 1997 by Reaching Moon Megacorp to support its ‘Life of Moonson’, a fifty-player Live-Action Role-Playing game, it has since been greatly expanded for this new edition to throw a scarlet-hued spotlight on a city that is in many parts Rome, many parts Las Vegas, but both by way of Soviet-era Moscow, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Progressive Rock, Glam Rock, and Punk Rock. Glamour is glamour by name, glamour by meaning—any and all of them, and the authors are also trying to put a glamour on the reader in detailing the city, making it sound enticing and of course, glamorous, whilst also also hinting at the darkness behind that glamour, but unfortunately do not quite pull the trickery off. That said, A Rough Guide to Glamour is informative, interesting, and shot through in places with an incredibly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour which leaves the reader wondering if they just read what the authors had written.

A Rough Guide to Glamour
includes a  gazetteer, guidebook, and map to the capital of the Lunar Empire; information and portraits of the city’s and thus the empire’s most important personages; an overview of the Lunar Empire, its history and geography; details of the cults of the Red Emperor and the goddess Glamour for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha; description and map of the Sultanate of the Silver Shadow where Glamour is located; details of the secrets of Kalikos Icebreaker, the Lunar College of Magic and the Imperial Monopolies of the Etyries cult; write-ups of the intimate doings of the Red Emperor himself and his court; a handful or two of rumours—scurrilous or otherwise; fiction, poetry, and song lyrics; and silliness.

A Rough Guide to Glamour is a performance with an astounding cast— with Elvis Presley as Moonson Argenteus, the Red Emperor; Danny DeVito as Ivex Devouring Dog, Chief Tax Collector; Eva Green as Jar-eel the Razoress, Fourth Inspiration of Moonson; Margot Robbie as The Red Dancer of Power, Chief Missionary; Cate Blanchett as Asvedava the Black, Dean of the Field School of Magic—and more. Ostensibly written as a guide to the city for pilgrims, its primary focus is on what is the front half of the Lunar Empire’s circular capital—the City of Glamour, rather than the City of Dreams behind it with its route beyond to the Crater where the Red Goddess ascended. It thus introduces the city and guides the potential tourist round the city, its great buildings such as Red Square paved with polished stone brought down from the Moon and upon which thousands of pilgrims each year to prostrate themselves on the material body of the Red Goddess, and Hideous Zoo where all manner of exotic and weird—even Chaos—beasts are put on display. Where to stay and where to eat—such as Moon Rock Café for breakfast; customs such as always taking more than a few extra Lunars in the case of on-the-spot fines; and other facilities, like the lime-washed buildings marked with the Man Rune and staffed by Broo that are there for the Pilgrims’ convenience. A ‘Major Holidays & Festivals’ guide suggests when the best time is to visit the city and for anyone out of town, there is an introduction to ‘Let’s Speak New Pelorian!’, the local dialect designed to be less hierarchical, racially stereotypical, or gender biased, but definitely more Orwellian. Then there is the advice that Glamour is currently under Xaroni Law due to the depredations of a masked vigilante known only as ‘the Bat-Man’…

The nature of the City of Dreams beyond Glamour is best explored in various pieces of fiction which the depiction of the dissolution of Moonson Argenteus, the Red Emperor, parallels are strongly made between him and the last years of Elvis Presley. A Rough Guide to Glamour does go beyond the walls of the city itself, specifically to look at ‘The Sultanate of the Silver Shadow’, the region directly ruled by the Red Emperor and his family and to look at the empire in broader detail with ‘A Brief History of the Lunar Empire’, which will provide context for much of the rest of the supplement. Two cults and their roles in Glamour and the Lunar Empire are detailed in A Rough Guide to Glamour. These are ‘The Red Emperor: Governing Cult of the Lunar Empire’ and ‘Glamour Goddess of the Capital of the Lunar Empire’, both quite local cults, but given detailed write-ups for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. They are the only game mechanics content to be found in A Rough Guide to Glamour. There is of course much more to be found in the supplement, but special mention should be made to ‘Pelorian Rhapsody’ and the praise poem to Glamour inspired by Eurythmics lyrics!

On the downside, the focus on the glamour and glitz of Glamour in A Rough Guide to Glamour means that its ‘rough’ side is all but ignored. There are hints given, such as the chain gangs forced to work nightly repairing the paved streets for the following morning and the inevitable fate of those who do not pay their taxes. Similarly, it does not explore the life or place of the average citizen or peasant of Glamour, but to be fair, that is not the purpose of A Rough Guide to Glamour—in 1997 or 2020. Nevertheless, anyone awaiting a comprehensive guide to the city will have to wait a while yet.

Finally, of course, there is the fundamental problem with A Rough Guide to Glamour. Which is that whilst its contents are interesting, they are not necessarily directly useful. At the time of publication it would be extremely challenging for the Game Master to bring the material the supplement contains into play because essentially, its focus is simply several hundred miles and a fundamentally different culture away from where RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is being played and being supported by Chaosium, Inc.—currently. Now doubtless that will change, but being until playing and campaigning within the Lunar Empire is explored by the roleplaying game doing so with the current rules and supporting material is difficult. That said, for long time Gloranthophiles, this presents less of a challenge as they are likely to own supplements released by previous publishers and so are likely to have the means and the context to be able to explore Glamour.

So whilst a Game Master new to RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and Glorantha, is unlikely to have immediate use for A Rough Guide to Glamour, this does not mean that it will not be of interest to her. It at least provides further context to the current conflict between the Lunar Empire and Startar and beyond, and the empire’s attitudes towards the upstart provinces. Perhaps for that newcomer, the inclusion of a glossary would not have gone amiss at the back of A Rough Guide to Glamour.

A Rough Guide to Glamour lives up to its name, all glitz and showmanship, not to say the chutzpah of including showstopping comparisons between Elvis Presley and the Red Emperor in their last days and rewrites of lyrics to classic British rock songs. It is brilliant  in describing the mythical, mystical nature of Glamour, but there is always feeling that there should be something more to, or at least, beyond that brilliance—and that requires another book or supplement, leaving A Rough Guide to Glamour more the tourist or pilgrim’s guide rather than a full gaming supplement.

Is it worth your time?
Yes. A Rough Guide to Glamour is a guide to the capital city of the Lunar Empire and not only details the greatest city in all of Glorantha, but expands information about the world itself. (Please note: This could be Imperial propaganda courtesy of the Seven Mothers cult.)
No. A Rough Guide to Glamour is irrelevant to most RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha campaigns and difficult to bring into a campaign without further source material. (Please note: This has been marked as heretical propaganda spread by rebel scum in the southern provinces. A representative of the cult of Danfive Xaron will be with you shortly to assess your punishment.)
Maybe. A Rough Guide to Glamour is a solid introduction to the city of Glamour and provides some context to the actions of the Lunar Empire in the southern provinces. Plus more information about the world of Glorantha is always good. (Please note: Upon receipt of the proper donations, a Lhankor Mhy scribe will be available to read this document for you once it has been located in the temple archives. Unfortunately the requested document is not a comprehensive guide to the city and there are many omissions, or at least, much that is apocryphal. More information may be available at a later date.)

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