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Friday 31 December 2021

Jonstown Jottings #50: The Company of the Dragon

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 Glorantha13th Age 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?
The Company of the Dragon is a campaign for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in GloranthaIt is based on a campaign developed on the author’s blog.

It is a sequel to the author’s earlier Six Seasons in Sartar: A Campaign for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, which can also be run as a standalone campaign.

Notes are included so that The Company of the Dragon can be run using Questworlds (formerly known as HeroQuest: Glorantha) or 13th Age Glorantha.

It is a two-hundred-and-seventy page, full colour, 222.29 MB PDF or alternatively a 
two-hundred-and-seventy page, full colour hardback book.

The layout is clean and tidy. It uses classic RuneQuest cartorgraphy,  the artwork is good, and although it requires an edit in places, is well written and easy to read.

Where is it set?
The Company of the Dragon is set across Sartar in Dragon Pass. Specifically, it is set between Earth Season, 1620 ST and Darkness Season, 1625 ST.

Who do you play?
If The Company of the Dragon is played as the direct sequel to Six Seasons in Sartar, the Player Characters will be dispossessed and on the run members of the Haraborn Clan, broken following a confrontation with the occupying forces of the Lunar Empire.

Alternatively, if The Company of the Dragon is played as a standalone campaign, the Player Characters should be Sartarites who have been rendered clanless due to the actions or influence of the Lunar Empire and therefore have a dislike of either Chaos or the Lunar Empire.

What do you need?
The Company of the Dragon requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, the Glorantha Bestiary, the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack, and The Book of Red Magic. The Startar Campaign may also be useful.

What do you get?
The truth of the matter is that like Six Seasons in Sartar before it, The Company of the Dragon is not one thing. Both are campaigns and both are more than the sum of their parts, for each and every one of those parts stands out on its own. Not necessarily because they are gameable, but together they contribute to the campaign as a very satisfactory whole.

First—and most obviously, The Company of the Dragon is a campaign and a sequel to Six Seasons in Sartar. In Six Seasons in Sartar, the players and their characters, newly initiated members of the Haraborn, the Clan of the Black Stag, the 13th Colymar clan play out the last year of existence before its sundering at the hands of the Lunar Empire. Brought to the attention of Kallyr Starbrow, the last few members of the clan—including the Player Characters—are on the run, hunted by both occupying Lunar forces and the empire’s indigent servants. They have taken to hills, one more dispossessed band of the clanless, relying at best on the generosity of those Sartarite hill clans prepared to support the victims of the Lunar Empire. Some—mostly the ‘gentrified’ Sartarites of the towns and cities—instead view them as bandits and rebels in the face of the peace and prosperity that comes with being a Lunar client state, and the divide between the Sartarites of the towns and the hills is an important aspect of the campaign.

As a campaign, the focus and setting for Six Seasons in Sartar was narrow—the Vale that is home to the Haraborn and the six seasons which run from 1619 ST and into 1620 ST. It did not so much take the Player Characters out of those confines, as force them out at the end of the campaign. The Company of the Dragon takes place between Earth Season, 1620 ST and Darkness Season, 1625 ST, during which time the Player Characters and their band, will crisscross Sartar, often with the enemy dogging their heels, potentially participating in the great events of the period, such as the Battle of Auroch Hills. Ultimately, as the campaign comes to a climax, the Player Characters will participate in the Dragonrise (which takes place just weeks before the beginning of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha) and the ascension of Kallyr Starbrow. Chronologically, this equates to the same period that players are rolling the family backgrounds for the active five years of their characters’ own adventuring in character generation in RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. What this means is that The Company of the Dragon could be used as a means not to simply generate the backgrounds for the Player Characters, but rather play them out. This would work playing the campaign as members of the Haraborn clan or simply the dispossessed if run as a standalone campaign.

As a campaign, The Company of the Dragon consists of some twenty-seven seasons, covering some five years, into each of which can be slotted the campaign’s episodes. Some of these come pre-filled, such as The Forging, the campaign’s starting point, and then The Battle of Auroch Hills, Famine, Dragonrise, and Kallyr Starbrow. The rest are left empty for the Game Master to populate as best suits her campaign and her players. Over half of the book is dedicated to these, each broken down into its what, when, where, who, why, and how, before presenting potential exits. Some are connected, but many are standalone and many can be repeated, such as encountering ‘rival’ bandits, escaping from capture, facing the famine which besets Sartar due to the Great Winter, being hunted by the authorities, and so on. In many cases, these episodes can be varied slightly so that they do not feel repetitive. The episodes range in tone, some are merely exciting, others epic, and some truly horrific and creepy. Depending upon the players, there are some episodes which are of a mature nature and so may not be suitable for all groups, even though their roleplaying potential is still very high. 

Second, The Company of the Dragon is a means to quantify and run an organisation—in this a band of rebels which will rise above mere banditry and become a warband associated with and allied to Kallyr Starbrow. As a band on the run, the organisation becomes the Player Characters’ community, a mobile one, but a community, nevertheless. This is the ‘Company of the Dragon’ itself and the Player Characters form its Ring, its heart and ruling body, along with any other surviving NPCs from the Haraborn Clan, if the campaign is being run as a sequel to Six Seasons in Sartar. The community/warband is done as a Player Character in its own right, complete with Community characteristics, Runes, Reputation, and even skills. The Community characteristics interact with the world around in two ways. One is directly against another organisation, for example, against a Lunar force sent to track them down, and this is handled with opposed rolls, whilst the other is as resources, for example, donating food to a starving Clan and in doing so, depleting the warband’s Community Constitution. Throughout the campaign, the Player Characters must constantly keep track of and maintain the Community characteristics to ensure the warband’s survival.

Third, The Company of the Dragon is also a guide to Illumination, for the warband is also its own cult and has its own Wyter. This stems from the final scenarios in the earlier Six Seasons in Sartar, and ultimately the loss and replacement of Clan Haraborn’s Wyter. The Illumination involved is neither that of Nysalor or the Red Goddess, but that of Draconic Consciousness. Here The Company of the Dragon resolutely veers into ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’ territory and the author’s interpretation may not match that of the Game Master running the campaign. However, it does push the members of the company to become something more than a mere warband and perhaps achieve the mythic, if in a very different fashion.

Fourth, The Company of the Dragon is an initiation into the mysteries of Glorantha. These are primarily explored through the alternative form of Illumination, but The Company of the Dragon continues the writings in Six Seasons in Sartar which examined initiation rituals. Six Seasons in Sartar included detailed initiations for both Orlanth lay worshippers and Ernalda lay worshippers, but here expands on that to detail the rituals involved for Orlanth Adventurous, Vinga, Humakt, Babeester Gor, and Storm Bull. The last one detailed is that for The Company of the Dragon itself.

Fifth, The Company of the Dragon, much like Six Seasons in Sartar, is a toolkit. Take the various bits of the campaign and what you have is a set of tools and elements which the Game Master can obviously use as part of running The Company of the Dragon, but can also take them and use them in her own campaign. So this is not just the advice and discussion as to the nature of initiations and how to run them, but also the rules for creating and running streamlined NPCs—supported by a wide range of NPCs which the Game Master can modify, a guide to running character and story arcs, running and handling communities, and of course, advice on running both the campaign and RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha in general.

Sixth, The Company of the Dragon, much like Six Seasons in Sartar, is a conceit. Throughout the campaign, commentary is provided by a number of notable Gloranthan scholars and experts in Third Age literature, not necessarily upon the campaign itself, but upon the events detailed The Warbands of Sartar Under the Pax Imperii by Temerin the Younger, a Lunarised Sartarite who was intrigued enough by the ‘rebels’ of The Company of the Dragon to want understand what motivated its members. Again there are excepts from later authors, such as ‘Bands of Brothers, Circles of Sisters’ – The Warbands of Ancient Sartar by Deborah Abadi, or Miguel Moreno’s ‘Between Two Nations: Temerin the Younger’s Identity Struggle’ from The Journal of Heortling Studies, October 1998. As before, this device enables the author himself to step out of the campaign itself and add further commentary, not just from his own point of view, but from opposing views. Beyond that, the conceit pushes The Company of the Dragon as a campaign from being a mere campaign into being an epic, because essentially, it is what a heroic poem does.

Of course, The Company of the Dragon comes to an end. The climax manages to be epic and monstrous, gloriously involving the Company of the Dragon and the Player Characters. It enables them to be involved in the most pivotal events of the recent Gloranthan history and likely prove themselves to heroes worthy of myth and legend. 

Is it worth your time?
YesThe Company of the Dragon is a superb treatment of community, myth, and destiny in Glorantha, which pushes the players and their characters to build and maintain their own community, to create their own myth, and ultimately, have them forge their own destiny. Packed with tools, advice, and discussion, this is exactly the sequel that Six Seasons in Sartar needed and whether as a sequel or a standalone campaign, is a superb prequel to the events of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and the Sartar Campaign.
NoThe Company of the Dragon presents an alternative campaign set-up, one which takes place prior to the default starting date for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and requires you to play out season by season—and you may already have begun your campaign.
MaybeThe Company of the Dragon includes content which is useful beyond the limits of its campaign—the initiation rites, the notes on heroquests, rules for streamlined NPCs, quick resolution rules for battles, and more. That more consists of almost thirty fully detailed adventures and adventure seeds which can be drawn out and developed by the Game Master. All useful in an ongoing campaign. 

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