Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 3 March 2023

Jonstown Jottings #77: The Children of Hykim

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.


It is a one-hundred-and-seventy page, full colour, 28.23 MB PDF.

It is a one-hundred-and-seventy page, full colour book.

The layout is clean and tidy and the artwork is decent, the illustrations of the totem masks being very nicely done.

It needs an edit in places.

There is a terrible, unforgivable pun.

Where is it set?
The Children of Hykim is set beyond the boundraries of civilisation across Genertela, in particular of Fronela, Ralios, and Maniria.

Who do you play?
In The Children of Hykim, the Player Characters and NPCs are members of the Hsunchen, the shape-changing totem animal tribes who live at the fringes of more advanced societies. They are hunters, fishers, and assistant shaman who are, live amongst, and venerate their totem animals.

What do you need?
The Children of Hykim requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, the Glorantha Bestiary, and The Red Book of Magic. In addition, access to the Guide to Glorantha, Bearwalkers, Hsunchen of the East, and Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass may provide extra background, but are not required to use the material in The Children of Hykim.

What do you get?
With the emphasis upon the more civilised peoples of Dragon Pass and its environs, the Stone Age peoples of Glorantha and thus RuneQuest, especially those who both live alongside their totem animals and are able to transform into them and back again, known as the Hsunchen, are oft overlooked and forgotten. Which is how they like it. Found across much of the continent of Genertela, they keep themselves to themselves, interacting with fellow tribes when they must more than the so-called civilised people whom they regard as having been trapped by the need to grow crops and the desire to write everything down. The Children of Hykim is an exploration of their culture, mythology, technology, religious practices, relationships between tribes, and above all the way in which they embody, live with, and become their totem animals. In doing so, the author draws upon sources that date back to RuneQuest II to create a detailed and different outlook from which to view the world of Glorantha and potentially alongside the Glorantha we know and here are almost hidden from.

The Children of the Hykim begins with an explanation and overview of who they are. At the core of this is their relationship with their totem animals, so it details the nature of their transformation into animals and back again which begins when they become adults, although a rare few can do it from birth, and in the case of ‘Uncolings’, the reindeer tribe, their children are born born as reindeer. Birthed by the two dragons Mikyh and Hykim—hence the dual wording on the spine—the tribes share a similar mythology, primarily differing in the role that animal played in it and how their fall from paradise would lead to the separation of man and beast and the introduction of Death into the world. This is either at the hands of the Trickster or Telmor, the great wolf from which the Telmori—the only 
Hsunchen to be found in Dragon Pass—are descended. Parallel to this fall are the collapse of several Hsunchen empires and the extinction of several tribes, all of which would drive the surviving tribes to the margains. In modern times, the best known Hsunchen is Harrek the Berserk, a Rathori or bear tribesman who slew the White Bear and was cast out of his tribe, murdered the Red Emperor, and became the King of the Wolf Pirates.

The Children of the Hykim highlights the Hsunchen’s closeness with the spirit world and their tribal shaman and suggests this connection as a means to learn Rune magic rather than through the tribal cult. This is perhaps where the supplement differs the most, at least mechanically, from RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, as means that Hsunchen need to access the spirit world more readily than non-Hsunchen and non-shaman do. It also highlights the importance of the shaman in a tribe. Backed up by flavour text written in the HeroQuest Voices or ‘What My Uncle Told Me’ format for the Oppussum tribe which really helps capture the outlook of one tribe of the Hsunchen, the bulk of The Children of Hykim is dedicated to describing over twenty different tribes. These include the badger, bear, black owl, mammoth, raccoon, reindeer, skunk, yellow quill porcupine, and more. Of course, the wolf tribe is there too for the Telmori, and the Puma, who are not considered to be Hsunchen. Each is accorded several pages which covers their mythology, history, appearance—Hsunchen often possessing features of their totem animals, society, religion, and magic, including their associated Rune magic. There are some fantastic spell creations here, for example, Musk Spray of the skunk or Akkari tribe, Coat of Quills for the Yellow Quill Porcupine or Zonati tribe, and Play Dead for the Opposum or Didelfi tribe. A full list of the Hsunchen and their spells is given in the supplement’s appendix.

Given the relative simplicity of the Hsunchen lifestyle, it is no surprise that character creation reflects this. Several options are discussed for playing and running a Hsunchen-based games, covering the themes, advantages, and disadvantages of an all-Hsunchen group—from one tribe or several, including the Telmori, Hsunchen mercenaries, and suggesting possible Hsunchen-themed campaigns, like reviving the White Bear in Fronela after the traitor Harrek slew him. All of these would require a great deal of development upon the part of the Game Master, but would make excellent use of the material presented in the supplement. Also discussed is the nature of Hsunchen heroquests and how they differ from those undertaken by other peoples. Rounding the supplement is a set of nine appendices. Their inclusion is an indication perhaps that The Children of Hykim is not a professionally published book given that they take up a fifth of its total pages and a professionally published book might not have included them. They cover the origins of the Hsunchen in both print and Glorantha, a Questions & Answers section, and the author’s notes, and more. 

Is it worth your time?
YesThe Children of Hykim is superbly researched and richly detailed examination of the Hsunchen and their world and world view, which although very much falling under the category of ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’, really feels as that should not be case, that it should be an official release. It may not be the official guide to the Hsunchen, but The Children of Hykim feels like the definitive guide until there is one. 
NoThe Children of Hykim is too a broad subject matter to readily incorporate into a campaign and set too far from civilisation for some Game Masters. Plus there is the matter of that pun. Unforgivable.
MaybeThe Children of Hykim is an excellent sourcebook on the Hsunchen and their world which could be worth exploring or using to include a character from an entirely different culture for the player who wants a challenge. At the very least, it is an engaging read to learn about a marginalised and almost forgotten people in Glorantha.

No comments:

Post a Comment