Book Review: The Glorantha Sourcebook

I got into Tabletop RPGs back in the mid-late 80s with Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing, in the form of Worlds of Wonder.  In spite of that, and the fact that I had a batch of RuneQuest supplements (though from its time at Avalon Hill, I believe), I’ve never played RuneQuest or used the setting of Glorantha.  Greg Stafford’s Glorantha is among the most highly developed Fantasy settings of all time, up there with Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Barker’s Tekumel.  Like the latter, the coming of the first Tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, opened new possibilities for Glorantha.
A few years back, Chaosium was brought back from the brink by the return of some of its founding creatives, including Stafford.  My favorite RPG, Call of Cthulhu was reborn in its 7th Edition, which seems to have brought it to new heights of popularity (especially in Japan).  But that wasn’t the end of it.  Since then, Chaosium seems to be on a mission to rebirth some of their classics, and that includes the new RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, an absolutely gorgeous new edition of the classic game.

The Glorantha Sourcebook stands as a “bible” of sorts for the setting.  It has no game material, no rules, no statistics.  It’s history, mythology, cosmology, geography, and more.  As that, it’s maybe not the most readable of books.  I think this is best looked at as a resource, something you consult when you have questions or want more information about a god, or a cosmological concept.  Reading it from cover to cover was similar to reading THE Bible or The Silmarilian.  Dense, disjointed, and not a ton of fun.  Maybe it would be different if I was more versed in the setting, but in spite of knowing about Glorantha for nearly 40 years, I’m still a noob.  (Hopefully my newly acquired Starter Kit will help to change things).

All this is to say that this book is probably a must have if you’re into Glorantha and RuneQuest.  If you’re going to be a game master for it, you almost certainly should own this book.  Even if you’re only planning to play the game, it could be a handy thing when you need ideas or when you want to know about the gods your character might be affiliated with.  However, as someone who has tried to use this book as an introduction to the setting, I wouldn’t use this book as an introduction to the setting.  I got a lot of info, but I don’t feel like I have a tremendously better idea of what’s going on in Glorantha than I did before.

I know I’ll be coming back to this book (yes, thank goodness, it has an index) if/when I run/play the game.  I’m glad to have it in my library.  Just, maybe don’t read it from cover to cover.  Read the bits you need when you need them, or pick passages to read when you’re looking for inspiration.

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