You are on page 1of 4

14 April 2010

Today’s Tabbloid

ROGUE FEED by the fact that none exists just to fill in a spot in a “logical” view of the
cosmos, apportioned according to some pre-established schema like
Retrospective: Cults of Prax alignment. Instead, Cults of Prax presents what might be called a
APR 14, 2010 12:01A.M. “naturalistic” view of the divine, one that feels more like actual myth,
complete with inconsistencies, contradictions, and a disregard for the
notion of straight answers. Each cult exists to answer a need within the
game setting rather than within the game rules, thereby enabling each
entry to give us an invaluable window into Glorantha without having to
resort to exhaustive pedantry.

I’m generally down on books like this, which I find tend to forget that
they’re game products rather than sociological dissertations. Cults of
Prax never makes that mistake and yet somehow manages to present
religions that feel like more than mere excuses to give characters
powerful new spells and magic items. I hate to keep using the word
“believable” to describe a book that includes information on the Goddess
of the Trolls but it really is apt. Cults of Prax is nothing like Gods,
Demigods & Heroes (or its successor, Deities & Demigods), for example,
which managed to reduce real world religious/mythological figures to
mere game constructs; Cults of Prax does the opposite, elevating game
constructs to something approaching credible, if clearly fantastical, belief
Allow me to indulge in my characteristic hypocrisy and say that, despite systems. It’s a true classic of the early days of the hobby and a reminder
its wealth of setting-specific detail, I love Cults of Prax, the first to me that I really was an idiot not to have immersed myself more fully in
supplement to RuneQuest, written by Steve Perrin and Greg Stafford and RuneQuest back in the day.
published in 1979. This 112-page book details 15 cults and the deities to
which they are dedicated, “helpful in clothing a Glorantha-based It’s a mistake I’m doing my best to rectify now.
campaign,” according to the introduction. It is quite rightly considered
one of the best treatments of religion in a fantasy RPG ever written and
it’s certainly one of the most inspirational. Every time I read it, I
desperately want to start up a campaign in Glorantha, as Cults of Prax ROGUE FEED
ably demonstrates one of the setting’s great strengths — its varied and
believable belief systems. Speak to Me of MRQ
APR 13, 2010 11:13P.M.
Each of the book’s 15 cults is described in some detail, providing
information on its history, organization, membership requirements, I am extremely unlikely to purchase any of Mongoose’s RuneQuest
associated cults, and its unique spells and magic. What’s really products these days, owing to their expense and the fact that I won’t have
remarkable is how each entry manages to be so evocative and useful the chance to play them anytime soon. Nevertheless, I keep hearing
while at the same time being so comparatively spare in its verbiage. guardedly good reports about the line, in particular the latest version of
Gamers familiar only with contemporary Gloranthan materials might the rulebook.
find it hard to imagine but it was once possible to discuss an entire cult
in fairly straightforward language without much space being wasted on So, please offer up your opinions on the matter. Assuming I actually had
self-indulgent chrome. (Though, to be fair, each entry does include what the funds to buy these books, would it be worth doing so? Do they offer
can only be called early examples of “gaming fiction,” but they’re short anything over the original RQ books that make them of interest,
and often just as useful as the expository text) especially to someone with my idiosyncratic tastes?

The cults themselves are, as I noted, a varied and believable lot, from Thanks.
barbarian deities like Storm Bull to esoteric ones like Humakt to
nonhuman ones like Zorak Zoran. Reading through them, one is struck

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 April 2010

first is that a lot of us have latched on to the very miniatures-heavy

ROGUE FEED nature of the WotC editions of Dungeons & Dragons as a cause rather
than a symptom of what we think is wrong with those games. Since they
More What The ...? promote the use of minis and we don’t like those games, minis have
APR 13, 2010 03:18P.M. become, by extension, emblematic of all we dislike. To my mind, this is
no more logical than disliking polyhedral dice for similar reasons but, for
Unlike the various Conan comics about which I’ve posted recently, I good or for ill, a lot of us have chosen to fixate on minis as the issue, not
know nothing about this October 1972 issue of Woman Woman (issue the design of the games themselves.
202), having only recently learned of its existence. It takes place during
the era in which Wonder Woman no longer has any super-powers and The second factor has to do with when most of us entered the hobby and
apparently fights alongside Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Sure, that the circumstances under which we did so. I was a mere lad of 10 in 1979
makes sense. (Actually, it does: DC published a swords-and-sorcery and was not a wargamer, miniatures or otherwise. Consequently, I had
comic line called Sword of Sorcery, featuring Leiber’s duo, the first issue no prior history using minis as aids to adjudicate combat (or anything
of which was in early 1973. The two-part Wonder Woman storyline else). Certainly I saw lots of minis for sale — I was particularly entranced
featuring them was intended as their introduction to DC readers) by the large glass case of them at What’s Your Game? in Harborplace —
but they mostly seemed like cool props or toys rather than something
integral to play. I suspect this attitude is even more prevalent among
gamers who entered the hobby a few years after I did, with Moldvay or
Mentzer, when phrases like “products of your imagination” became
popular as a marketing ploy. Thus, for gamers of a certain vintage,
miniatures are not just optional, they’re outside their experience.

There are other factors too, such as the time and expense necessary to
buy and paint minis, as well as their relative impracticality if you have to
cart boxes of them to your meeting place week after week. I also think
that many of us in the old school movement have convinced ourselves
that “old school = rules light” and further that miniatures are somehow
contrary to being rules light. Leaving aside the error of equating rules
lightness with old school — a post for another day perhaps — the use or
rejection of minis is to my mind a separate question entirely. Likewise,
I’ve sometimes seen, perhaps echoing TSR’s catchphrase, the claim made
Has anyone out there read these issues and can fill me in on the details? that minis are somehow an impediment to one’s imagination, or at least
They can’t possibly be worse than Conan dressing like a pimp, can they? that they’re a crutch for unimaginative players, although I doubt this is a
widespread view.

I think, in the end, what we must acknowledge, as Rob does in his post,
ROGUE FEED is that miniatures are simply a tool, like referee’s screens or adventure
modules. Their use or rejection has little to no bearing on whether a
Miniatures are Old School game is or is not “old school.” It’s true that Gary Gygax famously didn’t
APR 13, 2010 01:00P.M. use miniatures in his home campaign, as equally famously Dave Arneson
did. I am sure, if you did a survey of first generation gamers, you’d find
Reading Rob Conley’s post today about miniatures and their use no consensus on the topic and that’s fine. None of us should use or reject
reminded me that there’s actually a fairly widespread prejudice against miniatures on the basis of what Gary or Dave did or didn’t do, but I do
the use of miniatures in the online old school community. I find that think it behooves us all to remember that this hobby arose out of
rather odd, because, back in the day, minis were one of things nearly miniatures wargaming and many early gamers profitably used
every article, report, or dramatization of roleplaying games included, miniatures in their campaigns. Far from being contrary to old school
even highlighted. Granted, this emphasis was largely driven by the usual gaming, miniatures are very much a part of it, even if many of us choose
journalistic/cinematic need for “flash,” something visual to attract not to follow suit today for reasons of our own.
attention to its story, but that doesn’t change the fact that the use of
miniatures is deeply ingrained in the early days of the hobby. That only
makes sense, given its roots in miniatures wargaming (as the covers of
every OD&D book remind us in no uncertain terms), so what’s at the root
of this rejection of minis among old school gamers these days?

There are, I think, several factors at work here but two are critical. The

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 April 2010

ROGUE FEED Rexfelis, whose name I almost stole for the King of the Cats before I
thought better of it. While I’m not above swiping names and ideas from
The Animal Kings my inspirations, I prefer to do so only when they’re sufficiently obscure
APR 13, 2010 11:32A.M. and, given the prominence of Rexfelis in Gary’s later fiction, I didn’t
think he qualified as obscure.

In meeting the King of the Cats, the characters learned that there were
other Animal Kings — or rather, it was strongly implied by reference to
an ongoing war with the Rat King in Adamas and a snide comment about
most humans being “stupidly in the thrall of the King of the Dogs.”
Through further play, I’ve fleshed out the cosmology of the setting a bit
more and the players have begun to learn some details of how magic
works and its relationship to gods and other supernatural entities.
There’s still a lot they don’t know and probably never will (and not just
because I haven’t worked it all out yet). But one thing I am certain of:
there are many Animal Kings and, like all “gods,” they have clerics
devoted to them and their clerics can cast spells.

Here are some rough guidelines for handling clerics of the Animal Kings:

The Animal Kings have very few clerics. Anytime an animal is

As some of you may recall, I introduced a character into my encountered, there is a 1% chance that it is actually a cleric of an
Dwimmermount campaign called the King of the Cats. I created the King appropriate Animal King. The spells available to these clerics are listed
as an improvisation through play, after the characters encountered a cat below. Animal clerics cannot read scrolls and generally cannot use other
(later dubbed Dusty) deep in the depths of the megadungeon and clerical magic items unless it is feasible for them to be able to do so based
Brother Candor got the idea of using his speak with animals spell in on their physiology. Animal clerics gain 1 additional hit point per full hit
order to pump him for information about the ancient Thulian mountain die for each clerical level they possess. Thus, a 3rd-level cat cleric (which
citadel. normally has 1d2 hit points) gains +3 hit points to its total, whereas a
wolf cleric (2+2 hit dice) of the same level would gain +6 hit points to its
In general, I don’t like to stall my players, preferring to come up with total.
answers — any answers — to their queries on the spot, even if, in
retrospect, they seems less clever than they might have been if I’d have Spells Usable by Animal Clerics by Level
taken the time to think up “good” ones later. My feeling is that the speed 1-Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Protection from Evil
of a referee’s replies is more vital to the continued success of a campaign 2-Bless, Find Traps, Hold Person, Speak with Humans
than their “rightness,” which is to say, I’d rather offer a mediocre answer 3-Cure Disease, Locate Object, Remove Curse, Speak with Dead
now and expand upon its meaning later than slow down a session by 4-Cure Serious Wounds, Neutralize Poison, Protection from Evil 10’
agonizing over a reply — or, worse still, defer an answer till another Radius, Speak with Plants
session. In my opinion, nothing undermines the “reality” of a setting
than a referee dumbfounded by his players’ unexpected questions. If druids exist in the campaign, referees may substitute spells from that
class’s list for those cited above.
Still, there are times when stalling of a sort might be appropriate and
Brother Candor’s intention to use speak with animals to converse with Level Limits of Common Animal Clerics by Species
Dusty — a very clever plan and one that shows just how useful Ape - Gorilla (3), Chimp (5), Orangutan (7)
supposedly useless spells can be if you’re, you know, imaginative — Badger - 3
seemed like an appropriate time. So, I made mention of the Kings of the Bat - 3
Cats and how all the information his subjects know is really his Bear - Black (5), Brown (3), Cave (4), Polar (4)
“property” and one must make an entreaty to him for permission to learn Boar - 3
it. This gave me some breathing room to figure just what Dusty knew Cat - 8
and, at the same time, it gave me the chance to introduce something Cattle - 4
unexpected of my own to the campaign. Crocodile - 5
Dog - 5
The King of the Cats is my own invention but I drew on a lot of different Elephant - 7
sources, chiefly Moorcock’s notion of the Beast Lords and Lovecraft’s Frog - 3
“The Cats of Ulthar,” along with innumerable mythological tales about Horse - 4
intelligent animals. I also probably remembered Gygax’s Cat Lord, Hyena - 3

Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 April 2010

Jackal - 3
Lion - 6
Rat - 4
Shark - 5
Tiger - 6
Turtle - 7
Weasel - 5
Wolf - 5
Whale - 7

Clerics of the Animal Kings rarely reveal themselves to humans, let alone
use their spells for their benefit. However, if their trust is gained, they
can prove invaluable allies.