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Review: The Coming Storm (the Red Cow Volume 1) by Ian Cooper and Jeff Richard

Andrew Jones
Cardiff/ Caerdydd
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The Eleven LightsCover art by Jon Hodgson; Interior art mainly by Rachel Khan, with additional art by Simon Bray and Stefano Gaudiano. Maps by Colin Driver.

148 page hardback US34.95 or local equivalent

(Available from https://www.chaosium.com/the-coming-storm/ )

Getting to straight to the point

The Coming Storm is best sandbox depiction of Sartarite clan life published to date, designed for Heroquest and can be adapted with ease (and some work) to Runequest. Highly recommended.

Book 2- the Eleven Lights is a multi year campaign designed for use with The Coming Storm and will be the subject of a forthcoming review

So which system?

The Coming Storm is designed for use with Heroquest Glorantha (or Heroquest 2) and is recommended for use with Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes and Sartar Companion. However you could run the campaign with just the Heroquest Glorantha corebook. In fact, I would recommend just that for folks new to Heroquest or short of time and/or money. The other Sartar books add background information and a wider range of cults to the setting. (As well as an amazing campaign, additional scenarios and road encounters).

Currently Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes and Sartar Companion are PDF only and will likely be revised before reissue as a physical product- note there is no timeline for this at this moment.

The actual campaign is currently in PDF only- The Eleven Lights (available from https://www.chaosium.com/the-eleven-lights-pdf/ )- but will published in hard copy in January 2018.

For those people looking for a less narrative game system, the original Gloranthan RPG Runequest will be published by Chaosium in a new edition in 2018, and the setting can be used with Runequest: roleplaying in Glorantha with some additional preparation for NPC stats and some changes to the default RQG character generation system. It would not surprise me that members of “Gloranthan Tribe” will produce support material for Runequest GMs to run the campaign.

The obligatory question- what year is it set in?

The book is set in the period 1618- 1625, the Lunar occupation of Sartar. (For comparison the upcoming Runequest Glorantha and 13th Age Glorantha have a starting point of 1627 when the Lunar Empire is on the run and chaos is on the rise).

What does the book bring to your gaming table?

The book outlines Orlanthi clan life focussing on the Red Cow Clan- part of the Cinsina Tribe- and their rivals and enemies. It gives an excellent overview of a bronze age analogue society with access to magic. It gives details of day to day life, your clan values and beliefs, how marriage works (and also how non binary characters fit in society), your clan allies and enemies. Details of day to day life include what your home would look like; the numbers of your clan, the numbers of other clans, the numbers in the different cults of the Orlanthi pantheon and some detail on the surronding area

As the period covers, both Lunar successes in extending and deepening their occupation and the Sartarite fightback, it also covers five main factions in clans on their attitude to the occuping forces and the quarrelling resistance. The factions are particularly interesting, giving depth to those factions “collaborating” with the Lunars to those who believe in more open rebellion.

Personal ambitions, desire to protect the clan and its interests, the royal family, religious belief and attitudes to the Telmori (the wolfbrothers) all play a part in factional interests. In a society where debts and honour are taken highly seriously, choices made in the first year or two of the campaign can have real implications in the years following.

All the listed NPCs are provided with portraits by Rachel Khan. The artwork is excellent, portraying distinctive dress styles and also additional glimpses into personality through the body language. NPCs include clan ring members, the royal court, Lunar occupiers and the Telmori.

The Telmori give a good example of the complexity of the setting- they are the werewolves of the setting and your clain’s enemies. They are also allies of the Sartarite royal family through sacred oath. They cause damage and kill, but dealing with the Telmori too harshly brings you into conflict not just with the wider Temori but with the royal court. The Coming Storm continues the Gloranthan tradition established back in the early 1980s of no easy solutions and that all factions have their own good reasons for their actions.

Finally, I would stress that this book is designed to be used in play. There is much advice for the GM to run a campaign, from different maps of the areas, detailling clan sphears of influences to relationship maps of clan NPCs with the different factions that they are aligned to. Much thought has been given in the layout of the book to access to information and the book ribbon is a lovely touch.
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