Converting Hero Wars Cults

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Created On 7th March 2004
Last Updated On 7th March 2004
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 2004

Now that Hero Wars is producing useful material for roleplaying in Glorantha, we should be looking at how to use that material in RuneQuest. I know that the material is out there for Hero Wars and that we should all be playing Hero Wars as it is a better game for Glorantha, but I know of many people who still prefer to play RuneQuest, in fact I know people who will not even play RQ3 as they prefer RQ2. Since there is still a need for RuneQuest cults, then I think that we should make some effort in putting together guidelines for converting between Hero Wars and RuneQuest.

Since the Hero Wars supplements contain very detailed background material, there is no need to convert that. Also, Hero Wars is not going to be focussed on Campaigns in the same way as RQ was, so there is no need to convert scenarios or NPC stats. HeroQuests can be converted virtually on the fly as they follow a similar format to RQ HeroQuests, so there is no real need to convert them. That leaves only the Cults. As we know, RuneQuest was built around Cults, with Cults of Prax, Cults of Terror and Troll Pack giving us the main cults of some of the regions, so converting Hero Wars cults will provide some useful extra material for any RuneQuest players and GMs.

I would advise anyone wanting to know more about Glorantha to go out and buy the Hero Wars supplements, as they are very good and they provide much background material. However, they are written in the Hero Wars format and do need a lot of work to be really useful for a RuneQuest setting.

In this article, I will try and provide a method of converting Hero Wars cults into RuneQuest cults. As part of this, I will illustrate my ideas with some of the cults from Storm Tribe and Thunder Rebels. I know that other people will have different ideas on how to convert cults and that some of the cults have already been converted, by Nikk Effingham for instance. However, this article should still be useful for GMs who wish to convert cults for themselves or who wish to convert cults from the resources on the Internet or from fanzines.

I will try to concentrate on the similarities between RQ and HW cults as well as the pitfalls that can be met when converting cults. I am not going to look at the extra HW material on those cults, for instance Other World Locations, Sacrifices, Methods of Worship and that horror of horrors - whether the cult is Theistic, Animistic, Sorcerous or Mystic.

Basic Conversion

For a basic conversion, we need to look at the Hero Wars cult and to see how it compares with a RuneQuest cult. The structure of a HW cult is very similar to the structure of a RQ cult, in that it has the bare bones of a RQ writeup, in fact I like to think of the HW writeup as being a sketch format for a proper RQ writeup.

A Typical HW cult normally contains the following:

One thing that is slightly annoying is that the cults and their writeups are in a state of flux, with the format changing from the Hero Wars book to the Storm Tribe book. For instance, we now have Physical and Mental Abilities instead of skills and the feats and affinities of cults written up in both Hero Wars and Thunder Rebels/Storm Tribe are quite different in some cases. This makes things difficult, but nowhere near impossible as we are taking the concepts not the actual writeups as our guide.

For a basic conversion, we can forget about Other Side, Connections and Disadvantages as they concern the Hero Wars rules more than a cult description. We must instead concentrate on those things that are common to HW and RQ.

Entry Requirements can be transferred almost without conversion. For instance - Orlanth Rex "Must be a clan leader or king", Yanafal Tarnils "Open to soldiers, guards or other fighters only", Makabaeus "Must become a Lunar Citizen" or Vinga "Open to women only". Some need slight converting, for instance Jakaleel "Must have a fetch that can be awakened" is pretty meaningless in RQ because almost everyone satisfies this except undead and Mostali.

Physical and Mental Skills/Abilities can be converted as Skills in RuneQuest in many cases. For instance, Move Silently, Speak (Language), (Subject) Lore, Running, Leaping or Climbing. Close Combat and Ranged Combat are the equivalent of Attack and Parry in the particular fighting styles.

Virtues, for those who use them, can be converted exactly, so Humakt has Brave and Honourable as Virtues. I would personally flesh them out a bit, to have three or four virtues per cult, but that's only because I prefer more virtues.

Affinities/Feats can be converted in most cases as Divine Spells. Care must be taken in how they are converted, as the poetic descriptions in HW can correspond to standard spells in RQ. For instance, Humakt has the feats Death Song Berserk (Berserker), Fight Undead (Turn Undead), Lay Ghost (Free Ghost), Empower Oath (Oath), Know Truth (Detect Truth). In my opinion, feats are the trickiest of the Theistic cults to convert and they are probably better converted using the Advanced Conversion.

Spirits are also tricky to convert. There are two ways to do it. One way is to say that all spirits count as "Spirits that can possess people" and make sure that when summoned they can benignly covertly possess the recipient to give an ability, skill or power. For instance, Yu-Kargzant has Stallion Spirits that provide Endurance, Leaping, Speed, Strength and also Fire Spirits that provide Bright Light and Flaming Weapon. These can be converted as spirits that when possessing the host provide the the spells of Endurance, Jumping, Mobility and Strength as well as spirits that provide the spells of Light, Fireblade and Firearrow. The other way is to say that these cults provide Divine Magic and Spirit Magic in the same way as normal cults, so Yu-Kargzant  provides Endurance, Jumping, Mobility, Stength, Ignite and Fireblade. Having said this, I think that Spirits should come under the Advanced Conversion.

Grimoires provide Sorcery spells for sorcerous cults. So, each spell contained in a Grimoire should be converted as a Sorcery Spell that can be learned by the members of the cult. I don't hold with the idea of sorcerers reading from spell books to cast their spells, so I wouldn't use the Grimoires as spell books, but as the equivalent of the Bible they work really well.

Secrets are a purely Hero Wars construct and may only be learned by members of a cult who have a certain level of skill in all the Affinities of a cult. Only one Secret may be learned. In RQ terms, this is balderdash. A Secret can be converted as a Divine Spell, Sorcery Spell or special ability that may be learned by the cultists. I think that limiting the Secret is not worth keeping in RQ.

Worshippers can be converted to RQ pretty much word for word as they describe the types of worshippers belonging to the cult.

Other Side notes are interesting from a mythological point of view, but useless from a normal play point of view, unless you are heavily into HeroQuesting, so they can be included in the mythos and that's as far as it goes.

Connections are useful from a gaming point of view, but once again could be put in the Notes section of the cult. Some connections might signify an Associated Cult but they can be put in afterwards.

Disadvantages once again belong in the Notes section of the cult.

So there you are, a quick and easy way to convert Hero Wars cults into RuneQuest. But hang on, I hear you cry, if this is the Basic Conversion, what about the Advanced Conversion?

Advanced Conversion

The Basic Conversion is all very well if you want to quickly convert a cult without really thinking about it, but it doesn't work in all cases, in fact it doesn't work in most cases. That is why I am including the Advanced Conversion section.

This comes into play when you read the cult, read the Basic Conversion and then ask "But what about this?". Unfortunately, most Hero Wars conversions come under this category, especially when converting Feats.

Common things to think about when using the Advanced Conversion are:

When is a Skill not a Skill?

Some skills are very easy to convert, as stated above. These are the skills that are similar to, or exactly the same as, the equivalent RQ skills. However, there are other skills that are difficult or impossible to find equivalents for. These are the skills that have to be converted in other ways.

For instance, Hedkoranth has the skill Find Enemy Weakness which cries out to me that it should be a Divine Spell, not a skill; Lokarnos has Discern Real Gold which is the Spirit Magic spell "Detect Gold"; Makabaeus has Symbolic Sight which should be Mystic Vision; Niskis the Lover has Go Without Sleep which should be a Divine Spell; The Copper Sands Society has Breathe Dust which should be a Spirit Magic spell.

When is a feat not a Divine Spell?

Many Feats convert to RQ Divine Spells, which is as it should be as they are the equivalents of Divine Spells. However, there are some Feats that are better converted as skills, spirit magic, HeroQuest Magic, Special Abilities or some other thing. These have to be considered on a feat by feat basis, but normally the same feat converts in the same way, no matter which cult possesses the feat.

For instance, Chalana Arroy has the Feat Sleep and Deezola has Cause Sleep, which is the Spirit Magic spell Sleep; Ernalda, and others, have Beautify Self which could be a Spirit Magic spell or even a skill; Etyries has Learn Local Gossip which is a skill; Garzeen Silvertongue has Make Safety Alarm and Hide Booby Trap which would be the skills Make (Safety Alarm) and Hide (Booby Trap); Issaries has Detect Ambush, Identify Thief and Talk With Hands which should be skills; Minlister has Brew Cold Beer, Brew Good Ale, Make Mead, Brew Strong Beer, Distill Liquor and Brew Divine Mead which could all be skills; Overdruva has Food Song which is a Spirit Magic spell; Seven Mothers have Communicate Silently Between Us which is the Mindspeech spell; Engizi, Sky River Titan, has Swim Back From Death which is a HeroQuest that the deceased embarks on if he dies in a certain way; Chernan the Seeker has Sense Danger which is a skill.

Some feats are for cults that have already been written up. These can be handled either by including the new Divine Spells as part of the cult, or by including them as spells or abilities gained through HeroQuesting. For instance, Humakt has Visage of Fear, Sever Relationship and Shame Coward, all of which could be gained on HeroQuests. Babeester Gor has so many new feats that it is virtually a new cult writeup.

Some feats are quite patently wrong and should not be included in a RQ writeup. For instance, Orlanth has the feat Enchant Silver, even though the Storm Metal was Tin and only became Silver in RQ3, so I would use Enchant Tin. Apparently, Tin is now the Rune Metal of Lightning Powers, which is why we had Tin Bands and the like and is also why some Sky Gods can use Tin. Balderdash, in my opinion. Wishy-washy Gloranthan re-engineering to suit the new rules and to suit "philosophers" from the Gloranthan Digest. (Was that a rant? Perhaps it was.)

When is a Spirit not a Spirit?

The rules for animism are quite new and have nothing similar in the RuneQuest rules. As part of my Shaman rules, I have enhanced the idea of Passion spirits and Divine Spirits to include the general term of Spirits That Possess People. These include many different types of spirits, but even so all the spirits in the animist rules do not fall into these categories. If a spirit is integrated in Hero Wars then it gives the owner the ability to use its powers a number of times per day or to have the powers on permanently. Many of the spirits can be considered as bound spirits that allow their spells to be used, maybe as Magic Spirits, and others can be used to possess the summoner to give spells or abilities on demand.

Some spirit abilities are best regarded as being Spirit Magic spells or even Divine Magic spells. It all depends on whether you are comfortable with allowing many different types of spirit to be used by animist cults or whether you prefer to have Spirit and Divine Magic instead. Standard RQ Spirit Cults had a mix of Spirit and Divine Magic, so it is probably best to retain that for a more RQ feel. Perhaps having all the spirits as possessing spirits is too extreme for normal RQ use. In that case, use the abilities as Divine Spells or Spirit Magic Spells.

When is a spell not a spell?

Most spells in Grimoires convert to Sorcery spells of one sort or another. However, some would be better converted as skills. Because of the nature of Sorcery cults, very few spells convert to Divine or Spirit Magic, even though I prefer mixed cults that contain sorcery, divine and spirit magic combined.

For instance, Flintnail the Builder has Cut and Dress Stone which should be part of the Masonry skill; Flintnail the Alchemist has Blend Ingredients which is an Alchemy skill.

When is a sorcerous cult not a sorcerous cult?

When I say it isn't. More accurately, when it wasn't in RQ3. Examples include Flintnail which was a Divine Cult even though Mostal was written up as a sorcery cult. I would put all the Flintnail cults and their derivatives into the Divine Cult category. This means that all the Grimoires can be thrown out of the window and all the spells converted as Divine Magic or Spirit Magic. Some people may disagree and may want to have dwarven sorcerers running around Pavis and that may be fair enough, but it complicates things when they worship the Divine Cult of Flintnail, Pavis or any of the other Pavic cults.


So there we are, a quick method of converting Hero Wars cults to RQ cults. It is by no means complete and I am sure that when I begin to convert HW cults into RQ ones, I will be able to add to these guidelines.