[Let's Read] Skyrealms of Jorune, 3rd Edition

Grymbok

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#1
Introduction

I've been fascinated by Jorune for over twenty years. I remember seeing the 2nd edition boxed set in the RPG section of a Virgin Megastore, and being intrigued by the back cover's call to "Leave your world behind". Later a chance encounter at a train station led to a conversation about RPGs with a complete stranger who waxed lyrical about Jorune, leading me to take the chance and picked up the boxed set.

I was instantly drawn in by this alien world. It seemed somehow more "real" than the settings of other RPGs I'd read up to that point. I was, however, intimidated by it. I'd only been gaming a couple of years, and I didn't feel that my GMing skills were up to the task of bringing this world to life in play. Over time that feeling of intimidation receded somewhat, but Jorune still sat unplayed on my shelf. I could never find an "in" to the setting. I was concerned about how to bring players up to speed with what would be common knowledge for PCs, and I also found I had no real idea of what a Jorune adventure should look like. Some impulse seemed to make me think that Jorune stories should be as alien as the world (I think I've finally got over that particular impulse, thankfully).

My affection for the setting never faded, though. I snapped up the 3rd edition and all its supplements as they were published, and later collected all the 2nd edition supplements and even a copy of the 1st edition game via eBay.

And yet... in part because, as noted, I've never run Jorune in any edition, I'm not convinced that I've ever actually read it cover to cover. Hence this "Let's Read" project.

About Jorune

Skyrealms of Jorune is a science-fantasy RPG in the "planetary romance" genre. It was written and self-published by Andrew Leker, Miles Teves, and Amy Leker-Kalish (the third edition was published by Chessex and introduced some additional authors). All editions of Jorune are beautifully illustrated throughout by Miles Teves, who now works in Hollywood as an artist and conceptual designer.

The story goes that the first edition of Jorune was an outgrowth of a long-running campaign of TSR's "Metamorphosis Alpha", and was written in large part by Andrew Leker as a project for his high-school English class. By the time of second edition though the setting was more fully realised (and indeed there are massive differences between the first and second edition versions of the setting).

Jorune is often spoken about in conjunction with Tekumel and Glorantha, as one of three rich settings from the early years of role-playing. In truth though, it has little in common with those settings now (if it ever did). Tekumel and Glorantha have both been supported by their creators continually, and as such both are exhasutively detailed, and are justly famous for it. Jorune, by comparison, has been unsupported for fifteen years or more, and probably has less material describing it than most D&D settings.

What it does share with Tekumel and Glorantha though is the sense of being a fully-realised world. Or at least that's my recollection of it - I'm writing this introduction entirely from memory. I look forward to seeing how well the setting has aged!

Scope of the "Let's Read"

This reading project will cover the third edition corebook. This is both the most complete and the easiest to obtain version of the game (indeed it appears to still be available via Chessex based on their website). I will, however, be making use of the extensive errata to the third edition which was provided in the Sholari Companion. I may also expand the "Let's Read" to cover some elements of the Companion once I'm done with the corebook - I vaguely recall that the timeline contained within that was very useful, for one thing.

Setting wise third edition is essentially the same as second, with the main difference being the the timeline was advance a number of years (from memory I think it was six) in line with the number of years since the publication of second. Mechanically it's a whole new system, which I seem to recall is generally considered to be incomplete are largely unusuable.

I am - very deliberately - not going to be flicking ahead to check facts as I work on this. I'll be presenting my view of the book at each point based on only what I've read up to that point and my own past recollections. As noted I'm doing this in part to see how accurate my memory of Jorune is, so this approach just seems more natural.

As I mentioned above I have every edition of the game - I may at times if I think it's illuminating grab other editions of the corebook and/or supplements to illustrate a point. I'll also - where it's relevant and I can remember it - drop in side facts I've learnt from the Jorune mailing list over the years.

Oh, and I'll be using the convention of italicising "Jorune" when referring to the game, but not when referring to the in-setting planet, in order to differentiate them. Except when I forget to, of course.
 
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Grymbok

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#2
Foreword

Skyrealms of Jorune, third edition, opens with a "Foreword" containing three disparate elements, the first of which is a history of Jorune written in-character by a Joruni by the name of Applonario Vivit. His account of the post-colony history of Jorune jumps around enough that I'm glad he didn't write the rest of the book.

Impressively, in the very first sentence of the first page I've had one of my remembered conceits about Jorune proven to be wrong. For some reason I'd always thought that Jorunis had lost the knowledge that they once came from Earth, but it turns out that this is well known. Accordingly this would probably be a good point for me to do a potted history of Jorune.

As the back of the book says, Jorune history starts "150 years from now", when man succeeds in reaching out and exploring a distant planet. There's no faster-than-light in Jorune I believe (I expect this will be clarified when we get in to the detailed setting info in the referee's section), just near-light, so we can assume that Jorune is around a nearby star and we're talking a journey of several years to get there.

Anyway - a human colony is established on Jorune, but in such a manner that it's dependent on support from Earth to flourish. When war breaks out on Earth and supplies stop coming the Jorune colonists panic and make a massive land grab. This in turn provokes a war with the Shanthas, a powerful race of Jorune natives. The ensuing war has the effect of decimating both humans and Shanthas, with the humans being to all intents and purposes bombed back to the stone age.

(I should probably point out that the in-character version of the history only hits the core beats of "we came from Earth but were abandoned by it due to a war there, and then we got in to a war here with the Shanthas which ended badly").

In the years following the Human-Shanthic wars two key events happened - one was an alignment of Jorune's moons which caused waves of mutation, resulting the development of multiple human sub-species (I dimly recall the alignment may have presaged a period of heightened background radiation on Jorune). The other was the creation by a human bio-scientist of a number of human-animal hybrid races.

Time marches on, and the humans are under constant assault from the Shanthas until they find a location which seems to be safe from them and build a settlement there. Later a man called Paul Gauss finds the remains of Iscin's lab and learns much from them - in particular the secrets of durlig, a bio-engineered plant created to provide many vitamins and minerals essential for the human diet but missing in Joruni flora.

Later still a member one of the human sub-races - the muadra - learns the art of isho weaving from a Shantha. The muadra are uniquely skilled at this and it quickly becomes a common skill amongst them (more on isho later, this entry is overlong already without that).

The other main inflection point to note on this potted history of Jorune is the rediscovery in recent years of hidden caches of Earth technology, which tips the balance of power rapidly back towards the humans.

Given how long it's taken me to recount this history, I think I'll stop here and return to the foreword in my next post.

My Thoughts

Jorune suffers from the common fantasy setting issue of a the long and stagnant timeline. From the creation of the first Jorune colony to the present day of the setting takes 3,500 years, during which time the natives only manage to scrabble their way back to roughly middle ages technology. I've got an abridged timeline here on my laptop which I've sneaked a look at, and while it does a better job than many settings in attempting to justify the stagnation (there's a fair few apparent near-extinction events dropped in there) it still seems to contain long periods of "nothing happens" which could easily have been dropped. Of course, you then lose the distancing and alienating effect of the 3,500 year difference from now.

I think my odd personal memory that Earth had been forgotten in setting was probably related to "extended timeline syndrome" too, with me making the assumption that the long timeline was in part to justify Earth being forgotten. Quite how I'd decided that Earth was unknown in setting is now puzzling me, given that Earth technology is known in-game as "Earth-Tec". Although I do note that the back of the book says "Earth (is) only a shadowy myth", so I at least have some justification.

Another driver of the long timeline of course is the amount of evolution which has happened. If you want to create multiple human offshoots some of which have their own culture and nations, then even mysterious lunar alignments will only get you so far, and you have to allow a big chunk of time for it to all bed in. I suspect I am going to have to include the Sholari Companion timeline as a core part of this project actually in order to take a more detailed look at whether the timeline for the setting hangs together.
 

Kagemusha

Takeda Shingen's monkey
Validated User
#3
Good to see some Jorune love on the forum. I have only played a short lived campaign using 2ed. The system, the world and the jargon was too much to take on at once.

Some day, I want to have a BRP conversion to at least make the transition easier.

I'll look forward to further posts.
 

Griffon Games

Game Store Guy
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#4
I was also very much in love with this game back when it still came in a box. I only ever played the game once with one of the designers at Origins in LA (when they did that once). I realized after spending a LOT of time reading the game and thinking about running it that what I really loved was the art. Miles Teves is a god. He apparently recently finished a gig on Terminator Salvation as their concept artist.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0856662/
 

Grymbok

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#5
I was also very much in love with this game back when it still came in a box. I only ever played the game once with one of the designers at Origins in LA (when they did that once). I realized after spending a LOT of time reading the game and thinking about running it that what I really loved was the art. Miles Teves is a god. He apparently recently finished a gig on Terminator Salvation as their concept artist.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0856662/
Yes, the art is absolutely fantastic. I've always loved the pseudo-classical style of it. I haven't commented on it so much yet as the early entries are going over so many concepts anyway, didn't want them to get laden down even further. I'll try to remember to link to some of the online copies of Teve's Jorune art when relevant though.
 

d(sqrt(-1))

Die of Cold
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#6
Good thread - as someone who has only just picked up all the Jorune stuff I can get (all the available 3rd ed - Chessex still have them for sale - plus luckily a vgc 2nd ed boxed set), I'll be interested to see what your conclusions are. Note that 3rd edition does have pretty extensive errata - are you going to include that, or just go with the book as written?

I'll be interested to see your thoughts on Isho use. The little that I've read so far has been a bit unclear.

cheers,

Mark
 

Michael

Rgesitreed Uesr
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#7
I had a copy of 1st ed that I hate to admit I gave away, and I still have a copy of 3rd floating around here on one of my shelves. I tried to run it a couple of times, but it never quite worked out. I'd love to see this world hooked up to a system that would play nicely. Been ages since I've looked at it, but if I recall, the system seemed overly complicated and arcane, but I may be mistaken. I'll keep an eye on this thread and see how things develop.
 

Grymbok

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#8
Note that 3rd edition does have pretty extensive errata - are you going to include that, or just go with the book as written?
Yes, I'll be referencing the errata. However they managed to make it 50 pages without any big errors so it hasn't come up yet :)

I'll be interested to see your thoughts on Isho use. The little that I've read so far has been a bit unclear.
I have strong views on Isho, so I'm looking forward to writing that section. My view is that the system has never quite succeeded in presenting Isho as the setting describes it.
 

d(sqrt(-1))

Die of Cold
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#9
Yes, I'll be referencing the errata. However they managed to make it 50 pages without any big errors so it hasn't come up yet :)
yes, ISTR that the errors come in clumps - the combat section, unsurprisingly has a fair number I think.

I have strong views on Isho, so I'm looking forward to writing that section. My view is that the system has never quite succeeded in presenting Isho as the setting describes it.
Ok, sounds good - Colour was the other thing that needed more explanation I felt.

Mark
 

Grymbok

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#10
Foreword (cont.)

The other two portions of the foreword are also in-character. Given that a foreword is commonly defined as "a short introduction to a book, typically by a person other than the author", I suppose the idea that these are from Jorunis is why they're the foreword. That there's three of them, by different authors, and only of them is signed in the traditional style of a foreword slightly muddies the point however.

The second element of the foreword is a brief article detailing the "privileges and responsibilities of Drennship". A Drenn is a full citizen of the realm of Burdoth. Burdoth is the most powerful human nation in the setting and is the assumed campaign start point. The default campaign for Jorune is for the PCs to be trying to attain Drennship.

Jorune has a reputation for being laden down with impenetrable in-setting language. My gut feel would have been to say that this reputation was about half-deserved. After all, Jorune is set on an alien world full of alien races and energy sources, and so generates quite a lot of words just giving names to all the novel concepts it contains.

However, it does also contain a degree of unnecessary setting words, and this short article is full of them, to such a degree that it even translates a couple of them within itself, despite being written as an in-setting artefact. In nine bullet points we get five setting words - the aforementioned Drenn and then also Tauther and Dharsage (left undefined but from context you can tell that the Dharsage is a ruler and that a tauther is someone with less status than a Drenn), and then also cletch and yordigs, both of which are immediately parenthetically defined (as "taxation" and "laws"). It will be interested to see if the latter two coinings are justified in any way or if they've just been thrown in for extra "alienness".

The final part of the foreword then actually reads like a foreword, although not one to this book. In fact it's the foreword to the "Tauther Guide", which starts on the following page (and which I'll cover in the next post).

This final foreword then is addressed to a prospective Tauther. It explains that a Tauther is one who seeks Drennship, and that as a Tauther you should seek to "benefit the city of Ardoth and the realm of Burdoth. You are expected to travel the realm, seeking the experience and knowledge that will make you a valuable asset as a citizen". It also explains that you will receive a copra, a challisk and a tablet, and that those you "think you Drenn-worthy" will inscribe their copra on your tablet or maybe even directly on your challisk (which is held in the hall of Drenn).

I think that it's possible to infer from all that that a copra is a form of signature, and that the tablet and challisk are both tally sheets, with the challisk being the more formal version. But of course since I already know that it's easier for me to see it all there. Both new words are intended to signify something with a particular ritualistic importance, so the coinings are justified to some degree.

My Thoughts

Drennship, rather transparently, exists to give players a reason to go on adventures. I know that a lot of Jorune fans think that it's a good idea and provides a reason for adventurers to exist in setting, but personally I've always felt it's contrived to a degree that even the Adventurer's Guilds in some D&D setting can't match. I'll try to be open minded about it and hope to spot something during this project I hadn't previously noted, but my gut reaction is to not like it.

Oddly I think that it's also managed to contributed to my author's paralysis when it comes to Jorune adventures. I've always struggled to get excited about a campaign where the default adventure resembles nothing so much as Scouting's "Bob-a-job" week (since that concept may well be unknown outside the UK (or even in it these days) allow me to note that "Bob-a-job" is where Boy Scouts go door-to-door asking people if they have any jobs for a Boy Scout to do, as a kind of proactive volunteering strategy).
 
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