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RuneQuest Starter Set Design Diary #5: Welcome to Jonstown, setting for the Starter Set

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 26th Apr 2021

By Jason Durall, RuneQuest creative director

The Starter Set for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is coming! Between now and its release later this year, RuneQuest creative director Jason Durall's Design Diary will share insights about the development of this exciting new boxed set which will introduce the RuneQuest RPG and Greg Stafford's mythic world of Glorantha to all-new audiences.

Diary #1: What to expect in the RQ Starter Set
Diary #2: Cover Art reveal, and what's inside the box
Diary #3: The new adventurers
Diary #4: More about the new adventurers

Next is a pair of guest posts from Jason's colleague and co-developer of the Starter Set Jeff Richard, Chaosium's guru for all things Gloranthan. Today, Jeff introduces the fabled city of Jonstown, setting for the RuneQuest Starter Set

What is Jonstown?

JEFF RICHARD: Your adventures in the RuneQuest Starter Set are centered around the city of Jonstown, a small city in Northern Sartar, famous for its Jonstown Library and Healer Temple, as well as an important place of trade. Jonstown is along the road between Sartar and the Lunar Empire, a place where unusual people may be encountered - in short, a great place to start adventures!

Jonstown is the political, market, religious, and military center of a confederation of several tribes, making it of regional importance. Until just before the start of the game, it had been occupied by the enemy Lunar Empire. It has  just been liberated by the new Prince of Sartar, who placed her right-hand man in charge of the city. So now there's all sorts of intrigue and political rivalry, combined with the ever-present threat of the Lunar Empire returning. This is a place filled with conflict and tension – making it perfect for adventurers.

With about 2500 residents, Jonstown is big enough to hold surprises, but small enough for the Gamemaster to manage it. We have a 30 page guide to Jonstown in the book, which includes an overview of the city, descriptive guide to the various neighborhoods, NPC stats for all the major movers and shakers, a digest of various townsfolk, and even a city encounter guide.

Why Jonstown?

I've always loved City Guides - Midkemia's Carse, Monte Cook's Ptolus, White Wolf's Chicago By Night, Chaosium’s Sanctuary, and of course, Chaosium's own Pavis. In our RPG campaigns we love having a "home base" - a place where our adventurers can buy stuff, regain Rune Points, and do cult activities, but which is also filled with danger and adventure, both within the city walls and without. Now Jonstown has been part of Glorantha since the days of White Bear & Red Moon - that's even before RuneQuest was created. So early on we decided rather than base the Starter Set on Apple Lane (which already has a complete writeup in the RQ Gamemaster's Pack), we'd center the Starter Set on Jonstown.

Now Jonstown also gives us a great location to begin exploring the setting. It is a place of tension between the Orlanthi and the Lunars. It is on the royal road between the Lunar Empire and Sartar, so you get regular merchant caravans and travelers - so you can put whoever or whatever you want as a visitor. And it is quite close to the Colymar tribe (Apple Lane is only about 30 kilometers away), so you can easily move on from the Starter Set to the adventurers in the GM Pack if you so desire, and from there it is easy to jump into adventurers from The Smoking Ruin or the Pegasus Plateau.

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Next Designer Diary: Jeff shares Unique Things About Jonstown, and a sneak peak at the Jonstown City map!