Friday, November 19, 2021

RuneQuest: Disordered thoughts on Disorder.


Previously I talked about how Runes play a significant part in all aspects of Runequest: Roleplaying In Glorantha and how I want to explore the various runes so that I can use them in my own games as building blocks for storytelling. But I feel I should get to a good understanding of each rune so that each rune can be used as a building block for storytelling to its fullest possibilities. So to start things off with this series of explorations, I decided to start with the Disorder Rune. 
You can find the first post in this series here.

I feel that a lot of gamemasters and players see the Disorder Rune as just a source and cause for Misfortune. But I think it has a lot more to offer us other than being the source of ill luck and I want to try to explore that fully here. But let us start off by seeing how Glorantha and Greg Stafford defined Disorder; this will give us a clean base to start from.

Looking at both the Glorantha Sourcebook and the Core Runequest: Role Playing in Glorantha book we come away with a few facts:

  • Disorder was born from chaos and the empty void. 
  • Disorder is said to be the firstborn of the powers and the foundation of the universe
  • The power of Disorder was used to drive off chaos and hold it at bay.
  • Darkness was born from Disorder as it was used to hold chaos at bay. It was the defense that Disorder created Darkness as a defense from Chaos and the void.
  • Disorder is the polar opposite of Harmony. 
  • Disorder is a Symbol of Individualism, of Me and I.
  • Disorder is the symbol of selfish, impulsive, and contrary deeds, thoughts, and words. It is the source of greed and thoughtlessness.
  • Ratslaf was the God of Disorder and Confusion - the personification of Disorder. Called the Dupe of Disorder.
  • Boggles are creatures born from disorder. 
A few things that Disorder is not following the definition of other runes.
  • Disorder is not change or transformation. Possibly only a catalyst for change but change is governed by Movement.
  • Disorder is not War or Conflict. These were the domains of Kargan Tor, who in the God Times was the personification of death. He was the great divider. War is the death of connections. It divides one group from another. One place from another place.
  • Disorder is the lack of Order, of Harmony, but it's not Chaos.

We can also look at its opposite/opposing rune for guidance as well. Harmony suggests Order, Law, Unity, understanding, and balance and so this would lead one to assume that Disorder would be the opposite. Disarray, disorganized, lawless, confusion, instability, and imbalance.

How we can perceive Disorder and use it for our stories.

Disorder is that which makes us Individuals, makes us want to be different from each other. It can be seen as the rebellious spirit that wants to push back and say No when everyone else wants us to follow along and say Yes. These attitudes push back at the harmonious ones that exist in communities, taking the coercion that exists and causing cracks to form. But much like cracks in a bowl can ruin a bowl, these cracks can add beauty and freedom to a community if allowed to exist much like how Gold can be used to fuse the cracks in a bowl together; like you see in Kintsugi. The gold cracks ruin the once perfect unity of the bowl's surface but now add depth and beauty that wasn't there before. Making the bowl unique. 

The individualism that Disorder provides is the source for the Me first; it's egotistical and selfish. When in the place of authority, of leadership, it is pleased as long as it comes first. But when not in a position of power then it is the thorn in the side of those who are.  As much as individuals in a community can be leaders, helpers, and heroes, they can be greedy, gluttonous, have addictions, disloyalty, envious, slothful, etc. Each adds character and personality to the community. And individuals can be both a hero and disloyal. A leader and lazy. They can be harmonious in one aspect of communal life and full of disorder in another aspect. By adding depth to how the Disorder Rune is interrupted, you get a vast array of possibilities that can lead to amazing role-playing moments, and make for great adventure seeds.

Disorder is one of the great motivators for drama within a community and relationships. A misunderstanding between lovers can cause a whirlwind of drama that spirals out of control, even going as far as starting a feud that lasts generations. A member of the community's well-kept secret could lead to dangerous results for everyone. Kin that refuses to help kin or clan can cause lasting harm to trust and bonds. Though Disorder within the community doesn't always have to end badly. What if a member of the communities differences from their neighbors leads them to discover a raid before it happens, saving lives. Or leads a clansman to defy their elder's orders and seek out the help of outsiders, the clan chieftain, etc. There is as much good to be found in Disorder as there is bad - it just all comes down to how you use it and it doesn't have to be only reflected in people. It can appear anywhere, even in nature.

Discord in nature appears when the natural environment acts contrary to what is normal. This could be as simple as two creatures that are normally predator and prey becoming unlikely companions or forming a symbiotic relationship. Disorder can appear in a forest when the complex relationships of the various plants and creatures in the forest are thrown out of balance when one plant or creature dominates the forest. This could be an overabundance of mice, which eat more of the seeds and plants than they normally would, causing damage that wreaks havoc to the whole ecosystem. Disorder can appear when there is an overabundance of snow in the winter which causes flooding in the spring. Or the lack of rain in the winter and spring which leads to a drought in the summer. Or it could cause a dry winter but a wet summer. Disorder in nature likes to keep us on our toes with its contrarian attitude. 

Disorder Adventure Seeds

Below I've written down a few free Adventure seeds that each have Disorder as part of their theme. 

  1. While visiting family in another village, the heroes find their family and other locals acting oddly. Their family members seem to have a difficult time recognizing them and will often forget who they are. While in conversation they will easily lose track of what they are talking about or begin talking about something else that has nothing to do with the original subject. Everyone in the local community is having similar issues and has completely lost any way to get themselves organized or work together. 
    Why is this happening: around the community, hanging from trees are small Wooden Disorder Fetishes, until these are removed and destroyed the community will continue to be affected by Disorder and those who stay too long in the village will join the community n their confusion.
  2. A Farmer has unearthed an ancient urn while digging a new irrigation ditch. The farmer took this home to show his family with plans to travel in the coming weeks, when time allowed, to seek a Priest's advice about the urn - possibly even donating it to the temple and gain some recognition with the cult. However, the family members were often picking the urn up and examining it over the following week. One family member, a small child, who was more curious than the others was examining the urn when the child lost hold of the urn and the urn broke. No one saw the dark thing that was inside the urn escape but not odd things are happening on the homestead. Broken gates, ruined walls, confused livestock, missing food, etc. A Boggle, unknown to anyone, has been set loose, causing havoc in the area.
  3.  The Heroes are at the wedding of a family member when a jilted lover disrupts the ceremony to challenge the bride to a weaving contest to determine who is the most suitable spouse to the groom. The once normal wedding ceremonies are now a heated contest that leaves the groom a prize to be won - no matter what he has to say in the matter.  
  4. Adurisa the Bitter lives on the edge of the village and never rises until well past noon. She waits too late in the day when others are thinking about calling it a day to set out to inspect her crops. Near her home is a small cave where she grows many night crops, such as white asparagus and different kinds of edible mushrooms. Because of the odd hours that she works, she is distrusted by many in the village, a few villagers suggest that she is hiding something in her cave, something that could endanger the village. 

Final Words

I found this topic a lot of fun to ponder over for the last few weeks. I'm looking forward to the next Rune I cover, which might be the Movement Rune but we'll see. During the development of this blog post tried to come up with an encounter for my players that focuses on Disorder and ended up with designing a minor god based on the story, Downboy - which is found in the Stafford Library, the book of Heortling mythology. I'll do a full write-up of this minor god of Disorder and movement that was birthed as a result of Orlanth and Eurmal's actions.


  1. Great post and thanks for the seeds!

  2. "...the next Rune I cover, which might be the Movement Rune but..."

    That might change? :) Good musings.