J is for Jorune

If you hang around older roleplayers you hear about three truly great and classic settings: Glorantha of Runequest and Heroquest as well as several board games; Tekumel of Empire of the Petal Throne, miniatures rules and a couple other sets of miniature rules; and Jorune.

I first heard of Skyrealms of Jorune from ads in Dragon Magazine. It was the product of an English class assignment and an early Metamorphosis Alpha campaign. I never had the first edition but apparently it was much more gonzo than the later editions. Given the nature of the world in the second and third, which I do own, more gonzo is saying something.

The world of Jorune was originally a colony planet of humanity. A preserve for humanity had been negotiated with the native race, the Shanthas. When news of a apocalyptic war on Earth reached the colony humans burst out of their preserves in a grab for more space. In response the seemingly primitive Shanthas destroyed the entire colony. Humanity was so scattered that one human geneticist uplifted several Earth animals to preserve the races of earth.

Now, several hundred years later humanity, diverted into several species including one that can use isho the native energy of Jorune, and about a dozen other intelligent species, both from Earth and elsewhere, compete for the planet. Starting characters are Tauther, potential citizens of the major human kingdom. Tauther become citizens by having citizens inscribe Earth metal tablets with their endorsement. This provides a great framework for a very old school picaresque campaign.

The second edition was a boxed set. Initially it had a custom system that was much revised in an insert to a Runequest like system. Isho wielding provides magic while lost Earth Tec from the early colony period provides super science. The result is a unique science-fantasy setting that seems parts Gamma World, Tekumel, and standard D&D. A few supplements were produced. Two covered regions of Jorune. The rarest, Earth Tec Jorune, would be a great addition to science fantasy campaigns such as The Metal Earth or Planet Algol. About this time there was also a DOS game, Alien Logic.

A later, third edition, was from Chessex and was poorly received due to editing errors. This is sad given it was a labor of love from a member of the Jorune community. Sadly, Jorune never seemed to develop the community that Glorantha and Tekumel have. There is an excellent website with lots of additional material and conversations to about every game under the sun but that seems to be about it. The core properties seem to be lost to the dustbin of unsupported games.

One last note to the Jorune. The Skyrealms of the title were free floating islands created when crystaline magma cooled in pockets near the surface. The same energy field that created isho powers also caused the crystal to levitate breaking off a floating island. The second edition boxed set has an adventure set in (and named after) The SkyRealm Kolovisondra. Finding the explanation with diagrams for a skyrealm could be a great addition to many games.

9 thoughts on “J is for Jorune

  1. I loved Jorune. I even ran it twice, and bits of it cling to my Flash Gordon setting. But I had the same problem with it DMing that I had as a player of Talislanta: there's a lot to learn straight off in the first session: alien player goals and social ties and all that good stuff dungeons avoided, as the introductory space where you learned the rules. And the society worked, which meant it mattered. Again, good but a steep learning curve. Now I'd probably start it as a prison breakout game or with PCs being visitors from afar or in some other limited environment where they can make mistakes and learn the ropes. And I'd make it less utopian.

  2. I played, then ran, Skyrealms of Jorune (2nd ed) back in the day, and still carry a torch for it. The setting is rich and varied enough to support a wide range of play styles, from pulpy alien archaeological exploration (my preferred take) to social/political intrigue. The game mechanics are overly complex for my taste these days, and I've been tinkering for years with a simplified version using BRP/Stormbringer as a template.

    There's an active Jorune Yahoo group and I started a Facebook group (“Shambo In The Shenters”) dedicated to this amazing little game that gets under the skin and refuses to go away. Thanks for showing Jorune some love!

  3. @Richard: I never got the chance to run it but even now it haunts my imagination.

    @ClawCarver: You tease, don't make my readers Google your sources. Give us some links 🙂

  4. I agree about the barriers to accessability in Jorune. Not only do you have a rather crunchy system, you also have a very rich world which includes a lot of assumed knowledge.

    My solution, is a modest port to BRP and setting my introductory game in the Jorune colonisation era, right into the destruction of the colonies. The playesrs will then be able to start the game as recent colonists, and learn about Jorune little by little. Stage Two, would be to fast forward 3,500 years.

    Bomoveris (aka Merak Gren)

  5. @bomoveris: via cold sleep, for some mythical Arthurian ancients action? Or spirit possession a la Nephilim? Sounds about gonzo enough.

    Technologically-based magic is a recurring idea in these discussions: MUs are actually activating ancient satellite or cellular systems or whatever that do their bidding when command words are spoken correctly. I've never considered a game before in which you play the engineers of these systems, brought back to life after millenia of ill-informed hacking, to be surprised by what the kids are doing these days with your toys. I can just see Scotty turning to his newly-awakened crew and saying “I don't remember programming in a brain blast.”

    Such a long time since I looked at any of this. “Sholari James'” articles are bringing back memories. But I don't remember Kern Other (a typographic rectitude dysha?). The Let's Read series at RPG.net looks interesting, too.

  6. @richard: Thanks for the pointer to the “Let's Read Jorune 3rd Edition” at RPG.net.

    @ClawCarver: Thanks for the link to the Facebook page.

    @Nutschell: You can make time…finding and joining an existing group can be just 2-3 hours a week. My D&D group plays 7-10 Tuesdays and outside of me as DM there is little prep.

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