Skyrealms of Jorune
|Publisher(s)||SkyRealms Publishing, later Chessex|
|Publication date||1984 (1st edition)
1985 (2nd edition)1992 (3rd edition)
|Genre(s)||Science fiction, Science fantasy|
Jorune is the fictional planet used as a setting for the Skyrealms of Jorune role-playing game. The Skyrealms are the game's main setting - floating "islands" levitated by mysterious crystals in the crust of an alien planet. Following the evolution of the native life forms ("Jorune creatures") and the sentient indigenous Shantas, Jorune was colonized by successive waves of space-faring immigrants, including the insectoid Cleash, the bizarre Thriddle, and the broadly humanoid Ramian; the final colonization was by humans. Following an unexpected and permanent severing of communication with Earth, misunderstandings between the "stranded" human colonists and the Shantas resulted in a devastating war that eventually reduced all societies on the planet to an Iron-Age level.
By the time gameplay begins, more than 3000 years after the human-Shantas wars, the human race has evolved into three subspecies differentiated by size and facility with Isho (the magic-like energy of the setting): regular humans; the small, Isho-adept Muadra; and the large, Isho-resistant Boccord. (Players can also choose to be one of four additional races: the Blount, Crugar, Bronth, and Woffen, all bipedal, genetically engineered descendants of Earth animals — frogs, cougars, bears, and wolves, respectively.)
The role-playing game is based on a science-fantasy background (of the planetary romance subtype) created by Andrew Leker, and is quite different from other role-playing games of the time. However, as reviewer Edwin King noted, it has some features in common with Tekumel, the setting of Empire of the Petal Throne, notably the idea of humans colonizing a distant planet and subsequently losing contact with the rest of humanity (a dimensional rift in Tekumel's case, civil war in Jorune's) leading to the regression of the colonists' society and war against the planet's native inhabitants. The barbaric fantasy world populated by sword-wielding heroes who encounter strange alien beings and technologies is also somewhat comparable to the Barsoom of the John Carter novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and has elements of the intricate fantasy worlds of Jack Vance.
Conflict and interaction between the various alien species on Jorune drives some of the drama of individual adventures, as does the exploration of the planet's surface, which is littered with powerful prehistoric artifacts originating variously with the initial human settlement (typically blaster weapons and other "advanced technology") or Shantas instruments designed to manipulate Isho.
Some game terms were derived from the language of Jorune, such as the use of "Sholari" ("teacher") for the gamemaster or "Isho" for the system of magic.
At the start of the campaign, all player characters begin with the life goal of becoming Drenn (citizens). Needing the support and sponsorship of other Drenn to realize this goal, the player characters must accomplish tasks that will prove them worthy of becoming Drenn.
In 1984, writer Andrew Leker and artist Miles Teves founded SkyRealms Publishing in order to turn a high school English assignment into the first edition of Skyrealms of Jorune, a 176-page perfect bound book. Later the same year, after Andrew's sister Amy Leker Kalish joined the production team, Skyrealms produced the 46-page adventure Maustin Caji.
The following year, SkyRealms published a second edition boxed set that included:
- 64-page Player Manual: information for the players about character generation and playing the game
- 72-page Sholari Book: information only for the gamemaster
- 32-page Tauther Guide: information about Jorune for both the players and the gamemaster
- 16-page The Skyrealm Kolovisondra: a beginning campaign setting for the gamemaster
- 2 loose-leaf combat summary sheets
- 1 loose-leaf resource reference sheet
- 5 bifold blank character sheets
From 1985 to 1988, SkyRealms published a number of supplements:
- Companion Jorune: Burdoth, 1986
- Companion Jorune: Ardoth, 1987
- Earth-Tec Jorune, Sourcebook, 1988
Pre-release versions of two additional sourcebooks, Playing the Iscin Races and Shanthas of Jorune were made available at conventions in 1989 and 1990, respectively, but were never published by SkyRealms.
- The Innocents of Gauss, Beginning adventure, 1993, ISBN 1-883240-01-8
- The Sobayid Atlas, Sourcebook, 1994, ISBN 1-883240-03-4
- The Sholari Pack, Sourcebook, Adventure, Screen, 1994, ISBN 1-883240-02-6
- The Gire of Sillipus, Sourcebook, 1994, ISBN 1-883240-04-2
A number of third-party products based on the world of Jorune have been published:
- Alien Logic: A Skyrealms of Jorune Adventure (1994), a DOS-based RPG.
- Sarceen's Knowledge, fanzine from UK by Alex Blair.
- Sholari, fanzine from US by Joseph K. Adams aka Joe Coleman.
- Bokelby's Folly, fanzine from UK by Ray Gilliam.
- Danstead's Traveler, webzine by Danstead Traveler (defunct).
- Journal of the Tansoor Historical Society, fanzine from US by Joseph K. Adams.
- Gomo Guide to Thoneport, fanzine from US by Joseph K. Adams.'
Robert Neville reviewed the second edition of Skyrealms of Jorune for White Dwarf #82, and stated that "All in all, Skyrealms of Jorune is a worthwhile addition to the gaming field. Apart from a distinct need for its GM to have played other rpgs beforehand, and a lack of introductory adventure, it has few faults, and these are outweighed, to my mind, by the depth of detail on the truly fascinating background."
In the March–April 1987 edition of Different Worlds (Issue #45), Edwin King admired the setting of Jorune, calling it "an alien world that is both believable and entertaining without being so much of a personal creation that no one but its designer can play it." However, King criticized the combat system, pointing out the unfairness of some rules, and several internal contradictions. He also pointed out the many typographical errors, saying, "Jorune cries out for better proofreading." On the other hand, King liked the visual aspect of the game, commenting, "the art in Jorune is excellent and goes a long way towards creating the appropriate atmosphere. The illustrations of monsters and intelligent species are particularly well done, and the captions are often intriguing." He concluded by giving the game a rating of 3 out of 4, saying, "I think that more care could have been taken with elements of the rules, but the joy of Jorune is in the conception of its environment, rather than the elegance of its system. I highly recommend Jorune to anyone who wants to step into a really different fantasy world."
In the December 1987 edition of Dragon (Issue 128), Ken Rolston admired the second edition of this game, saying, "Boy is this good, and it's different from most other [fantasy role-playing games]." However, Rolston found the rules imprecise and badly organized, and the combat mechanics "involved and clunky." He also noted the lack of pre-generated characters, and found tips for gamemasters to be inadequate. Rolston did like the magic systems and campaign background, and called the illustrations "superb". He concluded with a strong recommendation, saying "Skyrealms of Jorune is a wonderfully original and inspiring FRPG campaign setting. On that basis alone, it is certainly a worthwhile purchase."
In a 1996 readers' poll conducted by Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time, Skyrealms of Jorune was ranked 30th. Editor Paul Pettengale commented: "Bonkers. Okay, so it is a good game in terms of atmosphere, system structure, presentation and the depth of the background, but it's bonkers."
- Polyhedron #42 ("The Critical Hit: Exposing Jorune")
- White Wolf #3 (1986)
- Casus Belli #33 (June 1986)
- Casus Belli #72 (Nov 1992)
- Australian Realms #9 (Jan/Feb 1993)
- Challenge #74 (1994)
- King, Edwin (March–April 1987). "Game Reviews". Different Worlds. Chaosium (45): 26–27.
- Neville, Robert (October 1986). "Open Box". White Dwarf. No. 82. Games Workshop. p. 4.
- "Skyrealms of Jorune". Acaeum. 2017-01-07. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
- Rolston, Ken (December 1987). "Role-playing reviews". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (128): 22–23.
- Pettengale, Paul (Christmas 1996). "Arcane Presents the Top 50 Roleplaying Games 1996". Arcane. Future Publishing (14): 25–35.