Skyrealms of Jorune Review

by Caji Gends

150 Years from Now

Mankind made it to the stars, and a small exploratory scientists team departs for a newly discovered extra-solar planet, Jorune. Contact with shanthas - the native sentient denizens - is established, and other races soon met too. Land-occupying treaties are negotiated, and Earthers settle; other colony ships soon follow. Meanwhile, war erupts on Earth, leaving it a dead radioactive waste.

Now the last remnants of Mankind left, the lost colonists of Jorune then claim this distant new home now as their own. Feeling unconstrained anymore, they trespass on forbidden shanthic lands. Yet another war ensues, that leaves both sides almost totally decimated.

Three Dozen Centuries from Now

The surviving races somehow eventually made it through a long Dark Ages night, and, with regards to the descendants of humans, having since evolved and attuned themselves to an alien ecosphere, developing original societies and cultures of their own from a blank slate.

And yes, that's your time on Jorune...

The Game

The boxed set includes four booklets for both players and the game master, along character sheets and combat summary cards:

The Player Manual details character creation, rules for skills, combat, techniques for wielding Jorune's ambient energy - the Isho - as Flinger orbs or Lightning Blast bolts (or else), and more background material... everything to flesh-out a complete Jorune character and actually role-play it.

Intended as an immersive reference for newcomers to the world their characters explore and live in, the Tauther Guide comes as a cultural handbook and survival guide for player characters, covering practical aspects of life as an aspiring citizen of the main human realm of Burdoth, along the cultures, history and languages of other sentient races, as well as the varied dietary habits of more purely bestial ones.

The Sholari Guide itself includes everything from full creature statistics to weather generation, and all else the Jorune game master (called a Sholari) needs to know to send players on outbound adventures beyond the mundane of daily routine life.

Finally, the Sky Realms Campaign rounds the set, providing the Sholari with a complete adventure beckoning player characters to set sail towards an unknown skyrealm lately discovered freely drifting above the planet.

The System

Characteristics are rolled with 3D6, skill levels make for variable degrees of success... or failure, and - in contrast with the kill-for-experience-points systems all too common in other RPGs - character improvement in a skill relies upon the actual use of it.

Tactical options enable the effective role-playing of combat sequences throughout, whereas the weaving of Isho into dyshas allows for indulging oneself in callous and colorful displays of innate power... or the ability to interfere with such, depending on your character's race flavor.


Once their characters created and equipped, players soon find themselves learning to make sure their PCs eat their durlig daily, that a tarro screech really can pierce one's ears, wondering how they can possibly lose again and again at that mayoo game to such a friendly thivin, or that only the truest jampers lovers find the trouble of picking up on a corondon for one worth it enough...

Well yeah, when playing Jorune, the mind sure boggles the first times around. And indeed, the possibilities for adventure abound:

Player characters more of the outdoors type will naturally feel like trekking to far realms, experiencing interaction with the other sentient races to be found there firsthand, be it thriddle in Tan-Iricid, woffen in Anasan and Lundere, bronth in neighboring Dobre, or even dare rub shoulders with ramian from Voligire, notwithstanding their sad record of having plagued both humans and bronth time and again in their relentless search of shirm-eh, or yet worse: cleash from the Ice Fields of Gilthaw, unwittingly finding clues about how their presence in the East Trinnu Jungle Lands past Burdoth's southern border is such a concern to the realm.

Or perhaps they'll feel more at home in a more cosmopolite urban setting such as Burdoth's capital city of Ardoth, the largest human settlement on Jorune, and will attend or even get involved in next year's celebrations of the jubilee anniversary of the ascendancy to the throne of Khodre Dhardrenn, the present Dharsage ruler? For example like guards or attendants to the suite of his sister Saress visiting from more distant Khodre for the occasion?

On a more daily basis, characters also get to cope with how to deal with one's mount, be it a thombo, talmaron of bochigon, or how to care for (or be wary of) one's pibber or tarro pet.

And although flexing one's muscles or honing one's combat skills sure isn't the main point when gaming Jorune, incidentally having to fight for one's life against ravenous beasts in the wilds definitely stands a chance of happening. Toothed and clawed nasties don't lack around, be they scraggers, neck-swinging mandares, dharmees, fargs, creshi, etc.

Jorune is a fully developed world of its own, with opportunities aplenty for exploration and discovery, and plain fun too.

So, will you rather take on playing the role of an Iscin, a country toth, or a githerin? Will your muadra character rather be dedicated in becoming a proud copra in the grand tradition of Caji Gends, getting to discuss the Isho Wind or seek crystals and Tra-maps, or will you rather be some disgruntled Drenn setting away for parts unknown, his trusty Earth-tec energy weapon pulsar at his side?... It's up to your inclinations.

Leaving Your World Further Behind...

The base game was further extended with several essays on miscellaneous Jorune tidbits, a rules supplement, Companion sourcebooks detailing Burdoth and its sister realm of Khodre, Ardoth, Earth-tec, as well as with a regular segment column in the pages of the White Wolf RPG magazine, courtesy of the SkyRealms Publishing design team. All add to the scope and depth of the game setting, along providing a few adventures for actual play itself too.

A novel edition of the game was released some years later, introducing many changes to various parts of the game system, while at the same time expanding descriptions of sentient races found on Jorune in greater detail, as well as including some new, original material on top of excerpts from earlier supplements to the new brew. Now, though said latest opus of the game ultimately proves quite better suited for picking advanced gaming options to include in one's game as so desired than as a neophyte entry point to the game, it's by all means a definitive must-have for all Jorune fans around.

Following on the publication of the traditional dice-rolling RPG editions, the SkyRealms team behind Jorune also released a computer video game by the name of Alien Logic set in this same world, where interactive text-based dialogues alternate with arcade-style dyshas shooting of yore, and which incidentally was inducted to the ethereal pinnacles of electronic fame by E3 Magazine as Computer Role-Playing Game of the Year in 1994.

Ahem, more seriously... although Alien Logic can't possibly compare with modern games, even only its exploratory mode is a treat for any player eager to enjoy unending hours of wild roaming across the planet's surface.

The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty

Set on an alien world featuring a consistently layered background of intriguing, complex, and richly evolved creatures, cultures, and environments, the Skyrealms of Jorune™ RPG presented an innovative approach to traditional role-playing in the mid-eighties compared to other games in the genre.

As you might eventually decide to find out for yourselves, Jorune rather astoundingly stands out as a role-playing game by the sheer intricacy of its original world setting much unlike any other. On the downside, some of its game system mechanics are somewhat rather diversely consistent or playable. Though, its top notch artwork is definitely a real feast for the eyes. Were it only for Miles Teves art, just make sure to treat yourself to flicking through a copy of the game...

So, if you fancy exotic settings and are more slanting towards thorough in-character role playing than into straightforward hack-and-slash dungeon crawling (not that it hasn't its good side too, mind you), I'd suggest you give this old classic a try. Well, there's not much wondering left anyway your picking up this issue of RPG Review and getting to read through such dubious prose that far, you must somewhat be intent on extending your stay on Jorune a while... You're welcome.

Bereve Dhib,

from Ardoth, Eris 3514

PS: Oh! By the way, Jorune turns 30 this summer. Enjoy it as you would a great wine... with all due moderation, of course.