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Skyrealms of Jorune

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1985). SkyRealms Publishing. Designed by Andrew Leker, Miles Teves, Amy Leker.

SkyRealms of Jorune is a work of Science Fantasy, set on the eponymous planet in the distant future, long after it has been colonized by humanity. The tone is reminiscent of the Planetary Romances of Jack Vance, and also of the various fantasy games set on the world of Tékumel created by M A R Barker. Jorune is home to many sentient races, including not only the native Shanthas and various subspecies of humanity, but also Uplifted bears, wolves, tigers, cougars and frogs and a variety of other aliens who colonized the planet in the distant past. Most notable, perhaps, are the highly intellectual but somewhat ineffectual Thriddle. Each of these groups has its own unique culture, evoked through the use of a curious vocabulary of invented terms. The setting's most striking feature, however, is perhaps "Isho", a form of life energy or vril (see First Baron Lytton) which emanates from deposits of a crystalline mineral buried deep within the world. The titular realms are islands that float above the planet's surface due to imbalances in the local Isho energy; the crystals' power can also be used by some species to create effects somewhat resembling those of Psionics, but based on a complex system of colour-coded abilities which is unique to the milieu. In the setting's present, humanity has emerged from a long Dark Age to rediscover the buried remnants of their ancestors' technology and use them to achieve considerable power, without truly understanding the principles involved. This has led to the creation of a highly complex multispecies civilization, dominated by elaborate codes of conduct and a powerful bureaucracy. Interestingly, characters' actions are intended to be strongly influenced by the society in which they live; thus, the use of casual violence in a civilized area is likely to result in rapid arrest and imprisonment.

The first edition of SkyRealms was released in 1985, followed by a second and generally superior version in 1986 and a third, which unfortunately suffered from a range of production problems, in 1992. The rules system is strongly tied to the setting, with characters defined by their skills, species and Isho powers, and many detailed mechanics which model life on Jorune. Unfortunately, these systems can seem overly complex and specific, and their presentation often suffers from uneven editing; the game's strengths lie in its subtle, powerfully imagined setting and the striking illustrations contributed by Teves, who later became a well known conceptual artist in the film industry.

Related works: Alien Logic (1994 Ceridus Software, DOS) designed by Andrew Leker, Jeff Moser, Kevin Stein, Jonathan Stone is a Computer Role Playing Game set on Jorune. The player must rescue their fellow villagers, who have been kidnapped by a mysterious Shantha, following a largely modular plot (see Interactive Narrative). Unusually, both two-dimensional overhead and side views are used, with real time combat occurring in the latter mode. While some aspects of Alien Logic's gameplay may initially prove confusing, it is notable for its detailed and genuinely alien world and often quirkily humorous characters. [NT]

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