Glorantha by Josef bugman
Specifically the War God planet, Shargash.Original SA post Glorantha
In the beginning was nothing. The world was not, and all around was one. The one was both nothing and everything, all at once.
However eventually a thing defined itself as seperate to everything. This something was called "Darkness". From Darkness came water. From water, earth. From Earth, Sky. Later there came the middle air, but we'll come to that. Then came the eight great runes. Harmony, disorder, conflict, life, stasis, movement, illusion and truth. These things ruled in the endless "just formed" world. They were the building blocks, and they were in partnership and opposition. They (or specifically Truth and Stasis) built a mountain, the biggest mountain that would ever exist. They chose to live their and began to try and understand more of the world that they saw and was building around them.
(Much of this is conjecture, no-one not even Arkat himself managed to breech the Gods War back to the very beginning.)
It was decided that more division was needed, as the concepts were too large to do certain things. Hence the "new" runes were created, and applied to all manner of things. The dragonnewts became the first sentient beings, Earth and Skys Plant children set themselves up on the foot of the mountain. The Darkness folk lived under the world, the human peoples lived in happiness, the stranger creatures began to proliferate. This is a time of building and proliferation in peace and (relative) harmony. As this happened though the old Gods became concerned. They were happy to be used by all who took joy in it, but were worried that they would not be the Gods that were needed for the people. So they decided to stand aside, and to let another rule.
That Other was Yelm. Yelm was a son of the the heavens. He was the perfect ruler, but he did not wish to see the world change at all from it's current state of perfection, and so he demanded that all things in the universe were catalogued. It worked, and all things in the Universe were brought to do obedience and to be "recognised" by Yelm.
This is the world at the beginning/middle portion of the Golden age.
However then Sky lay with Earth and bore a second son. His name was Umath. The middle air. His first act was to tear apart his mother and father and create the middle air between them. He moved throughout the world, changing and refusing to accept the emperors authority. Yelm thought that Umath was hurt, and so sent a healer to him. Umath said he was fine and continued to dance and fornicate across the heavens. Yelm thought he was ignorant and sent a messenger to tell him to come to the centre and be acknowledged by him. The messenger was told that he wasn't going to. Yelm sent a third messenger who demanded that Umath listen to him. Umath said something very simple "Make me".
And so Yelm made him, by hitting him in the face with a planet. Specifically the War God planet, Shargash.
Umath died, but as he exploded he had already made change a part of the Universe again, more was coming undone in the court of Yelm. His Perfect Justice was Unjust, his endless powers were no longer as good as they should have been. The doom of the Gods was already being written.
Or at least that is what the priests tell you. Shaman would tell you that the powerful spirits that made the world fell to arguing over differences, some of them became greater spirits and demanded worship, when they should have been content with understanding. Wizards would tell you that all of this was caused by the splintering of the Prime mover, who created the universe, and that the divisions were caused by simple inventions of that mover (water, fire, magic etc) becoming increasingly unable to listen to their instructions. The mystic would tell you to focus on what these stories would tell you about how the world appears, and to meditate on the runes themselves. For instance, why do all of the runes in the council of pairs look like they could fit inside each other?
And now you are enlightened!
The world of Glorantha is one of Bronze and bravery. It is inspired by any number of ancient societies and cultures, but is built for gaming in. This is just the first part of what is hopefully going to be one of the largest scale tellings of what Glorantha Is in the hope that people can become more interested in this fascinating world.
PostOriginal SA post
We've been getting into some of the background stuff of Glorantha, as well as the more technical details of it, so let's try and roll it back to the smallest levels.
The basic unit in Glorantha is the family. This cane number anywhere from about 10 to 100 people. It is also the major building block for most societies. Most of the more "primitive" peoples tend to live in these sorts of communities solely. The next is the Clan. The clan is usually people who are all "related" back to an ancestor of some description. They may all be "related" and as such it is expected that no-one sleeps with each other, but they are not as close knit as families. Think of it like a large school. You sort of know everyone a little bit, even if you can't remember everyone's name. This is traditionally the basis of the more "settled" peoples of Glorantha, and in most parts of the world these may be the only people you see every day of the year.
The next step up is a Tribe. Tribes are made up of Clans, and are usually for defence, or for easy trading. They can sometimes number up to several thousand people. They are most common in the more "civilized" areas of the world and are traditionally somewhat fractious than the lower levels of orgnisation. In some places the Tribe is replaced with the City. The City is even more fractious, riven with internal disputes and foreignors, but it also usually bands together in times of need to ensure that there is nothing to threaten it. Most places will only go this high if there is an advantage to it.
The final stage is a bit fuzzy. Some would call it a "nation" but it is not like our idea of the nation state. Above tribes there are more likely agglomerations of tribal groups, ones that form both Kingdoms and (if particularly vast) empires. They are absolutely torn by discord most of the time. The big difference from our world is that, often, a nation is simply another step above a tribe, it doesn't neccesarily mean that you all swear alligeince to a particular flag, or that there isn't overlap between other nations. Borders, both physical, artistic and political are far more porous than ours with nations not being around for very great lengths of time in most cases.
From bottom to top:You, Your Family, Your Clan, Your Tribe, Your Kingdom
From top to bottom: How much you give a shit about these things
Of course, this is true in central Glorantha, where most of the people are Orlanthi, or influenced by them. The social units of the East are a little different. Here instead of close knit clans you also have kinship groups that are spread through different areas. They are closer to guilds that you are part of based on who your ancestor was. With the West you are more likely to be lumped into Caste restrictions, with the level's above more accurately described as "you, your family, your village/ Your local City, Your Kingdom". The division is important, because of the lack of kinship ties between village and city there is less of an urge for many people to fight and die for it. There are some advantages to the Western System though, which we can come to later. But in truth the average worker in the West will not care especially who is in charge at the city, or the kingdom but will know (in exquisite detail) the details of all the sheep going missing up on Old Elf Hill!
Now what does this mean? Well it gives you ample opportunity to have very weird stuff going on in your heroes back garden. The average person will probably not go beyond their clan or family grouping on a day to day basis, they contain the basic mythological and social unit of everything. But it also gives you options for larger changes, as the instability inherent in these sorts of things mean that you can usually make a nation if you are powerful enough. Indeed many kingdoms are founded by magically powerful peoples who just decide to band people together at a certain level.
Now, militarily your basic unit is again the family. There are more than likely a few people in your family who can fight reasonably well if they are not looking after the farm or hunting. So they form the traditional "defend the farmstead" sort of warrior. They can fight, they have the tools, but are not especially good at it and their real skills lie elsewhere. The Clan on the other hand can usually rely upon some of it's members to be really good at fighting. And not just fighting but killing. They are expected to have other people do some of the farming for them so that they con focus on martial actions. Because they can do that they are, usually, expected to fight better on the field than their lower down the ladder friends. The advantage of Tribes is that they should be able to form even more. But here is where it can start getting tricky. You see once you reach tribal stage it becomes a bit harder to simply pull people from their jobs and expect them to fight, because they need to keep farming or they will starve. Unless the tribe (or city) can properly recompense them the average soldier will be none too keen to go into battle if it causes him to come home to barren fields. Then with Kingdoms and Empires you encounter the same problem but from the proffesionals as well. They don't want to waste time fighting here for no immediate reward when they could be acquiring more money and land back closer to home. As for the common soldier, he knows that if he goes away from the farm he's going to come back with nothing, so why fight for you in the first place?
So, how do you get around this? Some places make sure to try and cultivate a specific royal army, though this usually requires a very competent hand. Some people simply rely on the kingdoms army through oaths of service, which given we are in a magical world can be enforced by dreadful spirit guardians. Some simply only coalsce out of a genuine immediate need. Most of the time though people stay in their clans, and do not get too involved in the ways of the world. Of course, it is expected that you definetly can and should get involved in everything.
Now instead of talking at length about what magic is in Glorantha, lets talk the basics. Functionally everything is at least slightly magic, the way you till the soil with a plow needs rituals in order for it to work at it's best. The sheep need to be calmed with a song before they can be safely sheered. The flax needs some sort of looking after if it is going to be woven correctly, etc. Functionally that means little more than what people would do nowadays when coming into work, little rituals that set you up for the day. Sometimes they are larger rituals designed to bring better blessings, but for the most part it is kept small scale. With one exception. Every year there are two weeks at the very end in which people need to revive the entire planet. Everyone on Glorantha takes part in some small way in a cosmic rebirth of the planet, to ensure that stuff grows in the ground, Rocks continue to fall downhill and the cosmos does not start shitting out tentacle demons. In clans this is easy, you just get everyone together. In cities it can be a tad harder, as not everyone keeps the same faith, but for the most part people take part in it to try and ensure the world does not collapse.
This renewal is the only time most people will interact to the world before Time. You see, behind the curtain of the physical world is the unchanging "Before World" which contains all of the Gods, all of the stories and all of their permitations all at once. This obviously can't exist inside linear time, and so it doesn't, it lies underneath it. The same actions taken back then repeat now and allow people to strengthen themselves and the world by doing them. The magical nature allows people to renew the world, just as each little actions during the every day helps to knit it together. The problem is that it is not as simple as "put prayer in, get good stuff out". There are tonnes of people praying for wildly different, and even contradictory, things all at once. This lack of input is what helps make Glorantha "Mythic" and not Physics.
PostOriginal SA post
Now to get back into Glorantha for a bit, lets start with some of the None Human creatures of Glorantha. Starting with the ones that are written the most about and then working down.
The Uz are the darkness folk. Before time they lived in what they called "wonderhome" or "hell" by everyone else. It was a paradise, where tehre was always a lot of food and their vast mother Kyger Litor looked after them (trolls respect their mothers. Its because they are scary). However when Orlanth Killed Yelm (or through some other mythological event that sends the sun away) the Trolls suddenly had to deal with a terrifying golden spectre destroying them. Despite their best efforts they lost and were forced to flee to "the hurt place" or middle world. Trolls adapted well to the suddenly darkened middle world and took to beating the ever loving shit out of everyone they came across, making several troll Queendoms across Glorantha.
Then Chaos entered the world, following paths that the trolls had partially opened, but had become truly opened through other means. Now trolls loath chaos. The hatred between Darkness and Chaos is absolute and often to the point of fantaicism. The trolls were the strongest and fought in many battles against chaos, but they had almost lost. However Kyger Litor was able to go to hell whilst her grandson The Only Old One, forged the mortal races together to win the Unity battle. The victory reopened wonder home to the trolls and made them a part of time. The trolls were ridiculously strong during the early first age, several thousand of them survived into time and they were all connected by their queens. They helped humanity (as well as dwarves and Elves) after the dawn and made peace, even as many of them grumbled about not being as full as they should be. This was called the Unity Council, and for 300 years or so after the dawn it worked!
The Battle of Night and Day
Then? Well then people started getting funny ideas about bringing the god time back and it ended about as well as you think it would. The trolls left teh council en masse and assisted the rebelling Orlanthi against the Bright God Nyalsor. Who, at the battle of night and day, cursed the entire troll race. You see the Trolls at the battle had formed into a massive shadowy Kyger Litor and swallowed the appearing light of Nyalsor. Then he tore his way out of her innards. This crippled the Uz. Suddenly the painful births that they went through would not neccesarily lead to the birth of healthy trolls but of mewling, stunted abominations called "trollkin". Since then things haven't gotten that much better for the Uz. Their strength is waning and despite some successes in breeding different forms of trolls they have not been able to stop the Curse of Kin. Now the only old one is dead by the hand of a foreign adventurer and the ancient queendoms are starting to prepare, as best as possible, for the hero wars.
Now to decribe them Trolls are big. The average troll is about 6-7 feet tall, very powerfully muscled and possessed of an unending hunger. They can eat, quite literally, anything. This includes the air that would normally be "breathed" and sometimes darkness that they live in. That is not to say they enjoy the taste, but they can survive on virtually anything. The average Troll (also called a dark troll) is also not particularly bothered about where he lives. In one quote it mentions how "An average troll would not care if he slept under silk sheets or a horse carcass, except that the horse may make a good midnight snack". You also have the Mistress Race trolls. These are very rare and very few have been born inside time. They are all connected to Kyger Litor and are frequently terrifyingly powerful magic users. The troll kin are tiny, annoying mostrosities that are painful to birth and are constantly screaming "eat me" to trolls every time they get lost or tired.