posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Glorantha: Introduction to the Hero Wars

Glorantha posted:

Glorantha conforms to the mysterious and malleable laws of myth rather than the reliable, repeatable las of science.

And so we begin. Remember that quote, it really is at the core of everything about the setting.

The two in the foreground are big names in the setting, so I will assume the other two are as well.

Glorantha is a setting Greg Stafford (who created Pendragon, by the way) came up with to write stories in back in the late 60s. He eventually founded Chaosium to make a board game set in the world, and this eventually led to RuneQuest, which was one of the early rivals to D&D.
There's a lot more history, but I don't know the ins and outs. The setting was kept alive by a dedicated fanbase, and eventually Robin Laws was tapped to make a new system for it, HeroWars. That got refined into HeroQuest (the name Stafford originally wanted). A second edition of HQ came out in 2009, now generic, but still with ties to Glorantha. At some point, RuneQuest was brought back, and the 2nd Age of Glorantha was used as the setting for that. (Classic Glorantha is set in the 3rd Age.)

I discovered it while searching for a flexible, generic system to get back into gaming. I was sick of crunch, and as a storyteller and actor, wanted something that fit that more free-wheeling style. I came across the 6-page summary of the HeroQuest rules which were freely available on the web and liked it. Since it was specifically Glorantha based, I learned about the setting and still do like a lot of the ideas in play there, even if I eventually abandoned the forums and don't play there anymore.

This book was while the system was still Hero Wars, but is system agnostic, since it was pretty much an attempt to put all the new thinking about the setting into one place.

The book is kind of cheap, an 8 3/8 x 5 3/8 softcover that started falling apart soon after I got it. The layout is pretty much just full page text broken up by some art and some maps, and there are bunches of typos. T

It's 256 pages of catching up on 30+ years of a fantasy world, so it is DAMN dense. The book has a certain logical structure, basically going west to east across the main continent, but it doesn't go out of its way to make it easy on the reader.

There's a preface in which Stafford thanks those who supported him and helped him bring Glorantha back in game form, which is classy.

The quote I put up top is the very first sentence of the introduction, and I'm not kidding when I say it is the defining theme of the setting.

Right after the preface, we have a map of the world. I don't have a scanner so I grabbed one off the web.

The one in the book is better, but not by much. At least it names the oceans.

Next time: Chapter One: Introduction, in which we quickly cover the World, the People, the Magic, and the Gods. We also start seeing why the first game was called RuneQuest .

Chapter 1: Introduction

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Glorantha: Introduction to the Hero Wars

Chapter One: Introduction

Glorantha posted:

Glorantha has an uncounted number of gods and goddesses, much to the bewilderment of Gloranthans as well as the reader new to Glorantha.
Good to see them admit that in the first chapter.

Chapter One lays out the basics of the world.

Glorantha isn't a globe, it's a cube. A cube floating on an infinite sea, with one surface bobbing above the water. (No, it doesn't roll over.)

Like the book said, the world doesn't follow scientific law, it follows mythic law.
Deal with it.

In the center of the world is a giant whirlpool sucking all the water to itself. (That's why rivers run to the sea. Unless they are evil or rebellious, and then they run the opposite way.)

The sky is a dome with the sun, moon, and stars. Beyond the dome live the sky gods.

Under the world is where the darkness gods live.

Other gods live around the edges of the dome and endless sea.

The middle is the Inner world, and that's where all the mortals are, and where the action is. Mortals live within about a 5000 miles from the whirlpool in the center. So it is a bit smaller than Earth, I guess.

There are two continents, as you might remember from the map. Genertela is the northern one, about the size of the continental US and the location of the main settings, including Dragon Pass. I think some of you are familiar with that one.

Glorantha posted:

Dragon Pass is where the first great events of the Hero Wars will erupt.

(No, they haven't told us what the Hero Wars are yet.)

The southern contient is called Pamaltela and is about the same size. It's more tropical and basically fantasy Africa, although Glorantha is way better about not just making cultures easy knock-offs of known lands in the real world.

The Eastern Continent is Vithela, and is a series of islands now, because it was "shattered by other gods' wars many thousands of years ago". In the west are scattered remains of Danmalastan, a continent "destroyed by sorcerous wars at the end of the Ice Age".

So yeah, this world has seen some serious magic in the past.

Next we get a section on the people.

Humans are most populous and they have many cultures. While the setting goes with the old classic trope that humans are more diverse in culture than the Elder Races, the book points out that this is unusual among the races and the greater cultural unity of the Elder Races may be why those races still exist at all.

Who are the Elder Races, you ask? The next paragraph tells us they are

Glorantha posted:

the populous races that are found in many places across the world."

Well, that's helpful.

The list sounds like the classics we all know, but we'll find out later they aren't nearly as familiar as you might think.

There are dwarves (Mostali), elves (Aldryami), trolls (Uz) <-- badass, by the way -- the dragonnewts, and the merfolk (Triolini, and there are 5 types).

They ran the planet before humans came on the scene, but they "fought against each other and then suffered huge losses in the Darkness". (No, we don't know what The Darkness is yet.) "After history, they fought each other more."

Humans eventually overran things, and the elder races are mostly cut off from one another.

There are lots of minor races, some of which get name checked. The Ducks (Durulz) are kind of famous and for some time I gather RuneQuest was known as the game where you had Howard the Duck as a race. They are actually tragic and kind of awesome by this version, but we'll get to them later. We'll see some of the others as well, when we hit the locales where they live.

A section of Magic tells us that ALL people in Glorantha practice magic in some form. That's part of the setting. Even if it is just small local spells and cantrips and prayers, everyone has magic. The game is fundamentally *about* caster superiority, but *caster* has lots of different meanings, and even your great fighters are casters in some way. There are four basic types of magic, and here we see our first four runes.

There are runes for EVERYTHING, by the way. Eventually the book discusses this, but not here.

(The mortal rune isn't named in the list in the book at this point.)

By the way, each world tracks to a type of magic. Sorcery is logical manipulation of magical energy. Theism involves sacrifice and emulation of the gods. Animism involves negotiating with spirits. Mysticism is magic through personal enlightenment.

The magic rules are one of the only places that system crunch has had an impact on setting, I think, as this three-world system (plus mysticism) seems to have evolved over time, and some magics weren't available because the system didn't handle them well.

Next we have the Gods, starting with the quote I put at the top.

The book says uncovering all these gods is part of the fun, but this is a primer.

Glorantha posted:

So, in this collection of tales, watch the action of these main players in the more important Gloranthan pantheons.

Next time, Chapter Two: Before Time Began
Wherein we get a fuckton more runes, and the history of the world until the Dawn.

Chapter 2: Before Time Began

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Glorantha: Introduction to the Hero Wars
Chapter 2: Before Time Began

Glorantha posted:

Glorantha is at the crux of existence as the Modern Age gives way to the time of the Hero Wars.The seeds of the Hero Wars were sown centuries
before, and now the fruits are springing forth in bitter conflict.

I realize that this may have not been the best book to start with. It really is a primer and overview of all of Gloranthan history and territory. It's NOT a game book, and isn't meant to be. It may have been better to start with something like the HeroQuest rule book, which at least aims to give players reasons why they want to play here.


As you can tell from the quote above, we get a little bit of explanation of what the Hero Wars are.

Glorantha posted:

There are more than two sides to this conflict: every race, human or not, has its own agenda for the future of Glorantha. It’s pantheon against pantheon as the worshippers of the One God clash against the followers of the many
gods; shamans and spirits battle mystic dragons; and believers in a universal
Order oppose the forces of Chaos that squirm under the chains of Time.
All of these troubles have their solution in myth. Glorantha began in myth,
and it is descending once again into the cauldron of boiling opportunity.
People will destroy each other’s myths soon, and they study them for good

That sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it?

A word about the Gloranthan metaplot. There is one, but its a bit more player-friendly than most.

Stafford has written out the history of his world, but what history he has written is mostly in very broad strokes. The canonical source is a book called King of Sartar and that's a book that consists of various historical documents written at various points in the future. They are full of unreliable narrators, and even contradict each other at times. A lot of the history set in the past from Game Present is also presented "in universe" and certain myths and historical events show up told in slightly different fashion.

There seem to be some fixed, key elements that will definitely happen in one form or another, and they are metaplot protected, but even the identities of who certain famous historical figures is somewhat vague. This gives groups a fair amount of freedom in how to handle things.

This epic-level conflict didn't show up in the early adventures I saw, though. There is a big focus in Glorantha on small-scale conflicts. This seems to be a hold over from the old RuneQuest days, since RuneQuest had adventurers in dungeons counting coins and hoping a lucky hit didn't kill them.

HeroQuest has more community-level work, often with mythic underpinnings, but "pantheon clashing with pantheon" didn't really show up. Bryan can correct me if that's the mode they've shifted to.

The HeroQuest system would let you do either, and since the big milestones of metaplot already exist, it is pretty easy for a GM to decide what to take and what not to, and they are less likely to have something in their campaign completely invalidated by a later supplement.

Back to Chapter 2. These chapters start getting longer, so I might just divvy up posts by sections now.

The book tells us one of the conflicts is the struggle to control the "original runes of the world".

It then offers us a myth about how the world was made.

The Age of Creation: A God Learners Teaching, circa 800 S.T.

Remember what I said about unreliable narrators and incomplete information? This is what I'm talking about.

We get a myth about the creation of the world from the God Learners of the Second Age. We don't know who those guys are yet, but they are Western Sorcerers who in the Second Age became so powerful they thought they created their own artificial god. Eventually, their constant messing about with the Divine Realm resulted in a magical backlash that destroyed them. They are practically bogeymen in the Third Age, but they influenced the myths of everyone on the planet.

So how did they think the world was made?

The Invisible God created the Prime Runes. Primitive superstitious people called these runes "The Gloranthan Court" and thought they were gods. Mystics say the gods were the first misconceptions about reality, and therefore all misconceptions that follow fall into the pattern of these first errors.

The God Learners posted:

The Prime Runes are the thoughts of the Invisible God. They came into being form his mind. There are two distinct groups, and the Runes of Power came first, then the Elemental Runes.

So the God Learners believe in a sort of gnostic emanation.

These prime runes are in paired opposites.
Law (Stabiliy), Change (Motion),
Love, Conflict (War),
Truth, Illusion
Harmony, Disorder (Confusion)

We get the names of the gods of the Gloranthan Court associated with these runes. (I won't list them here.)

We get told there are always 4 elementals, and usually a 5th.
Darkness, Water, Earth, Light, Air.

Water is sometimes Sea. Darkness is also Cold. Light is also Heat (and in later places is Fire and specifically Sky, but not here right now), and Air is also Storm. (Yes, Air and Sky are not the same realm.)

So the Elements started devolving into other elements and such, producing gods and spirits and the matter of the world.

The God Learners posted:

Although each of the Elemental Runes underwent the same devolutionary activity, their devolution differentiated according to their natures. Sorcerers have shown that the reduction occurred along mathematical lines, propounding that the divine genealogies are merely ignorant personifications of derivable mathematical formulae.

The God Learners are scientist/mathemagicians, who turned the gods into little more than mathematical formulae they can control. (Or so they seem to be claiming here. Mind you, they're all dead now, and the gods are still here. I suspect they might not be completely right about this.)

The Prime Runes still have stuff in common, so they get together and build the center of the world, a giant mountain that just about every culture everywhere knows as The Spike .

The name comes from "Mostal the Maker", who just shows up here (presumably one of the gods that devolved from the elements). Mostal views the Spike as the thing holding reality in place like a big nail or axle. The Prime Runes build the world.

The God Learners tell us that after the Age of Creation comes The Green Age, and this begins with the introduction of the Form Runes . This is simple natural devolution as before, but we are reminded that the ignorant think the Gods of the Gloranthan Court *made* these runes to populate the world, instead of simply copying them.

The Form runes are Spirit, Mineral, Plant, Person, and Animal. You may have guessed that they are the forms of mortal life.

The God Learners posted:

After that of course the purity of the world was gone and the gods seized power. This too was part of the process of devolution. At that time Zzabur formed the first sorcerers like us to resist the Devolution, which is also natural.

At the end of all this, the world ends up dominated by Gods and Goddesses. At first they seemed to be equal to anyone, but over time they proved they were or gained the power of gods. (It is unclear whether this part is still from the God Learners point of view. I think it might be, because I seem to recall many in the west think that all "gods" are really just people who gained tremendous power.
There is only one god, The Invisible God, and he's kind of ineffable.)

Glorantha posted:

At first all went well during the Golden Age, but that ended terribly.

I am shocked, SHOCKED! to find out the Golden Age ended terribly.

Next time - The Golden Age, The Storm Age, and your basic Evil Emperor vs Righteous Rebel story.


(also there is actually art in the next bit)

The Golden Age, The Storm Age, The Coming of Chaos

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Glorantha: Introduction to the Hero Wars
The Golden Age, The Storm Age, The Coming of Chaos

Pelorian myth posted:

The peace of the Golden Age slowly turned into the strife of the Gods’ War. The process was long, and came in small steps. Viewed with afterthought, the process seems inevitable.

We are told the Golden Age myth as commonly told throughout Peloria. (Peloria is the central part of the northern continent. It holds most of the Theistic peoples. Their myths have grown similar over time, although some of that may be due to God Learner monomyth engineering.)

It basically runs like this.

Yelm, the Sun God, was the Emperor. He keeps the peace. No one wants for anything. It is a Golden Age.

He also dispensed Majesty and Justice from atop this nifty tower.

The birth of the Storm God Umath is the beginning of the end. Umath's first action is to demand a realm equal to that of his parents (Earth and Sky). So he creates Air, and tears Earth and Sky apart. His kids are also unruly, and attract other unruly and ambitious Young Gods. This all ends up disrupting the calm of the Golden Age. The Storm Gods rise at the expense of other Pantheons.

By now, lesser races have started worshiping gods and greater entities. This leads to battles over groups of worshipers. Yelm's Golden Age is so weakened that he is forced to Contest with Orlanth, Barbarian King of the Storm Tribe (Storm Gods) as an equal.

The last of the Old Powers, or possibly the First of the New Powers, is Death.
A god named Humakt (who is one of the Storm Gods, and may or may not be the Cold North Wind) finds Death in the darkness of the Underworld. It is a great secret, but when Humakt kills Grandfther Mortal with it, Orlanth gets a hold of it, and uses it to kill Yelm during this Contest.

Yes, Orlanth kills the sun . (This version of the myth doesn't say what the contest is about. It's a woman .)

The Emperor is dead. The Emperor is also the sun, so it goes down and does not rise. the Golden Age is over, The Storm Age has begun.

The Storm Age is also known as The Lesser Darkness.

Yelm has gone to the Underworld. The sky gods pull away or suffer defeats by gods of Darkness. (One sky/fire god is buried under the ground, and basically becomes lord of volcanoes).

Plants, animals, and minerals follow the path of the dead to the Underworld. Only inferior lights are left. Gods are fighting when they want now. The Storm Gods mostly kick ass, but Darkness and Sea also field powerful forces.

Glorantha posted:

Glorantha became a broad, barren land swept by angry storms, crushing ice, brutal volcanoes, and pieces of the sky tumbling dead to the earth.

New human races come into the world, and old ones barely survive, sometimes as slaves. The world is full of GRIMDARK.

However, through this all, the Gloranthan Court (the Prime Runes) remain untouched and unchanging. They were too aloof, too above the petty squabbles. They lent their power to any who knew how to use it. They couldn't stop it as the crisis grew, and as more and more gods and monsters could tap these powers, the world disintegrated around them.

Glorantha posted:

Imagine the dilemma of Kargan Tor, the god of war, when he was forced to face himself in battle, or when Uleria, goddess of love, impregnated herself, or when Acos, god of Law, made a ruling and found himself unjust. It was as if a cosmic illness came upon the gods.

Tremors shook the immobile Spike, and the cosmos weakened.

Next Time: The Birth of Chaos
Things get worse. The Spike goes Boom. The Greater Darkness Falls.

The Greater Darkness, The Devil, The Dawn

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Glorantha: Introduction to the Hero Wars
The Greater Darkness, The Devil, The Dawn

The Greater Darkness posted:

Chaos won. The gods disappeared in a horror storm of previously unknown forces. Their bodies were changed to gorp, and their souls
were scoured by the Fatal Screaming.

I am going to compress this even more, because it is lots of

We get a quick mention that Ratslaf, god of Disorder (one of the Court) and his creatures the Boggles are sometimes blamed for everything, but shouldn't be, as that just shifts the blame away from the gods themselves, who acted against their own self-interest.

At some point, with all these things going wrong, other things enter the world, seeming to "have seeped in through cracks in the world's logic". Chaos is coming.

We meet Krarsht (may not be its real name). Most people think it is the nasty squirming thing Larnste, God of Motion saw. He stomps it, but it bites him. Larnste limps forever after, and his blood was infected, causing foul corruption wherever it fell. The site of this encounter has never healed. It is in the Holy Country, and called the Foulblood Woods.

(Krarsht is still around, by the way, and still nasty.)

The minor things seeping in were bad, the Gods made things worse.

A mysterious god named Rashoran teaches other gods how to be unafraid of the unknown. This causes many to succumb to Darkness, a few to gain strength.

Three gods find themselves unafraid after this. They decide the fear others feel is a tool the trio can use. They kill Rashoran so he can't enlighten others and become The Unholy Trio.

They invent hatred, selfishness, greed, and jealousy. (Enterprising bunch!)

Rangalar, who is kin to Storm Bull is full of hatred and jealousy. Thed, "said to be wife to Rangalar at one time". Mallia, a goddess who could aid birth and growth. They make a magical ritual with primal chaos, giving them strength.

Sex Ritual posted:

The then engaged in their rituals of chaos-birth. When it was done, the world was changed, and new forces roamed the world.

They give birth to Wakboth, the Devil. Wakboth is the moral evil of the world.
Kajabor is entropy and the Great Fear. He's also called the devil, and probably had the specific word first, since he was named in the West and it is a Western word. Some documents confuse the two. They are both powerful, had many worshippers, and eventually turn on their followers.

Why They Are Bad posted:

You must know that Kajabor did it because he had to, and that Wakboth did it for delight.

The Chaos Rune

Many of the Gods gather on the Fields of Plenty to wage war on the Chaos, led by Genert, a poweful Earth god. They lose, as described in the top quote. Everything killed by Kajabor has been obliterated, and never seen again.The rest of the gods freak, and many retreat to the Spike, and the ancient Gloranthan Celestial Court. Chaos attacks the Spike. Kargan Tor (god of War) abandons his post, and Chaos swarms in, destroying everyone they can find.

The Spike explodes, leaving a hole in the center of the world. the Gods of Chaos come through this hole.

The Greater Darkness has begun.

Also called the Age of Teror, this is the end of the world. The hole in the center of the world threatens to swollow everything, so gods throw themselves in to seal it up.

The sea god Magasta gathers all the waters in the world to

fill the hole. Since then every river in the world has flown downhill to the whirpool at the center of the sea. (The waters had been all going uphill, because the sea gods were invading.)

That was a rare win.

Gods become fugitives. Wakboth and Kajabor lead. The Unholy Trio become known as great villains, rampaging everywhere. Chaos creatures like Krarsht show up. Some Gloranthans embrace chaos and transform, like Vivamort the first Vampire. Some wildlife is transformed and enslaved, like the Crimson Bat.

The Gods and Mortals fight on. Starcaptains fall to earth to save villages. Spirits of fire are used to burn places clean. These little enclaves hold out because Chaos gods turn on each other. Partly because they are hungry, having
killed and eaten everything else, partly because .

Wakboth kills Kajabor, sending him into the Underworld (they think. No one is sure which one wins, but the myth logic makes more sense if Wakboth wins.)

The Mortal Races fight on. In Dragon Pass, the Elves, the Trolls, and the Humans are all separated, but somehow their shared desire to survive unites them. While fighting alone, they some how all were linked and helped each other.

The battles is called, "I Fought We Won" and is credited with preserving the world. After the battle, the mortal enclaves find each other and help keep Dragon Pass safer, despite the ongoing Darkness.

In the West, ZZabur the Wizard casts a mighty spell to preserve what is left of the fractured followers of Malkion, the One God and they drive the Ice Age back.

The Gods fight as well. Some are small local gods who manage to protect a village or clan.

The great Storm Bull, Urox, kills Wakboth with the help of all the elements. The Devil finally succumbs to a piece of pure Law, blown off the Spike, which crashes into ground like a meteor.

But the final mighty magic was The Lightbringer's Quest . Orlanth, the Rebel Storm God, learns love, honor and justice over the course of the Darkness. He realizes he fucked everything up by killing Yelm, so he decides he has to fix it.

He gathers 6 others and they journey into the Underworld in an epic quest that the book says can't be detailed here.

They arrive in the Underworld, and the Emperor (who is Rulership itself) is the Ruler of the Underworld. He summoned his court, which means the civilized gods came to the Underworld. That's why there were nothing but hot tempered barbarians around and they screwed everything up. This was their punishment. Yelm *summoned* Orlanth to atone for his crime.

(So yeah, once again, Glorantha offers two versions of one of the central myths of the setting. Did Orlanth learn wisdom and compassion, and try to fix what he broke? Or was Yelm in control all the time, and only summons Orlanth when Orlanth has suffered enough.)

Either way, they negotiate a peace. Every god who intends to survive swears oaths of agreement, watched over by Arachne Solara, who is some form of Fate or Nature god. may even be Glorantha herself. The Universe, if you will. She's the one who drafts the Great Compromise which everyone signs. (More on the Great Compromise later. It's important.)

When Kajabor shows up in the underworld when Wakboth kills him, the deities are united. Arachne Solara has made a magical web, and they capture Kajabor in it. The goddess devours the Chaos creature and gives birth to a child, called Time.

He is born when the reborn gods all leave the Dawnsgate at the beginning. Arachne Solaras child becomes the glue that holds the shattered Glorantha together and keeps it going in the new era.

The Dawn posted:

The gods marched across the barren world,
bringing warmth, light, and flower to surprise the awed
survivors. The new world was created.
Time reigned.
History began.

Next time: History Begins in Chapter 3.

Chapter 3: History

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter 3: History
Time is the Cosmic Compromise. The world of time is bound by certain laws which the world must follow. If the laws of Time are broken by the world then the impossible has occurred and chaos will re-enter the world.

History begins with the Dawn.

Probably. Re-reading this, I am appreciating how much even the core monomyth that has been the central premise of Glorantha for most of its RPG history is put into question.

This chapter brings in the idea of The Great Compromise .

Glorantha posted:

The gods sacrificed all of their freedom in return for immortality. The balance between the extremes of creation and destruction was moderated by cyclical sharing of extremes by the participants. Everything which had been killed in the Gods War had to remain dead one-half of Time, yet also was alive one-half. Thus the world which made up the gods’ bodies was subject to those changes, and the magical energies of the world also followed the flow and pattern. Thus in the winter the earth and fire deities are weak, but in summer the fire gods are most powerful.

The Great Compromise is why the Gods aren't running around Glorantha. They are frozen, available only by the myths from before Time. They can't interfere. In the mythic time before time, things happened all at once or in cycles or in parallel. Now things happen in a fixed time that can be measured.

The mortals, however, retained their freedom. They can grow and change. They can learn. Some chaos things survived in the world, and they can grow and change too.
The point of the Compromise was to keep Chaos out of the world, but some chaos gods can still be reached.

Glorantha posted:

One of the clear distinctions made in the Compromise is that Chaos is not of the world. The deities and powers of the world had touched it, and were still afraid of it, and their continued existence required that they remain
apart from chaos. Chaos became the enemy which must be fought and suppressed. With one enemy recognized by everyone, the squabbling deities found a common theme for unity.

Something I just noticed about this. The Gods cut a deal to make Chaos the enemy . It may or may not be a fixed truth of the universe. Note, too, that this myth is a core myth of the Theists in the center of the Generetla, but does not actually have to apply to anyone else. Chaos has been the single unambiguous enemy in the canon for a long time, but even here it is mentioned that it does not have to be this way. The Gods of the center freaked, and defined their enemy in order to have an alliance. They named Chaos the enemy. They pulled an Ozymandias from Watchmen. At least, that's one interpretation.

The Dawn Age

The First Age is The Dawn Age. (Also, the First Age is the only Age that hasn't had any material released as gaming material. The Third Age is the classic era, and the Mongoose line opened up the Second Age for play.) The Sun has returned, (although this is always referred to as "The First Sunrise") and now Time begins. Calendars start from here, because now there is fixed time, and seasons, and one thing follows the next.

We are told that after some peaceful growth and recovery, cultures re-encounter each other and clash violently. Lots of names of things that haven't been introduced yet are dropped. Chaos has mostly been beaten back, but the things that survived are huge and deadly. They mention the Crimson Bat, which still exists in the Third Age, used as a WMD by the Lunar Empire. (No. Seriously. That sucker is SCARY.)

There were 4 primary cultures that survived. One, conveniently, representing each major magic system.

In the West were the sorcerers. They had a religion of One God that was so old, it had schisms even before the Dawn. There was an island called Brithos where the Wizards had spiritual mastery (and were kind of atheistic). Others had a personal deity who they venerated, while still elsewhere in the West, priest-wizards lead the services contacting the Invisible God.

(Personally, I've always found the idea that the West has logical magic while also deep One God faith kind of contradictory, but it is pretty much canon.)

A new religion starts 1 year after the Dawn, and develops the institution of Knighthood. (Knighthood in Glorantha deals with people who transcend the caste system that rules the West.)

These Western peoples ally with the Waertagi, who are a sea people related to humans who also practice sorcery. They rule the oceans until the God Learners turn on them and destroy their fleet in the Second Age. They came back from the dead to wreak vengeance, and in the Third Age people claim to have seen them as ghost-like hell ships that are seeking Brithos in order to wreak vengeance.

In the Center of Genertala, the Theists rule. Interestingly, it is mentioned that The Lighbringer peoples lead the liberation of this area from Darkness, and back in the day, Stafford even mentions that groups were still living who did not realize the sun had come up until the Lightbringer told them . This strikes me more and more that the whole "The Sun died, rose again with the Dawn" thing is a mystical/mythical idea that is ruled by myth logic, not other logic. This also means "the first Sunrise" takes place in different times to different people.

Glorantha posted:

The Lightbringer peoples led the liberation of Peloria from darkness, meeting the sun-worshipping horse barbarians first, and then the sun-worshipping Dara Happan Empire. Wherever the Lightbringer agents went they were agents of civilization and woke the gods and spirits of a region with their worship and magic.

So yes, that means that even the worshippers of Yelm didn't know the Darkness was over until the Orlanthi came and told them, which is a bit messed up. Personally, looking at it again, I take it as a clue that the whole story of the Darkness and the Dawn is suspect. Please also note that it is fairly established canon that the linking of "the Evil Emperor" from Orlanthi myth (the one Orlanth kills) and Yelm, along with the parallel "Great Rebel" (who causes Chaos by killing Yelm) and Orlanth is a product of the God Learners wanting to make a monomyth.

So yeah, the whole thing might have some holes in it.

Just to hammer that home, we learn that the East, which was ruled by mysticism as its primary magic, has a completely different view of the matter.

The Mysterious East posted:

These people say they were untouched by the Great Darkness because the powers of their great meditating mystics kept them safe. In Kralorela dragons are said to have been their teachers; the dragons of Dragon Pass are also proof of the mystical way. Farther east people are mystics without the dragons.

So no Darkness at all?

Animists dominate the southern continent, and exist in between the mystics of the East and the Theists of the Center, but were mostly overwhelmed by both in the Dawn age. (More the latter than the former.)

In borderlands, there was some cross-pollination of ideas, but for the most part, these core cultures and world views were separate in the great civilizations.

Everyone has a place posted:

The west remained godless and practical, the central lands stayed a land of magical beings and places, and the east was a realm of mystic peace and strange studies. The rest sank in savagery.

But Doraster was a different land.

You might start to notice a pattern in Glorantha. An Empire forms. People get ambitious. People make their own God.

Everything goes to hell.

Let's start the first run on the merry go round, shall we?

Dorator was the Empire. It consisted mostly of the cultures that bonded in I Fought, We Won. They discovered ancient civilizations and magic, and decided they had figured out the secrets of the Universe. To prove it, they would make a new god. A perfect god who would be a god for all people. Osentalka - The Perfect One.

Not an accurate representation

Yes, I'm sure that will go well.

The Trolls (who are Darkness entities) and the Dragonnewts (who are weird) aren't consulted about this new god of light, and eventually bail on the project.

In 375, at the autumnal equinox, the final touches on the new god are made. In the West, the Wizards cast a mighty spell in struggle with a heathen god. In the East, the Dragon Emperor calls on the Dragon Eye to help grasp an eternal truth. In the southern continent, the animists dance a new spirit dance and the Elves call on a power to destroy a rot that is destroying the forest.

The Sun stops in the sky.

No one knows for how long. Records in the west say time ran differently before and after the Sunstop. A web of darkness eventually grabs the sun. A bloated shadow blocks out the sun and the world goes dark. People freak. Then the the sun creeps past the shadow. Everything is fine. But most people say the sun is paler than it was. Some say it moved differently, as well.

The heat strengthens the plants of the Elves. The Dragon Emperor moves to a new stage of enlightenment. The Wizards cast out the heathen god. And in Dorastor, Osentalka is born.

Many call him Nysalor - The White Light. His cult spreads throughout Peloria (the center lands) and into Ralios (the edge of the West). The Elves like this new god of light.

But the Trolls and the Dragonnewts? The ones who opposed his creation? They are oppressed. War is fought and at the Battle of Day and Night Nysalor is cruelly triumphant.

Trolls are savagely cursed, their mother goddess so damaged that they no longer breed true. Ever since then the Trolls are in decline, giving birth to stunted, twisted litters of Trollkin, and only rarely breeding true in any way.

The Dragonnewts are conquered, and forced to become mercenaries to the rulers of Dorastor. (Required to be tangled in the world and have obligations is anathema to the Dragonnewts.)

In the far west, the monotheists don't like the new cult, but when the Riddlers of Nysalor (they teach enlightenment through riddles) cure a mysterious plague, they grow more accepted.

In Brithos, a man who will become known as Arkat - The Liberator, grows up raised among the elves. He wields an unbreakable sword and discovers the evil of the cult of Gbaji, the Deceiver. He dedicates his life to eradicating the cult. After cleansing the island, he goes to the mainland to hunt them down.

The Brithini wizards discovered that the cult of Gbaji is cursing populations with diseases, and then curing them to prove their power. Gbaji is well-entrenched in the center of the continent, and is hiding himself under the name Nysalor.

It's ON.

Arkat rallies troops in the West. Vampires attack. He becomes a knight. He discovers elements of heroquesting. He reaches the center lands, which include non-humans who are Nysalor worshipers. Naturally, the men from the west assume they are humans who sold themselves to chaos and became twisted. They call this alliance the League of Monsters.

Arkat fights the Telmori, who are werewolves, and destroys their empire. He allies with all sorts of people, turning unlikely allies into an army against Nysalor/Gbaji the Deceiver.

Arkat learns more and more of heroquesting. He learns that rather than just following a known myth like the Theists do, you can go off the beaten path, crossing from one myth to another to gain even greater power. He makes many advances this way, but meets someone more powerful than him from Dara Happa (possibly Nysalor?) and is killed.

In Dragon Pass, the Heortling branch of the Orlanthi decided to side with the Trolls and the Dragonnewts. They are crushed and forced to worship a god other than Orlanth. Among them rises a hero named Harmast. He re-enacts the Lightbringer Quest that saved the world as a HeroQuest. He goes into the Underworld to find something to save his people.

He finds Arkat in the lands of the dead and brings him back.

Walking out of his mausoleum in Ralios, Harmast convinces Arkat that he can get to Dorastor through Dragon Pass, that his sword is legendary, and that his father is the Orlanthi god of death, Humakt. Arkat renounces being a knight, and joins the cult of Humakt. Arkat's army comes through the Holy Country to the south of Dragon Pass and is joined by legions of trolls, then armies of dragonnewts.

As the fighting drags on, Arkat loses most of his Western troops as he allies with monsters and barbarians. The trolls are so effective against his enemies that Arkat transforms himself into a troll in order to be more effective. He begins laying waste to cities and and fields. The Western troops now realize he is not even human any more. He has become the monsters he fought. Maybe he deceived them, and always was. The Orlanthi realize he has abandoned the honor of the God of Death, and that the Lightbringer quest brought only darkness. Maybe he deceived them, and never was a savior.

Both leave.

Arkat doesn't care. He marches the troops he still has inch by inch into Dorastor to confront Nysalor, the god of light. The god Arkat insists is the deceiver. Arkat razes Dorastor as he advances, and the land has been a wasteland ever since, even unto the Third Age. He and Nysalor summon heroes and demigods, powers and magic, wrecking the land until they finally are face to face.

Arkat posted:

Finally, atop the Tower of Dreams, amid the City of Miracles, the two opponents met in single combat as all existence seemed to shatter around them. The city was turned to dust and poison, killing many of the greatest still surviving. From the ruins only Arkat emerged, and the downfall of Nysalor was complete, and he now was known only as Gbaji the Deceiver. The defamed god was dismembered, and his parts were buried in different places beneath many tons of rock and much powerful magic.

After this, Arkat was no longer a troll, or so many of his friends and many trolls say. The war against Gbaji lasted 75 years, and then Arkat went to Ralios and ruled an area of it for another 75 years, known as Arkat's peace.

Some say the reign of Nysalor was a Golden Age and they cursed Arkat for costing them their friend and god, even as they returned to older gods. Some wondered how Arkat switched from cult to cult untouched by the spirits of retribution that gods visit on those who abandon their worship. They wondered where his sword went after the final battle. In the end only some truths were known: One of the combatants walked free from the confrontation. Nysalor no longer gave any magic for his worship. Arkat was no longer a troll and no longer had his sword. Gbaji was no more, for no one living bore that name.

450, when Gbaji was destroyed, was the end of the Dawn Age. The world had been ravaged by war and gods, and now there was peace.

The Imperial Age was about to begin.

Next Time: The Imperial Age -- Dragons or God Learners, which oppression to you prefer?

Introduction to the Hero Wars: The Imperial Age

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Glorantha: Introduction to the Hero Wars -- The Imperial Age
The final years of this age are actually quite debated, varying by region. So many disasters occurred that most people use whatever local disaster overthrew their own previous civilization.

So as you can see, the Second Age went well.

The book notes that Chaos wasn't a problem in the Second Age. They had little success. It was other disasters that struck. This section is surprisingly small, compared to the first age Arkat saga.

There were two massive empires that dominated the age. One started in the east, with draconic mysticism that unlocked the language of the dragons. The other in the west, when the splintered factions of Malkionism (the religion of the One God) were largely united under one banner after the Invisible God made itself known and wrote The Abiding Book in front of witnesses.

The draconic mystics would gradually sweep across the central inlands, as draconic insights brought new approaches to old religions, and the politics of the area were rethought in view of draconic enlightenment. This became the Empire of Wyrms Friends . (Often just called the EWF.)

The Malkioni united under the political banner of the Jrusteli Empire. Their sorcerous schools investigated the world under the mandate of the new, united Malkionism. They especially studied the magic and religion of the other cultures the Empire encountered, analyzing it all with logic and sorcery. Over time, these investigations would give the sorcerers a new name, The God Learners .

The EWF conquered many lands, but their mystic practice required huge amounts of worship, and they severely oppressed people to gather that worship. (Not in this book, but if I recall Mongoose's 2nd Age books correctly, power in the EWF became a sort of mystic ponzi scheme, where everyone under you fed power up the chain, so the earlier you joined the cult, the more powerful you were, and everyone kept trying to recruit new people.)

Eventually, the people realized that the EWF was not going to usher in a golden age like it promised, and rebelled against the scam. People embraced their old gods and foreign gods, revolution led to civil war, and in the end the dragonnewts destroyed the EWF in 1042.

(Dragonnewts really are young dragons, evolving toward full dragon mysticism. That they turned on the EWF almost certainly means the humans took a wrong step on the mystic path.)

Almost 80 years later, the peoples who had once been under the thumb of the dragon-lovers and the dragonnewts decided they had to have revenge for their years of oppression.

Dragonkill posted:

In 1120 the True Golden Horde entered the nesting ground of Dragon Pass. There they met a world full of dragons, come to their home from across space and time for the sake of their souls. Few humans escaped from this Pelorian disaster, which brought new respect to the ancient races. It is called the Dragonkill.

The God Learners you already have heard something about. They monomythed all the other magic in the world, and exploited loopholes and mythologic until no power was safe from them. They achieved insights and freedoms no other gods or mortals had managed. The Jrusteli became the Middle Sea Empire, controlling the coasts of all Glorantha. They rarely invade, but rather set up cities and colonies, letting their culture overwhelm the locals.

We get some sidebars with clips of their wisdom.

Pompus, aren't they?

The God Learners take Arkat's early work on HeroQuesting and refine it. They standardize the myths, make them predictable, and then pillage the mythic plane for magic and legendary artifacts.

The Waertagi, ancient allies of the western people, become upset at the Middle Sea Empire challenging their dominion of the waves. The God Learners destroy them. The God Learners destroy the mermen as well. (We don't get details here, but the Waertagi get taken out with a Fireberg, which is exactly what it sounds like.)

The God Learners defy the Great Compromise, and in finally breaking it, they let the Old Gods strike back freely. The Waertagi come back from hell and sink both ships and land, destroying most of the islands of the empire. The eastern Kralori drive the God Learners from their ports. Zistor the Machine God is slain, and we get a sidebar telling the story of Brond's Serpent. Brond was a carver in the North, who was blessed by Ygg, god of the icy northern storm, with the power to carve a sentient tree into a mighty figurehead. Brond sacrifices his brother to it so that it will feast on the blood of humanity. The ship is filled with wild northerners and they attack the Howling Fleet of the God Learners, destroying it.

Don't mess with Brond.

The Elves, outraged at what was done to the sentient tree, curse Brond's people, rotting their crops and turning their fish to goo. The people flee to off shore islands, where they live to this day.

The final piece of the Middle Sea Empire falls with an event called The Closing.
It is a mighty curse that makes it impossible to cross the oceans. At best, people can sail along the coast. Most think this is the final curse of the gods, but the Waertagi, who are devastated by The Closing (as they live on giant sea-going ships), claim it is the work of Zzabur - the immortal wizard of Brithos, who predates the Darkness and the Dawn.

The End of the Age posted:

Coupled with the great lands lost to the sea, this was a mortal blow to civilization, and the coasts were abandoned. Power shifted to the interior of the continents for the next age. No cry of chaos or uprising from the ooze dismayed the world at this time. The great lands were sunk, the Closing swept the seas clear, and then the dragons slew thousands in self-defense.

The Imperial Age was over.

Next time, The Modern Age and The Rise of the Moon. Then onto Glorantha, culture by culture.

The Modern Age

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

The Modern Age

This one is short, which is good, because I'm kind of bored with broad-scope history now. The book goes region by region for recent history, so they could keep this light for the Third Age.

Where the Third Age begins depends on where you are, since everyone pretty much dates their end of the Second Age to the local cataclysm. So if you were Middle Sea Empire, its when someone comes and destroys your island, or coastline, or possibly when the Closing wipes out sailing. If you are by the Machine City, it is probably the Gods manifesting and killing Zistor. If you are in the EWF, maybe it is when the dragonnewts turn on everyone. Maybe even more likely, it is the True Golden Horde deciding to attack Dragon Pass and the Dragonkill wiping out just about everyone, scaring anyone from living there for hundreds of years.

There's probably about a 200 year spread over all this, I think the Dragonkill is the latest, in 1120, but I'm not sure.

The coasts become largely abandoned after The Closing. The West breaks up following the fall of the God Learners. The broken remains of their mainland kingdom Seshnela becomes led by some powerful dukes, and gradually form a new kingdom. North of that, Loskalm becomes its own kingdom. A bit to the east, the city-states of Ralios break into feuding and fighting, occasionally uniting to fight off Seshnela.

In Peloria, the central region, the eastern half gets hit by mounted barbarians (Glornatha's Mongols/Huns, we'll meet them later), while the western parts are fairly peaceful.

In the far east of the continent, the Kralorelan mystics, "lived on, spreading benevolent peace for the submissive farmers and stirring unspoken passions among the richer classes."

As is usual, there's next to no discussion of the even further east, or other things besides Kralorela on that side of the continent.

So basically, people are recovering. Until in 1220 ST (Solar Time, by the way. Time is measured since the Dawn.) somebody wakes a new Goddess, Sedenya.

Oh, this will go well.

She was a peasant girl named Teelo Estara. A group of heroes called the Seven Mothers united and cast a mighty spell (debates on their political motivation persist, but the land they were in was between the Carmanian Empire to the west and the Horselords of Pent to the East. Neither was particularly sympathetic). The Seven Mothers (three of whom were men) brought back a Goddess from before Time. One everyone else had forgotten. It took some time for Teelo Estara to grow into her divinity as the Red Goddess. In the meantime she built an kingdom and wielded strange magics. She went on a heroquest to gain her true power, and disappeared for years.

Just when her followers were finally going to be crushed, she returned, riding the Crimson Bat. Armies fell before her like wheat to the scythe.

From a different book. She's well-armed.

She destroys Carmania and faces magical beings at Castle Blue. She is clearly linked to Chaos, so the Gods come back and challenge her directly to cast her out as all Chaos is to be cast out.

When the dust settles, The Red Goddess has won. She proves herself to be part of Glorantha, and the other powers cannot cast her out. She stays. She wraps herself in a chunk of the Earth, leaving a massive crater, and rises into the sky to become the Moon.

There she sits to this day, in between the Earth and the Sky, turning slowly, one face red, the other black, looking over her ever-growing Empire.

Some say she received powers from strange gods on her HeroQuest: Arachne Solara, Nysalor, and Time itself gave her power.

The Red Goddess does not promote widespread chaos worship of the kind that Wakboth the Devil encouraged. However, the Goddess does not reject Chaos as not of the world. Chaos is to be embraced and converted to the Lunar Way as with everything. It is a tool of the goddess and the empire, and must be used when necessary.

The Crimson Bat is used as a terror weapon and WMD by the Empire. There are rumours the Lunars maintain a vampire legion in the mountains. Yet there have been great Lunar heroes who have fought vampire lords and chaos priests. Some say their understanding of chaos means they know the responsibility they have not to fall to temptation.

Since her rise to godhood, the Empire has grown, and now dominates central Genertela, expanding both east and west.

Glorantha posted:

Philosophers say it is time for a new cataclysm to end the world age, as seems to occur every 500 years. Others see the gods and spirits drawing closer, as the powers of certain men attain godly stature.

It is the start of the times when the world is pushed to excess and it is time for hard reckoning. Powers are stirring to make a stand. Old foes have strength for new troubles.

It is the start of the Hero Wars.

Next time, we start actual regions, beginning with Seshnela, God's Eternal Kingdom. The Church and State that rose from the ashes of the God Learners in the far west.

Chapter 4: Seshnela

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter 4: Seshnela
"The people of Seshnela are almost all in the Rokari Church, making it the only religion in the kingdom. This faith is noted for upholding rigid caste boundaries: each person is born to a caste, lives in that caste, and dies in their caste.

But first, a map.

It's hard to read in the book, too.

We're starting the regions of the modern age now. There are 8 main ones on the Northern continent, and each gets a chapter. As if you couldn't tell this book wasn't really written with gamers in mind, there's no real discussion of what you might do with these areas. The only three that had any official Third Age gaming material released for are parts of the Wastelands and Prax, one book that skims the Lunars in Peloria, and then endless amounts of material on the Heortlings, specifically the Sartarites, which are a small part of Maniria. (The HeroQuest rulebook also gave you some more of the Manirian cultures, but very cursory.)

Seshnela is the bit down in the southwest. It's both a region and a kingdom, and where we will begin. It was the heart of the God Learner empire, and then the western half was shattered into fragments at the end of the Second Age. The survivors moved to solid ground in the east, and rebuilt centering in the Tanisor valley, on the Tanier River.

Now the Kingdom of Seshnela is centered there, and there are some autonomous areas around it: Arolanit, The Castle Coast, Kanthor's Islands, and The Quinpolic League.

The Kingdom of Seshnela: God's Eternal Kingdom

Yeah, the God Learners fell, but "My God or the Highway" still exists around here.

We are quickly told that some guy named Bailifes the Hammer founded the current Sheshnegi dynasty about 200 years ago. As is often the case, the son expanded the reach of the throne, and then the grandson screwed it all up. It got so bad that the various nobles began to renounce their oaths.

The current king is trying to stop all that. He is King Guilmarn the Imposing (so I am guessing he's imposing?) and he has been striking back, humbling the Peers and consolidating his gains.

The place starts off sounding like your basic high-fantasy pseudo-Christianity.

Kingdom of Seshnela posted:

The kingdom of Seshnela is divided into a number of fiefs. In the past each of these was ruled by a noble dynasty headed by a duke or count. Their independence ruined the kingdom, but most recently has ruined the nobles instead. They could not unite to the King Guilmarn, who is correcting this weakness by reverting all titles into the Crown and expanding his royal administration to oversee the fiefs. He currently holds over half of the old titles as part of his royal demesne, and the remainder are very careful to work with him to keep whatever honors they might.

That language seems to pretty solidly side with King Imposing there, I notice.

The central Duchy of Tanisor is famous for its fertile fields, its carpets, its golden jewlery and its ironwork.

The last thing is important in a Gloranthan context. In Glorantha, Iron is extremely rare. Most weapon metal is bronze, or other metals in a magic form so they are strong enough to use. Iron and steel? Very rare. One of the main centers of iron in the world is in the west here and it is a source of power. The dwarves have access to a lot of iron as well.

The kingdom overwhelmingly belongs to the Rokari Church , which is one of the branches of the western monotheism that grew out of the fall of the God Learners. It believes in rigid caste boundaries. (The Malkioni religion of the West has castes, for the prophet said men are workers, warriors, wizards, or nobles. Exactly what is meant by that, and how changeable those castes are, is one of the main fault lines of the various sects.)

The Rokari church believes you are born in a caste, you stay in a caste, and you die in a caste. To try and change your caste is sin. (They'll punish you in this life, too, though, just to make sure everyone gets it.)

Peasants are bonded to a lord somewhere. They might be in the fields, they might be in a church. They might be in a town, or even mayor of a town, but they will still be subject to the rule of a local lord.

The Knights are described as a caste unto themselves, landholders and military men. They must be armed and armored and mounted. There are sergeants, who don't hold land, but are often sons of knights. There is peasant infantry, but even though Seshnela is iron-rich, the footmen never get armor.

It's totally unclear here whether sergeants and knights are the same caste or not, or whether a peasant who is in the army moves castes. (Presumably not due to the "rigid caste boundaries" earlier.)

One God, One King, One Church

We don't hear anything about the other two castes, but presumably it is wizard priests and nobles.

We do, however, get to hear what the Rokari church thinks of women.

Is Glorantha Sexist? posted:

According to the holy books, the only way that women can know God is by imitating the Blessed Menena, the daughter of Malkion. Women were made by God to be the bearers of children, keepers of the hearth, and subservient to their husbands.

To be fair, however, the trend of the "exceptional woman" is used as a counterweight. There is a Saint Elleish who is an example of women taking up arms in the service of God. A group of these women saved the Ecclesiarch when he was assaulted rebel noblemen. Despite centuries of scorn, Theoblanc awarded them the lands of Lalia in Safelster as their own feif.

Note that earlier it was mentioned that the crown lost all its lands in Safelster and that "Lalia" never appears again in the book in any way. So did he give them a feif that didn't exist? Did he give them something they are expected to reconquer? Was it a political move to get rid of uppity women? We know nothing.

The Wasted Lands

Arolanit is a land to the north, and is the home of immortal wizards from the vanished island of Brithos. They obey all the oldest religious restrictions from before the Dawn, some are even that old. Their land is gray and dull, devoid of children, but they are immortal.

We find out that Seshnela was destroyed in a day and a night by "the Luatha, purple-skinned demigods from the Land of the Setting Sun" who showed up by ship after the Closing. The Aldryami (elves) came in and covered the parts that hadn't sunk with woods and wild beasts. The southern islands are called Kanthor's Islands and full of elves and centaurs and such. The Luatha still have a Castle hidden on one of the islands and keep the region free of humanity. The Northern half of the wrecked land is The Castle Coast . Nothing grows there because the land goddess removed her favour from humankind. A few strongholds remain because the place is rich in Iron. There's a dwarf trading post there, and the Dwarves will only deal with people who live on that land, as specified in ancient contracts.

The Quinpolic League

This is the major sea-going power in the West. Although no explanation is given, we find out there is a Saint Dormal the Opener, who landed here, and that when The Opening happened, these regions became rich.

They are pious Rokari, except they resist the Ecclesiarch's oversight and resist the King's rule. The three who form up the league include the doge of Nolos, who is powerful inland; the doge of Pasos, who has a huge fleet and shipbuilding; and the Count of Pithdaros, who has magic everyone fears.

Pithdaros also has a population from the Southern Continent who came North to fight Gbaji, only to find out they were 11 generations too late. They have since settled in, adopted local ways, and are waiting for Gbaji to show up again so they can fight him.

Next Time, The Malkioni Culture and Religion.

Chapter 5: Malkioni Culture and History

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter 5: Malkioni Culture and History

Malkioni culture is hierarchical, patriarchal, monotheistic and materialistic. Malkion the Prophet laid down ancient Laws which are still followed, though their interpretation varies in different nations.

If that above quote was actually followed in an interesting way, I'd love Malkionism. I suspect that Malkionism's flavourlessness has to do with it not being focused on for much of RuneQuest's development. Sorcerers were soulless atheists to the Orlanthi and other Theists and that's about it, as far as I can tell.

There's seeds of good ideas in the Malkioni stuff, but it needs to be fleshed out. Maybe that's been tackled in the last 11 years, I don't know.

We're told that the main split between interpretations is the northern Loskalmi and the southern Rokari. (The Rokari are the ones in Seshnela we just met.)

And right off we are told that one place they *don't* disagree is the sexism.

Malkion is a douchenozzle posted:

Nonetheless, both agree that society was organized to be in strata, divided by profession, ruled by superior men. Males are superior to females, whose status is natural, involuntary and innocent, but inferior nonetheless.

Why? What does this give us? The entire West believes this of women, it isn't part of the major split. There may be heretical cults that believe otherwise. It's just a waste of story and gaming potential, as well as being sexist for no good reason.

You have a religion that believes in castes. Arguments over who is in what caste, how many there really are, how you move from one to the other (if at all), and what the responsibilities of these cases must be are all GREAT gaming material for interesting culture clashes.

No matter what we think of that, though, women suck.

Fuck you, Malkionism.

Malkionism posted:

The Invisible God is the Creator and His Laws shaped the Ultimate, Nature and Society, and the world fell into a degenerate condition due to the ignorance of people who are now foreigners. Rationality and logic are the powers which God gave humans to oversee the universe, and applying it to the material world results in Sorcery, which is God’s own magic used by mortals. The material world is the real world, measurable and predictable. Anything which is not so, such as spirits and gods, is illogical and wrong, bad and/or evil.

OK, so God is the Distant Watchmaker kind of God. God made rules, and magic which obeys the rules God made. So learn the book, study the world, unlock the mysteries of the universe magic.

Which is fine, but doesn't seem to jibe well with the otherwise Abrahamic analogue going on here. God as mercy, God with grace, etc. etc. Miracles. In other words, this is a religion that is decidedly anti-faith. That seems... weird. I'd be ok with this as what the Sorcerers believe, and their arguments with the Church. But if this is Church doctrine, then how does that play out for the common people? You will see thee is some discussion later, but it really doesn't feel like it hangs together. But because of the "Three World" model and the idea that The West is LOGIC MAGIC, there really isn't any other choice.

In my Glorantha, I'd throw this out. Mind you, the Three World Model in general doesn't seem to work for me. I get that Greg Stafford insists (or did 10 years ago) that it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to the metaplot/his understanding of how Glorantha works, but it just seems to get in the way more than it helps to me.

We find out that Malkion the Prophet (who was the Mind of God) taught people that living according to your caste is the best of all possible ways to live. Most people are Commoners.

There's an interesting throw away in this bit that sounds like it could be something interesting, although I've never seen it followed up on.

Commoners posted:

You are not properly one until you have demonstrated to your peers that you understand the duties and privileges of the commons. Most peasants do not bother with such tests and are legally the wards of the local noble.

So are most people casteless? Can you not enter Solace (the Malkioni word for heaven) if you are just a common peasant but didn't bother undergoing these tests? It isn't explained.

Because you are just a commoner, Malkion is merciful and as long as you are thrifty and industrious you go into Solace. So there's NO other moral obligations? That seems... unlikely. Again, this is the kind of thing that could be believed by different sects, but is ridiculous to apply to every sect of Malkionism. Is this Rokari belief? New Hrestoli? Believed by all?

The next caste is Soldiers.

Soldiers posted:

They are the landed gentry of the country and the wealthy burghers of the towns. The greatest soldiers are the knights, followers of Hrestol’s path. They are chosen by God to bear the struggle against trouble and evil.

So they are landed gentry, but not noble. The caste is called Soldiers, even though you don't actually have to be a soldier. The vast majority of actual soldiers in war are peasant infantry, and so are not Soldiers. It says here that the greatest Soldiers are the Knights. So the Knights are not Nobles.

Wizards posted:

Next are the Wizards, responsible for the spiritual balance of our great land. Most wizards are priests for their piety draws them closer to God. They can intercede with Him and the Saints for our benefit.

Wizards are priests. Sorcerer priests. Intercession exists... which means that Intercession follows specific rules?

Sorcerers posted:

A few wizards are sorcerers, responsible for working miracles and knowing the unknown. God loves them no less than the priests, but their occupation is so dangerous that hubris often makes them forget this.

OK, that gets us somewhere. Sorcerers often transgress and fall from God's love. Cool. But still more than a little vague on what that means, since this is all apparently written in The Abiding Book which tells us all these truths.

Finally we have Nobles. Nobles rule, although Knights can be deputized to perform functions of Nobility. (A Noble still must provide that authority.)

Not People posted:

Women are a caste unto themselves for God has made them to be the
child bearers and hearth keepers. They have the same legal rights as their father or husband. Some women claim the right of independence but the authorities they quote are dubious and most use their “independence” to indulge in deeds contrary to the natural order.

Castebreakers have strayed against the laws of their caste. The soldier that wars against his own people, the fool that believes in the Fifth Caste and the lord that neglects his people are all castebreakers. They are outcasts from us all and damned by God.

OK, so this is a problem with how this is written. Is this one sect's views? If so, why isn't it presented to us that way? I would be fine with this being the Rokari view, or whoever. But the chapter is just "Malkioni Culture and Religion" without any caveats. It's a bit frustrating.

We get a brief sidebar on Brithos , which is an important part of Western history.

In the past, there was Danmalastan, the Land of Logic, and it was the Western continent. It was the original home of the Malkioni peoples. (Incidentally, whether or not you can convert is completely vague and not addressed, which also seems very odd. Are the Malkioni a separate race from everyone else?)

There was a mighty war between the Vadeli and the Brithini, and the magics from the Vadeli shattered Danmalastan. Brithos survived because it was the home of Zzabur, the Sorcerer Supreme .

Not an accurate representation. Mind you, given his rep, Mordo might work, too.

The Waertagi were allies and protected the island. It survived through the Dawn Age. In the Imperial Age, Brithos allied with the God Learners, taught the God Learners, but weren't God Learners themselves. At the end of the Age, Zzabur unleashes The Closing. Note, this is stated as fact here, while left ambiguous elsewhere.) Interestingly, what *is* left vague here is the reason. Maybe to destroy the Waertagi. Maybe to destroy the God Learners. Maybe to protect his people.

We now find out that Dormal opened the oceans a generation ago. He sought Brithos, but there is nothing but foggy seas, monsters, and the ghost ships of the Waertagi there now. The immortal wizards of Arolanit, who were Brithinian, don't know what happened.

Back to the castes.

Human Nature posted:

Regrettably many people have failed to live up to the standards of their caste as Robber Knights, Wicked Sorcerers and Foul Usurpers constantly blight Malkioni civilization. Nevertheless God expects Malkioni to obey their rightful lords according to their caste. To rebel against the rightful social order, imperfect as its members may be, is to defy the Invisible God.

So the only morality is obeying the obligations of your caste. Maybe, because there is some set of other rules.

Knights posted:

Other virtues are codified in the Virtues of Hrestol, an ancient list of chivalric concepts. Observing these virtues enhances one’s communion with God. Their practice depends largely upon where one is. In Seshnela, chivalry is a condemned doctrine adhered only by quixotic knights amidst ruined palaces while in Loskalm, the Overmen embody the chivalric ideals as their duty.

Yes, you read that right, Chivalry is condemned in Seshnela . Mind you, we have no idea what the code of chivalry actually is here, since there's no description of what any of this means.

We then get a long history of the world according to whichever Malkioni are writing this.

God creates the World as The First Action.
The Second Action was Manifestation. (What either of this means is left vague.)
The Third Action is Identification, and this is when Malkion walks the earth and teaches everyone their castes and the Laws of God.
The Fourth Action is supposed to be Duplication, but people abused the Third Action and identified themselves wrongly. This creates the False Gods and causes The Great Error.

(OK, the Gods are people of amazing power who claimed an Identity that was Incorrect and Ruined the World. I can work with that.)

Even though good people ignore the false gods, it still affects them. Vadel explores the Unlawful Realms and brings back Death. Valind sends The Great Ice to crush cities to Dust. (Side note, Valind is the God of Ice and Cold in the Orlanthi system as well.)

This is all so horrible that everyone knows the Fifth Action will be Destruction. (So did we just skip the Fourth Action altogether?)

Malkion tries to save the True People by contacting God, but Zzabur has been infected by Pride and the Great Error and kills him. But that all works out.

This is how the world starts posted:

The Fifth Action was Sacrifice and Malkion’s selfless sacrifice integrated his essence into the cosmos and redeemed it. Malkion made Solace, the place of Eternal Truth, known to humans. The False Gods were made
aware of their error and humbled themselves. Even Zzabur was moved enough to cast his Great Spell to make the Sun reappear after being unseen for so many centuries [0 ST]. This is the world that God has made through the Five Actions for us.

Note, btw, that there's NO Great Compromise going on here.

Zzabur says there is no Solace and everyone should obey him to live forever. God reveals Joy to Hrestol (Joy will be explained later) and then Zzabur martyrs Hrestol out of spite in 33 ST.

We mention the Sunstop, when the wizards stopped Ehilm in the sky. (So the Wizards use the Orlanthi name for the Sun? But not Yelm?) Then comes Gbaji and Arkat, although in the West, Arkat damns himself (presumably the Troll thing) and his companion, Gerlant and Talor are the people who cleanse the world of Gbaji.

We get the origin of the Middle Sea Empire and the God Learners.

The Abiding Book posted:

On the Isle of Jrustela several Malkioni cities struggled because of differences between their practices of worshipping the Invisible God. They could not understand why, if there was only One God, there should be many faiths. The crisis was resolved when the Abiding Book wrote itself before a group of witnesses [646 ST]. Scholars and philosophers proved it had been written by the Invisible God, a statement of the One Mind, the True God and the Ultimate Being. They founded a new religion of absolute Monotheism and vowed to spread their faith to the whole world.

So again it sounds like one sect's version of what went down, but we don't know for sure. Are there versions of Malkionism that predate the Abiding Book still around? Was the Abiding Book just God Learner fuckery?

The God Learners are specifically called out as being wizards who decided to study the physical world instead of the spiritual world. (This seems to imply some faith aspect which was missing earlier. Logical spiritualism is the Malkioni ideal?)

The God Learners destroyed the Waertagi because the Waertagi refused to let the Abiding Book be preached overseas, which is an interesting motivation. We get a date for this, 718 ST. We get a list of the awesome expansion of the Jrusteli Empire.

God Learners on the March posted:

They drove heretics out of Fronela [725 ST], liberated Seshnela from the Dark Empire [734 ST] and even freed the Stygian Empire from Arkat’s lies [740 ST]. Even the Kralori received word of the Invisible God [768 ST], though the missionaries apostatized afterwards, mutated themselves to be
evil dragons and then crowned one of themselves to be Emperor of Kralorela.

All sort of evocative, but we don't know what any of it means.

The Middle Sea Empire officially begins in 789 ST when King Svagard unites the Jrusteli, the Loskalmi, the Umathelans, and the Seshnegi (he is one, btw) under one banner. In the 800s, they bring the Abiding Book to others: The Brithini, the Esrolians (in Dragon Pass), the Fonritans (even more north), and Pamaltela (the Southern Continent).

The God Learners get arrogant and you know what happens next.

The Machine City is destroyed in 917, which means it is 200 years before the other Ends of the Imperial Age, which surprises me because I thought it was one of the major markers. Turns out the fall of the God Learners and Middle Sea Empire was damn slow. The Waertagi attack and Zzabur casts The Closing in 929. Jrustela is drowned by the Gods in 940, and Seshnela is shattered over 100 years later in 1049.

So if these dates are right, there are really two Second Ages. The God Learners stay relevant until the 900s and the last bits of the Middle Sea Empire crack in 1049. The EWF lasts until 1042. The DragonKill is in 1120. So there's 200 years or so of stuff winding down.

Rokar shows up in the 1300s and is martyred for his beliefs in 1349. No mention of whether people considered themselves Malkioni during that time and killed him for his reforms, or whether they had become pagan again.

Bailifes the Hammer is crowned king in 1412 and makes Rokari Malkionism the official religion, which spreads throughout the West. It gets to Loskalm and Safelester. (So were these people Malkioni before that? Or Theists?)

We get a brief and weird interlude about Fronela (the northwest, which we will get to next chapter). While the Rokari church starts to make inroads in 1427, just 20 years later Prince Snodal of Loskalm finds the Kingdom of the Altinae in the North, sees a Map of the Future that details Zzabur's revenge on Loskalm (for what?) and comes back 40 years later then makes a magical conspiracy to kill the God of the Silver Feet which will stop Zzabur. The end result is a magical mist called The Syndic's Ban which falls over Fronela and separates all the Fronelan kingdoms from one another. The Rokari say this is punishment for not accepting the Rokari Church.

Dormal was from Esrolia, cast a spell called The Opening which lets him sail for the first time in centuries. He visits the West, and his arrival at Loskalm also lifts the Ban. He can't find Brithos and everyone thinks Zzabur is dead. Dormal goes to the Luatha (who sank Seshnela) and is martyred there.

The Ban is lifted in Fronela, and while the old kingdoms come back, new kingdoms also appear, including The Kingdom of War, which is devoted to conflict and spiritual slavery. The Rokari Church says the Kingdom of War is more punishment for Loskalm's disobedience.

I'll stop at history, because I have things to do.

Next time, the Western Religions. (So has this whole bit been just the Rokari asshole version of what's going on?)

Chapter 4: Malkionism, The Western Religions

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter 4: Malkionism, The Western Religions

“The Invisible God was, the Invisible God is, and the Invisible God forever shall be.” – from The Abiding Book

That sounds familiar.

The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be. Again, not an accurate representation, but I seem to have developed a theme.

This is the summary of the beliefs of Malkionism. Again, it is unclear if this is omniscient narrator or just one sect's view.

Malkionism made simple posted:

Western Genertela has several similar religions which have a common ancestry in mythic prehistory and still share important features with each other. They are the belief in One God, veneration as the true style of worship, the preeminence of mind, the exercise of Will, and Solace and Joy.

Interestingly, caste is not mentioned as a core belief shared by Malkioni sects.

First things first.

The One God There is one God, the Invisible God. God is so distant and unreachable that people have invented many ways to interact. This seems to jive with the generally Gnostic-like view we gleaned from the creation myth, where the runes were viewed as emanations from the Invisible God. Again, it is unclear now whether this unreachable God is agreed on by all Malkioni sects.

Veneration Veneration is the method of worship in Malkionism. (This ties into the Three Worlds thing, and the rules in Hero Wars and Hero Quest about magic. Veneration is used to access the Otherworld of the West for magic. Sacrifice is used for Theism. I've forgotten what the Animism one is called. Intercession, perhaps?) Veneration is led by priests, and act as conduits for the energy people share with God, which is then returned in part for people to use as magic. Just by living according to God's will, you participate in this veneration, and if you do that and obey the rules, you go to Heaven when you die.

Mind and Logic - Malkion taught that our brains are a gift from God. Logic and thought strengthen the mind, and reveal truth. Philosophy was invented by Malkion. So... Malkionism sounds anti-faith again, but I'll go with something more like the neoPlatonists, which still keeps our Gnostic underpinning. (And again, ALL Malkionism follows this?)

Heavently Will This is actually free will. The Maker blessed humans with Will, and Will can change the world. The practical application of this is called Sorcerous magic. (By the way, this is all very clearly stating HUMAN. No other races allowed, it seems. However, there are other races that use sorcery and western magic.) Mind you, how that dovetails with veneration is unclear.

Solace and Joy . The description of this is quick and somewhat odd.

Solace is for the little people posted:

When a faithful Malkioni commoner dies he goes to Heaven, the perfect paradise of the Invisible God. Philosophers and wise people know Heaven is called Solace. Either way, once a person goes there after death no one can afterwards contact him. Joy is a temporary contact with Heaven which can be experienced in modern Malkioni veneration rites.

So is Solace just for the rubes? Why specify "commoner" there otherwise? You'll note that unlike the Theists and Animists, the Venerationists can't talk to their afterlife.

The Athiest Sorcerers I guess that ends the list of what everyone agrees on. That was a pretty useless list. A large number of people are athiests, who believe only in impersonal forces which can be manipulated. These are mostly Brithini, and sorcerers. They don't beleive in an afterlife.

For both of these last two, I have a question. The Westerners encounter other Gloranthans. People like the Orlanthi talk to their ancestors. There are ghosts. So how does anyone believe in no afterlife or an unreachable one?

Athiests believe in Zzaburism. (Really? The athiests all have the same religious non-religious belief?) Zzaburism insists that Laws and Consequences are the only Truth, and many Sorcerous Schools which work independently of each other and the Churches, not using the Abiding Book as their common grimoire. Instead, their grimoire is

Zzabur is a badass posted:

is the Blue Book of Zzabur, a mighty grimoire that was written on the skin of his enemies.

Then we get the Major Malkioni Religions. Malkion opened the way to Solace with his self-sacrifice, and all Malkioni chuches

Contradictory belief posted:

believe the Invisible God is a personal God and is interested in the affairs of humankind.

OK. Um. Huh?

There are Great Churches, and they agree on all the essential points of doctrine and believe in everything else, accusing each other of heresy and such. What these core beliefs are is unclear, but they presumably are the list above. Everyone was in agreement when the Abiding Book created itself, but then the God Learners screwed everything up and now people know the Book is True, but humans can be wrong. In the centuries since the fall of the God Learners, many Churches have arisen that claim they found the error of the God Learners and will now unify all the Malkioni.

The Hrestoli Church believes in Joy and personal contact with God. Hrestoli revere many saints, and promotes egalitarianism. The Rokari, as we saw, don't think Hrestol is a prophet, and don't think you should revere saints. Also, Joy doesn't exist, only Solace.

These are the only two churches listed, even though we were told there are several. *sigh*

A prime vacation spot

We get a list of Saints. Two are warrior saints who rode with Arkat, one is shows people how to protect against "foreign corruption", but everyone other than the Quinpolic League thinks he's deluded. We get one woman, Hrestol's mom, who sacrificed her soul to stop a plague. Hrestol redeemed her and made her a saint. There is also a saint of the Waertegi, who was the father of them all.

We get Heresies. (So these are not among the "several churches"?)

Perfectism preaches everyone can become God by being an ascetic.
Stygianism was founded by Arkat and combines Malkioni veneration and sacrifices to false gods. It is extinct except it still exists in Ralios.
Henotheism is similar, but it combines the Invisible God and the Orlanthi religion.

The official Malkioni doctrine on Spirits and Gods is that they come from a defective understanding of the universe. Worshipping them prevents you from reaching Solace or experiencing Joy.

So yeah, the chapter is a mess. I think there's a lot of good to be had in the West, and with Malkionism, but the whole thing needs to be fleshed out in terms of belief. The sects and splits and relationships of belief and doctrine need to be teased apart and highlighted if you want to do anything interesting with this other than "vaguely Christian so you can do stories with knights in it". Hopefully the new book, which promises playable cultures from everywhere, will actually put some effort into this, because it is clear the west is the neglected step child.

Next Time, Ralios, in case you have a Machiavelli lying around.

Chapter 6: Ralios

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter 6: Ralios
...the people of Ralios are fiercely independent and proud of their local traditions—perhaps too proud.

Those sound like fun people.

Ralios appears to be right up against Seshnela, not even separated by much. Maybe a marsh? They do seem to get taken over from time to time, anyway. There are three major regions. Safelster, Vesmonstran, and the Eastern Wild.

Here's a map from online, which is slightly better than the one in the book.

Here are a couple more .

Actually, this region sounds like a kick ass place to set up a game setting, but as far as I know, no sourcebook of any kind has touched it. This chapter is a mess in layout, and pretty short.

Safelster This, specifically, is the "Urban Heart" of Ralios, and was once the center of "The Autarchy" - also known as "The Stygian Empire". This is the empire Arkat set up after defeating Gbaji. The God Learners and the Ancient Seshnelans invaded and crushed the Empire, the first pillaging Arkat's teachings for mystical knowledge and power, the second so villifying the Stygian Empire that most people think of it as pure evil. Only Safelsterans even remember it had a good side.

The dominant feature here is the enormous lake Felster, which is surrounded by cities and settlements. The place has no unified political structure. Some of these are city states, some baronies, some bishoprics, etc. There's constant jockeying for position, invasions and liberations, revolts and resistance, and endless arguments about the correct form of government.

The people are mostly Malkioni/Western in customs and habit, from their long time subject to the Seshnelans, but have retained all kinds of other cultural aspects and magics.

Salfester as Planescape posted:

The real conflict in Safelster is the bitter struggle over the right way to be governed: oligarchies, tyrannies, or democracies? While philosopher mobs argue over the best form of rule, Rokari Inquisitors and Arkati adherents fight for the right to control the religious life within each city.

Philosopher mobs.
Philosopher mobs!

Sign me up.

The Ancien Regime is the Seshnelan nobility that overthrew the Autarchy, but only those ruling families really believe that. The Autarchy is popular, and everyone agrees it was awesome, but it was a thousand years ago and everyone argues as to what it really believed about government. Democracies descend into chaos and rioting whenever anyone tries to set one up.

It's not mentioned here, but last book we were reminded that the new Seshnela took over about a hundred years ago and then got thrown out, but it reorganizing and might try and take over again.

There's a whole boxed three pages like a sidebar gone terribly wrong about the politics of the region and its full of little tidbits. People making weird alliances. An autarch who can see through every snake in the area. People rediscovering old magics. People creating new churches or punishing heresies. There is a sect called the Borists that can Tap the Chaos from someone, rendering them pure and allowing them into Solace when they die. They don't use this chaotic tapping to power spells, but to create Chaos monsters under their control.

That's right, they purge you of your evil and give it physical form .

Needless to say, everyone hates them, even though they say this proves the power of The Invisible God's Laws over Chaos.

That's a hell of a good setting for a game. Political intrigue; a mysterious history; philosophical, political, and magical variety; and an enemy at the gates.
Why this wasn't a central place for a game setting escapes me.

The Northern third of Ralios is Vesmonstran , which is basically Orlanthi and other barbarians in wooded hills up until you hit the mountains to the north.

The Orlanthi and hsucnchen (beast-people/shapeshifters)of Lankst were conquered and betrayed by Arkat, and still hate the Stygian Empire and anyone who thinks it should return. Their king has a standing army of guys who can throw lightning bolts and summon rocks like rain from the sky.

Telmoria is a land of werewolves. They were just normal beast people until Talor the Laughing Warrior (one of Arkat's crew) cursed them 1200 years ago. Now they are men who turn into wolves 1 day out of 7.

Karia is blasted land that some colonists eke out a rough living on. It used to be part of Dorastor, and there is still a pass through the mountains to the main part of Dorastor here. Horrible things come through that pass and kill settlers.

Ormsland is populated with Dragonnewts. Because a Lankst hero named Alakoring Dragonbreaker slew their Inhuman King while overthrowing the EWF, they have descended into barbarism, which makes these dragonnewts more predictable than ones who still have a civilization. They range far for hunts, but only hunt humans for food in Ormsland itself.

The Eastern Wilds are mostly Orlanthi land again, with a few different regions scattered throughout the hills. At the far east is Halkiv which is a major Troll stronghold, who contest the region with the Orlanthi.

So surrounding the urban politics on the east and north are beast men, werewolves, orlanthi barbarians, dragon people with strange powers, and night-worshipping trolls.

Why is this not a game setting again?

Another sidebar tells us that Arkat is worshiped in Safelster in many ways and we get 5 statues of Arkat matching the different interpretations.

Arkat the Knight: Mighty Warrior of the West and Liberator.
Arkat the Martyr: He was cut into three pieces, each nailed to a scaffolding during his fight against Gbaji. He would come back from this thanks to Harmast's Lightbringer's quest.

Arkat the Troll: He became a troll, and some still worship him as such.

Arkat the King: He was first king of the Autarchy, and ruled in peace and plenty.

Arkat the Devil/Deceiver: He used people and betrayed them and their gods in his war, so he is called Gbaji.

Like I said, Ralios has all kinds of potential. Too bad it never got used.

Chapter 7: Mostali, the Dwarves

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter Seven: Mostali, the Dwarves
Although they have females among them, they treat them like males and deny all knowledge of sex or reproduction, often before the questioner has finished asking! Selemanthus wrote that the Dwarves reproduce as we do, but since this is contrary to their God they must repress their memories of the act.

I think Greg Stafford once went on record saying he hated the dwarves and only put them in because it was expected for a fantasy world to have them.

The "alternate viewpoint" thing rears its head again, as a sidebar tells us this information is based on the fragments of a more comprehensive God Learner text copied by a guy with semi-eidetic memory.

Dwarves are ugly, usually bearded, and often deformed. This isn't a hindrance, as these usually are deformities that let them work better in tunnels. (So this is a human comment on their proportions, really, and not deformity at all.) They can often be shrewd about their necessary tasks, but rarely have the general intelligence to generalize from their experiences. Many are idiot savants, brilliant at one thing and useless at everything else.

We hate Dwarves posted:

Outsiders have commented on the laconic and taciturn nature of the Dwarves. This is not because, as some optimists allege, the Dwarves wish to preserve their secrets, but simply because the Dwarves have defective personalities.

Is that true? Is that just God Learner human chauvinism?

There is the above comment on females and that might be Malkioni sexism again, but then there is a comment that the Dwarves are immortal as long as they keep faith with their god. That's interesting in that it appears to be the same deal that the Brithini have. Keep absolutely to your caste and position and fate, and you live forever. Again, true or God Learner assumption? Who knows?

Dwarves live in awesome carved caverns, and have an earthsense that works like a long distance touch through rock and makes them awesome in underground situations.

The Mostali History of the World

Dwarves vs Elves. Always posted:

In the Beginning was the Machine and the Machine was in accordance with the Plan. The Machine fulfilled the Plan and made the eight ancient minerals and the Mostali to maintain itself. But a component became flawed, and the flaw was Umath. He damaged the Machine by separating sky from earth. This allowed Grower, designed to grow raw materials for the Machine to refine, to mutate and change its purpose without proper authorization. It decided to replace the Machine and sent elves armed with entropy to wreck it.

So Umath still rips sky from earth. But in this version, that makes "Grower" go nuts and make elves. We briefly saw Mostal mentioned before, and presumably here he is the Maker. Note that one maker god, rigid logical precision, and a broken world seems to track the Malkioni view of things as well. You would think the Dwarves and the Western Humans would either get along or go straight to religious jihad.

There are lots of to hammer home that dwarves are kind of like robots, with words like Damage Control and Quality Control being part of the myth.
There is mention of "The Octomany of Ancient Minerals" who, since Iron Mostali were outnumbered, suspend Quality Control and use the Clay Jar to make dwarves. This is all part of the Doomsday Plan because everything is falling apart.

Dwarves suck posted:

Dwarves are smaller, less intelligent, and inferior in every way except one: ease of manufacture. The Octamony outfitted many dwarves with Iron
and sent them to war.

The Ancient Minerals Mostali are almost all destroyed when Chaos gets into The Spike and shatters it. The few who are left, plus the Diamond Dwarves (made later to lead the cheapie dwarves) take charge of the Plan and keep working. They fix things so the Sun comes back up.

A sidebar points out that the reason Iron hurts Elves and Trolls is because the Dwarves invented Iron to do exactly that. They didn't make it poison to humans, but if they had realized the humans were just as bad, they would have.

The Octamany plus Iron and Clay is the Decamony. The Diamonds seem to be extra. The Decamany is the name of the official Mostali leadership. They reside in Nida, and we aren't told where that is.

Despite everyone else being the enemy, some outposts help trolls and humans, inventing a rationale called Openhandism to justify it. The Decamony declare them heretics, and are proved right when the Openhandist Mostali break the world again by helping the God Project and stopping the sun. This creates Gbaji, who is chaotic and an elf lover. The elves then assassinate all the Openhandists. The Decamony gets the Openahndists to send an army against Dorastor. They win (along with Arkat) but many die.

Some Openhandists argue this is all the Decamony's fault.

All this screwing up convinces some people to declare that Mostali should go back to Octamony, and renounce Iron and Clay as part of rulership. This schism mostly repairs itself because Trolls and Elves keep killing lots of Mostali, and fighting them is more important.

Humans keep picking the bones of troll and elf raids, and soon figure out enough to start getting creative. They do something worse than the Trolls or Elves could ever consider. They build a Machine God to try and take over the Plan.

The Decamony turns its attention to war with the humans, which makes them completely miss the rise of Individualism as a philosophy among the dwarves.

Mostali Schism posted:

When the Decamony finally condemned it [850 ST], Openhandists again seized control of Greatway, declared the Decamony to be criminally insane and sent secret support to the Octamonists in Nida.

Do you get the feeling there's more going on with this story than we're getting?

Now we find there is more than one Decamony, since the Nidian one contacts the Slon one and they team up against the Individualists and the Openhandists (who are now part of something called the Third Council).

The Decamony finally gets enough allies together to destroy the Machine City because no one wants the God Learners in charge of everything. This starts fixing things and the stupid human empires fall. The Moon rises, which is part of The Plan but it was only supposed to happen when Dwarves were united. The Openhandists and the Decamony take this to mean they aren't really as divided as they think, and and the Openhandists apologize for being dicks and re-pledge themselves to The Plan. The Decamony says its all good, and sanctions are lifted as long as the Openhandists don't spread their ideas.

Lies! posted:

The Unity of Mostali is once again secure. The Machine is coming together according to Plan.

So that was incredibly biased, focused on one part of the dwarves, sketchy, and contradicts the idea it was written by a God Learner since it mentions the rise of the Moon and such, which all happens later.

We then get a list of some major Dwarf enclaves. They are mostly boring. They list who they trade iron with and how much, or what and what not they are willing to negotiate. One bit is, if I recall, a holdover from early RuneQuest adventures, before what the dwarves actually were got nailed down.

Friendly Dwarf posted:

One of the friendliest ancient Mostali lives at DWARF RUN in Dragon Pass, practicing a brand of Openhandism and Individualism. He has been known to give out gifts or offer rentals, such as the cannon cult, for unusual prices.

There is also a comment on the Nida dwarves.

Bad Deal posted:

The DECAMONY OF NIDA rules all true Dwarves in Genertela. They maintain the trading post of Bad Deal where they trade with anyone including elves and trolls. The name says it all as the Dwarves put daylight robbers to shame.

Who are the Workers in the Machine?

This bit, about what dwarves are, probably should have gone earlier.

There are eight ancient forms of dwarves: Rock (builders and architects), Quicksilver (alchemists - they also make food), Copper (toolmakers), Tin (work rock into living creatures), Brass (metallurgists), Silver (enchanters and sorcerers), Gold (educators and indoctrinators).

Those new ones are Iron (warriors and blacksmiths), Diamond (perfect dwarves who everyone should aspire to be, they no longer are subject to the worker schedules).

I don't see Clay anywhere in there.

Heretics deviate from the Plan. Good dwarves don't.

This is clearly written by the Decamony posted:

OCTAMONISTS believe the creation of Iron and Diamond was evil. According to their premise, they must also hold that Clay is evil, which they do not. They seek to halt our progress on repairing the Machine.

Openhandists are accused of giving away Mostali secrets, and worse still, they think the Plan was lost with the Ancient Mostali, and so seek knowledge from the other races.

There are vegetarian dwarves in Pamaltela. They grow food naturally. Clearly insane heretics infected by the enemy, Growth.

Mostali that disobey the machine age and die because they are Broken.

We get the dwarven names for humans, trolls, and elves, of which the funniest is elves, whose name translates to "Rebellious Burning Fuels on Feet").

Another sidebar says that Clay dwarves, which are flesh, can ascend to reclaim their mineral nature if they live perfectly for a few thousand years.

Dwarven Philosophy posted:

What are my objectives?
You are expected to live in perfect harmony to the Machine or not at all.
Follow orders from above.
Work without mercy or fault.
Live Forever.

Dwarves could be interesting, but there is next to nothing to work with here. The chapter is written entirely from one point of view and throws out a bunch of terms without discussing anything in a way that makes it playable.

Next Time, Fronela, the original Glorantha.

Chapter 8: Fronela

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter Eight: Fronela
People from the countryside were rounded up and taken to other catapults. After being forced to drink a special potion to harden their innards, these human missiles were hurtled at the city walls. With each scream and sickening thud the walls of Perfe suffered more damage.

Fronela lies on the Northwest of the continent, butting up against the mighty Valind's Glacier itself. Up until a generation or two ago, it had three major regions; the Malkioni kingdom of Loskalm ; the Janube river valley, with its mix of cultures; and the wild lands , which includes non-human and barbarian lands.

After the lifting of the Syndic's Ban (we will get to that in a minute) a fourth region appeared, The Kingdom of War .

Yes, as far as I can tell, the actual shape of the land changed over the course of the Ban. That's some serious magic there. Before we begin, I should mention that the Ban is never actually described here. It was mentioned earlier, in the history of the world, but isn't explained in the actual section it is relevant to other than saying it isolated Fronela from the world.

The Ban involves Prince Snodal, who discovers that Zzabur is going to wreak some kind of vengeance on Fronela. (He sees a map of the future.) He creates a secret conspiracy and they kill the God of Trade and Communication in the region, the God of the Silver Feet. This results in a weird mist coming down over all of Fronela. Every region gets cut off from one another, and from the rest of the world. This was about 100 years ago (in 1499 or 1500). When Dormal Opens the oceans, it also seems to cause the Thaw, and the fog lifts, revealing not just the cities and regions that went into the Ban, but new ones that weren't there before. The Ban hasn't been lifted everywhere, and patches of fog containing who knows what still exist.

Loskalm, The Land of Siglat's Dream

From my recollection, the Kingdom of Loskalm shows up in the very first things Stafford wrote about Glorantha in the 60s. Specifically, the stories of Prince Snodal was the first things set here. So despite it never having been expanded as an actual play region, it was a part of the setting. Loskalm itself is basically Gloranthan Camelot. At least it is in the Third Age when it emerges from the Syndic's Ban.

Loskalm has been around a long time, and is Malkioni, but it follows the teachings of Hrestol. He's the knight who argued for caste mobility and Joy and got martyred by Zzabur just after the Dawn. While the Hrestoli church always said this means the caste system is a meritocracy, it never really happened until King Siglat, who was King during the isolation caused by The Ban. He made every child born a Farmer. Any promotion to Soldier, Noble, or Wizard is then entirely dependent on merit and ability.

It's actually supposed to be a sequence. You start as a Farmer, and if you are good, get turned into a Soldier. A good Soldier becomes a Knight, who can learn enough to become a Wizard. A Wizard with sufficient Wisdom and Judgment becomes a Lord.

It's Plato's Republic, sort of, ruled by philosopher-kings.

Farmer is a caste title, and you could easily be a Craftsman in a town. Nobles are all people who have done honest work and so have the respect of everyone.

It's a real meritocracy and an ideal society. I recall some proposals on the mailing list about how it could be a front, but corrupted in truth, shot down by Stafford because he really wanted a genuinely good, noble, worthy society that got it right. Sure, it took mystic isolation from the rest of society to get there, but they succeeded, and the interesting story was whether or not they could hang on to this ideal society now they were back in the world (and even worse, faced with the threat of The Kingdom of War).

You saw this coming, didn't you? posted:

Women are separate from the caste system and stand mostly outside the Loskalmi meritocracy. Most are simply accorded the rank of their father until married, when they take that of their husband. They are usually given subordinate roles in deference to their feminine nature. As an example, women in the army usually serve as healers. A select few are trained as knights, but until now they have never been allowed to fight in battle and are instead used to rescue the fallen.

Yup, the perfect egalitarian society.

If you look at the map, you'll see Ozur bay, which splits North and South Loskalm. The Closing didn't shut it down, although you could no longer sail out of the bay into the deep ocean. The the Ban made that even worse. Loskalm lost its southeastern regions during the Ban (it has grown and shrunk as a Kingdom over the ages, sometimes controlling almost all of Fronela, sometimes just clinging to the Bay, or even conquered by the God Learners), and that region is now the independent kingdom of Junora. No description of it, or how it is different since it didn't have Siglat's vision to perfect meritocracy is given.

A sidebar tells us the local rulers of Loskalm are the Lords Temporal , picked by merit. There are ranks, from Mayorl Lords, to Baron, Count, and the rulers of the eight Principalities (Prince, maybe?). They all get Palaces, which are designed by Wizards to channel the Veneration of the people to the Lords Temporal as blessings, making them wiser and longer-lived, and more powerful. The higher up in the chain you are, the more powerful you are.

It's Good to be the King posted:

The higher the rank of the Lord, the more magnificent his palace and consequently the more potent the blessings that he receives. The Royal Palace at Northpoint is so majestic, and the King rewarded with such blessings, that illiterate pagans reckon him to be a demigod.

The Cathedral at Southpoint pictured above presumably does the same thing for the Ecclesiarch.

There are 5 peers of the realm. They help the King.
The Grand Duke of Westpoint leads the military.
The Royal Justiciar keeps the kingdom’s lords in line, watching to ensure they
don’t fall into the bad old habits of aristocratic rule.
The Royal Treasurer does what you would expect.
The Chairman of the Farmers represents the Farmer Caste.
The Ecclesiarch runs the Church.

The Janube River Valley
The Janube winds from the Sweet Sea in the East to the Ozur Bay in the West and is dotted with towns and cities. There are seven major city-states, and they usually dominate the smaller towns in between, trading them off in one way or another.

Sog City is furthest West, and dates to before the Dawn. It was founded by the Waertagi, but they were eventually overthrown by a guild of immortal Brithini sorcerers. There are still lots of Waertagi in the city, stranded here since The Closing. The Brithini run the most important University in the west, dedicated to pure Logic. They also have their houses behind red-hot brazen walls, and don't let anyone else in.

Perfe was a city of poets and artists. It was overrun by The Kingdom of War and is now the site of bloody sacrifices to dozens of war gods. A sidebar discusses the siege of Perfe, which includes the human cannonballs mentioned at the top of the post. The Kingdom of War also ignores rules of chivalry, and catapults warriors over the walls to kill everything, seemingly ignoring the broken bones they suffer in their unorthodox travel methods.

Galastar was once the capital of an Orlanthi and Lightrbinger kingdom in the area, and still has those influences.

Zoria is "The City of Free Love" and was founded by a worshipper of Uleria, the ancient Goddess/Original Rune of Love. The Queen of the Kiss isn't worried about the Kingdom of War.

Southbank, Eastpoint , and Riverjoin are all "Arrolian" cities. They are Lunar in religion, but not part of the actual Lunar Empire. We get a bit of history on each one, from both before and after the Ban. None are devoid of internal conflict.

The Kingdom of War

These look like happy people.

The Kingdom of War didn't exist before the Ban and no one knows where it came from. Diplomats get sent back in gruesome ways. What reports do exist of it paint it as ravaged and bleak. They don't seem to farm or smith or craft, and yet the armies are fed and well-equipped.

The armies are arranged in Companies, each dedicated to a patron deity, spirit, or saint. However, within a company, people from many different cultures might be mixing, all dedicated to the same patron. Glorantha normally doesn't have a single god that transcends cultural barriers so easily. Conquered lands lend their people to either a Company or the stewpot.

Wild Fronela, the Rough Frontier

Areas here include Charg , which is still under the Ban. Everyone worries what comes out when it lifts will be worse than the Kingdom of War. There is no mention of what the place was like before the Ban.

Jonatela does get a mention after all. It was fractured during the Ban, and since the Ban lifted, the king has tried to reunite the land. (How this squares with Jonatela being part of Loskalm and gaining its independence under the Ban is unclear.) The peasants are often still pagan, but the King and his Boyars are Malkioni, and displacing the tribal nobility. So a sort of mythic Russia going on there, but how it plays with the Loskalm history is a bit unclear.

The Maidstone Mountains are the home of the Grotarons, 9-foot high humanoids with a third arm for their heads and eyes in the palm of their hands. They are awesome archers, and hunt the saber tooth mountain mammoth (which no one other than them has ever seen).

No sanity checks in this game.

The plains of Tastolar have various beast people who wander through. Reindeer-people mostly, but wolverines, wolves, and wooly rhinoceros.
Somewhere is the homeland of the Third Eye Blue people. They are weird metal smiths who claim they were deposed from ruling Fronela by jealous Mostali. The homeland is locked in the Ban, but tribes and families had emigrated all over the area for eons, and so you can find them around.

In the Rathorela forests to the north are the bear people. The Rathori hibernate through the winter. They actually slept through the Ban, thinking it was only one winter.

They claim the White Bear used to give some of them the ability to be active in the winter, but they lost that power when Harrek the Berserk went rogue, killed and skinned the White Bear spirit, and took its power away. They also have awesome bows that shoot through trees, which were a gift from refugee Elves.

Harrek's Gonna Kill You

Harrek is Conan if Conan wasn't such a wuss. He is Rathori, but then kills their god. He joins the northern sailor/viking/reavers on the Ygg islands , kills anyone in his way, and takes their ships to pillage. He kills anyone in his way. He settles on the Three Step Islands in the south, and kills anyone in his way. He is gathering more ships, and then intends to sail to every land everywhere and pillage it. He will kill anyone in his way.

Harrek is part of the future history/metaplot of Glorantha and is unbeatable. I'm not sure on his whole timeline, though, since presumably he killed the White Bear before the Ban and is hundreds of years old.

The Winterwood was the Last Forest during the Darkness/Winter, according to the elves, and therefore the oldest Elf forest around. The Erontree forest on the other side of Fronela is also an Elf forest, with an Eldest Tree.

A sidebar tells us the Hrestoli believe in a personal god, Malkion's divinity, and that Makan (the God Learner/Rokari name for the Invisible God) is actually the Demiurge and evil. The Hrestoli think god's name is Irenseval.

Another lists some of the Companies in the Army of War and points out that companies dedicated to war gods who are normally antagonistic are found side by side, including Malkioni warrior saints. In addition, there are war gods never seen anywhere else.

Lastly, we are reminded of the Perfecti heretics, severe ascetics who claim they transcend the castes by rejecting them. They do things like disrupt the pomp and ritual of the Loskalmi to expose the false view of the Ideal the Church foists on the people. This often leads to martyrdom.

So Fronela could be pretty neat as a game setting. Lots to play with there, given the creepiness of the Kingdom of War, the whole concept of an idealized Kingdom having to return to reality, and the general sense of "people who survived an apocalypse, only to find out it wasn't one".

I mean, seriously, for generations, the rest of the world vanished into fog , that's prime apocalypse stuff there. You would think people would have radically altered thoughts, alliances, religions, etc. But there really isn't a sense of that given here. The general politics work pretty well on their own, as well, with Lunar, Malkioni, Orlanthi and others all mixed in. And all those groups are presumably pretty different from their kindred in the rest of the world, because they were cut off for so long.

Next time, The Aldryami - aka the Elves.

Chapter 9: The Aldryami

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter Nine: The Aldryami
But their onslaught will end for the Great Reforestation is nigh. Soon thick woods will reclaim the fertile fields of the humans in a single day.

The Elves of Glorantha are plants.

Not "pro forest", not "in touch with the creatures of the forest", but flat out vegetables that walk, talk, and kill.

Elves are smaller than humans, slimmer, but most strikingly different are their eyes - no pupils, no whites, and every Mary Sue colour you can imagine. Some have leaves for hair and other more obvious markers of their vegetable nature, however.

Elves are tied to their forests intimately. They can sense the health of plants nearby, and even the forest as a whole. In general, they don't even think of themselves as being separate from the forests. Their are some exceptions, elves who are cut off from this sense, termed Rootless by the other Aldryami.

We get a bit about Aldryami reproduction. Males can reproduce with females or sometimes with dryads, depending on the type of elf. Children are birthed as seeds, then grown as fruit over two years. The resulting child that is similar to a human kid of 4-6 years.

Elves reach physical maturity at about 20 summers, but are infertile until 40. They live to about 200, gradually becoming more tree like and sedentary. They don't build cities or shelters of any type.

There are a few major types of Aldryami: Brown (Deciduous), Green (Evergreen), Yellow (Jungle Evergreens). There are Blue, Red, and Black (Sea, Swamp, and Fungus) but those aren't properly elves. (It doesn't explain what they actually are.) As you might expect, the various types of elves tend to show up in forests with those types of trees. Browns sleep in winter, Greens don't. (Yellows don't have winter, being tropical.)

We get a quick rundown of some of the Elven forests in the world today.

The Aldryami religion is based on Aldrya, the Goddess of the Woods and the Grower. There is some overlap here with the Mostali view of the beginning. In the Green Age, Aldrya and the forests covered all the land. Grower and Taker must be in balance, bringing life and death.

The Aldryami hear the Song of Aldrya. It's like a harmony of the life of the forest. This makes much Aldryami magic unconscious, since it is just tuning into the harmony of the Song. Willfull manipulation of the Song makes you a wonderworker. The Gods are just euphonies within the greater song of Aldrya. The humans don't understand this, and so name them Gods in their limited way.

Important ones to the elves include Halamalo, who is enveloping warmth. This includes, but transcends the mere sun. It is this song that stimulates many young Aldryami to wander the world for a time before returning to their forest.

Bebester is the song of the Taker. The Brown Aldryami visit the land of dead every winter when they hibernate, and all Aldryami simply reincarnate, and so do not fear the Taker.

Flamal is the seed father, weakest and yet most important. He fathered all the plants on all the earth goddesses of the world.

Since the Green Age, the forests have been hacked back by Mostali, Uz, and Humans, and many Aldryami work to reverse this tragedy. (see final paragraph)

History of the Elves

Glorantha translations posted:

While relating the history of the forest we have chosen to convert the poetic speaking style of the elves into dull drab prose for reasons of clarity and beg the reader’s forgiveness for our crime.

At least they warn us this isn't unbiased.

Interestingly, the Aldryami version of the coming of chaos doesn't blame someone else. Grower was unchecked, because there was no Taker, and grew so much it cracked the universe like a root cracking a stone. From this crack seeped in Oblivion, which Takes, but does not Give Back.

Taker was born to balance Grower, but Taker overcompensated and turned things to darkness, stone, and dust. Too much Taker was as bad as too much Grower. This weakened the world, and more Oblivion seeped in. Aldryami fought valiantly, but everything was Taken, and then the creatures of Taker took themselves.

The world died and was reborn, and this time Grower and Taker didn't work against each other, but with each other, creating a cycle of life and death that made the world better. With next to nothing left, Grower regrew the world. (That corresponds to the Dawn for other religions.)

We get a bunch of history in pieces. Notably, the Forest in Dragon Pass was part of I Fought, We Won (or the Unity Battle) and joined to form the Unity Council in the Dawn. When they realized everyone wouldn't be unified, they decided to make a God of Harmony and Light.

New Twist: Saratin Seomale, speaker for the Talastar Forest, proposed the new diety, and saw it as a unification the World and Oblivion, just as Taker and Grower had been unified/reconciled. (So by the Elf reckoning, Nylasor really was part Chaos, but in a good way.)

The Trolls, Dragonnewts and Orlanthi disapproved and broke the council. The Elves figure this is due to their evil nature, that didn't want to be changed for the better. War happened, but it couldn't stop the birth of Nysalor.

At the Battle of Night and Day, the Goddess of the Uz was so full of hatred she sacrificed her fertility to give birth to a child of Taker and Oblivion: Gbaji. Gbaji marched across the world, and even an army of Aldryami sacrificing themselves couldn't stop him. He eventually entered Dorastor, and was defeated by Nysalor, but only at the cost of Nysalor's existence.

(So yes, the Elven version is Arkat all evil, all the time.)

The Dwarves and the Trolls had tipped their hands as Evil, and bitter war between them and the Aldryami followed. In the end, what stopped it was the humans, who attacked all three races. That war has gone on ever since. The humans even brought up the Red Moon, a Child of Oblivion, who has been used to burn down two entire forests in their attempt to destroy the elves.

The duty of every Aldryami is to protect the forest and fight Oblivion in all its forms: chaos, undead, and dwarf.

Elves have a Plan, too posted:

<The Aldryami> have not mustered a force like an army for 800 years, because every time they did they were destroyed. They have a better plan, and have been saving up seeds and magic to grow them for centuries. They ran some tests. They plan to march overland and turn it all into a vast forest overnight. They are not telling where, though.

Next time, Peloria, home of the Lunar Empire.

Chapter 10: Peloria

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter Ten: Peloria
Four centuries ago, Sedenya the Red Goddess was born in the small town of Torang, in what is now the First Blessed Satrapy. She came to be amid desperate rebellion against the oppressive Carmanian Empire that held all Peloria in thralldom. Ultimately, after terrible hardships and heroic events, she destroyed it. Although her teachings had condemned the Empire, the Empire became a vessel to bring her message to all. So began the first of many contradictions that embodies the Lunar Empire.

With this chapter we hit one of the major areas of Glorantha in terms of gaming. While Dragon Pass and Prax have always been the main settings, the Lunar Empire looms over both as the conquering outside force. Therefore, the Lunars have always had a fair amount of info, even if playing a game within the Empire or where the Lunars are right has never really been supported from what I understand.

Like most of the book, this chapter isn't laid out in any kind of logical way that leads you into things, and since there is so much more, the barrage of references you may or may not understand as they whip by is pretty heavy.

A quick reminder, Peloria is the central region here on the map.

We are quickly told that the region of Peloria has three major divisions, each clustered around one of the major rivers that spill out of the White Sea.

I have those river names from this massive map of the Empire itself .

One thing to remember about this area is that it was a major, densely-populated region of Empire and Civilization for a long time. There are many ancient cultures with ancient rivalries here, now all held together (somewhat) by the Lunar Empire.

I would go through region by region, if I was writing this book, but I'm not, so it doesn't break down into quite such logical chunks. It instead defines the chapter by peoples, not by territory, which ends up just being super confusing.

The Lunar Empire, the People of the Moon

This doesn't sound like a cult at all posted:

An upper class exists in all parts of the empire that is composed of people who are in the know rather than the lucky few that were born into wealth and power.

We're going to get "What it means to be Lunar" first, without any real context. Worship of the Red Moon frees you from the old ways and customs. People who initiate to her are free citizens of the Empire, and can be found all over the Empire, always at the highest levels of government. They are concentrated in Dara Happa, however, and also Rinliddi, where they are still a minority. There are four major Lunar cities:

We now get the first indication we're going to have some propaganda/biased view of things to sift through when figuring this out.

Sure, I believe this. posted:

The Empire brought peace to nations that have festering hatreds for one another. Before the coming of Sedenya only the Sun Emperor could bring a trouble [sic] peace because he always favored his own land of Dara Happa. Now with the teachings of the Goddess tranquility reigns, at least on a national level.

We were just told a paragraph ago that the Lunars are mostly Dara Happan. Meet the new boss, just like the old boss?

Lunars make up the ruling echelons, and even where some local potentate is in charge, there is some high lunar assistant helping "smooth relations with the Imperial Government and other rulers". Some places that might be the only Lunar presence. Dara Happa and Rinliddi are so Lunar that even lower classes have a large portion of Citizens. Most places are in-between these extremes. You are only Lunar if you worship Lunar deities, except that some people who speak New Pelorian become Lunar even though they never worship any Lunar deities.

Language Virus posted:

This has caused some rebels to limit their knowledge of New Pelorian for fear of becoming a Lunar.

Damn straight. Most Lunars consider themselves their previous culture and keep many of the old ways. For instance, a Lunar from a city in Dara Happa still considers themselves Dara Happan. The Empire encourages this, since Sedenya (the Red Goddess) was present in some form or another in the founding myths of all Pelorians. Only in places where the Lunars are the majority do they identify themselves as "Lunars" first.

"Lunar" is like an overlay, allowing bonds that weren't there before. Groups that hate each other, such as the Dara Happans and the Darjinians, will deal with each other in good faith as Lunars. They can set aside the old hatreds and see the humanity in others.

Language Virus posted:

Even fluent speakers of New Pelorian have experienced this aura of goodwill.

This makes Lunars the best people to act as intermediaries between the various peoples of the Empire.

The Lunar Way posted:

It should be remembered that the Lunar Way does not transform people into mindless, trusting imbeciles. The curses of a Lunar fishwife in New Pelorian are just as foul as other fishwives’. The Goddess just causes people to evaluate others as they are, not on the basis of prior prejudices. Lunars can still hate one another for personal reasons, although naïve missionaries of the Goddess deny even this.

OK, that's all kind of confusing. Who is Lunar and why comes off here as being a political move to rise in rank, but as you will see, most descriptions of The Red Goddess make her seem like a Goddess who appeals to the people as a liberator. If the book was going to discuss this in any way, there could be some interesting stuff here, but the elliptic, biased style makes it hard to grasp what is supposed to be going on here.

When the Lunar Empire was first made, the Lunars were a tiny minority. After the Lunars throw off the conqueror Sheng Seleris (basically super-Genghis Khan/Attila/what have you), they officially adopt New Pelorian as a language, which makes the wisdom of Sedenya easier to understand, spreading Lunar belief throughout the Heartlands of the Empire.

The Lunar Way has Contradictions posted:

The enhanced penetration of Lunar Consciousness among the Heartlands has brought unparalleled peace and prosperity to Peloria. One consequence of the Lunar Enlightenment is that, because Lunars have no customary rights to the labor of others, they must use slaves to do their bidding. As a result, the Lunar Restoration has revitalized an archaic institution that was defunct for over a thousand years. Now vast plantations worked by slaves can be found throughout much of the Empire.

OK, that logic doesn't really seem to hold up, now does it? Especially because it goes on to remind us that Lunars are usually subject to the laws of places they live in - so presumably they would have those customary rights to work, no?

Because the Lunars have no traditions for running the cities they are in charge of, they adopt the old ones in a perfunctory manner. This means each city is run differently, although there is a Unifying Moon movement trying to sponsor exchange between cities to help create a standardized method of Lunar urban administration.

The Red Goddess (here called Rufelza) preaches "We are All Us", a doctrine of Inclusion. This Inclusion even accepts Chaos. She has always been here, spending lifetimes as a human being, and existing before and within Time. She does not seek to replace other religions, only to enlighten them. Only Orlanth still resists her, while the local gods have joined her.

Before getting to the Empire proper, we get a few words on the Celestial Religion.

The Dara Happans say that the Sun is Yelm, the Emperor . All other gods serve him, and he is so mighty and important that only the Emperor of Dara Happa and his direct descendents can worship Yelm directly.

Yelm is specifically described as being the closest to the One, or the Ultimate Being, so it looks like we once again have an Invisible God with some kind of Gnostic emanation happening here.

Because Yelm is so close to the One, his bright light creates a Shadow. In the Shadow hide evil things. In the Golden Age, the Rebels hid in the Shadow, and this is where Orlanth came from and killed Yelm. We've heard this bit - the Sun goes away, the Darkness comes, there is Death. In the Dara Happan version, Yelm sits in judgment of himself in Hell, and then with his Ultimate Justice Powers, summons all the other gods into the Underworld to face justice and pay him obeisance. They offer themselves up in sacrifice, and Yelm returns to the world for the Dawn. He now has control over the creatures of his shadow because he died and returned.

Sedenya is the Red Moon and rose only 3 centuries ago. (Note from Light Castle - this is supposedly 1620-something, and she rose in 1220, apotheosized in 1247, so this seems to be a century off.) She was a daughter of Yelm, and the Rebels cut her into pieces to prevent her from Illuminating people. Because she was cut up, she didn't return with the Dawn. The Seven Mothers reassembled her, and after some time as a human, she realized her Great Self and learned how to bring creatures out of Yelm's Shadow and make them embrace the light. The Carmanians tried to stop her, but she defeated them at the Battle of Four Arrows of Light.

Fuel and Fire is how Pelorian metaphysics divide the world. More properly, that which is consuming and that which is consumed.

Where Magic comes from posted:

Fire is the essence of the Ultimate Being while fuel is the mortal world that everyone sees. Magic, the metaphysicians declare, is the moment when fire and fuel are one and the Ultimate Being is visible.

The Sun is pure magic, because it is a fire that burns itself as fuel.
Humans can make fire, and so can make magic. This is why you sacrifice with fire for magic and to maintain order in the universe. The Red Goddess teaches you to integrate divine power directly without needing fire. She is the perfect fuel that contains secret fire.

Like I said, lots of stuff thrown at the wall, but no real attempt to make it fit together. How much of what we are reading is a Dara Happan interpretation of the Lunars is difficult to guess. How much the Lunar Way is a cult of the Political Elite, versus a cult of the People is deeply unclear.

In other discussions and other books, I gradually developed a view of the Lunar Way as a radical, egalitarian ethic that is trapped by the necessities of Temporal Power. Thus the Lunar Way is constantly compromised by the needs of maintaining a Lunar Empire.

It is, of course, also very easy to simply make the Lunars vicious slaver mind-controlling chaos worshipers, trying to conquer the noble Orlanthi of Sartar, who are awesome in every way.

Next Time, we continue with the Lunar Empire proper, which may just be the Dara Happan Empire, wearing a red shirt.

The Lunar Empire

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

The Lunar Empire
The Lunar Empire rules the religious and political lives of millions of people of Peloria. Many outsiders hate it for embracing Chaos, but it is probably one of the finest places to live in Glorantha. Tradition is appreciated and studied, but not slavishly adhered to. Opportunity abounds, and social and geographic mobility is widespread. Peace reigns - no major wars have been fought inside the imperial borders for over a hundred years. The Government is stable and the people are content. The “infernal presence of chaos” which terrifies the outside world is carefully avoided by most citizens, and the “taint of evil” is never touched except on a voluntary basis.

I like to think of the Lunar Empire as something quite distinct from the Lunar Way. Yes, the Way has opened all these roads of personal freedom, but Empire has demands of its own. Once you've committed to evangelize, to expand, you are forced to commit to rule, and to conquer.

There are strange elements of the Lunar Empire that seem weirdly at odds with what we can glean of the Lunar Way. I suspect a great deal of this comes from the fact that the Lunars are established as "The Enemy" all the way back in the first Gloranthan product, and that there was a need to make them Dara Happan in order to continue the "Orlanth vs Yelm" monomyth as a central point. To me, however, this sits badly, and has always felt somewhat bolted on. Perhaps if I had seen it grow organically, it wouldn't strike me so, but coming in late, when the idea of a liberatory, radically transformative Lunar Way was already in full swing, the Dara Happan bolt on really seems odd. The Goddess wasn't born in Dara Happa. The Dara Happans weren't the Empire she threw off. So why, if you must make an Empire, do you pick Dara Happa?

There are many potential explanations in-universe, and as I said above, I like the one that boils down to "The Logic of Empire is Ever Thus", and some seriously deep-seated splits between Empire and Way. I don't think it is the one most supported by the text, though. The stress on there being very few Lunars, and Lunars almost all being the powerful administrators, makes the Way sound much more like an elaborate scam justifying a coup. That could be a way to play it as well, but I find it a far less compelling one.

Dart Competitions

The description of Dart Competitions appears in a box earlier in the chapter, before discussion of the Empire proper.

Dart Competitions posted:

These days, family promotion is often won through the notorious dart competitions. The most visible Dart competitions are hugely popular public spectacles, sponsored by the Lunar aristocracy to settle their scores. But rather than being a contest of skill at throwing darts, they are a euphemism for assassination. The term was coined after a prominent noble was killed by a “drunken misthrow” of a poisoned dart during an athletic event. This legitimate violence keeps the most ambitious and powerful people of the empire on their toes at all times.

So while the Lunar Empire has an entrenched elite, there is social mobility as long as you can kill someone who already has a position. Legal assassination, sanctioned by the Emperor as long as it doesn't disrupt his revenues. Mercenaries are usually hired, sometimes for public fights, sometimes for quiet assassinations. As long as trade flows and civil life is not disrupted, and no one breaks into open warfare, it's all good.

Presumably this means that when things get out of hand, the Emperor brings in weregeld of some kind, and calls the whole thing off. It's unclear whether or not this all applies only to Lunar nobility, since we've been told other nobility still exists. Regardless, it seems this is all fun and games until someone loses an eye -- or rather, pisses off the Emperor. Then he has to bring out the big stick.

Oops posted:

On one notable occasion, when the feuds burst into open warfare and the Imperial Army was sent in, the Emperor himself was slain by Harrek the Berserk in a particularly unfortunate incident.

We start the actual Lunar Empire section by being told the bit I started with about how it is actually the best place to live. The Unity of the Empire is all gathered in the Red Emperor. He is the Son of the Moon and Incarnates the Imperial Powers of the Goddess. He answers to no one except the mysterious Egi (not sure they ever get described here, but they are sort of super Moon spirits, if I recall correctly). All citizens of the Empire worship him, and he can infuse his magical Self into people to raise them up to power.

Helping him rule is The First Circle which is basically his Small Council for you Game of Thrones fans. The membership is entirely ad-hoc, although it tends to include the Satraps, the Great Sister, and the head of the Military. The First se are all people who are likely to be inhabited by portions of the Emperor.

This sounds promising posted:

Given the current inclinations of the Emperor, the First Circle has taken a leading role in the Empire and issued instructions in his name to see that the Empire runs well.

The Satraps each govern a region of the Empire, called a Satrapy. Note that these regions do not correspond exactly to old territories of kingdoms and cultures. Officially, those cultures govern themselves, but the Satraps adjudicate conflicts between the aristocrats from the different cultures or cities in their areas. They have been called Satraps, Sultans, and Overseers - the names go in and out of fashion. (This is, I believe a nod to the fact that the names have changed over time with editions of the game.)

There are currently nine:

Sylila is to the south, off this page

The Satraps also collect taxes, ensure respect for the religion, and keep the peace by way of their personal army if necessary. There are fees for everything, and the implication is that being a Satrap means everyone greases your palm.

There must be an Emperor posted:

History has proven the absolute necessity that there be an EMPEROR of Dara Happa. Their subjects say, “Ten Bad Emperors are better than none,” and few contradict it. Without the Emperor war would rage unchecked, justice would be a forgotten ideal, and the order of the Empire would be shaken to its core. This truth has been confirmed again and again, starting with the Death of Yelm and, most recently, reinforced by the invasion of Sheng Seleris.

So the Emperor of the Lunars is the Emperor of Dara Happa. Specifically. Again, how much of this is Dara Happan propaganda/interpretation and how much is supposed to be true is hard to tell. As far as I can recall, the Emperor claims to be above other rulers, but isn't considered the actual direct ruler as there always was of any of the other cultures in the area.

And yes, Dara Happa is expressly and pointedly patriarchal, so we have an Emperor, not an Empress, despite the rise of the Goddess.

The book goes on to explain the deal is simple, the nobility of all the subject people's accept that there must be an Emperor in Dara Happa, and for that they get to still keep their traditional rights over their peasants. The deal is usually just peachy, but sometimes the aristocrats rebel when they feel their traditional privileges have been overstepped.

Citizens of the Empire are all subject to local rule, but the traditional law codes in the various cultures are different. For instance, slaves in Pelanda are treated better than free peasants in Dara Happa. Since if you travel from one culture/region to another, these rules change, the Imperial system has its own set of social orders.

At the bottom are The Others . Slaves, criminals, scapegoats, and foreigners. Foreigners visiting in good standing can usually get the equivalent of citizenship for their stay from the local authority.

Most people are The Many . The local aristocrat must treat someone who is one of The Many with as much respect as the lowest free subjects. To be one of The Many involves swearing a personal oath of loyalty to the Emperor.

The Few are the nobility. A visiting Few must be treated with the honors and privileges of a local aristocrat. There is no description of how different scales of aristocratic privilege are reconciled here. Do you default to lowest, as you do with Manydom?

The rise of the Lunar Empire has introduced a new class. (Wait, does that mean the above was the old Dara Happan empire method?) These are The Select .

The Select posted:

Qualification is easy, a person must simply worship any aspect of the goddess.

I would think that just make them Lunars? That was the definition we were given before, wasn't it? Instead it seems that the Select can't worship the Lunar pantheon, but must worship the Goddess herself in one of her forms.

The Goddess has many faces posted:

The Goddess has been many people and many gods in past incarnations. The followers of all these goddesses, such as Verithurusa, Natha, Lesilla, Rufelza and even mystics such as the Rashoranans, the Mountain Seers of Jernotius and the Nysaloran Riddlers, are eligible for the status of Select.

OK then, so the Goddess claims to have been many previous Goddesses and Gods, including our old friend Nysalor (well, earlier it was she received insight/power from, so maybe that counts?) and we don't know enough about these gods and goddesses to tell if there is a thread that makes sense as a mythic connection for all of them. Still, worship one of the right gods/goddesses, and you're Select, easy, like they said.

The Select posted:

The applicant must demonstrate her comprehension of Sedenya’s mysteries to the high standards of the Examiners, imperial agents who supervise the teaching of her mysteries.

So.. easy for values of "easy" that equal "really fucking hard".

Being Select is a good gig. You are exempt from taxes and such, can't be castrated or crucified, and have right of appeal to the local satrap or final appeal to an Imperial Court. They form the upper echelons of the Army, and in most Imperia organizations, you can't rise high if you aren't Select.

Takenegi, The Red Emperor

He has conveniently dressed in traditional Dara Happan regalia because... shut up, that's why! It's tradition!

Takenegi Moonson is a God. He is the latest of the 77 emperors who have sat on the Throne of Justice in Dara Happa since the Golden Age. He has ruled for 375 years, so he must be glorious and good. He is "the incarnation of the masculine powers of the Red Goddess" because we can't get through one culture without some solid gender essentialism, I guess.

He can change his shape at will, and appear in multiple places at once. His word is law and he has a pack of infernal furies who bay for human blood at his beck and call. He only unleashes the most fierce on the worst criminals: tax evaders. (I believe that might be an attempt at humour.)

Takenegi is a Jerk posted:

The Son of the Moon possesses a silvery tongue and sharp wit that can turn an oath inside out and a pledge on its head. The CharUn and Sir Ethilrist bitterly rue the day they agreed to the Emperor’s oath. Bound by their sworn word, they now inhabit worthless lands instead of the rich grants that they
thought the were getting.

So far he seems pretty much a Trickster God as much as anything else. He's immortal. Wait a minute, you might say, didn't we find out that Harrek killed him a while ago? Indeed we did. It seems that Sheng Seleris killed him as well. Each time he is killed, he comes back.

Suspicious Detail? posted:

Since his death at the hands of Sheng he has changed his appearance and manner each time he returns. These different personalities are called his Masks.

So... The Goddess arrives, frees the people from the Carmanians, proclaims an Empire, apotheosizes. The Empire only has a few Lunars at this time. Moonson may or may not be killed and come back during this time. Sheng Seleris rides in, takes over and kills the Emperor. The Emperor then comes back from the dead, but in a new face and with a new personality. Since then, every time he is killed, he comes back with a new face and personality.

That's... curious.

The current Mask of the Emperor is a pig. He has non-stop orgies of foods like roast unicorn, special drugs, magical etheric wines, etc. etc.

I would like to point out that despite the obvious chance to detail his depraved sexual proclivities at this time, the book does not, thus leaping well beyond the bar that is CthuluTech or Exalted: The Infernals.

Despite the Emperor being useless, many people worry what happens when he dies, because the new Mask might be worse. Devil you know and all that. Also, the major heroes of the Empire all still praise his name.

The Imperial Army

The Imperial Army is seriously badass. They are the largest, most well organized, and most magically powerful in the world. (At least they can lay claim to "one of" status on all those things.) There is a High Command, run by the Imperial Overlord, Bellux Maximus.

Regiments are drawn from the local traditions, and so consist of the various military cultures of Peloria. There are Lunar Regiments, unburdened by older traditions and with their own magic.

The Magical Army posted:

A unique superiority of the Army is their use of sorcerer-priests organized into military units. Other cultures and lands have units raised from Temples, who can create one or two specific magical effects; the Lunars have much more flexibility in their choice of magic and their use of it. The priests are conscripted from the various colleges of magic in the Empire and trained to use their magical abilities in unison. No other nation in Glorantha has yet duplicated the Lunar tactic and this makes the Empire’s army nearly invincible when it deploys the College. Many army officers have grave concerns about the magical devastation caused by the unrestrained use of magic and prefer instead the clean certainties of honorable battle.

If that wasn't enough, The Empire also has a fleet of flying Moonboats. They are fast and reliable, but much less effective outside the Empire, where they can be grounded during the Dark of the Moon since they sail on the moon's rays. Only the Yestendos of Darjiin can sail Moonboats. Offices don't have to be, and the ship often has a standing force of marines.

The Imperial University is where the magic comes from. It is more prestigious than the old universities of the old empires. Rich kids go here, and gifted poor kids on scholarship. Students study weird magics, dance scantily-clad to music with heavy beats (no, really, it is pointed out specifically), and try to find themselves. After, they are expected to do at least one year tour of duty as part of the Magical Divisions of the Army.

Stupid College Hippies posted:

Lurid tales abound about what the barbarians do to their captives and most students are loath to serve their tour of duty. Protests and sit-ins against the Emperor’s subjugation of the barbarians are common.

We get some more "Dara Happans are the bestest and most refined" comments discussing language, and then a tag to point out that the Lunar Empire has torn down the walls between the old cultures, which means lots of Lodril peasants from Dara Happa are now everywhere.

Before we begin the different cultures of the region, we shall pass some time with one of the heroes of the Empire.

Jar-Eel, The Razoress

She seems nice.

She is also, like Harrek, someone who appeared in the White Bear, Red Moon boardgame that was the first Gloranthan product. (I believe) In it, they both count as basically an entire army unit.

About 30 years old now, Jar-Eel is famous in the Empire, but not without. Not yet. A product of selected breeding from the EelAriash clan, her life has been a series of tests to determine if she's the incarnation of the Goddess.

The Razoress posted:

JarEel is the daughter of Goddess of Life and Death and is the darling of the Empire. She is a demigoddess and the equivalent of a small army all by herself when the powers rise within her. Yet she is more than a murderer, but also the heart of all pleasure. Her music can bring relief to the most aggrieved soul and energize the crippled to dance. Her smile has healed, her touch has destroyed, her past is of power, and her future unknown.

She helped drive off demonic Uz when she was a mere infant. She formed a legion of fanatic warriors called the Bloodspillers when she was a teenager and used them to help conquer Sartar. Since the Emperor was severely wounded in the battle, she considered herself to have failed. She redeemed herself 5 years ago when she dismembered the Pharaoh of the Holy Land, who had resisted the Empire for a decade.

She has other ways of defeating people. When a horse nomad slave led a revolt armed with kitchen utensils and savaging Kostaddi, JarEel defeated him, then took it upon herself - with "long, private hours of persuasive argument and physical instruction" - to teach the young man the true way. They are now inseparable.

She is currently debating the Keepers of the White Moon, trying to convince them they are in error and to embrace the Red Goddess.

I do love the description of her supposedly penned by a nameless Lunar monk.

"Friendly and happy, clever and beautiful, holy and deadly."

Next Time. The Dara Happans - People of the Sun.

Dara Happans, People of the Sun

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Dara Happans, People of the Sun
When Sedenya conquered the Dara Happan Empire she altered their upper classes, but made no efforts to replace the ancient traditions. Instead, the Emperor encourages Dara Happans to rule cities all over Peloria and beyond. The Dara Happans co-operate with this as part of their pious duty to uphold and extend their empire over the world and bring back the Golden Age.

That sounds like a great sacrifice, to not change your ways much and be forced to rule over everyone else.


The Dara Happans are the people who most directly worshiped Yelm in the mythic age, and so are the traditional enemies of the Orlanthi. They are now, conveniently, the major backbone of the Lunar Empire, and so enemies of the Orlanthi. (At least according to the Orlanthi of Sartar.)

I have heard that a special side project, The Glorious ReAscent of Yelm actually paints them sympathetically. If so, it is the only instance I've heard of, since they otherwise come off as imperialist, sexist, racist douchebags, as does Yelm.

The book makes no bones about this, describing Dara Happan civilization as "patriarchal, urban, and rigid". Nobles are descended from Yelm, profession is determined by caste, with all the good ones kept among the upper classes, and all the wealth concentrated in maybe a few dozen families that make sure nothing disrupts the order.

This is all mandated by heaven, you see.

Clan ties are considered a thing to be mocked, only family ties matter. Also, if you live outside of a city, you are a savage and to be pitied. You must be born to Dara Happan parents in a Dara Happan city or you are just a Pelorian, even if you are a descendent of Yelm. Presumably there are no Dara Happan ambassadors or anything, because all their children would be degraded.

Surely you were expecting this? posted:

Heading the families are the Patriarchs, living incarnations of Yelm the Father and masters of Life and Death over their own family. Family membership is limited to those within four generations of patrilineal descent from any of the Patriarch’s ancestors. Inability to prove family membership is a mark of a base Pelorian.

By Law, women are mere chattel, though indispensable. Sons are favored over daughters, brothers over wives, and fathers over mothers. Polygamy is frowned on, but the only punishment is to have many wives. The Dara Happans do not practice primogeniture; instead the patriarch chooses his heir from among his male relatives.

At least in this case that's sort of portrayed as being sucky, but then these are also the main rulers of the Empire, always have been, and mythically seem to be required to always be in charge of Peloria or things go badly.

They like cities and towers, and have a celestial-based religion, and so have mapped the sky in intricate detail.

A brief tour of the ranks of Dara Happan society.

The nobility are on top, as expected. The Ten Sons and Servants (or Tenths) are next in line, serving as administrators and bureaucrats. There are more than ten orders within this group by now, but still keep the old name. Then you have the Commoners . This used to only include ethnic Dara Happans, but early on, the Red Emperor allowed Pelorians to become Commoners, which set off a civil war. Not by the Nobles, they didn't care. The Dara Happan commoners didn't want to lose their rights and privileges over the rest of Peloria, though. Since the nobles didn't help out, the peasant revolution was easily crushed.

The Goddess's influence posted:

Due to the exclusive, hierarchical nature of Dara Happan society, commoners and women are denied any significant opportunity to improve their status. Many important offices and priesthoods are restricted to the nobility and the tenths. Sedenya, however, bars no one from learning her mysteries. Since Sedenya is a Goddess of the Middle Heavens, learned jurists declare that, according to ancient Dara Happan precepts, an initiate of the Goddess is in the class of the tenths.

While the Emperor isn't ethnically Dara Happan, he is Emperor, so it is sacrilege to disobey him or criticize anything he does.

There used to be Overseers that ruled the territories of Dara Happa, each of which is ruled separately, from its capital city. A list of those cities would be nice, but we don't get it. The Satraps now basically perform this function (you might recall Overseer as one of the titles they've had in the past) and so the Overseers,

Nice work if you can get it posted:

...spend most of their time in the undisturbed contemplation of their own greatness. The only surviving responsibility that most of them exercise is their ability to hear court cases.

Concerning the Dara Happan feel of the Empire, there are things hinted at in this chapter overall that don't quite get brought to the front but should be in this section. Namely, the fact that the satraps don't overlap the Overseer's territories. In fact, of all the subject peoples of the Empire, the two most specifically set up so their traditional territories and their satrapies don't line up are the Dara Happans and the Carmanians - the two who did the best job of conquering everyone else. That bit of divide and conquer is interesting, and if I was running a Lunar game, these sorts of political fault lines would be something I'd explore as rife with possibility.

The tenths do most of the work administrating, but the tax money goes to the nobles. Reforms have mostly failed because the Tenths' magics depend on the nobility performing the sacrifices correctly. If the Tenths get uppity, the nobles just go on strike and boom, no magic for you.

There are all kinds of official posts in the Tenths, some are obsolete but still around, some are common and necessary. Officials usually get their family to be assistants and do all the work, so it is more like a family that holds a position, not a person. One role is "proxy", who is the person officially punished for any misdeeds done by the official.

The Dara Happan Imperial Army was commanded by Polemarchs but they have been superseded by Lunars worshiping the Lunar God of War, so now the Polemarchs just command troops raised in Dara Happa proper, and Urban garrisons act as city police.

[i]Looking down to the city of Glamour from the POV of the Moongate[i]

We weirdly get that picture and a brief comment on the city of Glamour here, even though Glamour isn't Dara Happan. The city lies near the Crater, and if you climb that silver road to the Moongate, you can be magically transported to the surface of the Red Moon itself.

Foremen have crossed staves and are in charge of the corvée, which means they and their assistants, The Thumpers decide which commoners need to work on public works and beat them until they do it. The law forbids whipping commoners though, so that's good.

There are three divisions of Wheelers who all have to do with coin and trade. They make coins (called wheels), assay goods and oversee markets, and maintain the wagons. The wagons must have perfectly round wheels or spiritual calamity will result.

Toga-men used to be commoners appointed to assist nobles and act like lawyers and debaters. Now that any Pelorian can be a commoner, these positions have become inherited and might even be considered one of the Tenths. They can be hired by commoners, but not by peasants, to act as an advocate should a commoner think an official is punishing them unjustly.

Tribunes are judges for these sorts of things, and most court cases, really. They can not punish an official, though, since officials are by definition correct in any performance of their duties. They can, however, punish the proxy instead.

There is no discussion of whether or not the official or the tribune picks the proxy, or whether who fills the role is traditionally defined. That's a missed opportunity right there, I think.

We get a quick mention of the Solar religion. Yelm is emperor, his sons and concubines are the other important gods. Every other religion is an aberration of this truth, outlaws and misguided cults, etc.

Dara Happan centrism posted:

The Dara Happan looks upon Sedenya as Rufelza, the servitor of the Sky.

Yelm is the big kahuna and only nobility and patriarchs can worship him because he is too awesome for normal people. The others watch the sacrifices and participate through the mysteries of Antirius (not described) and Dendara (Gets one line, "worshiped by women, is Yelm's Good Wife"). These mysteries emphasize obedience to the nobility and the patriarchs.

Dayzatar is Yelm's older brother and the Sky or all Light beyond Heaven or something else so remote and otherworldly that no one worships him directly, instead worshiping his first priest, Buserian who taught people how the sky and stars move, and how to write.

Lokarnos is the Solar God of Merchants, the Wagon God, and invented the wheel. The Wheelers still worship him, but he's mostly been replaced by the Lunar Merchant God.

Oslira is the Goddess of the river Oslir. She was conquered by an early Dara Happan Emperor and people pray to her for the annual floods which make the ground fertile.

That's it for the Dara Happans, the ultimate patriarchal assholes.

Next, the Darjiinians, for all your sex orgy needs.

The Darjiinians, People of the Heron Goddess

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

The Darjiinians, People of the Heron Goddess
The Darjiinians intentionally practice archaic rites disturbing to the staid Dara Happans, such as the infamous Great Sex Hunt of Dorkath. The Hunt is a flimsy excuse for an three day orgy with free wine on tap, made available through a magical plumbing system.

What, you thought I was kidding?

So yes, the Darjiinians are in the southwest, and despite what I said earlier they seem to be just as scattered as the Dara Happans, spread out over the satrapies of Darjiin, Doblian, Sylila and Kostaddi. They claim descent from the Great Goddess SurEnsilb, who as far as I can tell has never been associated with the Red Goddess. They have been enemies of the Dara Happans since before the Dawn, and have never been a match for them militarily. Therefore they rebel by refusing to give up their old ways, and as said above, being so shocking that the Dara Happans can't handle them.

Clans among the Darjinnian transcend Dara Happan class structure, and are all based on being six degrees of relation to the Manimat or clan leader. Of course he's male, you didn't think just because the whole culture claims descent from a Great Goddess that the men wouldn't be in charge did you?

To be fair, the Manimat is constrained by the Clan Congress, which is overseen by the Priestess of SurEnsilb, so maybe things aren't so bad.

Clan Congress posted:

All social classes are represented, but the male delegates
other than the Manimat are either chosen by lot or by the priestesses. Since there is only one Manimat in the clan, he must attend every congress. Women may attend these congresses if they choose, but most leave this to the priestesses. Depending upon the importance of the congress’s agenda, the size of the congress varies at the discretion of the priestesses. Mundane decisions usually require only four men and the Priestess, but the whole clan attends for important decisions.

um... ok.

The Dara Happans say these are nothing but depraved orgies, but in reality these are elaborate rituals to bring about the oneness of the Green Age, where even speech was unnecessary. When people come back to reality, the Priestess announces the decision and everyone realizes it is the right one because they were all in holy communion.

Any parallel to bonobos settling conflicts by sex is entirely accidental.

(And doesn't hold up, because only the most pushy of Swinger and Poly people actually insist it's impossible to have an argument after an orgy.)

Once you have two or more clans the ritual becomes harder, because if there is any animosity between the clans, the ritual exacerbates this and then everyone is eaten by the Beast with Many Mouths. (Wait, this isn't a problem in clan? I'm fairly sure people can have animosity withing a clan.)

This is why interclan things are handled by the Manimati. (So wait, if a dispute involves more than one clan, the men handle it themselves with no input from the Priestesses?)

The Darjiini have embraced the Lunar Way to resolve disputes. (So does this mean the Manimati have been bypassed, or that they are the ones leading the embrace of Lunar culture?)

Outsiders think SurEnsilb is the Heron Goddess but her worshipers know she is much more. She is the Great Goddess as Yelm is Great God. By making herself deliberately the Other, she can't be directly suppressed by Yelm, she and her people can only be accepted and understood.

As mentioned earlier, there is a boat cult who turns out to be the only ones who can make Moonboats here.

The only other bit on Darjiini religion we get is this.

Really? posted:

All women worship SURENSLIB and can call upon the magics of her sons
and lovers. Men worship one of SurEnslib’s sons or lovers as appropriate to their station. The Manimati all worship MANIMAT the sun god. They scoff at the Dara Happan claim that he was an emperor-in-exile.

You know, the Dianic Wiccan Priestess I used to sleep with was less gender essentialist than Glorantha. So was the Christian youth leader.

Next time, The Pelandans, People of Art

The Pelandans, People of Art

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

The Pelandans, People of Art
The Pelandans are justly famous for their cities and their art. A Pelandan identifies himself by his home city; such as Ulawar, home to the Oldest temple to the Love Goddess Uleria; Othens with its Oracle of Turos the Shaker; or Tawenos, where the Bull god lives. Only outsiders call them Pelandans, after the city of Pelandre which first united the cities in the Storm Age.

The Pelandans are artists.
No, not artists, ~ARTISTS!!!

Not an accurate representation.

The Pelandans feel like one of the most unfinished peoples in Glorantha. They are the ever-trod-upon Artists, but despite never having ruled themselves since the Sun rose, they have their own culture and castes and government. It's like there should be a complicated history of cultural influence and cross-pollination between them and the Dara Happans. There should be some kind of ebb and flow of power. At the very least maybe some aspect of the Pelandans as the Greeks to the Dara Happan Persians (or Romans). But no. Nothing. Only a mythic past, badly explained.

Pelandans posted:

In the Golden Age, Pelanda was a fabled land of many city-states, and even now their cities inspire the viewer. Many famous artists, art styles, and fashions have come from Pelanda. History has denied self rule to the Pelandans; the Dara Happans ruled them from afar, then the Carmanians conquered them and took away their liberties. The Lunars liberated only half of the Pelandans, leaving the other half in servile serfdom to the Carmanians. Nonetheless, they find solace in their art and manufacturing, much of which adorns the houses of Dara Happa.

What "ruled them from afar" means is unknown. It's probably the part I'd drop if re-doing the Pelandans. Sometimes the Dara Happans took over, sometimes the Pelandans got their act together and threw them off. That's not the canon, though. They were maybe united and independent in the Storm Age, since then other people have ruled them.

They are mostly scattered to the West of the area traditionally considered Dara Happa. So it does seem that the vast majority of Peloria was made up of city states, with two dominant cultures unifying them. Why Dara Happa is the automatic winner is deeply unclear.

The Pelandans have six classes, conveniently called Firsts, Seconds, Thirds, and so on. For the culture of Super-Artists, they are pretty dull with the naming.

The Firsts were kings of the cities. Now this role is filled by either Carmanians or Lunars, there are no more Firsts. (Again, whether the Dara Happans let them have Firsts is unclear. Maybe they did, and just demanded tribute?)

The Seconds are nobility. There are almost no seconds in cities ruled by Carmanians. Presumably there may be some in Lunar-controlled cities.

The Thirds are artisans, crafters, and freehold farmers. Most Pelandans encountered outside of Carmania are Thirds.

Fourths are transients, resident foreigners, and "unmarried laborers". (WTF, Glorantha, you better explain how not being married changes your class.)

Fifths are serfs. Specifically stated as "pitiful serfs". Most Pelandans in Carmania are Fifths.

Sixths are slaves.

OK, so is this a system that dates back to the Golden Age? Were there always 6 classes? Is this something imposed from the outside? Why do Fifths basically only exist in Carmania? We will later find out that the Carmanians imposed Western-style caste sensibility on Pelanda when they conquered it, so did they add classes?

And now, ladies and gentlemen, a little bit of a shock.

Women have a role?? posted:

All members of a family belong to the same class. Membership in a family is based upon four generations of matrilineal kinship with Viturosi, the family head.

There is a comment that class migration is possible, but it involves dissolving clan ties and adoption into a new sponsor clan. Fourths have no clan, but Fifths and Sixths require manumission from their owners before being allowed to join the Fourths. So presumably, clans only exist at the level of Thirds and above. Below that only family matters.

I'm not sure that makes any sense. It sounds like every free Pelandan is a member of a clan, but if they aren't married, they are bumped down to Fourths? Where do kids fit in this? I suppose you could have a situation that somewhere after adulthood you lose your clan, and then only get it when married. But if so, how do you determine what clan you end up in when married?

Something hasn't been thought through here.

Pelandans grow barley, rice and wheat. Corn has become more popular, because the Lunar Empire has been messing with the Glacier to the Northwest, and warming the climate.

This might be worrying posted:

The Maize cult is making inroads among the Pelandan Fifths.

I should point out that in Glorantha, Maize requires blood sacrifice to grow well.

The Dara Happans think art was invented in Pelanda, and the Pelandan cities are beautiful and impressive. Some of the statues are among the first ones ever made. Cities have their own styles, and these cycle in and out of fashion among the Dara Happans. Cities under Carmanian control are dingy and dull, presumably because Carmanians hate art.

Pelandans hate Carmanians. The fact that Carmanians are actually part of the Lunar Empire bothers them, and they blame all unpopular decisions by the Emperor on Carmanian influence. They celebrate the Lunars liberating half of them, and mourn the ones who were left under Carmanian rule.

Pelandan politics and government is based on the city state. They are democratic to a degree, with every clan having the right to speak at the assembly. (So these things are organized by clan, not family. We still have no description of what governs clan membership.) The Carmanian still let these happen, but manipulate them for oppressive purposes. Since ancient times, the voting rules are stacked to favour the upper classes over the lower. Since Carmanians and Lunars make up all the Firsts, the Pelandans in fact have no ability to influence policy on themselves. Not voting with the Firsts opens the Seconds and Thirds to reprisals.

Now we are told that the Seconds and Thirds in Carmania are just quislings and collaborators, and that there are no votes, the Carmanians just tell them what their obligations are.

Umm... so there are no nobles but in name only, and no artists but collaborators?

Pelandan mythology is centered on the Seven High Gods , who meet on top of Mount Jernotius.

Wait a minute posted:

The chief of the High Gods is Jernotius the Liberator. He can be both male and female, as she chooses. This gives him particular insights, which she communicated to other deities. The essence of these insights, codified as the Jernotian Way, is that no deity can always win or always lose; cosmic justice is maintained through balance. The Pelandan looks at the Moon and sees Natha the Balancer.

So the first culture we have encountered that is matrilineal, and acknowledges a divinity that isn't rigidly masculine or feminine is explicitly stated to have always been conquered and subject to rule by other, more patriarchal cultures?

The Jernotian Way is difficult and austere, so the Mountain Sages help people worship the other High Gods, who are less demanding. From worshiping these gods, you can achieve balance.

Some of the gods:

Turos is "The Men's God" because even in a culture that has a chief divinity expressly dedicated to transcending gender, we need some essentialism. He has aspects connected with leadership, such as KetTurosi (who presides over the rulership assemblies) and "ViTurosi"... which is the name of the family head, so the families are matrilineal, but the ruler of the family is male. He is known for, "raising mountains, making earthquakes, liberating Oria from Hell, defeating enemies and presiding over the assemblies."

Fuck you, Glorantha.

Oria is the Great Mother, the Woman's Goddess, and is blesses herds and crops. There is no list of things she is famous for.

There are presumably four other High Gods, but these are the two popular ones.

We do get introduced to Bisos , "god of free men and nobles worship". That's what it says, so I am going to guess he is a Bull God and worshiped by both groups. He is important in Carmania as a loyal servant of the Carmanian God, so presumably he is an import? Not one of the High Gods? A syncretic mix of Carmanian and Pelandan?

The last people we learn of are The Logicians These are sorcerers from the Land of Logic who were imported here by The Blue King during the Gods War. The Blue King died, but the sorcerers stuck around. It is unclear whether or not they are immortal like the Brithini, since they presumably come from the same era, or if they are just an insular group. Their magic is different from the Carmanian Vizirs (although both are forms of Sorcery/Wizardry) and when the Carmanians showed up, the Logicians and the Vizirs had a magical duel which the Logicians one. The Carmanians almost exterminated them for the humiliation. Now the Lunars protect them and the Logicians spend their time loafing around marketplaces.

And that's it.

I really don't know what to make of the Pelandans. They hint at one of the more interesting pantheons we've encountered, but we get no details. Why they have just been conquered patsies since the Dawn is unclear. We get nothing about them other than "artists". The whole city state and assembly stuff makes it sound like they could be an interesting Ancient Greek analogue, but who knows? The Logicians are this weird throw away that could be interesting, but is just sort of dropped in there.

It feels like even more rough clay than usual, and if I was redoing Peloria, this is probably one of the major threads I'd pull to try and weave something far richer in gaming potential.

Next time, Carmania - The Western Reaches. Zorastrian Cavalry to the rescue! (for values of "rescue" that are somewhat ambiguous.)

Carmania, The Western Reaches

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Carmania, The Western Reaches
The Carmanians used to worship gods of light and darkness. Appreciation of light and darkness is important in Carmanian philosophy as a means of discovering the truth. Both are pure—they exist uncontaminated by the lie. There are false lights and false darks but the magi can discern the lie within.

The Carmanians were in charge of the Empire that The Red Goddess overthrew. Now they have converted to the Lunar Way, but are sort of semi-independent. They have their own territory, the Western Reaches, which isn't part of the Heartland Satrapies.

They are from Loskalm originally, and fled the God Learners. I don't think it gets detailed here, but during a war of succession in Loskalm, the God Learners tried to grab influence, and did succeed in pushing out some factions. One noble/knight/warrior guy took ten thousand of his men and the Ecclesiarch and fled when it became obvious he had lost. He marched them all the way east through Fronela, and ended up in Peloria, in the Western Reaches, which he then conquered.

They now have a culture that mixes elements from Peloria and the West, basically as an excuse to have quasi-Zoroastrianism. With some effort, I guess you could find a way to get there, although I don't know if any book has ever provided the story.

They are the only people in Peloria with a feudal government instead of one based on clan or family. They have kept the caste system of the West, but with some modifications, and new names.

At the bottom are the Serfs, who are descendants of the conquered Pelandans. This means that no Carmanian is a serf. As we'll see, the Carmanians believe in caste mobility of some sort, so it could just be that any Commoners were promoted when they got here, or maybe there were no Commoners in the army that fled the war.

The Empire of Gloom posted:

Their wretched status is justified on the grounds that
their conquered ancestors were all Spolites, an infamous shadowy Empire in Pelanda. Any relaxation of Carmanian firmness would only lead to the resurrection of the Spolite Empire, with its attendant grisly sacrifices.

Hang on a minute. The Pelandans had an an Empire? A Shadowy Empire no less? It could be another group of foreigners, but the Carmanians seem to specifically say that if you let the Pelandans free, they will bring back the Spolite Empire. A piece on the history of the Dara Happan Empire lists the Spolites as ruling for about 100 years before the Carmanians crushed them. So if that was a Pelandan thing, why isn't it mentioned in the piece on the Pelandans?

All Carmanian males are born Hazars . These were originally the knights, but now include landed gentry and urban middle class. So yeah, I am going to go with all the Carmanians just got bumped into this caste. Why it has a completely different name from the names in the rest of the West, I can't tell you.

We are told many of the hazars put away arms and armor when the Ban fell in Fronela, figuring they were at peace now. (Lunar allies to the right, mystic fog to the left.) With the Thaw, they are realizing this was a mistake.

A Carmanian youth who shows talent and promise can be chosen to become a Karmanoi (Lord) or Vizir (Wizard). So like Loskalm and the Hrestoli tradition they left, they still believe class is something you aspire to, not something you are born to. Unless you're a dirty Pelandan.

Or, of course, a woman.

Every woman is in a harem! posted:

Carmanian women are born into the cloistered Caram , or women’s caste. A woman can now aspire to a male caste through the mysteries of Sedenya, although the concept is quite shocking to their male counterparts. Male Carmanians can been forced into the caram caste as a humiliating form of house arrest.

That bit about Sedenya opening the way for women to aspire to male caste is interesting. Why she supports it here, but not in Dara Happa remains a mystery.

The Carmanians converted to the Lunar Way, but are not part of the Heartlands (and so technically not part of the Empire?). They thought this was punishment at first, but not being officially part of the Empire spared them from Sheng Seleris, and allowed them to defeat him when no one else could. They consider themselves the backbone of the Empire.

The head of the Carmanians is The Eye of the Padishah who is a appointee of the Lunar Empire, and basically a Satrap. Carmania actually is made up of four Satraps (the word is Carmanian) but they aren't Lunar and don't have the Lunar inclusion magic, the Eye of the Padisha does. All of Carmania is basically a super-satrap as far as the Empire is concerned.

Webs of near permanent vassalage are called Houses and the ones that control a Satrapy are Great Houses .

Carmanian Religon: Dualism

This was revealed by Carmanos himself, and is a variant on the Western Invisible God story. He's still here, but he's even more remote. He created two beings to oversee Creation, Idovanus , the Good God of Truth and Spirit and Ganesatarus , the Bad God of Lies and Matter.

So far we've basically got a version of Loskalm's demiurge story, so that's all good.

Their holy book is The Two Book and has two front covers, one black, one white. Since converting to the Lunar Way, they view the Red Goddess as the holder of balance, cycling from light to dark and back every seven days as she waxes and wanes.

Idovanus is too pure to worship for most people, so the Magi have approved lesser gods for people to worship. I think this makes our first explicitly mixed religion, as both the Veneration/Wizardry model and the Sacrifice/Theism model exist in one religion. (This is something Stafford and others say exists always, but almost every example ever produced is 95% one magic type.)

Ganesatarus is called "The Deceiver" and was also patron god of the Spolite empire. Now I am wondering if this is just Arkat showing up again. He made demons to confuse people and even leads some good gods astray. You have to always be on guard that you are actually worshiping something truthful, and not one of his deceptions.

The Vizirs are described as teachers and sorcerers, but when they challenged the Logicians of Pelanda, it was revealed their sorcery came from a servant of Ganesatarus.

The Renouncing posted:

They had been corrupted by the Lie and this was the cause of their reverses. To cleanse themselves, the karmanoi and the hazars abandoned their sorcerous training and worshipped only the divine servants of Idovanus. The viziers are allowed to practice sorcery, for their superior moral perception allows them to distinguish between the pure sorcery of Idovanus, and Fronalako’s debased perversion. For all other Carmanians, sorcery is forbidden.

I interpret that to mean that the Carmanians were still pretty Loskalmi up until then, with everyone worshiping God in the typical Western way. This freaked them out, so everyone who wasn't actually doing wizard level worship, but was just praying, switched off from veneration to Theistic sacrifice. That's... interesting.

There is a separate order of wizards called the Magi, and they are even more powerful and pure. This lets them worship Idovanus directly. They are chosen into their caste at birth or while still in the cradle. If you have Magi level magic, you get picked and raised by the Magi. They use magic wands with glowing tips, and consider the sun to be the glowing tip of Idovanus's magic wand.

Despite being called wizards, it says explicitly that they do not do sorcery because it interferes with their communion with the Good God. Not sure what to make of that. Presumably it means they are actually high level Theist Disciples.

Their leader is the Hierophant , who determines which gods are acceptable to Idovanus. Sedenya has been pronounced acceptable, but is basically treated as any other of the acceptable gods, although a powerful one. The Magi still only worship Idovanus, and still have final say on which gods are pure.

Priests of the other gods are not Vizirs or Magi, but one of the other castes.

Interestingly, despite all this talk of the sun and that the Evil God was the patron of the Shadowy Spolite Empire, the Carmanians think the fundamental split is Truth and Lie, not Light and Dark. You can have True Dark and False Light. A good Carmanian worshiped both, standing between them. They don't mix, making a weaksauce gray blob. You stand in balance, and use either as necessary.

Where the hell THAT philosophy came from isn't explained, since it doesn't fit the rest of the West at all. It's neat though.

Now they see that same balance expressed differently, with the seven phases of The Moon. The Seven Mothers have replaced many of the Carmanian equivalents. One specifically mentioned is the Lunar god of war replacing Humakt, the Carmanian one.

That's interesting only because Humakt is the Orlanthi god of Death (and honor and sort of war). Why he was the traditional Carmanian god of War is yet another mystery. (Maybe picked up by some of the Orlanthi tribes in eastern Fronela?)

The Carmanians are fun, and another culture that should get its due in more detail. Exactly how they ended up with this weird mix of beliefs if they started out as loyal Loskalmi is probably different to explain other than "It sounds cool."

Next time, The Rinliddi - the Bird People.

Rinliddi, The Bird People

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Rinliddi, The Bird People
The Emperor has sanctioned the expenditure of massive magics for people to travel to the past and bring the avilry back, and this has had some small success. However, many of the ancient customs of the Rinliddi Bird People are still lost and much that is known is clearly redundant in the modern world. Continued effort is needed before the Bird people are robust enough to fly strong again.

I kind of love the idea of the Rinliddi.

In The Golden Age, they were allies of Dara Happa, and descended/looked over by Vrimak, the High Flyer - the Bird of Yelm and supreme god of the people. They were famous for their Avilry , men mounted on large flightless birds. During the Great Darkness, the birds were all destroyed by Horse people. Now the Empire is trying to use great magics to bring the Avilry back.

One thing not mentioned here, however, is that the Rinliddi are concentrated in the Satrap of First Blessed, which is where the Red Goddess was born in her mortal life. So restoring the lost glory of the Bird People may also just be something the Goddess wants because she grew up there.

With the avilry gone, the Nobles were able to keep true to the ancient ways, but the people "were forced to become peasants and serfs to survive", which is an odd statement. Even now, most peasants are Lunar, and haven't gone back to bird worship, because it isn't practical without an Avilry.

But all this magical work has started to have some success, and so there are New Birds as people are trying to regain the ancient heritage.

The New Birds return posted:

The New Birds have become populous in the countryside, while the Lunars make up the majority in the towns and army. Most Lunars do not care for the ancient ways.

Goofy and awesome, from the cover of a different book

Rinliddi organize themselves by Nests, which are geographical, not drawn from kinship. The center of the Nest is an Addi or pillar, which is in fact a stump of the great World Tree that once existed in the Golden Age. You can fly into the branches during worship ceremonies.

As part of all this reclaiming of ancient heritage, the flock farmers (it is never made clear if the flock farmers are the ones tending the Avilry birds that have come back, or if it is just a name given to farmers in Rinliddi) have been granted ancient titles.

Rinliddi posted:

Equally pretentious insignia accompany the titles, so ceremonial feathered headdresses can be seen bobbing over the bent backs of f armers in the fields.

These new leaders have come into conflict with Lunar authorities and some expect a full blown Dart War to happen soon.

We get a quick mention of some gods of the region.

There's Vrimak, of course, who used to give advice to a special form of high priest called Paradisal Aviator . No one has succeeded in rediscovering those rituals yet, though. The Satrap of First Blessed is supporting the push to do so.

The land goddess Basekora taught the Rinliddi the secrets they used to survive the Horse People, and was pretty much the only link the people still had to the ancient religion until recently.

There is an ancient Great Bird Mother goddess, Avarnia , that people are being encouraged to worship. So far, her blessing seem to be limited to helping raise plump quail. This has meant a quail in every pot, though.

There is one little touch of Rinliddi myth that is worth noting, however. The Rinliddi death goddess is, in fact, the Crimson Bat . The Red Goddess found it in her quest for Godhood, and taught it it's true Self. The Bat grew extra eyes, came back to the world with her at the battle that crushed the Carmanians and has served the Empire ever since.

The Crimson Bat posted:

This, at least, is the official version. The Crimson Bat, or something very like it, has been encountered around Glorantha since the Greater Darkness. The Bat is widely feared as a monstrous demon that devours the body and soul of its victims. The mere presence of the Bat has won several major victories for the Lunar Empire. By Imperial decree it is forbidden to feed within the Heartlands and instead patrols the Provinces and outlying areas. Wherever it flies the locals avidly hunt down criminals, down-and-outs, and foreigners to propitiate its ferocious hunger.

So yes, very sketchy, but again full of ideas that could be taken somewhere. Why the actual push to regain a religion lost before the Dawn of Time? Is the Emperor just trying to get a military weapon with the Avilry? Is it a plan to increase food production by restoring the blessings of the old gods to that land? Is this a Dara Happan power move, since the old Rinliddi pantheon seems to have some kind of allied status to the Dara Happan one?

Is the Bat really the Rinliddi Death Goddess, and if it is, does that mean any of the new gods brought back might come back as fearsome Chaos Monsters as well?

Or you can play it goofy and maybe the whole thing is just a chance to have people in wacky feather outfits with huge important-sounding titles who are just peasant farmers.

That's one thing, though, there is no discussion whatsoever of what the culture is actually like here, so one does think the writers really just wanted an excuse for encounters with people in funny hats.

Next time, Kostaddi, the Rich Earth and Oraya, The Eastern Satrapy

Kostaddi, The Rich Earth

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Kostaddi, The Rich Earth
Legend remembers that Emperor Ovosto came from Kostaddi, but his memory is only invoked on Anarchy Day, when a peasant is crowned Emperor for a day and the Dara Happans are forced to be the servants of the Kostaddians. The day’s celebrations end when the Emperor is poisoned and the normalcy of the Cosmos is restored.

This whole section only gets about 2/3 of a page.

Kostaddi is a normal satrapy, and has lots of Dara Happans running the cities. The other major power group are the Sable Riders, who settled here from Wastelands in Prax in the Dawn Age. No one else could live on the Plateau, but they were used to harsh terrain. The Sable Riders field the Antelope Lancers for the Imperial Army.

Kostaddi renounced Sedenya and worshiped Sheng Seleris when he took over, so they've been punished ever since. The Sable Riders are officially in charge of the Satrapy, and what they do is storm off the Plateau and raid all the towns and cities. This has resulted in a bunch of revolts, but they have all been crushed.

Kostaddi are traditionally led by peasant councils. Sable Riders or Dara Happans rule them.

We get told they have an earth god who appears as a goat and his wife who is the barley.

That's it for the whole people and satrapy.

Oraya, The Eastern Satrapy
The Satrap of Oraya fields a vast army of prison guards and does whatever he pleases. Most towns voluntarily donate him a large portion of their revenue in the hope that he will leave them alone.

Oraya is the newest Satrapy, in the North East of the Empire, along the path that the Pentan nomads (such as Sheng Seleris) would ride in from.

Strategy! posted:

The Emperor persuaded HonEel to settle there in an effort to solve several problems in the Empire. The first was to create a bulwark against the still-potent Pentans, nursing their wounds after the defeat of Sheng Seleris. The second was to resettle Arrolians fleeing the ravages of the White Bear Empire. The third was to keep HonEel occupied.

HonEel is an earlier hero of the Empire, and JarEel is a descendent of hers. The Arrolians are from Fronela, I think, but I don't know who the White Bear Empire is. So HonEel makes a new Satrapy with anyone who doesn't feel they fit in elsewhere, or who was a rebel and got sent here as a sort of exile. The Pentans freak out and declare war, which results in a massive battle called the Nights of Horrors which results in the death of HonEel, the Emperor, most of the Lunar Empire and almost all of the Pentans.

Unsurprisingly, that puts a stop to conflict for a bit. The Redlands, the area unclaimed by both sides where the battle took place, is left abandoned for a while, especially by the Pentans who avoid it like the plague. Independent and exiled farmers who can't fit in even in Oraya are encouraged to colonize there. Iron has been found, which means it probably won't be pseudo-independent for long. Nomad tribes have also started trickling back... expect trouble.

The people are mostly organized in villages or communes, maybe some towns, and are surly and independent. It isn't very urbanized compared to the rest of Peloria. There are large scale slave plantations ( latifndia ) and it is one of the few places large-scale slavery is practiced in the Empire.

HonEel herself is worshiped here, especially since she brought back the secret of corn from the mythic realms. While in the rest of the empire, the blood sacrifice element to increase production is frowned upon, that isn't enforced in Oraya. (In fact, if you get caught breaking the rule elsewhere, you are likely to end up exiled here, where no one cares.)

The other two gods mentioned are ViTuros, who was brought from Pelanda, along with his wife Denegoria, the Goddess of Savage Freedom, who for some reason encourages cooperation of other deities.

Sylila, The Barbarian Satrapy
Sometimes the Sylilans meld Heartland and Alakoring customs; their clan chiefs wear trousers underneath their togas, much to the mirth of Pelorians.

You can really tell these are the places no one bothered with, as each has been about a page at most.

These were annexed by an earlier hero of the Empire, Hwarin Dalthippa, the Conquering Daughter. I give a lot of flack to the whole "Male Emperor must rule" thing, but every Lunar Hero so far has been female.

This is the only Heartland Satrapy whose people are primarily hill barbarians, by which we mean Orlanthi. They aren't the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass (the "good guys" of the original RuneQuest stuff) but they are Orlanthi of a slightly different tradition. They have become almost totally Lunar, however. It's less densely populated than some of the other satrapies, and the whole area was a major battlefield in the Dawn and Imperial ages. The Lunars have brought peace. The city of Alkoth is still distrusted, however, because of its history of conquering the area. (Alkoth isn't Orlanthi.)

The tribal authorities have almost completely whittled away and power now resides in the towns and cities. In confusing fashion, we are told that the rulers are Lunar, even though we were told that almost everyone has become Lunarized. The cities are governed like Pelorian cities, because the Lunars snub Orlanthi ways. I can't tell if this is supposed to imply Dara Happans or others get sent in from outside to rule, or what.

The Sylilans recognize the old Orlanthi faming God, and Odalya the Star Bear. The Goddess tamed and rode him and now he is the Moon Bear.

Trouble on the Horizon? posted:

Hwarin Dalthippa, the Conquering Daughter and founder of their Satrapy, is worshipped. She conquered the provinces and created the Matrimonial Tribute, paid by the provincial kings to the Satrap of Sylila. Due to the Emperor’s foolishness, her memory has been slighted in the provinces and they grow troublesome.

The Provinces are even further South, and more Orlanthi. Sartar is one of them, being the most recently conquered.

One more Satrapy to go, as the book's weird habit of sometimes doing things by people/culture and sometimes by satrapy comes to the fore by not discussing Karasal and instead discussing a "social region" within it...

Next time, Darsen, Land of Women!

Darsen, Land of Women

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Darsen, Land of Women
Unlike elsewhere, men never conquered the women’s tribes of Darsen. The Darsenites developed special magics to negate the men’s innate hubris. Surprisingly, the Darsenites do not practice polyandry even though their men are less free than Darjiin or Esrolia. They fear that if they permit this, their magics will become impotent.

So, Darsen.

Karasal is a Sultanate (Satrapy) with a bunch of small towns ruled by Pelandans or Dara Happans. The ground is too hilly for intensive agriculture, so no large cities and most people herd sheep and pigs.

The women organize themselves in women's societies,

Darsen Women's Societies posted:

which they hold to be more important than government.

Only, if they run everything, they are government, aren't they?

As mentioned, they were never conquered by men, and the women have been in charge since the Green Age. Each clan is run by a Crone and men have secondary roles, if any. Even foreigners must obey the local Crone. The Crones cooperate and have little need for the Lunar Way. (?!)

They meet in a huge matriarchal council every 47 years. Officially, the Satrap is over the crones, but because the Great Sister lives in one of the cities here, if the Crones disagree with the Satrap, they go to Great Sister and she sides with them.

Ancient Female Secrets posted:

The Darsenite women keep and practice the most ancient rites of Peloria. They worship the Hundred Goddesses, any one of which they can contact in their ceremonies. Most Pelorian women’s’ secret rites resemble the Darsen practices.

OK, so secret woman power that the other major cultures, Dara Happan, Pelandan, Rinliddi, maybe even Darjiini, still have in some form or another, if often hidden.

We get how both the Dara Happans and Lunars deal with this in a fairly useless paragraph.

Yelm always wins posted:

The Dara Happans tolerate Darsen despite their own patriarchal ways, for they recognize Ursturburn as Yelm’s Divine Seed. When Yelm was murdered during the Gods War, it crept out of his corpse as a tremendous serpent and ravaged the earth for many years until the Goddesses of Darsen tamed it. The Lunars rule Darsen through the Goddess Addi, the stick. She confers powers of authority and leadership among the Deneron Council on her bearer. The stick was lost for many ages until Valare Addi retrieved it. Since then the Goddess Addi has always supported the Lunar Way.

No, there is no explanation who Ursturburn and Addi are. That's the whole section.

Again, I think you could take all the disparate pieces of Peloria and the Lunar Empire and pull together something interesting, but it's so all over the place, with little focus on anything other than the Dara Happans and a bit of the Carmanians, that its mostly just useless.

Next time, The Lunar Provinces

Timelines and Death Gods

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Timelines and Death Gods
Shargash is the Destroyer. He was kept from destroying Yelm’s enemies while Yelm was emperor, but after Yelm’s death Shargash slew them all. Then he killed everybody he didn’t like. The killing continued until there was no one left to kill but himself, then Shargash finished the job.

Shargash seems so nice

I'm going to catch up on a bunch of the text boxes (they would be sidebars in a proper layout, but fuck this book's formatting) I've skipped while doing the people.
The Provinces is obviously somewhere people did work and so there's some actual meat on the bones there; I want to do it some justice.

The last sidebar I mentioned explicitly was the one discussing the Goddesses of the Moon. A bit after that there is one on "Other Great Gods" - still firmly in the Dara Happan tradition.

We meet Oria who is the Great Mother Goddess and invoked for bountiful harvests and healthy children. (Also the name of the main river going through Dara Happan land.)

Lodril is Yelm's younger brother. He decided to rescue Oria from the Underworld, but by embracing Oria, he fouled his celestial nature and was kicked out of the Sky. I'd like to think this is a "pure sky touching earthly matter" myth, but its hard not to read it as "Women are icky" given the context. Since, as far as I know, Yelm's consort is also an Earth Goddess (just about every female divinity in Glorantha is specified as an Earth Goddess), it doesn't even make a lot of sense.

Yelm wasn't a complete dick about it, and set up Lodril as Ruler of the Earth and God of the Common Man.

You know what those common folk are like posted:

Like the rustic, Lodril is respectful towards his superiors in his unmannered way; he is also utterly uninhibited. If not treated well, his rebellious fury is to be feared, as it manifests as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Then we get the bit about Shargash, the Destroyer , aka king and how he killed everybody. Basically, by sending everyone to the Underworld, they had to submit to Yelm, who ruled there after being killed, and so that set up the Great Compromise and renewal of the world. So see, he's a good guy! People mostly propitiate him to keep him away. The Emperor can supposedly unleash him on the world if he wants to, but the text implies this is a last ditch kind of thing.

Later, in another sidebar, we are told he resides in Alkoth, the people there are in a world of half-life and half-death, and we get a picture of what I surmise is one of his worshipers.

Look at all those skulls, maybe he's actually Coalition

Gods Who Were People introduces us to some of the people of the Empire who have become Immortals and can be worshipped. Although the Red Goddess is explicitly stated elsewhere to have always been a Goddess, one who was forgotten from Before the Dawn, here it states that because she went from human to divine, following her path lets other people do that to.

The Seven Mothers are all gods you can worship now. Three of them get a mention here, but two of them get only one line.

Two of the Seven posted:

Yanafil Tarnalis , Ram and Warrior, is one of the Seven Mothers who restored Sedenya; he is also the warlord for Sedenya.

Irippi Ontor is another of the Seven Mothers. He founded the Lunar University.

Also mentioned is Etyries who become the Goddess of Communication and Merchants. (There is a running theme in Glorantha where the Gods of Commerce are also the gods of Communication and Travel.)

Danfive Xaron gets more than the other Mothers. He was a bloodthirsty criminal who joined the conspiracy to make the Goddess, most likely just as a method for revenge. But the spiritual journeys this involved made him truly contrite, and he is now the God of Criminal Repentance. His way is hard, but any criminal can submit himself to the Penitentiaries for correction. After an austere, monastic existence, they are judged by the Priest-Jailers, who either accept him as one of their own, or reject him back to the authorities.

That's a really cool idea just brimming with good gaming hooks.

HonEel actually gets her first mention here, and we get the story of Corn.

Maize posted:

HonEel blessed the Empire with maize, a gift from a long lost elf-god, Sinoda, murdered by brutal Alanthore. The corn rites involve bloody contests where champions tried to defeat the evil Alanthore. Usually the person playing Alanthore is killed; in return the crop is bountiful beyond all measure. The priestesses consider this a humane practice, as they only kill convicted criminals, madmen, or impoverished down-and-outs. The Emperor foolishly condemned the practice and expelled the priestesses of Sinoda to Oraya, but the prohibition has been gradually whittled away and people throughout the Empire are once again feasting upon bountiful harvests of maize.

I already touched on JarEel, and the next sidebar is labeled "Lunar Culture" but actually discusses the Pelorians, who are here addressed as if they are one people.

Pelorians posted:

Pelorian culture is what most people practice, being the members of the Empire rather than rulers of it. Lodril and Oria are at its core, and practitioners are farmers, kinship centered, hedonistic, and polytheistic. Most Pelorians plow or farm in rice paddies and maintain close ties with the goddesses of plenty. They live with their collateral relatives, being less interested in having a common ancestor than a common living relative. Pelorians love life and look upon austerities, especially religious austerities, as misguided and unnecessarily difficult. They love to eat and drink, often exercise loose sexual morals (compared to their overlords), and prefer to obey local tradition over imperial laws. Pelorians recognize many deities, and regularly participate in worship of a dozen or more deities in order to help themselves along in life.

I presume this is the Dara Happan view of "Pelorians", which as you may recall, is "everyone not living in a Dara Happan city".

What is the History of our Empire is a plainly Dara Happan piece full of spelling mistakes because no one proofread this book. Opening line, "Now we always have fight against the monsters."

The basic story starts the same way we know, but Sedenya has been incorporated. Yelm gets killed, Sedenya gets dismembered. She wakes him up in the Underworld, rekindling the Universe, the sun rises, Yelm's Justice sets everything right by sending the other gods to free humans from the monsters.

Kargazant the Wanderer was sent out first. His men had horses and chariots like the horse riders of Pent still do. They went out and fought the monsters and both sides destroyed each other. If I recall, Kargazant is still worshipped by various horse nomads.

Emperor Khordavu is the first post-Dawn Emperor. He drives the Kargazant worshippers out and defeats the monsters. Dara Happa is the Empire of Light and everything is awesome. His sons are less awesome, but eventually Emperor Khorzanelm comes along and founds the God Project in Dorastor.

You know how well that turns out.

Nysalor shows up, everyone loves him, but bright light casts shadow and Nysalor's is Gbaji, the Deceiver - known to his friends as Arkat. We find out it wasn't Nyaslor who killed Arkat the first time, it's a guy called Palangio the
Iron Vrok
, a fine name for a badass.

Arkat comes back from the dead, turns into a troll, and eats Palangio the next time they fight. (Well, Palangio is eaten, I assume it is Arkat who does the eating.) Arkat kills Nysalor, hands the Empire to the monsters, and leaves.

In less than a decade, a new emperor starts a new dynasty and drives the monsters out. The Empire does well for about 200 years, and then the monsters create the Empire of Gloom , from Spol.

At this point it looks like "monsters" basically means "anyone not Dara Happan". I am still favouring the Pelandans as the actual founders of Spol, although the "Pelandans don't care and just go about their business" version is also one I like. Given the timing, I could actually make an argument for the Spolites being refugees from the Stygian Empire when the God Learners tear it down. The darkness theme at least works.

The phrasing of how Spol is defeated and the Carmanians come is interesting.

Self-inflicted wounds posted:

Emperor Denesiod used the New Light [690 ST] to defeat them for a time, but they released the poison of the Carmanian religion upon us. The Carmanians seized the western parts of our empire [725 ST] to rule as their own, then were converted back to the light by our Yelm.

This implies at least a little bit that the Sun-based elements of the Carmanian religion came from cross-pollination with the Dara Happans.

The Empire of Wyrms Friends shows up and conquers everybody involved, eventually placing a Dragon on the throne. That lasts another 30 years or so until a new Emperor, Karvanyar rises to the throne by slaying the Dragon Sun. He teams up with the Carmanians and fights the EWF, here referred to as the "Empire Without Friends".

The EWF finally falls when the dragonnewts turn on the human leaders, and about 100 years after that, the Carmanians and Dara Happans team up again and decide to go into Dragon Pass and kill all the dragonnewts and dragoneggs and just settle the whole damn thing.

They are completely annihilated by Dragons from Across Space and Time.

The Carmanians seem to handle this better, and take over everything in the aftermath. Their tyranny is so bad that the Seven Mothers try a desperate ploy to find a weapon against them. They find the Goddess.

She beats the Carmanians, and then the other Gods, and then ascends to the sky, leaving Takenegi Moonson behind to rule. The Empire expands immensely, but the Lunar power is one of cycles.

Sheng Seleris shows up after about 150 years, kicks the Emperor's ass, and takes over the Lunar Empire.

The Great Sister posted:

As before, a new power of light restored the world. From among the folk came the Lunar Mysteries, as realized and taught by Great Sister. Moonson was empowered by this and, with his secret household he fought and destroyed Sheng Seleris. The empire experienced a renaissance as the New Monks taught the Lunar Mysteries and demonstrated the useful magic of the Lunar way.

This, by the way, coincides with Moonson no longer coming back in his original body. So it seems to me there is a major shift in what the Empire and the Way look like before Sheng and after Sheng. There's something to poke around in here, anyway.

HonEel comes during this time, and the Empire expands again, adding Oraya and converting Tarsh.

Hubris, baby. Hubris. posted:

Recently the Red Emperor declared that to mark the completion of the current cycle he will present the Goddess with Orlanth chained to Yelm’s Chariot. Almost no one worships the god anymore. Already Sartar [1602 ST], Pavis [1610 ST], and Heortland [1619 ST] have fallen to the Empire and only the city of Whitewall holds out. The great and luminous hero there, named Tatius the Bright, has promised that it will fall this year and that Orlanthi will have no worshippers left in Dragon Pass.

Any bets on how well that works out in the canon? They come close, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermonuclear weapons.

Who are the People of our Empire

The Empire exists to bring Yelm's Justice and Sedenya's Power to everyone. Anyone who doesn't accept this is a dirty rebel and needs to be suppressed for their own good.

The first category of people in the Empire? Brace yourselves.

You're surprised? posted:

MEN were made to be the bearers of Yelm’s light and for many years, they enjoyed a privileged position in our Empire. But the Goddess showed us that WOMEN may also bear the light. The position of women has improved within the Empire ever since.

Lunars are worshippers of the Goddess, although anyone who believes "We Are All Us" is a Lunar at heart.

Aristocracy rules, Commoners are ruled. Imperial Citizens are a cut above, and most aristocracy and some commoners are such. People who refuse Yelm's Justice are Rebels . The two main types of rebels are Pentans , the horse riding worshippers of Kargazant who just never accepted that they got kicked out and weren't supposed to stay in power, and

Orlanthi posted:

The savage Orlanthi are sons of Orlanatus , the murderer god. They emulate their god by practicing murder—a privilege for which they richly pay the victim’s kin.

That's actually kind of awesome, since feuds and wergild are a major part of Orlanthi culture.

We get a couple of sidebars on some of the other religious movements in the Empire.

Nysalor still has adherents. He is considered an incarnation of Sedenya and while everyone thought he couldn't be reached after Arkat killed him, his secrets were merely hidden. These secrets are formed as cryptic questions revealing great paradox, and studying them can bring the special form of enlightenment known as Illumination . Foolish barbarians believe that even listening to a Riddler's questions can accidentally taint you with chaos. The Order of the Day teaches Nysalor's ways, but will only do so under open sky.

The New White Moon Movement is a series of loosely-connected weirdos who believe that when the Goddess is accepted across the whole world, she will turn from Red to White. At first this was thought to be a Full Moon aspect of Natha, but now there is talk of some new white moon, unheard of before. These White Moon cults are all weird (and pretty clearly all started as jokes or puns).

Right to the edge of Fishmalk posted:

The Whitefaces of Jillaro attempt to gather converts by chalking their faces white and performing complex but silent maneuvers that hint at another reality. The White Noise Movement gather in huge groups and make shushing sounds for hours while performing intricate maneuvers.

That's right, Fanatical Cultist Mimes!

What is worrying people is that while these kinds of people have always existed, they all seem to be preaching a gathering urgency and a need for rebellion. Scholars are analyzing all the nonsense to see if something is buried within it, but the only common thread seems to be that things will change, and it will be better for those not in power today. Some great event is supposed to be done to produce this, but none of the groups seem to agree what needs to be done. Some preach anti-materialism and tax revolt, some want breeding programs of lunar spirits with spirits of light and darkness, some want to feed the poor, others say the stars must change.

... wait, the Stars are Not Right?

Next time, The Lunar Provinces -- really

The Provinces

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

The Provinces
Instead of worshipping the Goddess directly, worship of the Mothers of the Goddess is emphasized, drawing on parallels between the Seven Mothers and the Orlanthi Lightbringers. The provinces have responded to such a degree that Lunars are almost as common in provincial cities as in Dara Happa. The only flaw is that they are worshippers of the Seven Mothers and their understanding of Sedenya is superficial at best.

As usual, whether the above comment about superficial understanding is supposed to be taken as true or not is difficult to say.

The Lunar Provinces are clearly loved by somebody even though I don't know if anything was officially developed for them outside of some details on Tarsh. The place is a web of competing politics and ancient claims to authority. It's Lunarized Orlanthi, and even then for the most part Orlanthi of a different strain than the ones in Sartar and Heortland, so it already should have had different elements. Its one of the most obvious places to stash a campaign that isn't monster hunting, and due to some other elements, would work for monster hunting as well.

Most everyone here is trying to seize power from everyone else

The Provinces stretch out into the hills and mountains south of Sylila. Since Sylila was already the "Barbarian Province", it should surprise no one that the place gets less and less Pelorian the further south you go. There are five kingdoms and one chaos land in the provinces, all played off each other due to ancient treaties and slights.

The region used to be ruled by a kingdom called Saird, which existed during the Imperial Age. It produced famous dragonslayers, but fragmented when most of its men were destroyed by the Dragonkill that ended the Second Age. Tarsh picked up the pieces, and ruled much of the surrounding lands three hundred years ago, but gradually had control wrested from it by the Lunars under The Conquering Daughter. About a hundred years ago, HonEel succeeded in converting Tarsh to the Lunar Way, although they were never conquered.

When the Provinces were originally conquered, the Lunars imposed the Matrmony Tribute , which the Provinces paid to the Empire, specifically to the Satrap of Sylila. The Matrimony Tribute is also a magical power, of some kind. Because of their previous defeat, the Provinces are susceptible to magic from The Conquering Daughter, and it allows Sylila to keep them in line.

Sylila plays the Great Game posted:

The kingdoms were never integrated into the Heartland, even though they shared the same Orlanthi heritage as Sylila. The intrigues of jealous Satraps prevented the Satrap of Sylila from annexing the provinces, and if the kingdoms became Satrapies in their own right, Sylila would have forfeited the Matrimonial Tribute. The Sylilan Satrap’s veto ensured that the kingdom’s status remained unchanged.

Nice little balance of power and interests. Then HonEel converts Tarsh. Tarsh converts, but refuses to pay the tribute, rightfully pointing out they weren't conquered, thank you very much. (Tarsh, btw, is the richest land in the area.) The friction builds up until the conservative Tarshites decide, "being Lunar is giving us nothing but trouble", overthrow the Lunar King, and start provoking the other provinces to rebel. The Tarshites have no special weakness to the Conquering Daughter magic, and things get crazy.

The Emperor counters by making Phargentes , brother to the exiled Lunar King, Provincial Overseer - a new role with Imperial authority and magic behind it. It's sort of like being Unofficial Satrap. In the fighting, the King dies, and when all the dust settles, Phargentes is King of Tarsh and Provincial Overseer. No more rebellion.

Instead, Phargentes uses the dual role to start expanding Tarsh to the borders it had before the Lunars took the Provinces, and demand tribute from the other kingdoms in the Provinces, effectively usurping the Matrimonial Tribute from Sylila. Despite grumbling, Phargentes manages not to get assassinated for his trouble.

Balance of Power posted:

Since the death of Phargentes, the Provincial Overseer has been the Emperor’s creature and the leading bureaucrats have all been Heartlanders, to avoid the problems evidenced by Phargentes. The cessation of the Matrimonial Tribute was a major blow to the Sylilans and directly led to the destruction of their satrapal clan in a brutal dart war. Although the ErrioUnit, the new satrapal clan, were initially satisfied with their realm, a recent shortage of tax revenues has caused them to revive claims for Matrimonial Tribute.

So that's the over-arching fault line. What about the Provinces proper?

Aggar is wild country, occupied primarily by a single tribe called the Tarkalings. Tarsh keeps buying land there, hoping to force a border change by simple facts on the ground.

Imther is tiny, but has one major thing going for it, the native rulers have a personal, non-transferable trading arrangement with the Mostali. This hasn't stopped Vanch and Holay from seizing as much of lowland Imther as possible.

Vanch was one of the major parts of Saird in the past. It's the most Lunarized since the Conquest, but probably the least faithful. The Vanchites just use anything practical, and lots of Lunar magic is practical, so it gets used. Everyone around them says the Vanchites are thieves and nothing but. They keep racoons as pets, what else could they be?

Holay is a Queendom, and has a powerful tradition called The Red Woman. The Orlanthi associate the Red Woman with Vinga, one of their goddesses. Although not said here, I am sure the Lunars have made a case for the Red Woman being the Red Moon. Either way, the Red Woman mysteries hold the rites to getting the Land Goddess's blessing for the Kingdom of Saird. Holay doesn't have enough power to establish the kingdom on its own, and the Provincial Government is constantly keeping an eye out to make sure no Queen of Holay is married off in a political configuration that might cover enough of ancient Saird to make a play for doing so.

Tarsh is the richest kingdom, is still ambitious, and has lately been showing off by helping conquer Sartar to the south. It still clearly is jockeying for either being head dog of the Provinces or flat out becoming a satrapy.

There is a land called Tork which seems to be up near Imther somewhere. It is called the Mad Sultanate, because everyone there was driven crazy by the site of The Crimson Bat. They are kept prisoner in their borders, but every so often escape in a mad horde and wreak havoc.

There are a couple of lands nearby visible on the map, and I'll talk about them here instead of in the next section.

Balazar is a harsh and unforgiving land north of Dragon Pass. It is inhabited by pig farmers, and is considered Lunar Empire allied, but not Lunar in religion.

Talastar is also considered an ally, and even officially to be Lunarized, but everyone knows the conversion was just a PR stunt where everyone got a clean white shirt. They are still basically Orlanthi. Talastar is unruly and full of glorified hill tribe chiefs who call themselves kings. They were never fully conquered by the Empire of Light in the First Age, they were never fully conquered by the EWF in the Second Age, they haven't been fully conquered by the Lunar Empire now. They are viciously good fighters for impoverished tribefolk for a simple reason, their neighbor.

Dorastor . Talastar is next to Dorastor. Dorastor that was the centre of the Empire of Light, home to Nysalor, and location of the final battle of the Gbaji wars. It's a blasted hell hole of Chaos now. It was dormant for centuries, but the God Learners decided to mess around with it and woke it up and now ever so often it spits hordes of chaos beasts out. The Talastari fight them. All the time.

So how do the Provinces work, politically and religiously? The Kingdoms are allowed to run themselves and crown their rulers by whatever ancient traditions they use. The Provincial Overseer gets taxes and tribute, and maintains an army if people get restless. Right now, much of that army is south, in Sartar and Heortland, neither of which is a province yet, but they're working on it.

While still heavily influenced by Orlanthi cultural norms, most of the Provinces don't actually worship Orlanth. Certainly not openly. They worship one of the other gods of the pantheon. (This was written before the decision was made to drop the idea that Orlanth was king of the gods for all Orlanthi everywhere.) Some places have dropped Storm worship all together, and basically worship Ernalda as Queen of the Gods without Orlanth involved. As mentioned at the top, the Provincial Church of the Seven Mothers is even trying to wean them to more direct Lunar Worship by way of parallels in the two great founding myths.

So yeah, political and regional conflict. Religions in transition, linked to temporal power. A Mad Sultanate and Chaos lands nearby. Lots to do here if you wanted to base a campaign in it.

A sidebar/boxed text is our last stop, detailing Yara Aranis probably the most terrifying of the Lunar Heroines we've met so far.

(My apologies for not flagging it originally)

The pic is from a different book

A six-armed horror who eats horses, she was created by Moonson by sleeping with a demon. She was originally created just as a weapon against the Sheng Seleris and the Pentans, but eventually acquired another function. Her temples are the anchor points for the Glowline , a magical web of power that connects the Empire. Lunar magic is cyclical, and waxes and wanes with the moon. The Glowline evens out that cycle, and Lunar magicians within the Glowline have consistent power at all times. The gradual creep of red bubbles of controlled moonlight mark the inexorable conquest of the Empire. Those who might try to disrupt this web find that Yara Aranis pounces like a spider on those tugging at her web.

Next time, we end the chapter with Lunar Allies, who help the Empire but are not of the Moon.

The Lunar Allies

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

The Lunar Allies
The Thrice Blessed have their own particular nature religion, and are willing to say almost anything about Sedenya which keeps them safe and happy.

I already did most of the allies in the section above. Basically, an ally is supposedly Lunar in philosophy to some degree, but not under direct control of the Emperor.

There are two I still need to cover.

The CharUn are basically Cossacks. They are Pure Horse Pentans in origin. (A Pure Horse tribe lives only off of horses. No herding cattle or other animals. Presumably they raid others for anything else they need.) They were enslaved in a battle in the early days of the Empire. After 50 years of allegedly loyal service (the book notes there are histories that say the sacked Glamour, the Lunar Capital) the CharUn were granted the lands of Erigia .

This was a dick move by the Emperor, since while it was a vast swath of land, it was also covered with an Elf Forest, inhospitable to humans and bad terrain for plain-based cavalry. The CharUn sucked it up, and spent two years crafting a spell called the Skyburn, which rained fire on the forest and destroyed it. The few surviving elves lost the revenge battle and the Char-Un have lived in Erigia ever since, although it is a bitter, hostile land.

The CharUn posted:

The CharUn organize themselves in the traditional manner of Pentans. Women have a much greater influence here than in Pent, due to the influence of Sedenya. The CharUn worship Kargzant in the nomad manner. They are also fanatical worshippers of Sedenya and are willing to commit any atrocity in her name.

So yes, Cossacks fanatical to the Goddess, but not necessarily the Emperor.

The people of Thrice-Blessed Eol are reindeer herders. Terrible atrocities were committed against them by Lunar troops, and the Emperor formally apologized. (No reason given.) They used to call their land Twice-Blessed, but the compensation from the Emperor was considered a third blessing. (Again, no mention of what it was.)

They wander around their taiga, herding reindeer and shunning cities. They refuse to acknowledge personified deities (except they seem to be willing to say they worship Sedenya), instead they worship the Five Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Darkness), each at prehistoric monuments they migrate to during each of the 5 seasons.

Eol posted:

The Thrice Blessed people acknowledge the wisdom of a Council of Queens, whose membership is unclear, but whose authority is sought at each season’s
festival. The best known Queen is Mrs. Flint, with whom the Lunars must deal to hire the Thunder Delta Slingers. To address her, visitors must speak to a wondrous rock which holds up the roof of her strange house. She gives everyone a handful of salt when they leave.

Evocative, but not much there.

The more I re-read this book, the more frustrating it is as something that was actually supposed to help anyone play in Glorantha. Or even learn much about how Glorantha is supposed to operate. It really does feel like it was written by insiders, for insiders, and that's just not helpful in something called "An Introduction".

I also wonder more and more if the reason Glorantha has such problems expanding outward is that the first games were very anti-D&D by being noble bronze-age tribesmen in a deadly system where you counted every coin and had bunches of small magics. The people who got into RuneQuest liked that hardscrabble barbarian feel, and even though the world was always supposed to be more, that fanbase doesn't really like going past it. Thus you have people throwing crazy high-minded mythic ideas at other places, but it is always just a sketch over, while endless pages are spent detailing how you make beer for your clan in Sartar and nothing else. There's never been a good way to introduce people into Glorantha from another angle, so it doesn't happen and becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

Well, I suppose there was Pavis, but Pavis was basically just a big giant dungeon/ruin to explore from what I understand. It just feels like the actual game play it started with was directly at odds with the purported mythic overview of the setting.

Next time, we begin Chapter Eleven, Maniria, where we get to the Sartarian golden boys of the world.

Chapter Eleven: Maniria

posted by LightCastle Original SA post

Chapter Eleven: Maniria
Settled by a mix of Orlanthi tribesmen, animal nomads, and inhuman creatures, Maniria’s people are as volatile as the notorious Dragon Pass.

Maniria is the southern central coast of Genertela. A portion of it was shattered and sunk at the end of the Second Age, due to the God Learners mucking about, and the fact that it was a fault line where the God Learners bumped up against the EWF.

I found a map with the political divisions at the time of the Third Age setting this book is focused on.

Maniria runs from Tarinwood to Prax with the mountains as the northern border

There doesn't appear to be a decent map of Maniria anywhere.

This is the entire overview the chapter gives,

Maniria posted:

In the eastern part is the Holy Country of Kethaela; in the west are the forests of Wenelia; occupying the north is Dragon Pass that cuts a wide swath through the Rockwood Mountains.

I'll tackle each section in turn, although there are a few major diversions thrown in there, like a bit on Orlanthi culture and a whole run down of the Storm gods they worship.

The thumbnail sketches are as follows:

Kethaela is The Holy Country, a set of kingdoms ruled for the last 300 years or so by a GodKing of epic power. He would die and claim a new body in a tournament called the Master of Luck and Death, but 5 years ago, he didn't come back. The separate kingdoms now fare for themselves as the Lunar Empire encroaches.

Wenelia is a subtropical region mostly dominated by Orlanthi tribesman. So much for the "Orlanthi are Wintery Mountain people" thing, I guess. When the seas were closed, it was a major overland trade route ruled by the Trader Princes from Ralios. The seas have been opened, and trade has dried up.

Dragon Pass is a rough land cutting through the mountains north of the Holy Country. The Kingdom of Sartar is there, along with various inhuman creatures and mystical lands. It's the traditional setting the RuneQuest game was set in and still where just about everything is focused.

Next time, Kethaela, The Elemental Lands of the Pharaoh