Fuck It, Let's Get Stupid

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The Guide to Glorantha: Fuck It, Let's Get Stupid

We're doing this. The Guide to Glorantha is a two-volume set that is a massive encyclopedia of the Glorantha setting, created by Greg Stafford. He has been working on describing it fully for almost 50 goddamn years now, and he's been in the roleplaying business for al ong-ass time. Reportedly, his friend bought the very first copy of D&D ever made, having the luck of working for the print shop, and Gary's first game, White Bear & Red Moon, was released almost concurrently. (Greg is not, side note, fond of D&D. In his foreword to the Guide, he describes it as 'almost illiterate.') Anyway, the Guide is the culmination of his efforts, something he's wanted to get written for 40 years now, and it is glorious.

The world of Glorantha is one in which humans are, by most standards, quite young. They rose to prominence in the world only around a thousand years ago, in the early Second Age. Before this, they were but one species among many. At this point, about 80% of the sentient population of Glorantha is human. Many other beings still do exist, however, and these non-human sentients are known as the Elder Races. Of these, there are a few that stand out more than others. These are the Aldryami (known to humans as the elves), the dragonewts, the Mostali (that'd be dwarves), the Uz (trolls) and the Triolini (merfolk). Human cultures across Glorantha are thousands of years younger than any Earth civilizations, and they function on a societal level varying from Neolithin to Bronze Age. However, pervasive magic and the interactions of the more advanced Elder Races have made them such that there is no Earthly equivalent to many of them. A few of these groups have even hit Iron Age tech levels.

The Elder Races vary in their development. Human scholars believe that the trolls and mermen are at a lower stage of civilization than the others, while the dragonewts are at the top, and the dwarves are only slightly below them (and have the most obviously developed technology). However, the Elder Races obviously disagree. The trolls believe themselves the most civilized and sophisticated people of the world, and they aren't entirely wrong - certainly not in terms of understanding of scent and sound. The God Learner civilization divided humans into four categories - primitive, nomad, chiefdom and civilized. Yes, these are easily criticized categories that reflect the prejudices of the Jrusteli people, but they are sitll useful.

Primitive cultures do not have permanent settlements and have no political organization more complex than a clan or extended family. They don't have their own written language, and while they may acquire writing or metal tools from other groups, they do not work metal. They may garden, but do not plow or herd, and primarily get food via hunting and gathering in a range of, on average, four square miles per person. The examples given are the Hsunchen and Doraddi. Nomadic cultures depend on herds of livestock, and move across the land during the year to graze them. Most nomads are mounted or use animals to carry supplies on their travels. They have no permanent settlements, usually organize on clan lines and rarely develop writing, but may use pictographs or another culture's written language. Some can work metal. The examples are the Pentans and Praxians. Chiefdoms are organized and socially stratified gfroups with at least two soical classes - an elite and a common one - but often more. An individual might be able to change social class via a life of extraordinary behavior. They organize on clan lines, but clans often band together into tribes or confederations. There is generally no strong central government. They are usually agrarian and pastoral, able to work metal and have their own writing systems. They may even have permanent settlements - even cities. The main example is the Orlanthi. Civilized cultures, meanwhile, have centralized states for governance, collect taxes, have cities, practice division of labor, have rulers and bureaucracies and so on. Their communities are usually based on residency rather than family lines, and they are intensive farmers who almost always have professional armies, written language of their own and major architectural achievements. Examples are the Esrolians, Fonritians, Kralorelans, Pelorians and Westerners.

Glorantha is built around the relation between the mythic and mundane, and so religion and magic are basic to all existence. Everyone knows it. The gods exist, have great influence. Polytheism is the major form of religion, and while a worshiper may have a special relationship with a chosen god, they acknowledge and often worship others. Naturalist animism, philosophical materialism and mystical illumination are also extant practices of religion. Life generally centers around one's religion or cult, and the magic this provides brings safety and conflict alike. Due to magic, injury is rarely as serious on Glorantha as on Earth. Damage and infection can usually be healed by someone local. However, this means violence is more popular as a tool than on Earth. Disease is much more dangerous than injury, not least due to the presence of Mallia, the Mother of Disease, and those like her. Healing is available, but disease still kills many children before they can be healed. Hunting and agriculture also benefit heavily from magic - fertility spells to aid crop yields or herds, charms to aid your arrows, that kind of thing.

There are four primary ways to use magic - spirit magic, divine magic, wizardry and mysticism. In the Third Age, Lunar Magic is claimed to be a fifth path, but most do not recognize it save its users. Spirit magic is also known as animism or naturalism, and it involves integration with the spirits that dwell in animals, plants, objects and palces. Every culture has its own traditions of spirit magic, from animist cults to individual shamans. Divine magic, also known as rune magic or theism, involves worship of the gods in order to experience the mythological events of the Gods Age, gaining power in exchange for worship. Sorcery, also called wizardry or materialism, is magic drawn from the study of the Essential Forms, using logic to impose one's will on the material world. Mysticism, also known as illumination or draconic magic, draws power from the search for the Unknowable, rejecting logic and using austerity to strip away the dull reality of life. Its magic is rarely powerful and usually of no interst to any save those that study it.

Gloranthan cosmology is divided this way. Above is the Sky Dome, supported by the Four Directions. Atop it is the Pole Star, above which is Dayzatar, the Lord of the Heavens. Below this, in the Middle Air, are the Red Moon and seven stars arranged in Orlanth's Ring. The flat Middle World is surrounded by and on top of Sramak's River. Its northern continent is edged by gacliers, while the southern one is edged by flaming desert. Between these is Magasta's Pool, which is a whirlpool that drains into the Underworld below. Pictured above are Hells, each ruled by a different deity or power, but there's more than those. The yellow circle is the Sun's Path, which it travels each day.

Also worth noting: Metal is the bones of the gods. Not all of the gods are dead - but all their bones are metal. Bronze is most common, taken directly from the earth, which is why most of Glorantha is in Bronze Age tech. These metals are not their Earthly equivalents - just analogs of them. Besides bronze, pure metal is generally too soft to be used for tools or armor or weapons, but many magical groups know the secret of purifying and forging runeic metal so that they can draw on magical power from them and use them as bronze. Dwarves also know the secret of purifying metal, and are the only people with access to iron easily. Most metal, even bronze, is not pure, and only pure metal possesses magical properties. The blood of the gods was also transformed - into crystal, mostly. These crystals often have strange mystical properties, and the ones from living gods are quite difficult to use, while dead god-crystals are often much simpler. Some of these crystals glow, or burst into flame, or strengthen magic.

Bronze, also known as hu-metal or Umath's metal, is most common, and those that work it are the redmsiths. Bronze comes from the bones of Air gods slain in the Gods War, and rarely can be found in the original bone shape. Bronze is heavy, dependable and standard. Aluminum and Quicksilver are different forms of the Water Rune's metal. Quicksilver is liquid green, known as sa-metal, and aluminum is red, called lo-metal. Either way, when refined, they do not sink in water. Copper, knowna as ga-metal, is a shiny brown and is of the Earth Rune. It is second most common, after bronze. Gold, called el-metal, is yellow and of the Fire Rune, favored by sun-worshipers. When refined, it glows softly and enhances Fire Rune magic. Lead, called na-metal, is black or grey and is of the Darkness Rune. Trolls use it often, but few others do. Refined lead armor does not reflect or clank, and so is much prized. Silver, or ul-metal, is the white metal of the Old Gods. It has no special power when refined, save that it can wound creatures that can only be hurt by magic. Tin, or ze-metal, is the blue-silver metal of the Sky World. It is rarely refined, for it, like silver, has no special properties save that it can wound those things vulnerable to magic. Iron, ur-metal, is the metal of Death, created by dwarven alchemy to kill elves and trolls. It is more resilient than bronze and keeps an edge better, and once refined, it is stronger than any other metal weapon. The metal is also poisonous to elves and trolls, and even unrefined, it dampens magic and weakens it. Iron is, as a result, extremely desired.

Adventuers are relatively common in Glorantha, and the greatest of these become Heroes, beings who can transform the battlefield singlehanded, who transcend human limits and walk as lesser gods. Most adventurers rarely get that good, nor do other warriors. Most cultures do not recognize 'adventurer' as a job - but they're there all the same, those that take risks for a purpose. Mercenaries and wandering warriors are not uncommon, and while they will be carefully watched, they are not harassed unless they break local customs or do violence. Nonthreatening travlers, like healers or scholars, are generally welcomed. All draw attention, certainly.

For our last bit of primer before we get into specific cultures, humanity is divided into four general ethnic supergroups, though smeller 'races' of humans or semi-humans also exist, such as the green-skinned Waertagi amphibians or the six-colored Teleono people. These people may not even recognize each other as human at all. The main groups, however, are the Agimori, who have dark skin and are originally from Pamaltela, the Veldang, whose skin is slate-blue and are native also to Pamaltela, the Viethelans, who resemble East Asians and are of the East Isles, Kralorela, Teshnos and Vormain, and the Wareran, who range from fair to live and live across Genertela and parts of Pamaltela.

Next time: The Hsunchen beast-people.

Werewolf Politics

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The Guide to Glorantha: Werewolf Politics

The Hsunchen, or "beast peoples", are a neolithic-tech culture that lives without any real permanent settlement, moving with the seasons to get food. They are found...well, everywhere. It is estimated that there are over 3.5 million Hsunchen, between the various populations of them from Dragon Pass to the Kralorela to Tarien. They are technologically primitive, making everything they need from gathered materials and sometimes religiously avoiding metal. Their magic is limited, but quite powerful for what it does. Politically, they rarely organize even to the size of large clans. They live with the animals that match their spiritual totem, which they often claim as ancestors and kin. They vary greatly in appearance based on their totem. The Rathori bear-people, for example, tend to be taller and heavier than most humans, with brownish skin, hirsute bodies and often brown or black hair. The Uncoling reindeer-people, on the other hand, are taller than most, have dark skin, and range in hair color from white to nearly black.

There are many kinds of Hsunchen, but the kind most dominant in a given regeion varies. The Telmori wolf-people are commonly found in Dragon Pass and Ralios. The Rathori and Uncolings are found in Fronela, as are the Klosari badger-people. The Lo-fak yak-people are limited to Kralorela, but the Hsa tiger-people are known there and in Teshnos, the East Isles and Pamaltela, while the Damali deer-people are known to Kralorela and Ralios. The Mraloti boar-people are mostly in Maniria, while the Pralori elk-people are there and in Ralios. The Basmoli lion-people are known in Prax, Ralios and Pamaltela. The Pjaleg beat-people and Sofali turtle-people are found in Teshnos and Pamaltela.

All Hsunchen societies are hunter-gatherer societies, with small families wandering a territory. Men primarily hunt, trap and fish, while women gather plants. Families usually remain in the same vague territories for centuries, but these can be quite large. What happens when two families meet varies by their leaders more than custom. At birth, Hsunchen vary only slightly from other humans, but they feel an innate tie to their totem. Their shamans then help them connect with this heritage, restoring the animal part of their soul and giving them the animal powers their ancestors once lost. All adult Hsunchen are able to take on at least some features of their totem, and Hsunchen heroes are usually able to fully transform.

Due to their lifestyle, the Hsunchen do not consider wealth or occupation to be a factor in social class. They rarely have any material wealth beyond their tools. Instead, social class is derived by leadership ability, with one's importance judged by number of followers. Extended families are the mainstay of the society, with close kin forming the nucleus around which associated spouses, cousins and other hangers-on assemble. They rarely gather in large numbers save when food is plentiful, and their family structures often parallel that of their totem kin. Leaders are those who can do the job best, and leadership often shifts based on what is needed at the moment. Clans are determined primarily by closeness of kinship maternally. Mothers, sisters, wives and daughters are closest, then maternal grandmothers, female first cousins and granddaughters, then great grandmothers, female second cousins and great-granddaughters. Anyone within those three degrees of kinship is of your clan. People of the same totem but different clans are more distant kin, and anyone not of the totem is a foreigner. Marriage must be within the totem tribe but outside the clan, and typically a man will join his wife's clan. (The Uncolings are more complex, as they practice polygamy.) Organization beyond the occasional clan gathering is rare, and the Hsunchen rarely act in any unison. Those few political entities they have founded, like the White Bear Empire, have been exceptional and rarely lasted long.

The Hsunchen tribes have different ethics and virtues, depending on their totem beasts. Those who kill well are respected more among the wolf and tiger people than, say, the deer. Generally, they honor the virtues of their totem kin. Women among the Hsunchen are always given higher status, however, as they are the mothers and thus manifestations of the Life Force of the world, as well as their longer lifespan (and, therefore, greater ability to increase their wisdom). Gender roles are separated but overlapping. Men hunt and fight, but some animals are only able to be hunted by women - for example, among the Pralori, only women can hunt the opossum. In battle, all Hsunchen fight, and women are expected to be as skilled as men. Men are expected to be able to sew before they are adults, and only men can gather certain food or medical plants. Only shamans are permitted to change their gender role; it isn't unknown for someone to desire to, but no clan would allow them to stay if they did, for fear of offending the ancient animal spirits. These individuals are said to have 'wakened the dragon' and get sent into exile. Legend and rumor hold that secret tribes of 'upside down people' exist, hiding evne from other Hsunchen, in which all gender roles are reversed. Shamanic gender reversal can be casual (the Damali shamans all wear women's clothing), mysterious and magical (the Raccoon People always return from their shamanic vision quests as the opposite gender), sexual (common among the Opossum People) or ambiguous (most others).

Hsunchen all maintain intimate contact with their totem beasts. Most of the time, these animals live among them, and their social lives and religion are tied to the beasts. The Pralori live among their elk herds, the Telmori hunt and sleep alongside wolf packs. In many cases, the two species treat each other as if they were the same. They eat the same thing (mostly), hunting and gathering whatever they can for the season. The Telmori, as a note, are unique among the Hsunchen. They were blessed by th god Nysalor, such that their hides in wolf shape could not be cut by bronze or bone, crushed by stone or wood, or torn by flesh and claw. However, Talor the Laughing Warrior, cursed them in the Gbaji Wars, and so they involuntarily shift between man and wolf shape, and they fled Fronela for distant lands.

The Hsunchen languages are grouped as one family by Gloranthan scholarship, but they are not mutually intelligible between tribes. Each of the Hsunchen groups speaks their own shared language, but this language is identical regardless of time and geography. All Basmoli speak the same tongue, no matter how far apart they are, or how long they have been in a place. However, it is notable that those Hsunchen who end their beast-worship and change to other religions lose this unchanging language over time. There are no written Hsunchen scripts. They also have no formal law. Punishment of evil is the job of a community, done to protect the spirits or for the good of the family. Further, the Hsunchen do not partake in war. They fight, yes. They hunt, they raid. But they do not use violence to achieve political ends, largely because they do not practice politics.

Pictured: a Rathori hunter (left) and and an Uncoling shaman (right), with magic snake drum of the Cosmic Dragon.

All Hsunchen share the same spirit magic - Korgatsu. Korgatsu is the most popular name of the World Dragon, which all Hsunchen myths hold was torn apart to make the universe and all within it. When Death came to the world, the faithful and good found Korgatsu in the Spirit World, and learned how to help those who still lived, how to be reborn, and what ceremonies had to be done to preserve the world. All Hsunchen tribes have variants of the Korgatsu tradition, and share the same essential beliefs. All revere an animal that is the ruler of the universe, and these traditions always include most local fauna, if sometimes as enemies, as well as local places and plants. The Hsunchen acknowledge that gods exist and are potent, but do not follow them. Creation myths vary, typically betwqeen the Great Spirit, the Creator and Grandmother Earth, or Earthmaker and the Four Companions, Turtle, Loon, Otter and Sea Eagle.

A typical myth would go thusly: Mikyh was the Dragon that impregnated and was impregnated by Korgatsu. Nature gave birth to spirits, and Mikyh bore the first Grandfathers and Grandmothers of the tribes. In the Golden Age, most of the world took shape, and gods were divided from lesser beings. The gods and great spirits could change form, but most mortals could not. Life was perfect and wonderful...but eventually, most of the Hsunchen lost contact with their animal souls, and thus lost touch with Nature, succumbing to the vices of agriculture, politics, priests, war and wizards. These people were doomed, for all of these would not save them in the Gods War. The beast people were exceptions. They naturally took either human or beast shaped, and they lived together with their human- and beast-shaped kin, sharing the same souls. The different tribes explain this differently. The Telmori believe they and normal wolves are just the Wolf People, with different amounts of legs. The Uncoling claim they are reindeer who can turn human, while the Flari owl people believe they are humans who can become owls. All share in common two figures: Old Man and Old Woman. Every tribe claims them as ancestors. Everything good or bad today is the result of what Old Man and Old Woman did, in ancient times. Old Man conquered Fire, making it a friend, but Old Woman was the one who mastered cooking with it.

God Learner genealogy claims that Hykim and Mikyh were the ancestors of all beasts. They were probably dragons. Hykim was male, Mykih female, and they never appeared together in stories. The God Learners believed they were representative of a single hermaphroditic being, like most dragons. Their children were the parents of the animal gods taxonomically - Mammal Mother, say, whose children were cat-god, bear-god and so on, and then cat-god bore lion-spirit, lynx-spirit and so on. Some animals came from other places as well, such as Vrimak, the Bird Ancestor, who is said to have been made by Dayzatar, the Sky God. Most animals are closely tied to another god of some kind, and Hykim and Mikyh are used to explain this - for example, Mikyh is said to be the mother of King Griffin (by way of Yelm) and Storm Bull (by way of Umath).

Anyway, Hsunchen religion focuses on three types of spirit - ancestral, greater and local. Ancestors vary tribally. Greater spirits are things like the Fire God, the Horned Man and the Hunter, for those actively worshipped, and others are told of in story, such as Trickster or Earth Witch. Each group also venerates local spirits that are important to survival. The Mraloti worship Oak Spirit, say, while the Sofali favor the Keeper of the Clams. Multiple spirits may be important - the Rathori worship all of Grandfather Salmon, Harastos of the Salmon and Mother of Roe Lake, depending on what part of the land they are in, though all do similar jobs. They often have seasonal rites, or less orderly ones that are invoked as needed. They have no temples, but do keep track of Power Spots, innately holy places which they use for some rituals. Mostly, however, shamans carry or make what they happen to need on site.

Next time: The Doraddi plainsfolk.

We Tried That Already

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The Guide to Glorantha: We Tried That Already

The Doraddi are a dark-skinned people, with brown or black hair. A small minority, despised by the rest, have skin that ranges from slightly bluish to slate blue. The Doraddi exist in four major divisions, which vary in marriage custom, diet and dialect: the Jolar, the Kothar, the Tarien and the rather more recent Kresh. The Kresh are fairly unique - they live in massive, heavily decorated wagons with solid wheels, which are dragged across the plain by many men. The Kresh trade or extort food from the other Doraddi in exchange for trinkets, rare magic and the promise of further visits. The wagons never remain in one place for more than thirty days at the most, and often they never stop moving, conducting all trade while traveling. The wagons contain all Kresh material possessions, particularly metal goods brought in from the north. Women run the wagons and lead, while men defend and move them.

The Doraddi are in general a nomadic people. They avoid cities and claim to have the most superior culture in the world, as demonstrated through many anecdotes which tell why civilization is a bad idea. They move often, generally abandoning their old living site and moving everything. They practice horticulture and hoe-farming, focusing on root vegetable gardens which they abandon yearly, and hunting and gathering to supplement this, with gardening being more relied on in wetter areas and hunting more in the drier ones in the west. They travel often, and even have a deity of wanderlust. Families will leave a site when kings anger them, when their gardens fail or when they hear of a celebration they wish to attend elsewhere. Men will travel between camps seeking work, and ancient travel routes are used seasonally by entire wandering families as well as common travellers such as storytellers, artisans and shamans. The Doraddi have no beasts of burden or riding animals, as their part of Pamaltela lacks anything in the way of grass-like plants. However, they do raise dogs both as pets and hunters, and they raise birds for food and entertainment, as well as small pigs and the Tanuku, a sort of milk-giving antelope. Their wealth is always in simple forms and, due to the frequent moves, rarely accumulates heavily. They do not use clay vessels, and while they will admire them from afar, consider them far too heavy to be of practical use, instead favoring woven baskets or hollowed gourds for all purposes.

Doraddi society is fairly primitive, and there is little distinction in social class save for material wealth. A King may be in charge of hundreds or thousands of followers, but will dress, eat and live no differently than any other member of their settlement. The only real class-based distinction is slavery. Doraddi groups range in size from a small band of travelers to a somewhat more stratified chiefdom, ruled by a King. Only around half of the entire Doraddi population, estimated to be about 3.3 million, has any permanent leadership, however. The rest wander between kingdoms. The main social unit is the extended family, centered on a group of women who are usually blood-related. These women collectively own the group's tents, huts, livestock and other property. Their children, husbands and lovers live in their households, with boys usually staying with their sisters or mothers until they can marry or join a men's society. Past this family unit, lineage is also considered important. Every family can trace its lineage through the female line to an ancestral mother known as the First Drinker, who is associated with a special plant. Members of a common lineage will recognize each other as kin for purposes of friendship, support, sex and marriage, and lineage often affects what divine cults a person can join.

The Kings center their chiefdoms on oases and river basins, organizing their rule around their royal family. The closer one is to the king's lineage, the more influence one has locally. People in a kingdom are divided into three types - citizens (who have clear responsibilities and rights), visitors (who have limited rights) and slaves (who have none, and are usually war captives). The king is selected by the women, but must be from the royal lineage. The women can, at any time, dismiss the king...except among the Tarien, who appoint kings for life. There are several lineages dedicated to producing only royals in order to unify other lineages and families, and some kingdoms have been held by the same lineage since the beginning of known Doraddi history. The Kresh are an exception - they have no kings. Rather, the Kresh wagons are ruled by matriarchs, who know how to make the wagons and who never step on solid ground.

The primary virtues of the Doraddi are trust, modesty, sharing and respect for elders. Betraying the trust of your community or obligations is essentially destroying the relationship you betrayed. Modesty is encouraged, and those of skill are expected not to make their superiority obvious and should never tell others what to do. All social interaction is built on sharing, and if you are seen to have something and someone who does not have it requests it, you are expected to give it freely, without any immediate expectation of reciprocity or return.

Almost all property is owned by women, and they wield great power politically. A family's grandmother determines where they live, and several kingdoms have fallen when the women decide to take their families and leave. Men can only own specific men-things - weapons, ritual clothes and, by tradition, anything carried on the man's back. Men serve as administrators, defenders and caretakers. Their marriage customs are all fairly standard, except among the Arbonnen, who are strict monogamists that practice marriage of young to middle age. A young man will marry an older woman and remain with her until she retires to an oasis settlement, at which point he, now middle-aged, will marry a young woman, and the cycle will repeat.

The Doraddi do not go in for complex clothing or housing, preferring simplicity and function over appearance, due to the kind weather of the area. They wear minimal clothing except when the weather requires it, and mostly live in easily carried tents, except in oasis kingdoms, which typically have more permanent wooden structures. Furniture is rare, with even simple stools kept only by kings and great shamans. The Doraddi language family is known as Arbennen, which contains four languages - Arbennen itself, Doraddik, Kresh and Tarint, all of which are pretty closely related. There is no written form.

Doraddi law is simple and informal, focused on resolving disputes before they become violent. Generally, when a conflict cannot be resolved, someone just leaves to join another group, ideally of the same lineage. Soft social controls are also used - gossip, ridicule, ostracism, public debates and so on, to help form group consensus. Doraddi combat comes in two types - ritual combat (sometimes unarmed) and plunder war. Ritual combats are usually strictly defined in terms of victory condition and reward. Warfare is mainly practiced between tribal groups, over things like transgression of sacred rites, food theft, or tradition. Warfare mainly comes in three kinds. The Old Men's War has both sides gather and yell insults at each other, and whoever has the larger group at the end of the day wins. The Hero's War is duels between individuals or teams of champions. Ancient Warfare is raiding, ambush and set battles, and is heavily frowned on.

A Kresh Matriarch (left) and Arbennan nomad (right)

The Doraddi follow the Pamalt pantheon, ruled over by Pamalt and a council of varying other gods. Pamalt is the King of the Pamaltelan gods - not the strongest, most powerful, cleverest or most magical god, but the god who best knows and understands the others he rules. He commands the Earth powers, and he has no peers. Other gods can be allies, foes or subjects, but never equals. Aleshmara is one of the women's goddesses, the Grandmother, Earth Witch and Owner of Things. The other major women's goddess is Faranar, the Earth Mother, Council Speaker, Gatherer and Curser. Noruma is the Great Shaman, who made Fire and brought the Earthmaker back from the dead as the Great Horned Serpent Amuron. Nyanka is the goddess of Good Water, Waterbearer, Childbirth and Pathways. Minor gods include Artmal the Old, Balumbasta the Firebearer, Bolongo the Trickster, Cronisper the Sky Father, Jmijie the Wanderer, Keraun the Wind Goddess, Rasout the Hunter, Sikkanos the Bad Wind, Vangono the War God, Varama the Sun God, Veldara the Blue Moon and Yanmorla the Earth Grandmother.

Doraddi myth claims that the Old Gods witnessed the creation of the world by Langamul the Earthmaker, who woke Pamalt and the others and then was killed by Bolongo and sent to the Spirit World. In the Storm Age, the blue-skinned Artmali people made cities, conquered the world and sacrificed to gods, and so became degenerates and fell to Chaos, breeding with all manner of beast and allowing illness to fester where had been clean water and evil slimes where there had been dryness. Pamalt assembled his council and performed the Great Spirit Trick, bringing the Great Horned Spirit to life and tilting the sky to make it lurch. A great flood of burning sky fell upon the lands of the Artmali, destroying them and their Chaos shrines. Pamalt put the son of Balambasta, Varama the New Sun, into the sky, and ever after, Pamalt's people have lived in peace, so long as they remain on the Right Footpath.

Doraddi religion is primarily shamanic, but has several hereditary priesthoods to specific gods or sites. The greatest magicians are shamans who intervene in the Spirit World, liaison between spirit and people. Each has different methods to do this, which are usually simple, always very practical and very sincere, which let them empower others to also intercede with spirits. The High Shamanic Ideal is that one trains their body, integrates the right spirits into one's shamanic self, and is young and wise forever. In practice, shamans are mostly busy helping people with everyday hostile spirit problems and helping the community survive with aid of good spirits. Physical health is vital to shamanic practice, and anything that harms you too much is to be avoided, especially remaining overly intoxicated, misusing spirits or sacrificing to gods.

Next time: The Praxian riders

Ride Any Beast That Walks On Four Legs Except Horses

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The Guide to Glorantha: Ride Any Beast That Walks On Four Legs Except Horses

The Praxians are animal-riding nomads found in the land called Prax and the Wastelands that surround it. They are an ancient and quite widespread culture, who are extremely proud of their way of life and extremely distrustful of outsiders. They have a large range of territory, which they use to tend their herds, fight each other and so on. They lack much in the way of raw materials to advance their technology, but know their land better than anyone. The politically dominant groups are the Five Great Tribes, who descend from the original settlers of Prax, who emigrated from the Spike with Storm Bull. Four of these tribes are humans, known as two-legs, who ride beasts, known as four-legs. These are the Bison, High Llama, Impala and Sable tribes, named for the beasts they ride. The fifth tribe is the four-legged Morokanth, who keep the two-legged but unintelligent herd-men. Because Praxian beasts eat different things, the tribes can often coexist. Bison prefer green and moist grass, while impala prefer dry and brown grass. High llamas primarily eat leaves of bush and scrub. Herd-men can eat anything but mostly eat roots. Sable antelope, however, eat everything. Together with all the greater and lesser tribes, it is estimated there are just under 500,000 Praxians.

The Bison Tribe are currently outcasts in Prax proper. The Lunars are not actively hunting them, but their allies, the Sable Tribe, are working to exterminate their long-time rivals. Now, the Bison are found only in Vulture Country or beyond when not raiding. They tend to be brown-skinned and dark-haired, and men always wear beards. They are big, thick people who are slow to move but very powerful, like their mounts. They travel in large clans, sometimes more than a thousand strong, with huge herds. Their leaders, or khans, often have multiple wives, as can other famous men. They tend to rely on the strength of their bisons to defeat their foes and see use of the bow as unmanly. They prefer bison-hide armor, heavy lances and swords.

The High Llama Tribe did not actively oppose the Lunar invasion of Prax, in the belief that the Lunars were essentially harmless. Since then, they have found the Sable Tribe are trying to crowd them out of the River of Cradles, and that the Lunars have shifted the balance of power in their favor. The High Llama people are tall, olive-skinned and have black hair and eyes. They typically shave themselves bald, male or female, save for a ponytail. They dress lightly, sometimes only in a loincloth, and rarely travel in groups of more than 40 except in wartime. They are the smallest but most powerful of the Great Tribes, as their steeds are taller and faster than any other, and they are very skilled with long spears and axes.

The Impala Tribe are small, called pygmies by the Lunars. They and the Bisons opposed the Lunar invasion, and like the Bisons they've been driven to the far reaches of Vulture Country. Since then, they have raided constantly into Sable lands, and are currently being hunted actively and mercilessly. Their adults are generally under five feet tall, often much less. They are dark-skinned, and typically shave their heads completely. They wear the least clothing of any Praxian tribe, and often go into battle in a loincloth or even naked. They believe armor makes them slow, relying on their speed and that of their impalas to protect them. They are clever skirmishers, relying on range and bows to counter their foes, though they are usually far less skilled in close combat.

The Morokanth Tribe are intelligent tapirs that live on the marshes and plains, herding humans. It is said that when Waha came to bring the Survival Continent together during the Great Night, the creatures all drew lots to see who would eat whom. In all but one case, the two-legs are said to have won, and that is why humans eat animals. Morokanth were the exception - they eat humans. Herd-men, specifically. The other tribes all claim the Morokanth cheated, and in turn, the Morokanth claim all humans cheated to ensure that more animals did not win. The Morokanth can stand bipedally, to attack with their claws or use tools, but prefer to walk on all fours for travel. They also lack thumbs, making them unskilled at fine manipulation. The Morokanth have magic that can turn normal humans into herd-men, who have only animal intelligence despite appearing human. They are often used to draw chariots or carry litters, as the Morokanth do not ride. No reputable human would deal in slaves to the Morokanth, but more than a few disreputable ones make a good living doing so.

A Morokanth.

The final Great Tribe is the Sable Tribe, who are currently politically dominant due to their alliance with the Lunar Empire. They intend to keep it that way, forever. Their leaders are considered unbearably arrogant even by their Lunar allies, and other Praxians do not trust them at all. They have black hair and dark eyes, and typically clothe themselves in pants and a cloak, with fancy headdresses denoting wealth. Their Herd Queens are more important to them than their khans, and have equal say even in matters of war. They practice polygamy, but it is the women who choose their shared husband, rather than the husband choosing hsi wives. They ride sable antelope, also known as lunar deer due to their crescent-shaped horns. Their tactics vary by clan.

Besides the Five Great Tribes, there are a number of smaller independent tribes in Praxian lands. The Baboon Troop are a tribe of giant, talking baboons. It is debated whether they were, like the Morokanth, winners in Waha's game, or instead men cursed to become baboons for betraying Waha. The Basmoli Berserkers are a Hsunchen tribe that are accepted as Wasteland Praxians, having once controlled a large empire in Prax until their Lion God was slain during the Gods War by Tada. The Bolo-Lizard Folk ride on large, six-footed reptiles. The Cannibal Cult are a group of fanatics that know how to steal the power of those they eat, and so are greatly feared. The Men-and-a-Half, or Agimori, are from Pamaltela originally and are considered the best infantry in Glorantha. They are extremely tall, require far less food than most humans, and wield long spears that allow them to hold off even the Bison Tribe, despite not riding any beast at all or even herding animals. The Pavis Survivors are the remnant of an ancient city, Pavis, who ride a powerful zebra-like horse. While horses are taboo to Praxians, the Pavis Zebra is considered acceptable due to its stripes. They are mercenaries who live by a strict military code. The Rhinoceros Riders are...well, nomadic rhino-riders who are renowned for their strength, but are very few in number. The Pol-Joni are the final independent tribe, and the others despise them. The Pol-Joni, see, are Orlanthi from Sartar who came to Prax 200 years ago, and they still ride horses and generally flout the traditions of Prax, taking in outlaws and generally being nuisances. Despite this, no one is strong enough to get rid of them.

Partially, this is because the Praxians are neolithic-tech, and the Pol-Joni have the bronze weapons of Sartar. Any metal the other Praxians have is imported, making most of their tools from leather, wood and bone. They say they can survive in areas others would never be able to because their gods taught them the way to do so in the Great Darkness, and they'd pretty much all be dead without their herds, which provide them both food and raw materials for just about anything except weapons. Praxian class is determined by amount of animals owned, as animals are wealth and fame - either raised or captured. The tribes raid each other constantly for beasts and slaves, though the slaves are rarely treated more harshly than anyone else - largely because conditions are harsh enough to make doing so impractical in the extreme.

The family is the basic social unit, with the gender-segregated tasks of Praxian life forming the core of the family bond. Personal leadership ability is the key factor in leading a clan, with rich or famous men and women attracting followers by showing they are wise and skilled. There are no formal bonds of fealty beyond this. Families usually travel together as clans, but change their organization by the needs of the moment. The clan's Herd Queen leads in peacetime, and its Khan during war, and traditionally, each has absolute power within their sphere. Tribes, meanwhile, are grouped by traditional beast rather than bloodline, and have no formal structure at all. Several magical societies cross tribe and even clan lines, providing those with skill an outlet for their ambition if clan leadership is impossible for them. Each jealously guards its secrets, and these religious societies form the core of inter-clan or inter-tribe cooperation.

A High Llama rider (left) and a Sable Herd Queen (right).

Praxians are staunch traditionalists and usually quite conservative about changing their ways. Courage and knowledge of tradition are the primary virtues in Prax. Honesty is also valued...among one's tribe, or to a lesser extent with other Praxians. Outsiders can be lied to freely, as they are not people. Hatred of Chaos is also valued, and showing any mercy or compassion towards Chaos is usually punished with death, as the ultimate moral failing. Women are also encouraged to be good healers, either of people or beasts, and men are encouraged to learn combat skills. Praxian marriage is often polygamous - and that can go either way, with multiple wives or husbands or both. Marriage is simple, divorce even simpler. Gender roles are strictly divided, with a loose division of women being in charge of the skills of life, and men being in charge of the skills of death. Women own the tribal herd, the living tents, the tools and the cookware. They tend the herds, raise the kids and heal the wounded. Men own captured animals, tools of war and travel tents, and are responsible for herding the animals, butchering them, protecting them from raiders and raiding others. Men typically marry outside their clan, as women inherit all animals. Bachelors often travel in large groups, often parallel to but separate from a clan. They raid to steal animals to give to women they would marry, and they rarely fear danger much. Cooperation between genders is extremely important, and men respect women (and vice versa) rather more than they respect each other.

Male and female Praxians live separately from the age of ten, and boys partake in all activities of adult men except for the fighting of Chaos, which must only be done after proving oneself to Waha and the tribal founders. Girls are considered to be women-in-training from birth, and the initiation of girls during puberty is hidden from sight via a magical dance, which causes the herds to surround the women entirely. A newly initiated female is known as a girl-woman until her first child is born, after which she is a full woman and can own animals. All Praxians speak the same language, via different but mutually intelligible dialects by tribe, often with many loan words from nearby cultures. There is no written script, but Praxians do use ceremonial rope knots to record information for rituals, stories, mapping and trade. Law is based on the teachings of Waha, the Praxian culture hero, and remembering the rules is the job of shamans. The harshest thing a tribe can do is banish someone. The banished may not eat their tribal animal, speak their secret tribal words or speak to other tribe members, under penalty of spirit curse.

War is a common part of Praxian life, between the monsters of the wastes and raids. Praxians especially love to raid outsider neighbors, who have metal to steal. They also fought constantly with the Pentans to the north, who ride horses. Horses are taboo, and most Praxians will refuse even to touch a horse, save to kill it, and will not eat horsemeat, nor that of ponies or donkeys, though they will eat other lesser beasts such as cattle. Certain other plants and animals are forbidden, either always or in certain circumstances. The exception is the cult of Storm Bull, who are permitted to break taboos in the name of fighting Chaos. A bullman is not required to kill any horse they meet, though they still can if they feel like it.

Praxians know they had many gods at one point, but they were destroyed by Chaos. All existence would have been, but for the coming of Storm Bull, the Rage Bellower, who defeated Chaos and keeps the universe intact. Eiritha the Herd Mother is Storm Bull's wife. She was trapped under the earth long ago, but sends out herds of free animals from a secret cave, which no living being can find. This bounty is what keeps the Praxians alive. Waha the Founder is the culture hero of Prax, who found the way of life that would let the Praxians survive. He is the son of Storm Bull and Eiritha, born at the end of the Gods War, after Storm Bull killed the Devil and Eiritha was hidden below the earth. Waha freed the people from the Darkness, tamed fire, and taught people to kill and practice the right customs. Minor deities of the Praxians include Babeester Gor, Daka Fal, Foundchild the Hunter, Helpwoman, Humakt, the Lightbringers, Seven Mothers, Yelmalio and Yelorna. Praxian religion is led by shamans and medicine men, who lead the Praxian spirit societies. Their greatest festivals are during the calving time, when raiding slows massively except among the very desperate. Other ceremonies are held as needed and vary by clan and tribe. Many outsiders believe the Praxian medicine men make things up as they go along. The only standing temple of Praxian religion is the holy Paps. They laugh at the idea of temples, particularly in the city of Pavis, and see them as a joke maintained solely for exiles. Ceremonial places are set up by shamans as needed. Permanent holy places do exist in some oases or ruins, mostly in Prax proper rather than Wastes.

Next time: The men whooped with Orlanth and drank the Six Known Drinks.

Plains Vikings

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Guide to Glorantha: Plains Vikings

The Orlanthi are widely known to outsiders as the Theyalan culture, the name given to them by the God Learners. It comes from Theya, the goddess of the Dawn, because the Orlanthi were very important in the Dawn Age. Most are farmers and herders who plow small fields and raise cattle or sheep. Their cities tend to be few and small, with a few glaring exceptions, and most are illiterate outside of the cult of Lhankor Mhy. They originate in parts of Genertela known as Dragon Pass and the Holy Country, and the Orlanthi from those regions also call themselves Heortlings after a Silver Age hero. In the First Age, they expanded heavily into parts of Peloria, Maniria, Ralios and Fronela. The level of organization their societies hold varies by location. All Orlanthi are part of a clan. However, clans can come together temporarily or permanently to form a tribe, and tribes can come together to form a kingdom. Orlanthi groups also have a history of mixing with others or splitting in variant beliefs. Today, several live under the yoke of the Lunar Empire. Others add the Invisible God, Malkion, to their pantheon. In Esrolia, in the Holy Country, Ernalda is chief of the gods rather than Orlanth.

Orlanthi tend to be olive-skinned people with brown, black or red hair. Blond is possible but quite rare. Their eyes tend to be green, brown, grey or orange, and they all wear their hair long. Women braid it elaborately, and men have extensive facial hair. The Orlanthi mix farming and herding to survive, with land given to each free farmer by their clan in small strips. A free farmer is expected to use a plow pulled by 4 to 8 oxen, to be guided by the farmer and, typically, their spouse or child. A farmer's fields will be scattered through the clan's lands, marked out by small stone walls. Clans also often have orchards or vineyards in the care of chosen families. Sheep are grazed in hilly land and cattle in lowlands. Horses are also raised, and especially prized. In Dragon Pass, the Holy Country and parts of the Lunar-controlled regions of Tarsh or Peloria, Praxian beasts are also raised. Rather than dogs, the Orlanthi raise a large cat known as an alynx or shadowcat, which is used for herding and hunting in the same ways dogs could be. They range in size from a housecat to a large dog. Orlanthi are also renowned as craftsmen, particularly of metal, weaving and pots. They learned how to work metal from the dwarves via their god Gustbran the Redsmith.

It is estimated that, across the world, there are about 11.2 million Orlanthi in total. They recognize the existence of five different levels of social status within a clan. These are not determined by wealth or property for the most part, but their role in the clan. (Wealth doesn't hurt, however.) The highest rank are Nobles, those that lead. Nobles are ranked - lowest is a clan chieftain or clan high priestess. Above that is the tribal king, and above that, the kingdom king. In most clans, only two noble families exist - the clan chief's and the high priestess's. Below the nobles are the thanes. Thanes are those with leadership roles of some kind or who have unusual responsibilities. These might be the heads of households, the chief's bodyguards, the local cult leaders, the best of the merchants or crafters, or members of the clan council. Thanes do extra work for the clan, so they get extra status and wealth from the clan. The word is derived from an old Orlanthi word meaning 'horse man'.

Left: An Esrolian priestess of Ernalda with expensive clothes and makeup. Right: A warrior thane of the kingdom of Aggar.

Under the thanes are the carls, or 'cattle men'. They are the most common, the free farmers of the clan, and have the widest range of responsibilities and rights. To be a carl, you must have a plot and a full team of oxen to pull it, and will be given as much land as you can plow in two seasons, called your 'hide'. Carls are also expected to own a minimal set of combat equipment to help defend the clan if needed. Below them are the cottars, or 'sheep men'. They live in small cottages and make their living herding sheep and tending to small gardens. The lowest class is the thrall, or slave. A thrall is legally considered property rather than a person in Orlanthi culture. Among the Dragon Pass Orlanthi, while the thrall is still a recognized part of society, thrall-taking is discouraged and looked down on, as the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass emphasize love of freedom as their primary virtue. Most thralls are debtors, criminals or war prisoners. A thrall's children are born free, as members of the clan that owns the child's mother.

The clan is the basic social unit. Individual households or bloodlines come and go, as do tribes or kingdoms. The clan survives. It prospers or shrinks but it does not die or change its definition of itself. Orlanthi always refer to themselves first as members of their clan when introducing themselves. Clans own the land they work, not any member of those clans, though individual may claim rights based on past usage of land or via clan decision. Orlanthi tend to be highly active in the social, political and religious customs of their clans, and choosing not to vote during the ritual of Weapon Taking is nearly unheard of. In this ritual, all adults must present their tools of labor and adulthood for inspection to qualify for voting as full members of the clan. Clans range in size between 500 and 2000 people, organized into various bloodlines, with decisions made by the clan ring, a council of 20 to 30 members, seven of whom sit on the Inner Ring. The council is permanent, with positions held by various members as need arises and with structure varying by clan. The council is responsible for adminstering justice, negotitions with outsiders and finding wives for men of the clan. The chieftain is the leader of the clan, speaking and making decisions for all members, particularly during emergencies. Both the council and the clansfolk have means of removing a chieftain they dislike, however. While the chieftain or his delegate handles all negotiations with outsiders, clan internal politics are managed by the entire council. Common sense in an area under dispute holds a lot of weight, so warriors are bowed to in military situations, while grandmothers hold sway in matters of the harvest.

A clan's membership in a tribe is always voluntary, though it is not unknown to force "volunteering" by conquest. The tribal organization mirrors the Orlanthi pantheon's divine council, and most tribal councils have 13 positions, each representing an Orlanthi deity. First, of course, is Orlanth, chief of the gods. Seats 2 to 5 belong to four or Orlanth's kinfolk - typically Humakt, Urox and two of the various Thunder Brothers. Seats six to nine belong to Orlanth's thanes - Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, Chalana Arroy and Elmal. Seat ten belongs to Ernalda, queen of the gods and wife to Orlanth. Seat eleven belongs to Ernalda's mother, Asrelia, and seat twelve to her daughter, Voria. The thirteenth seat is that of Eurmal, the Trickster. The tribal officers are chosen by the chieftains of the tribe's clans. The king chooses a number of candidates, as do the chieftains, and a selection is made between them. It is rarely a surprise - tribes aren't usually that big.

When no outside force exists to keep the tribe together, such as an enemy, tribes often dissolve into their component clans. More permanent tribes tend to exist in areas of more permanent dangers and pressures. Kingdoms, likewise, are entirely voluntary, formed by multiple tribes...and again, 'volunteering' by conquest is not unknown. The Lunar Empire in particular is known for weakening local tribes and forcing them to swear allegiance to the provincial kings the empire controls, with varying degrees of success. While most Orlanthi leadership roles are open to any who qualify, kingdom rulership is usually restricted to only those who can trace paternal ancestry back to Orlanth. However, kingdom governance varies wildly. In Sartar, the kingdom council is just a more glorious version of the tribal council, while in Lankst, the House of Warriors must approve all royal policies, and in Malkonwal, governance resembles the forms used by the Westerner cultures.

Orlanthi consider there to be six known virtues: Courage, Wisdom, Generosity, Justice, Honor and Piety. However, there is an unstated belief in independence as a major virtue as well. The Orlanthi believe that a person is responsible first to his clan, then himself, and after that to whoever he wants as long as he maintains personal responsibility. Orlanthi believe strongly that the genders are different but inseperable. While the society is male-dominant to most appearances, women have great social and personal power. All adult women have the same right to speak to the clan as any, and during a Weapon Taking, any meat cleaver, spoon or cookpot used for at least three meals qualifies as a tool of adulthood for women, as do sewing kits. Men, however, must have a sheild, a knife, either a long spear or a sword, and a "strong hat" (definition varies). Gender roles are still, however, divided up. Men do most physical labor, save for the harvest, which everyone does. Women raise children and care for households, as well as perform astrology. However, the Orlanthi are very open-minded about switching your presented gender. They know historically of many women devoted to martial gods or goddesses. Orlanth even has a female aspect, Vinga. Likewise, there are gods of women represented by men, and at least one man, a cook named Geo, has become a minor god in his own right over what is traditionally a woman's role. Men are considered to be passionate and unpredictable, while women are believed to be more calm and calculating. Emotional expression is common in both genders, but moreso in men, who are expected to have emotional outbursts frequently, while women are shown in the poem Orlanth's Wooing of Ernalda to be calmer, with Ernaldo manipulating Orlanth to ensure women receive proper rights.

Both genders frequently wear rune tattoos representing their chosen deities, cults and ancestors. Each clan and tribe has their own tattoo, which new adults are given during initiation along with their personal and god runes. Tattoos mark changes in profession and status, as well. These can be placed anywhere on the body as long as they are visible in some way. Both genders also tend to wear lots of jewelry and makeup. However, only women wear earrings, and only men wear arm rings. The Orlanthi language family is known as Theyalan, and all share three alphabets, the Sacred Scripts of Lhankor Mhy: Murnulvretan (or Cat Scratching), a flowing script favored in Dragon Pass, East Ralios and the Holy Country. Kanvulvretan (Dog Scratching), an angular script favored in Peloria, Fronela and Ralios, and Elasa Secrets (or Stone Scratching), used only for magical spells and not actually corresponding to spoken Theyalan.

Orlanthi law is derived from the traditions of Orlanth in ancient times. It holds that clans are the root of all rights, and lays down the required rituals of life. Orlanth and Ernalda, in the period before Time, decided that clans own the land, and laid down the crimes for which execution may be done - rape, secret murder of an Orlanthi, consorting with Chaos, being a Trickster, that kind of thing. They also laid down two sacred laws. First: violence is always an option. Second: there is always another way. Combat by champions is a popular method of solving interclan disputes and is considered binding, but alternatives to dueling to the death are encouraged. Generosity and diplomacy are seen as more praiseworthy than a violent solution, but a violent solution is always at least acceptable. The local Lhankor Mhy godspeakers and cultists are responsible for maintaining the oral tradition and laws of the clan. Orlanthi tradition also holds that all adult men are warriors. Some, the housecarls, are full-time warriors, and among them, the cults of the death god Humakt and the Storm Bull Urox are popular. Clans choose their leaders for combat, and the war leader then choose who joins a battle or campaign. Everyone uses the best arms and magic they can get. Typically, that's a bronze-tip spear, a bronze axe and a shield, maybe with a sword, a helmet or bronze armor. For ranged options, bows, javelins and slings are common. Swords are highly valued, and well-made ones often receive names. Armor, especially metal armor, is rare and highly valued, and helmets are often highly decorated.

The Orlanthi, as might be expected, follow the Orlanthi pantheon. This is led by Orlanth, the Storm God, Men's God and King of the World, and his wife Ernalda, the Earth Goddess, Mother Goddess and Women's Goddess. Other major gods are Humakt, the God of Death, War, Honor and Swords, Issaries, the God of Speech, Communication, Travel, Merchants and Trade, and Lhankor Mhy, the God of Truth, Knowledge, Writing and Law. Minor gods include Asrelia the Grandmother, Babeestor Gor the Axe Goddess, Barntar the Plowman, Chalana Arroy the Healer, Elmal the Sun God, Esrola the Goddess of Life, Eurmal the Trickster, Heler the Rain God, Maran Gor the Destroyer, Ty Kora Tek the Goddess of the Dead, Urox the Storm Bull, Voria the Goddess of Spring and Yinkin the Alynx. Orlanthi religion follows two major myth cycles - the Gods War and the Lightbringers. The Gods War tells about how Orlanth and his brothers conquered the world, and then how Orlanth conquered his brothers, and also talks about how the world was formed and how society was made by Orlanth and Ernalda, as well as the heroism of Orlanth's son, Vingkot the Victorious. The Lightbringers' Quest is the major creation myth defining the Orlanthi culture, which shows what is expected of all members of society and the tragic or hilarious consequences of breaking those expectations. It always features all deities important to the region and all the great figures of cosmology.

The Orlanthi look back on the Gbaji War as a war on Chaos, speaking of Nysalor, who tricked Orlanth for a while, until Arkat Swordhand, Son of Humakt, freed Orlanth's vision. While Arkat defeated the foes in Dorastor, Orlanth overthrew the Pelorians that fueled the evil empire. The greatest hero of this period is Harmast Barefoot, a simple farmer who successfully performed the Lightbringers' Quest twice to fight Gbaji. Later, both the Empire of Wyrms Friends and the God Learners are remembered as foes. The EWF was a mistake that fooled even Orlanth for a time, until the exploration of dragon ways became too much, and even Orlanth was defeated by the Inner Dragon of Arangorf, until Alakoring Dragonslayer came and slew Drang, founding the Orlanth Rex subcult. The God Learners, meanwhile, were evil sorcerers from the far-off West, to whom Orlanth never submitted or lost, though they tried hard. Famously, this was the time when Gorangi Vek found the Hero Path to tame the Sky Bull of Stormwalk Mountain.

In Fronela and Umalthela, the ruling nobles are quite Westernized, and also recognize Malkion, the Invisible God. They require clans to give them oaths of loyalty and bands of warriors, and they practice sorcery, viewing the Invisible God as the best (but not only) god, though most commoners remain traditional Orlanthi. In Umalthela, the worship of Malkion is most prevalent on the coast. In the Holy Country, specifically Esrolia, Ernalda is dominant and women control most of society, while men have a wider range of gods to follow, as several have been adopted as husband-figures, such as Yelmalio, though Orlanth is still Ernalda's favorite husband. In Caladraland, in the Holy Country, a gigantic volcano exists, and the local Orlanthi primarily worship local gods and practice slash-and-burn agriculture rather than ox-and-plow, but remain otherwise Orlanthi in culture. In Lunar-controlled lands, the worship of Orlanth is suppressed and temples are often destroyed when the Lunar authorities discover them.

Orlanthi ceremoneis are typically done outdoors - Orlanth is a god of the wind and sky, and the greatest of his followers are able to fly on massive columns of wind, though not particularly far or particularly well, much of the time. While the Orlanth Rex subcult likes to make temples in cities, even these are kept open to the sky, and Ernalda's earth rituals are also held outdoors. All monthly ceremonies are held on Windsday of Movement Week, the luckiest of all days in the month. Regular rites of Ernalda are also held each season. Ritual dramas to recreate the myths are commonly seen, drawing on the faith and awe of the viewers to transport the initiates into the God Realm to take part in mythic quests. Shrines and temples are common in Orlanthi lands, ranging from buildings made for the gods to open and holy places on hilltops. Most clans have two or three shrines - one to Orlanth, one to Ernalda, and typically a third god, while tribes will often have small temples to subsidiary gods and a major temple to Orlanth and Ernalda. Cities often have several temples. Air and Reversed Air are common rune symbols among Orlanthi male initiates, and Earth and Life runes for women. Lhankor Mhy initiates in particular always wear grey, usually robes, even in the most primitive clans, and all must have beards. False beards are common, both among men and women in the cult. All initiates of Chalana Arroy wear white gowns or pants, and are seen as utterly sacred people by all Orlanthi. Torcs and golden neck rings may be worn only by chiefs and kings.

Next time: The Pelorians. Or Solars. Whichever you like.

Sun and Moon

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Guide to Glorantha: Sun and Moon

The Pelorians, also known as the Solar people, are quite ancient. In the Gods Age, they were ruled over by the sun god Yelm and his son Murharzarm, the first Emperor of Dara Happa. While the Dara Happan line was removed from power during the Dawn Age, they reestablished themselves quickly. Since 1250, the Pelorians have been ruled over by the Red Emperor, and they are the center of the Lunar Empire. Pelorians tend to be light-skinned, with brown or blonde hair and brown or blue eyes. Men have heavy beards but trimmed moustaches, except the Lunar cult, who tend to be clean-shaven. Women wear elaborate braids. The Pelorian culture is split into two broad types. The areas around the river cities are Dara Happan, while those in the rural areas are Lodrilli, and are seen to be less exalted and more watered-down. The Dara Happans are the inheritors of the culture of Yelm and the Solar Empire. Yelm made their laws and rules, and they follow these even now. The Dara Happans are a highly urban people with strong magical traditions, and can be found across the Lunar Empire, generally in leadership positions outside the Oslir River basin. The Lodrilli are rural farmers, primarily worshippers of Lodril and other agricultural gods, and have been ruled over by many in their long history, from trolls to Orlanthi. While the Dara Happans think of them as farmers exclusively, the Lodrilli have several urban subcultural traditions. In the western parts of the Lunar Empire, they tend to be ruled over by the Carmanians, a ruling class of soldiers and sorcerers derived from Western and Theyalan stock.

The Dara Happans consider the city to be the only proper place to live. Yelm built the first cities and chose them as the first citizens. Trade is a special gift of Yelm's, and to most Dara Happans, village life is simply a source of comedy material. Anyone outside a city's walls is worth laughing at, even if they are Dara Happan by blood. They favor stone and brick, especially in large, pyramidal towers, and their cities favor a concentric, symmetrical design with radiating main roads out from the city center, where the temples are. Lodrilli, on the other hand, tend to be content to live as village farmers, growing maize and rice and raising livestock with simple farming tools and mud-brick huts. Most Lodrilli 'cities' are just big villages that are controlled by foreigners rather than Lodrilli - all Lodrilli cities are ruled over by someone else, whether Dara Happan or not, and typically are controlled by trade guild councils.

Pelorian society is heavily stratified. At the top is the Red Emperor and his family, who are considered living gods. Under them are the Dara Happan nobles, descended from Yelm. Only they can hold certain priestly and leadership roles, and most of them are from a few dozen ranking families with ties to the Lunar government. Below them are the Witnesses and Officers, lesser aristocratic priests and military officers who hold substantial social rank. Under them are the Headmen - village leaders, merchants, soldiers and craftsmen, considered 'half-citizens' and forbidden to become full Dara Happan citizens. Under them are the workers, who provide most of the manual labor - diggers, carpenters, potters, pit bosses, that kind of thing. At the bottom are the Slaves, mostly agricultural workers and quite common in the Pelorian Bowl. They are captured in war, punished for rebelling against the Emperor or taken for a community's failure to pay taxes.

Dara Happans are a patriarchal culture, tracing descent to a common male ancestor. Anyone born to Dara Happan parents in a Dara Happan city is a Dara Happan, with women considered necessary but socially inferior. Lodrilli families, on the other hand, are based on direct blood and marriage ties rather than shared ancestry, with familial ties going in descending importance out to six ranks of cousins and in-laws, and success within the culture is largely based on one's number of dependents. Lodrilli rarely travel at all, and respect age very highly. In either case, women are given a chance for social power if they join the Lunar cult, gaining Imperial patronage and protection. The Red Emperor is the supreme ruler of Peloria, the divine child of the Red Goddess and responsible for maintaining her earthly empire. Leaders of conquered states and Lunar religious groups report directly to him. Dara Happans consider it sacreligious to oppose or even criticize the Emperor. The Lunar Empire is divided into a number of satrapies, overlaid on the trade network of cities and towns. The tax collectors head out from the cities to each village in the satrapy, collecting trade goods and food to pay to the government. The most important Dara Happan cities are the triple cities of Alkoth, Raibanth and Yuthuppa, along with the 'new' Lunar city of Glamour. Lodrilli villages surround these, generally made of two to five extended families that are often interrelated. Villages rely on special bodies of witnesses and judges to oversee their social affairs and sharing of goods, and generally rely on their local priest or priestess to speak to outsiders.

Pelorian culture values obedience over all other things. Rebellion against authority is a terrible sin, and even Chaos is seen merely as another form of rebellion against the divine order. All that the lower classes must do is obey orders. The upper classes are expected to pursue honor and justice. Honor means caring for those of lower rank and upholding one's noble duties and responsibilities. Justice means upholding the will of Yelm and is ultimately the duty of the Emperor. Among Dara Happans, gender division is extreme and rigidly patriarchal. Women are chattel. Sons outvalue daughters, brothers outvalue wives and fathers outvalue mothers. Lodrilli are patriarchal in marriage, with wives joining the husband's house, but Lodrilli women have property rights, right to divorce and are considered to own half of all marriage gifts. Clothing for both sexes gets heavier and mroe ornate as class rises, and is strictly controlled by law based on neighborhood and occupation. There are an estimated 7.1 million Pelorians across the world.

Right: A Dara Happan hoplite. Left: A Lunar cultist from the province of Oraya.

Due to its many invasions and conquests, Peloria speaks many languages. The official state language is New Pelorian, and all nobles and educated people are likely to speak that. It uses a script adapted from Dara Happan but heavily simplified, and many foreigners are afraid that both the script and spoken language contain secret philosophical messages of the Red Goddess. Dara Happan is the tongue of the solar religions, learned primarily by priests, Dara Happans and pedants. It uses a sacred alphabet made by the god Buserian, and most religious literature is written in it, though often with New Pelorian translations. The lowland Lodrilli of Peloria all have their own dialects by region, and while Lodrilli dialects may once have had their own written forms, generally adapted from Dara Happan, only New Pelorian script is commonly used these days.

Pelorian law is derived from the God Time teachings of Yelm, and justice is seen to uphold Yelm's will, though in practice the Emperor delegates it to officials. The Emperor is a benevolent autocrat, allowing access to these officials to all subjects and thus protecting the weak. Pelorian law divides all people into one of three types: noble, half-citizen or slave. It relies heavily on written judgments as precedent, and is ruled by a principle of eye-for-an-eye punishment. Death is a common penalty for crimes of theft or worse, though it is still more common for an official to assign fines. Peloria has not seen war in its heartland for over a century, and it is protected by the professional army of the Lunar Empire, which spends most of its time fighting in Dragon Pass, Prax and the Holy Country. The Dara Happans are well known for their heavy infantry and their cavalry.

Pelorians typically follow the Solar pantheon, focusing on Yelm and his family, as well as the Red Goddess. All other faiths are seen, at least by Dara Happans, as aberrant and misguided. Yelm is the Emperor and Sun God, the authority which all others follow. The Red Goddess is the Goddess of the Red Moon, cycles and the Lunar Way - a mystical path of paradox and joined opposites. Other gods include Shargash, the primal war god and god of destruction, Biselenslib, the Long-Legged Goddess and wife to either Shargash or his son Alkor and mother of the river people, Buserian, the God of Priests, Writers, SCribes, Stargazing and Divination, Dayzatar, the God of the Sky, Purity and Moral Dignity, Lodril, the God of the Earth and Lower Worlds, Lokarnos, the God of the Slow Planet, Money and Counting, Oria, the Mother Goddess, Earth Goddess and Woman's Goddess, Oslira the River Goddess, Polaris, the God of Armies, Leader of Battles, and General of the War Gods, the Seven Mothers who restored the Red Goddess, SurEnslib the Heron Goddess, Dendara the Good Wife, Entekos the Keeper of the Middle Air, Erissa the Healer, Gorgorma of the Two Mouths and Thilla, the Keeper of of the Earth. Cities also have their own city-gods which are all quite similar but for local color. Yuthippa's city-gods are Dayzatar and Herustana, Raibanth's are Raibamus and Oslira, and Alkoth's are Shargash and Biselensib. Ancestor worship is also common.

Pelorians are a very practical people, religiously. They sacrifice to the gods for aid, and if a god does not help them, they quickly abandon that god for a new one. The Emperor is both a god and a religious leader, and even now he is required to perform certain annual sacrifices, though many of his religious roles have been given to others over the centuries of his rule. The priests once ran the Empire, but now the bureaucrats are more secular. However, all worship Yelm. The highest priesthood is made of those men who are qualified to sacrifice directly to Yelm - no more than a few hundred in all of Peloria. The Enverinus Priesthood, a hereditary noble class of priest, handle the Imperial government's religious rites across the Empire, heading into the masses to bring them divine gifts, and overseeing the Permitted Cults of the Empire - large, popular peasant organizations of worship. The Lodrilli farmer religion is usually known as the Lodril Cults, worshipping various heroes and petty gods. They come in many varieties with many myths, are largely illiterate due to the laws forbidding Lodrilli from learning to read, and divided into many variant sects worshipping Lodril and other gods in many aspects. Most Pelorians never formally initiate themselves into any god-cult, but do attend various holy days and partake in casual worship. In Old Carmania, worship of the god Idovanus is common, as he is the Highest God of the Carmanians and God of the Law and Goodness. Orlanth is seen as the Rebel God, chief of Yelm's enemies. Temples are common in Peloria, with many designs. Portions of the gods are believed to dwell in these temples. Yelm and his sons favor towering ziggurats, the greatest of which is Raibanth's massive Footstool of Yelm, 350 feet tall and home to the Imperial Throne. The Star Towers of Yuthuppa are famed as temples to Shargash, and Lodril is often enshrined in terraced ten-block pyramids.

Next time: Slaves of Fonrit

The Blue Man Group

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Guide to Glorantha: The Blue Man Group

The Fonritians, people of the city-states of Fonrit, are an ancient and wealthy people. Over a thousand years ago, a group of Agimori adventurers conquered and enslaved the local people. Slavery continues to define Fonritian culture, in which the rich and powerful ruthlessly tax the poor and force them into hard labor. The people of Fonrit have blue, black or white skin, in just about any combination. Most of the ruling class are dark-skinned Agimori peopel, while most of the lowest slaves are blue-skinned Veldang. Most of the population, known as Torabs, are mixed blue and black. Fonritian culture is based out of the Fonrit peninsula and nearby Laskal, but since the Opening of the Seas, Fonritian traders can be found in just about any port as well as raiding coastal villages for slaves. There are an estimated 10.1 million Fonritians or so, mostly in Fonrit proper.

The Veldang are descended from the people of Artmal, who was a hero and son of the Blue Moon during the God Time. However, they were overly proud, and the storm gods defeated them during the Gods War. They were enslaved by Garangordos the Cruel during the Second Age and forced to worship him and his companions. The rest of Fonritian culture is based on where you come from. The Afadjanni are a network of city-states enslaved to the Jann of Afadjann, who allows great diversity of belief and culture. The cruelties of the upper classes are great, but the people are kept distracted by the internal conflict between the Renewed and the Oldsters. They are not, however, the most slave-domianted culture in Fonrit. That'd be the Kareeshtans of Kareeshtu, where everyone and everything is owned by someone else, who in turn belongs to someone else, and so on. The cities of Banamban and Baruling are just as cruel, but have more free people. The city of Thinokos predates the Gargandites and is a seafaring culture that claims to come from a mythical land known as Thinobutu. The areas of Marana and Tarahorn are largely dominated by nomadic shepherds and bandits. The area of Mondoro is very strange by Fonritian standards - one of its cities has a slave-king, another forbids entry to women and yet another has no slaves at all.

Fonrit rediscovered civilization when they freed Ompalam from a Western demon, Jraktal the Tap. Garangordos and his companions, the Glorious Ones, brought this knowledge home with them - and chief among the lore that he brought was that people could be bought and sold and made to work. Slaves do all the farming in Fonrit - primarily slash-and-burn horticulture and the raising of goats, pigs and sheep. Crafters and artisans are semi-free, with far more rights than agricultural slaves. (Crafts include assassination, alchemy, bronzework, prostitution, priesthood, weaving and trading.) Every craft maintains its own organizations, god-cults and trade secrets. Craft guilds, secret societies and cults are vital to Fonritian life, and many organizations even own large parts of their membership.

Left: a Torab slave-soldier, treated better than most slaves. Right: A masarin sorcerer.

Slavery is central to Fonritian society. There are nearly infinite grades of slave and free person. At the top is the city tyrant, known as the jann, who is slave only to the gods. Every tyrant is served by a small group of free nobles, the masarin, who own vast numbers of slaves but are not owned by people. (They can be owned by gods.) No more than 5% of the population is masarin. 5% of the population are slave-soldiers, the Fonritian military caste, are treated better than other slaves and kept segregated into barracks-communities. About 20% of the population are yad - slaves who can own slaves. They lack political or military rights, but are semi-free and can become fully legally free. About half the yad are skilled professionals or artisans, while the other half are petty landowners or stewards for the jann and masarin. The rest of Fonritian society is made of kaddam, the lowest kind of slave. They are chattel and have no rights whatsoever. Most pure blue-skinned people belong to the kaddam class. Among the free, there is a further split based on whether one's mother was of the tsanyano, or Renewed class or of the bolgaddi, or Oldster class. The Renewed tend to be more liberal, and often allow their slaves to marry or occasionally purchase their own freedom, as well as granting them limited religious choice. Oldsters are more ruthless on average, and believe that life is necessarily suffering and all must be judged harshly.

Fonritian society holds that all life is slavery. The soul is the slave of the body, the powers and elements are slaves to the runes, the people are slaves to the ruler, the gods are slaves to Time. Slavery is the order of the universe, and it is right and good to submit. Outsiders often claim this is merely post-hoc justification for Fonritian cruelties. Fonritian households are patriarchal, but kinship and descent is matrilineal. Free women have all the same legal rights as men, and like all slaves, enslaved women have no more rights than their master gives them. Slave marriages are rarely given any legal protections, and slaves are at constant risk of being moved apart or sold off. Masarin marriage is usually polygamous, and ownership of male or female concubines in harems is very common. The free are notable for wearing flowing clothing with intricate decoration, veils (if women) and lots of jewelery. Slaves wear whatever their master gives them, and may wear jewelery if they have wealth of their own. This is especially true of temple slaves, who may have more wealth and power even than the masarin, based on their god's desires. Fonritian city-states are largely unaligned, but are dominated by the political confederations associated with the Jann of Afadjann, who wields the powers of the Glorious Ones as long as he remains ritually pure and demands tribute from lesser city-states, or Golden Kareeshtu, ruled by the immortal Archidomides, Vessel of Ikadz and Tondiji. At present, Golden Kareeshtu is moer powerful.

In the Gods Age, the land of Fonrit was part of the Vadeli Empire of Chir, and Garangordos used the Vadeli magic to help liberate Ompalam. The Vadeli myths and traditions have permeated the land over time, warping the Fonritian culture into what it is today, a place where slaves are everywhere, Chaos magic is accepted, and mortal men or demons are worshipped as gods. The Vadeli returned to Fonrit when the Opening happened, conquering much of it in the guise of returned Glorious Ones, and were worshipped as gods, but were betrayed at Kareeshtu and defeated. However, every port has a Vadeli enclave still, where the Vadeli sell dark and terrible things - occult secrets, strange items. Most shun them, but their secrets always lure in a few. Many worry that they plan to secretly enslave all of Fonrit.

There are four interrelated Fonritian languages. The original tongue of the blue-skinned natives is long dead, though it does still influence Mondoran, spoken in the Fonritian interior. It is only distantly related to the other languages. Afadjanni is spoken in and around Afadjann, while Banamban is spoken along the coast, and Kareeshtan is spoken by the people of Golden Kareeshtu. Fonritian has two written forms. Old Fonritian is pictograms and used primarily by priests for ritual texts these days. New Fonritian is based on Western symbols, but it is a syllabary rather than an alphabet and is used completely differently from Western languages. It is used for most purposes these days.

Fonritian law is tyranny. City rulers can do whatever they like, to their own people or outsiders. However, Fonritians recognize the Garangrapha as a recording of sacred law, defining the nature and gradations of slavery and the rights of slave owners. Beyond this, all law is derived from the codes put forth by a city ruler. However, the thieves of Afadjann are notable for following the traditions set forth by the god Selarn in the Great Darkness, which define clearly and unbreakably the laws of thieves. They enforce these laws ruthlessly and have survived centuries of Fonritian rule, maintaining a strong streak of hostility towards the authorities. War is common in Fonrit, as the city-states battle each other incessantly, as well as everyone nearby. Every city has slave-soldiers, and most nobles keep bodyguards, generally foreign and free mercenaries paid quite well. They do not use cavalry much, save for a handful of war elephants kept by each city. Wars tend to revolve around sieges due to the heavily fortified nature of Fonritian cities. They also have skilled navies, most notably that of Kareeshtu.

Fonrit has a very rich pantheon of gods and religions. The most potent cults tend to be state-supported, and the patron god of a city is always its most important one, even if that god is unknown anywhere else. Often, a jann is also worshipped as a living god. The priesthoods are inevitably quite corrupt and powerful politically. The most important god, generally, is Ompalam, God of Slavery and Coercion, who states that all life is slavery. Garangordos is worshipped as the Bringer of Civilization and Conqueror of Fonrit, and Guardian of Ompalam. Other major gods include Abamedric, the Man of Two Swords and a war god, Bendaluza, Lord of the Phallus and maker of cities, Darleester the Noose, the state god of Afadjann and the weapon wielded by Garangordos to enslave or kill the blue-skin people, El Jazuli, the Sister Witch, Ernamola, the Goddess of Millet, Gark, the God of Eternal Peace, Eternal Life and Undeath, the Hungry Goddess, ancient patron of the blue-skins, Ikadz, the God of Purification, Torturers and Burner of Evil, Seseine, the Goddess of Seduction and Lust, and Tondiji, the patron god of the city of Tondiji and worshipped nowhere else. Minor gods include Artmal the Slave, Baraku the Storm God (another name for Orlanth), Jokotu the Traitor and Murderer, the Invisible God, Malubadou the Beholder, Mandakusour the Spirit Binder, Serartamal the Blue Moon, Tadarida the Dead Goddess, Tentacule the High Slavery God, the Two Brothers of War (who are Humakt and Zorak Zoran) and Varama the Sun God.

It is said that Garangordos gathered the Seventeen Glorious Ones on the Necklace of Life journey, and they released Ompalam and liberated Fonrit from Jraktal the Tap from the West, gaining many secrets. Each of the Glorious Ones returned with a benefit of civilization to give to their slaves, and so conquered the Veldang. Garangordos was murdered by his steward, Jokotu, but the other Glorious Ones slew the traitor and went on to found the original city-states and establish the masarin dynasties. Four of them took Garangordos' teachings, the Garangrapha, in each direction. When they died, they continued to be worshipped as gods. Fonritian religion is built on submission to the gods, with humans existing only to serve the gods. Devotion to a single god is in the hope that this god will favor such a loyal and obsequious slave. In most cults, the priests handle direct worship and sacrifice, using the rituals set forth in the Garangrapha. Slaves are often sacrificed at funerals, to certain gods or to magically empower the city ruler. It is believed that these slaves follow their master in the afterlife. It is common to make pacts with spirits and demons. Weaker spirits are enslaved, and stronger ones are masters, with the pacts made by the aid of a Mandakusour priest-shaman intermediary.

Sorcery is common in Fonrit, and sorcerers seek to master the magical master-slave hierarchies of the Otherworld. A number of Malkioni heresies, often quite perverse, flourish in the area. Most notable are the Wool Cloaks, who seek total understanding via total submission to Ompalam and annihilation of the self while the body still lives. They claim this, paradoxically, makes them the most liberated in all the world. It is widely believed in Fonrit that the body must be preserved after death, so that the soul can reunite with it and take pleasure in the afterlife, leading to complex sarcophagi in which mummies are often magically preserved. An extreme offshoot believe the body must be preserved at all costs. The cult of Gark the Calm often donate their corpses to the temple of Garm, allowing them to be animated as laborers. Once their labor period ends, the corpse is supposedly sent off to the holy temples in the mountains. The cult gives amulets to the descendants of the dead, which will let them know if their ancestor slips away despite the tender ministries of the god of undeath.

The gods are said to reside in their temples, and each temple is devoted only to one god and is their true dwelling place...even if the god has multiple temples. They are built to resemble massive homes, with apartments dedicated to the god and their dependents. The presence of the god is ensured by the cult statue, made of stone, bronze or gold, and decorated with gems and precious stones, often attended to by images or statues of slaves. The priests also live in the temple, to better serve the god. Most priests are slaves of the temple, though some are masarin or slave-soldiers.

Next time: HE, ZZABUR


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post


The Western cultures are rational humanists and materialists, based on the philosophies of the atheist immortals of Brithos. They are divided into hereditary castes, each with separate rules. In the Second Age, they, in the form of the God Learners, almost took over the world. Since the Closing of the Waters, however, they have become much weaker. They are also the primary practitioners of sorcery. There are four major regions that are Western culturally. The most, uh, PC-friendly one is Seshnela, the modern stronghold of the West. The Seshnegi are the inheritors of the remnants of the Jrusteli, or God Learners. Now, they follow the Rokari school of Malkionism and their wizards enforce strict adherence to the ancient caste laws. Seshnela is most notable for its bickering noble-warrior ruling class, its powerful mercenary armies, its oppressed peasantry and its secretive wizards, who watch closely for fear of ever returning to God Learnerism.

Other Western regions are Loskalm, a Fronelan nation that rejects Malkioni caste systems for New Hrestolist Malkionism - a radically egalitarian belief system in which every Loskalmi is equally Worker, Soldier, Wizard and Ruler as needed, with the goal of taking on each role over the course of a lifetime. Safelster is a region of city-states in Ralios that features Malkionism syncretized with Orlanthi cults, often bringing about very unusual interpretations of Malkioni and Orlanthi doctrine. Safelstran cities maintain a hierarchy that is more fluid than the caste system, but not by much. Carmania is an isolated Western outpost dating back to the God Learners and recently absorbed by the Lunar Empire. They have maintained their culture in the upper class, but softened it somewhat due to Lunar influence. The peasants tend to be Pelorian, however. There are also a few Western city-states throughout Umathela, dating back to the God Learner conquests, and they tend to be quite independent.

A brief aside now, to explain Malkioni wizardry. The Malkioni worship the Invisible God, who made the Runes, which barbarian cultures worship as gods. The Runes created lesser versions of themselves, often combining them with other Runes. Malkioni sorcery manipulates the Runes directly, by four principles. It can Summon or Dismiss a Rune, it can Command a Rune, it can Combine or Seperate a Rune, and it can Tap a Rune. The key to it all is properly identifying the specific target, with more control the more specific you are able to get. The favored technique is Runic genealogy - identifying a thing through its Runic precedents. The God Learners were absolute masters of sorcery via their deep understanding of mythology, and one of their great victories was done because of it. See, they summoned a set of carefully identified water elementals, used them as Runic ties to summon a sea god as if it were just another elemental, then forced the god to call its father, as if they were practicing demonology. They then made the father summon a different child - Tanian, the God of Sky Water. Then they used Tanian to defeat the Waertagi, who had no concept of Burning Water like that which Tanian was able to command. Tapping is the only non-obvious practice, and what it is is taking the local manifestation of a Rune and converting it directly into magical energy. So you Tap the Stasis from a rock and turn it to dust, or Tap the Life from a forest and kill it, to gain the power within. Most Malkioni cultures, with a few exceptions, consider it to be inherently evil, but it's fairly simple to derive from Malkioni philosophy. Most schools of sorcery will focus on one or a small number of Runes to use magic on, rather than all of them, which would be impossibly difficult.

Anyway. Westerner skin tones vary - they can be dark brown, light green, red, blue, or anything in between. Brown skin is most common. Hair is usually blue-black, yellow, red or green. Facial hair is regulated heavily by caste - all wizards must have long beards, nobles must be clean-shaven. Westerners tend to average around 5 feet tall (more, if they aren't direct Brithini), except for wizards, who tend to be taller but weaker. The Malkioni religion divides most Western societies into strict castes: Wizard, Noble, Soldier and Worker. Caste is hereditary in Rokari Malkionism, with caste determining diet, marriage practices, occupation and more, to keep to the Laws of Malkion. Caste mobility is totally forbidden. Women belong to their father's caste, usually, and subcastes can exist within a caste - most professional and crafting groups are subcastes of Worker that are effectively able to work as their own small caste. Disobedience of caste law interferes with the oldest and most potent spells protecting Western societies. Many other Malkionist schools, however, are less rigid - particularly Hrestoli ones.

Nobles, called Talars, are the yellow caste. They rule Seshnela and adjudicate disputes of other castes. They answer only to other, more potent talars, and serve as rulers, generals, governors and merchant-princes. They are trained in the arts of horsemanship, wrestling, combat, music and poetry, and are expected to obsessively compete with each other for status. In war, they fight as armored cavalry. Wizards, called Zzaburi, are the blue caste. They learn wizardry, and serve as philosophers, religious servants, scribes and magicians. In war, they serve as magical support. They answer to the talars, but are honored for their work and given free housing and food. Some are wizard-priests supported by the entire community, and most learn their arts in schools or from wandering zzaburi teachers. Rokari zzaburi must be celibate and free of all worldly interference so they can focus on magical explorations. As a result, new zzaburi are chosen from promising children of all other castes, rather than born. Soldiers, or Horali, are the red caste. They are professional warriors that must obey the talars and zzaburi. They may not labor with their hands for money, save with talar permission, and must work to defend the country, fight in war and execute the law. They also collect taxes. Seshnela assigns its horali into 'war societies' which claim descent from a legendary martial beast. The best known are Lion, Mammoth, Wolf, Snake, Horse, Deer and Bull. Each war society is further divided into regiments, which are extended family groups led by a captain. Last is the Worker cast, or Dronars. Most Westerners are dronars, the brown caste, and serve as farmers, craftsmen, shepherds or militia. They must labor to support the other castes, and most able-bodied dronars must also be militia members. There are many subcastes within the dronars, such as Perfume Trader, Tea Grower, Redsmith or so on, which function like guilds. Slaves and non-Malkioni exist outside the caste structure and have neither caste restrictions nor protections. Non-Malkioni are known as 'barbarians' or 'jabberers' and are usually given protection by the ruling talars. There are an estimated 8.3 million Westerners across the world, mostly in Fronela or Seshnela.

Seshnelan lands to be in continual chaos, due to being divided into a number of independent fiefs only theoretically united under the Serpent Crown. Strong kinds can unite the land and bring peace, but weak ones always send it back to near-anarchy. Under the Serpent King is a massive court bureaucracy that handles most governance and is largely controlled by the Rokari zzaburi. The greatest virtue in Seshnelan society is living in accordance with Malkioni law, by following the duties of your caste. Farmers plow, soldiers fight, and that is their virtue - they can't do the jobs of the other. Honesty and loyalty are paramount for all castes, however. Malkioni in general and zzaburi especially value humanistic, logical thought and search for truth. Seshnelans also tend to be quite sensual, while Hrestoli are noted for their work ethic.

Left: A wizard-priest zzaburi from the Seshnegi province of Pithdaros. Right: A (female) Man-of-All from Loskalm.

The status of women in Malkionism is heavily debated. Most Western societies are patriarchal, and among the Brithini, women form a fifth caste, with its own laws. The Rokari believe women share their father's caste and their primary duty is to be a good wife and mother. Women typically receive lesser inheritances compared to men. Among the New Hrestoli, however, men and women are equal in all respects. As noted above, they can even become Men-of-All, the mystic guardians of Loskalm and the New Hrestoli, who study magic and act as judges and leaders. Another special role, albeit one in all Malkioni societies, is that of the Ascended Masters. These are those men and women who attain spiritual perfection in life and unity with the Invisible God. They are also known as saints, and must be mortal - no god has ever Ascended, though some have been redeemed by recognition of the primacy of the Invisible God. Ascended Masters are venerated by those seeking guidance, but do not grant any magical ability to those that pray to them - they just provide guidance and aid by example. The Hrestoli list of saints includes Xemela, Hrestol, Tomaris, Gerlant, Arkat, Talor, Halwal, Tryensaval, Snodal and Siglat. The Rokari regard veneration of the Ascended to be barbaric superstition, and the Brithini do not even believe they have much worth. Many Henotheist sects, however, treat them as gods. And, side note, Westerners love games of martial and athletic skill, especially boxing or fighting monsters.

The Malkioni all share the Western script, but their spoken languages can differ wildly. However, the written form is always identical. Brithini is spoken by...the Brithini, who claim it is the oldest unchanged language - a claim the God Learners agreed with. Many Westerners believe the written form of Western is derived from Brithini speech; the Brithini claim the opposite. Carmanian is primarily spoken in Carmania, and is related to Loskalmi, spoken in Loskalm. Malki is spoken by the Umalthelan Malkioni, and is related to Seshnegi, spoken in Tanisor. Vadeli is spoken by the Vadeli, and most Western merchants also speak Tradetalk, a lingua franca used in the Middle Sea Empire and throughout the West.

All law is derived from the ancient laws of Malkion, with each caste being governed by its own laws. The talars hear all disputes between castes, all matters of criminal law, and any complains the dronars or horali bring to them. Judgments are made by the king or his subordinate talars, but they aren't law - just orders. They cannot make law nor interpret texts of law - just provide order and peace. The zzaburi are a major requirement for law, and a king cannot make judgments without consulting them. Seshnelan war is also a constant. The King maintains constant battles against the Duke of Nolos and many nearby city-states, while the talars quarrel among themselves. The armies are typically built around the talar heavy cavalry, who are undisciplined but very well trained.

The Malkioni worship the Invisible God, who made the Runes (or True Beings). The Runes made lesser versions of themselves, called Srvuali, or made combinations with other Runes, called Burtae. Orlanth is said to be a Burtae, a mix of Fire and Earth, as are most Storm Tribe gods. Many Srvuali and Burtae were corrupted and stood between humanity and the Invisible God, warring amongst themselves as deities and dooming their followers to endless cycles of rebirth. However, one lesser Rune, Malkion the Founder, revealed the laws of the Invisible God to men. The Invisible God gives little to no magic to its worshippers, but knowledge of its divine law allows the zzaburi to manipulate and define the world, turning it into raw materials to shape. Malkion died in the Gods War, killed by rebel gods, and Malkioni zzaburi now shape the world with no need for consent from 'deities.' The primary school of Malkionism is the Rokari school, or The Right Way. It is dominant in Seshnela, and very hierarchical and centralized, led by the Watcher Supreme. It holds that each caste must stricly obey its purpose, and that is all that need be done for salvation, or Solace. Philosophically, it values an excellent farmer as much as the greatest king. Converts are assigned a caste by the local ruler.

Most Westerners see Malkionism as a philosophy, a religion and a way of life. They believe and do their best to obey the laws of Malkion. They attend regular ceremonies in which the zzaburi use their magical energies to fuel the great spells that protect Western society, with the remainder being granted to the High Watcher for use in magic. Sorcery is most widely accepted, and most Malkioni see any magic more useful or complex than simple kitchen or farm charms to be too dangerous for non-zzaburi to use, for fear of damaging themselves or trapping their soul on the material plane, as the barbarians do. And yes, the spells that protect Malkioni society can be used to, among other things, grant immortality as long as the laws of Malkion are followed. (This is mainly seen among the Brithini, however.) Temples to the Invisible God are built according to ancient rules of sacred geometry, and they are made to contain sacred texts, house the zzaburi and focus the sorcerous powers used within. Architectural style is diverse within the bounds of sacred geometry, with ROkari temples usually being ornate but highly abstract, while Hrestoli temples usually have art depicting saints and heroes. Safelstran temples usually have many shrines to lesser gods.

The Boristi school of Ralios hold it is their sacred duty to Tap things of Chaos, and were founded during the Gbaji Wars, but never became very popular. The Brithini school hold that there is no afterlife. They are immortal atheists, so long as they perfectly maintain their ancient strictures, and they do not even worship the Invisible God. They Tap freely, and claim to be the oldest and most perfect Malkioni. The Galvosti of Ralios are a Hrestoli school of thought that allows Tapping of non-Malkioni. They believe in reincarnation, as do all Hrestoli schools, and were once allies of the God Learners, then nearly wiped out when the God Learners fell. The Henotheist schools are found throughout Ralios and Fronela, and acknowledge the Invisible God as supreme but believe other gods and spirits must be worshipped as well for aid. Each has unique secrets, and many claim descent from Arkat during the Gbaji Wars or during his rule of Ralios. The New Hrestoli Idealists claim descent from Hrestol, and believe themselves to be thoughts of the Invisible God trapped in the gross matter of this world. They believe all people must spiritually develop and liberate themselves through Joy by systematically moving beyond caste and become Men-of-All. Those who fail are reincarnated until they can succeed and become one with the Invisible God. The Sedalpists of Umathela are strict pacifists who believe any violence against sentient beings is sinful and pollutes the attacker. They are known for their tolerance of other views and their reliance on mercenaries when they must fight at all. (They don't enjoy using them.) The Valkarists are found only in the East Isles, and have only three castes - the Magic Men (who rule) and the Spearmen and Fishers (who support them). They allow movement between castes with the permission of the Magic Men.

So, who was He, Zzabur, for whom the zzaburi are named? He was a son of Malkion and was the Philosopher-Wizard of Brithos. He was the Perfect Thought, the application of Malkion's logic to the world. He is responsible for much of Western philosophy and the development of the faith surrounding the Invisible God. All Malkioni wizardry is ultimately derived from his work. His magical theories are some of the oldest Gloranthan books, and while each sect differs in interpretation, they do tend to share faith in the Abiding Book (which, it is said, was written not by Zzabur but by itself, via magic) as the most complete compilation of the Perfect Thought of the Invisible God. The writings of Zzabur himself are divided into several categories. The Invocations and Curses are a set of spells and curses to the Runes, asking for inspiration and threatening terrible punishment to anyone who has improperly obtained or misused the work. The Red Book is a history of the cosmos and Runes, beginning with Chaos and the birth of the Powers and Elements from it. It is named for its binding and parchment, made of the skin of Red Vadeli. The Blue Book is a series of Runic genealogies - mostly long lists of names, with matchign names of the gods that correspond to them. The Brown Book describes the history leading to the Gods War and contains some of the most powerful spells ever used. It is written on the skins of foes of the God Time Brithini. The Original Peoples is a history of the Kingdom of Logic and the death of Malkion, the Great Darkness and the Vadeli Wars. Finally, the Families Book is a series of genealogies of the Ice Age Brithini, which is generally updated to include modern Malkioni families that have been able to preserve their lineage and records.

From this, you may note that Zzabur was an insanely powerful wizard who did stupidly potent things and had no concern for the lives of others. This is correct; he is the First Wizard, from whom all Malkioni wizards take their name. He, Zzabur, will come up again later. Every time he does, it will be doing something profoundly dangerous or ill-advised.

Next time: Dragon dragon, rock the dragon


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Guide to Glorantha: DRAGON BALL Z

Kralorela is an ancient civilization that has maintained its existence via a practiced and by now reflexive isolationist policy that has only ever been broken twice - first by the God Learners, second by Sheng Seleris. Due to this, they believe that all outsiders are God Learners and must be punished heavily if the show up. They have kept just about everyone out since the Opening of the Sea, except via the city Lur Nop. The Kralori culture is dominant in most of eastern Genertela, and has strongly influenced the people of Teshnos, Vormain and the East Isles. The Kingdom of Ignorance is ruled by Kralori, but the natives have their own culture, which most Kralori view as a degenerate form of Kralori culture debased by centuries of rule by trolls. The Kralori tend to have pale to olive skin and brown to black hair, with eyes generally being black, green or blue. They live mostly in crowded villages, growing rice. The villages are ruled over by a hierarchy of cities, which serve as administrative, economic and religious centers, and are built according to special religious rules. There are just shy of 9 million Kralorelans.

Kralori society is very stratified and orderly. Each person is born to their station and knows the duties that entails, both in life and in the afterlife. Kralori society recognizes the Four Occupations. At the top are the mandarins, a class of scholar-bureaucrats. Below them are the Farmers, then the Artisans (and associated craftspeople), and at the bottom, the Traders. Soldiers, entertainers of all kinds and criminals are seen as outside the social order, and are essentially either a necessary or inevitable imperfection in the world. Wandering bandits and warriors are even worse, known to swear themselves vengeance, oaths and devotion. However, this system is not a simple caste system despite appearances, and a skilled farmer is often valued more than an incompetent mandarin. At the top of the heap, no matter what, is the Dragon Emperor, who is divine. Under him are the Exarchs, or Lesser Dragon Kings, who govern the various parts of the Kralorelan Empire in the Dragon Emperor's name. Exarchs run the priesthoods and receive the worship of the common people, wielding it for the purposes of empire.

Specifically, this is done by the use of xi, or seals. The first seal, the Dragon Seal, was carved from the Heavenly Jade Mountain by TarnGatta the Face of the Creator, and it is the physical manifestation of his cosmic authority, wielded by the Dragon Emperors. Anything stamped with the Dragon Seal has the full authority and mystical weight of the Emperor himself, and is honored and obeyed by all in Kralorela, living or dead, as if it were the physical presence of the Emperor. The current Emperor, Godunya, dislikes using the Dragon Seal, as he believes it entangles the Emperor with the mundane world too much. Exarchs receive seals that contain a limited amount of this mystic authority. They then hand seals to the mandarins, which contain a fraction of that authority. While each lesser seal is weaker, they still have great magical power, and misuse of a seal is a capital offense - or worse, as Kralori punishment can extend into the afterlife. Exarchs wield massive draconic power, but rarely use it, as doing so slows their spiritual growth. They are served by the hsin tu, a series of judges and bureaucrats among the mandarins. These mandarins rarely deal directly with people, but rather work through their own functionaries. They serve in the adminsitrative and spiritual hierarchies of the empire, but they are not born nobles. Rather, to become a mandarin, one must pass a series of tests and examinations - though, of course, the children of mandarins are usually far more prepared for these than, say, a farmer.

Kralori society values the Four Rights: Right Action, Right Duty, Right Ritual and Right Speech. Interpretations vary, of course, but all Kralorelans know that the Four Rights are the basis of a just society, and without them, only barbarism is possible. They also know that Kralori civilization is the most perfect and refined in the world, with the best art, fiercest soldiers, best-tasting food, most inspired leaders and most impressive magic. Any evidence to the contrary is dismissed as crude ostentation that lacks moral superiority. Kralori society is heavily patriarchal, and women are seen as subordinate to men, with the Empress expected to be the model fo wifely devotion. However, women mandarins can and do exist, and everyone respects female mystics and martial artists. Marriage is generally arranged, but love is expected in these matches. One is expected to marry within their social class, and to avoid marrying slaves or outcasts, by Kralori law. Monogamy is the norm, though some upper class people do practice polygamy, usually in the form of taking concubines. Social class is shown by clothing, with the rich wearing silk and the poor wearing wool or plant fibers.

Kralori is the language of Kralorela, distantly related to the Imperial language of Vormain and the Tanyen trade tongue of the East Isles, and more closely to Stultan, the language of the Kingdom of Ignorance. There used to be fifteen Kralorelan languages, but Emperor Vayobi standardized them all into Kralori by taking the best from each. Written Kralorelan script dates back to the God Time, created by a student of NiangMao and then perfected by Emperor Shavaya. It is primarily used for engraving and for seals. A derivative and less exact script is used for handwriting, devised by Emperor Mikaday. Mikaday wrote the foundation of Kralori law, as well, carving them on massive stelae placed in the center of each city. Every Emperor has added to the law - by custom, at least one new law code is made at the start of each reign. The law is split into penal and civil law. Penal law prescribes punishments for various crimes, with death being the strongest, followed by life exile, then penal servitude, then being beaten with a heavy stick, and the lightest is being beaten by a light stick. Mutilations used to be in the law, but were eliminated by Emperor Godunya. However, torture remains common to extract confessions, which are required for conviction and sentencing. Cases are heard before the local magistrate, who will determine the facts and verdict, then propose a sentence. Serious sentences must be approved by the next rank of mandarins, and exile or death must be approved by the provincial exarch.

Left: A lady mandarin. Right: A soldier of the Empire.

Kralorela maintains a large professional army, well-equipped and highly trained. They favor spears, bows and crossbows, with swords for officers. They lack the horses for a strong cavalry division, and if they need mounted fighters they typically hire Pentans or Praxians. The army is overseen by the Archexarch of War, and promotion is generally by merit - almost all officers began as simple recruits. The Archexarch sometimes meddles via use of army supervisors and modifications to orders.

The Kralori pantheon is very dense, with gods and spirits for just about everything, right down the parts of the body, and even enemy beings aligned against all that is just and good, called antigods. However, some are more commonly worshipped than others. The Dragon Emperors, of course, are living gods, and before their death and entrance to the Summer Land, they must bless all subsequent posterity. Each Emperor has introduced some element of Kralori society that is now indispensable - Daruda gave dragon magic, Mikaday taught the law, Vashanti made the Web of Righteous Knowledge, and so on. The present emperor, Godunya, is worshipped, as are all past Emperors. Godunya is the Living God, and has reigned for nearly five centuries. Aptanace the Sage invented civilization and was father to 700 pairs of Kralori ancestors. Bodkartu is the Goddess of Secrets and Forbidden Lore, and protects her sister, the Empress Halisayan, from demons and bad emperors. She also answers the prayers of oppressed women, wielding disease, poison and murder to aid them. Daruda was the Fifth Emperor and the First Dragon Emperor, who became infinite yet returned to this world in the form of a great dragon. Ebe, known as Wild Man, is the Father of Mortals, who mated with everything and so fathered the dwarves (by fucking metal), the elves (plants) and so on. He was father of Aptanace via Okerio, the Allgiver and Goddess of Love. Halisayan is the Good Wife, who was married to Emperor Thalurzni and was deified for her wifely devotion. Huocheng is the Minister of Fire, who favors humans (the tamers of fire) and also serves as a war god. Long Leiji is the Draconic Bolt, a mystical war god and patron of martial artists. Metsyla was the Third Emperor, who taught the Seventeen Lessons to Perfection. Mikaday was the Seventh Emperor, and is the deity that rewards the good and punishes the evil. Miyo is the Rice Mother. The Rich Twins are the gods of wealth and good fortune. Serelaloon is the Goddess of Compassion and Healing. Shavaya is the Fourth Emperor, who invented many things. Thalurzni is the Sixth Emperor and the Ruler of the Summer Land Heaven, where mortals rest between lives. He also teaches alchemy, medicine and how to become immortal. Thrunhin Da is the Blue Dragon Goddess of the Kahar Sea, and mother of the Zabdamar merfolk. Vashanti is the Ninth Emperor and the Solar Emperor, who restored the correct celestial adminsitration and raised the sun to be his celestial representation. Vayobi is Eighth Emperor and the War Dragon.

Kralorela is also home to the Path of Immanent Mastery, a mystery cult of dragon worshippers that is quite popular among lower classes. While it is a secret society, the Imperial administration is fully aware of its membership, and its members are able to turn themselves into dragons. Beyond this, religious practice is led by several classes of priest. All adult citizens are required to worship the Dragon Emperor Godunya, and this worship is channeled through the exarchs as foci for magical power, then to the Emperor, who is the most magical human in the world. While Emperor-worship is required to maintain the empire, it has little direct benefit to most people, so they also tend to worship gods appropriate to their station in life. Kralori wizardry is fairly common amongst the literate classes, while spirit magic is almost exclusively the domain of the Hsunchen hill barbarians and certain rare religious cults. Draconic mystics of the Path of Immanent Mastery are mortals who seek the mystic Void via meditation, austerity and inner strength, allowing them to defy even the greatest of gods. There are various mystic societies of monks, wanderers, martial artists and imperial priests, as well. No matter what, all mystics revere the Emperor, who is the Living Infinite.

An exarch, flanked by two humans using the powers of the Path of Immanent Mastery to become dragons. They are very much not dragonewts.

Kralori temples are extensively decorated with painting and sculpture, and typically have quite large temple compounds. Draconic and imperial temples typically have a front hall and shrine to a dragon emperor, then a great hall to the main shrine, with housing for the mystics and, often, towers housing bells, artifacts, drums and sacred texts. The tallest of these is the Luster of the Dragon Temple, over 275 feet high, in the city of Chi Ting and made entirely of porcelain bricks that reflect the sun's light.

Next time: Elf Hell

Respect your elders

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Guide to Glorantha: Respect your elders

The Elder Races are those creatures who are not human, and whose cultures are not human. The five most important are the Aldryami (called elves or plant-men by men), the Mostali (called dwarves or stonemen), the Uz (trolls or darkmen), the dragonewts and the Triolini (merfolk). There are a wide variety of lesser Elder Races as well, such as the Beast Men, the broos, the ducks, the jelmre, the newtlings, the ogres, the scorpion men and the Winged Children, who are well known but are not significant cultural forces due to lack of numbers or power. There's all kind of weird shit out there; this is not an exhaustive list.

The Aldryami follow the Plant Mythos, which is a set of beliefs similar to the Animal or Human Mythos. It's a broad and wide-ranging set of philosophies which are rather unlike most human beliefs. However, all variants share a certain broad outline. Flamal is the father of all plants. He had no parents, save for the warm sky and the fertile water. His spouse is Grower, and together they had the child Aldrya. Aldrya bore great fruits, which were planted across the world. Each fruit grew to be a Great Tree, and each Great Tree was called Aldrya. Thus, while there are many local variations, all descendents of Aldrya know they are of one kin. The Green Age, they say, is the time when all of Flamal's children grew and covered the world. First were the Slorfings, ferns and mosses that reproduce strangely. Then the Vronkali, the conifer plants. When Yelm, the Flower Bringer came, so too did the Mreli, the deciduous plants, and last came the Embyli, the flowering broadleafs that would become most common. As these plants spread, so too did the influence of Aldrya, the forest-goddess.

When the Lesser Darkness came, ice and trolls and insects attacked the Aldryami. The trolls slew Flamal, and the Great Sleep began. Some of the forests survived, others did not. Many Embyli forests were altered by the Gods War, losing their leaves. The elves and their Great Trees went to sleep, in the hopes that the world would improve when they awoke. Genert's Garden was burned to ash by desperate humans seeking light in the Darkness, and many disasters happened. It only became worse with the coming of Chaos. Aldrya entered a sleep without end, and her children began to die. Genert, the father of all land-goddesses, was killed by Chaos in the dark winter that came. Some of the forests fought valiantly, but the primary role of the Aldryami in the Great Darkness was defensive, led by High King Elf, the leader of the unsleeping green elves. They worked hard to hold the line in the Darkness, protecting the forests until they could reawaken.

This reawakening came with the Dawning, when the Bright Goddess Vora walked the land, ending the Age of Sleep. Aldrya came forth once more to spread a message of love and elvish unity, trailed by her awakening children. The green elves were dominant at first, for only they had remained awake in the Darkness, and had worked hard to spread their conifers. It was they who aided Vora in the Dance of Rebirth, and so they were at first acknowledged as leaders of the Aldryami. In those days, the Life Force knew no sadness, and all life was in harmony. Even the Elder Races got along as they never had before. However, this unity, which birthed the Theyalan Council, could not last. Enemies began to argue once more, and hatred returned. Worst of all, each race fell into internal conflict. The elves lost Tallgreen Forest to internal disputes. The brown elves began to fight the green elves for leadership, while the yellow elves worked to spread their forests. This time is now known as Aldrya's Woe. In one final effort to return unity, the elves helped the Theyalan Council create Nysalor, the White Light. Even that ended in only more war, as the trolls, dragonewts and the men of Dragon Pass broke away. The Council fled to Dorastor, where the elves took over after eliminating their dwarf rivals. The resulting Gbaji Wars at the end of the First Age crippled elf power. In the early Second Age, the trolls and dwarves warred on the Aldryami, but in Pamaltela, the Errinoru dynasty rose to untie the elf jungles, and were even able to temporarily restore the woods of Jolar, until a new kind of insect came at the end of the Second Age and destroyed them. The Pamaltelan elves have yet to recover. Now, the elves are beset by humans on all sides. The Lunars expand in Genertela, and they have already burned two healthy forests down. In Pamaltela, the old enemy, Fonrit, has been rising again.

Left: A Brown Elf gardener resembling a walking oak tree. He wields a magic staff. Middle: A Yellow Elf scout, kin to cypress trees. He wields a living plant bow. Right: A Green Elf warrior woman, kin to the pine. She wields a living plant bow.

There are, as noted, several kinds of Aldryami, all kin to plants but all very different. In fact, the term 'Aldryami' is about as broad as the term 'animal.' All share some traits, however. Generally speaking, the large a plant is, the larger its Aldryami counterpart. A man-sized elf requires trees of normal size, say. The God Learners estimated that it took roughly a square mile of moderate forest to produce ten brown elves. All Aldryami care for their plant kin and tend to them, working with others of their type. The God Learners assigned them colors to classify them, and the terms are widely used by humans, though not by the elves themselves. It isn't literal - all elves appear generally plantlike, with green or yellow leaves, colorful flowers, and so on - but are rather tied to God Learner sorcerous associations with the elements and the directions.

The most numerous of the elves are the so-called True Elves, the Mreli, Vronkali and Embyli. They tend to be smaller of frame, shy outside their own lands and very protective of their forests. They see themselves as caretakers of the plants, and they work constantly to protect them and keep them healthy. It is said that once, there were white elves, but that the Gods War wiped them out. Fire elves are said to still appear in the lands of fire, south of Pamaltela, but even other elves know nothing of them, and almost all elves fear fire by nature. Moon elves are said to live in exotic forests on the Red Moon, but have never been seen on the surface world. Most believe them to be lies of the Lunars. The Mreli are the brown elves, associated with deciduous trees, and are the most common type of elf in Genertela right now. They work together regardless of what tree they represent, so it is common to see oak, birch, willow and elm together. However, not all brown elves know each other - the Pamaltelan and Genertelan elves, for example, have not spoken in a very long time. The Vronkali are the green elves of the conifers, and the only elves found in the Winterwood forest. They are also common in brown elf forests, where they protect the Mreli during winter. They and the Mreli work together closely and consider each other to be of the same culture. The Embyli, or yellow elves, are the elves of the tropical evergreens. They are most common among Pamaltelan elves, but can also be found in southeast Genertela, the East Isles and several islands. They can sometimes be found among brown or green elves, and when they do, they are part of the same society and culture.

The Dryads are a related species of Aldryami found the forests of green, brown and yellow elves. They are embodied plant spirits, the protectors of the forests who cannot harm any but those that would harm the woods. They are able to assume a spiritual form that cannot touch or be touched by physical things, and in their physical form they can do nearly any kind of plant magic. The Great Trees, or Shanassee Trees, are the spiritual power centers of the forests, so sacred that only the rulers of the elves and a few chosen caretakers may know where they are. The Great Tree is alway on a forest's council of elders, speaking for the plants of the wood directly. Each one is an actual tree, a survivor of the Gods Age or a graft of one of those. They often have many types of bark, glow with magic and are surrounded by rare plants, as well as samples of every plant in their forest. Runners are a minor subset of the Aldryami, who are to elves as bushes and shrubs are to trees. They are typically timid and non-sentient. Sprites are the Aldryami of flowers and weeds, and their numbers vary greatly between forests. They often possess weak magic powers, and are very tiny.

The black elves, or Voralans, are not true Aldryami, for they do not even descend from Flamal - they are tied to fungus, not plants. They are often classed as creatures of Darkness, and typically live near trolls. However, they are culturally tied to the other elves, and may hide their 'cousins' from their troll friends in times of need. They tend to be short and very light, with no hair or nails and often swollen skulls. They are hermaphroditic, but rarely reproduce, with each birth resulting in a large number of nearly identical, telepathically linked siblings. They worship the goddess Mee Vorala and make many mushroom-based crafts. The blue elves, or Murthoi, are aquatic beings that die out of water, tending to seaweed rather than trees. Some are freshwater, some sea, and they often feel a cultural link to the tree elves. Their upper bodies resemble those of the brown elves, but their skin is a pale purple-red, and they do not blink. Their hair is violet, and their lower bodies taper into a long tail, which they vibrate to swim with. They worship the sea goddess Murthdrya. The red elves, or Slorifings, were the first elves, relatives to ferns and spore-using plants. They vary wildly in form, and many are not even humanoid. Humans tend to know them as goblins. All are small and quite fierce, and all members of a Slorifing species share the same role in the swamps, socially. They are exclusively male and rely on a race of love nymph known as the Olarians, children of Uleria and Aldrya, to mate. They worship these nymphs, and after doing so, bury themselves to sleep in death. A plant sprouts from this grave, and its seeds or spores hatch into tiny goblins, known as imps, which grow into full-size Slorifings eventually. They are as intelligent as any, just small, and may speak their native tongue from birth. They are treated as adults in all ways by the Slorifings.

The average brown elf is slim - around five feet tall and 120 pounds. Green elves are a bit taller, yellow a bit shorter. They usually appear quite plantlike, but some can appear strikingly human rather than walking trees. Typically, they are purpose-grown, with the humanlike ones meant to interact with humans somehow. Elven eyes have neither white nor pupil, and come in many colors. No two elves ever look alike, and their appearance is affected by their type of tree. A birch elf will be slender and pale, while an oak elf will be thicker and darker in hair and skin. Both will be tall compared to an apple elf. Elves share all human senses, and tend to have better night vision, but cannot see in true darkness. However, with a touch they can sense someone's health and emotional state, and whether or not the target is stressed or in pain. They can also sense quality of soil by touch. Elves appear to reproduce sexually, after which the female gives birth to something rather like a coconut, which is planted in a hidden place and grows into a large, fleshy fruit. When it ripens, it is opened to reveal an elf child, which takes about two years. The newborn is about equivalent to a four-to-six-year-old human.

All yellow elves are male, and must mate with dryads to reproduce. Green and brown elves have both sexes, but green elves cannot reproduce with dryads, while brown elves can. All three reach maturity by age 20, physically, but are not socially considered mature until 40 or 50. Young elves are not full members of society and often become adventurers for a time. Elves are very long-lived, but they are not immortal. Their lifespan is tied to their trees. Green elves live longest, averaging around 300 years, though a redwood elf can live to over a thousand. They are rarely seen but are the source of legends of elven immortality. Brown elves tend to live to 250, though some can live as long as 500 years. Yellow elves live to around 200. Elves become more treelike as they age, and when they die of old age they go to sleep and become trees. Elves do not build buildings or mind bad weather, and typically live alongside their plant kin. They are all vegetarians, and they prefer food raw most of the time but do sometimes pickle, age or marinate. They do not use salt but do use other spices. Yellow elves will, rarely, eat scraps of meat or insects, which other elves find disgusting. There are an estimated 8.6 million elves across the world, with about half of them living in the Pamaltelan jungles.

Brown, green and yellow elves speak the Aldryami language. Black elves speak Voralan, and blue elves speak Murthoi. Goblins in Porlaso and Hornilio speak Vorlarian, while goblins in Sozganjio speak Parolarian. Aldryami is related to no human languages at all, but most elves that deal with humans prefer to use the local human tongue to do so, even if the humans try to show off knowledge of Aldryami. Elves enjoy privacy and seclusion, but always live in forests with other elves. They marry, but have no concept of divorce. Most elves do not marry, though there is no taboo against premarital reproduction. Brown elves do not sleep, except in winter. Green and yellow elves must rest each day, but do not become unconscious while doing so. Some believe that brown elves' souls go to the afterlife during winter. All elves choose their own work, but all work for the good of the forest, and most are plant-tenders or protectors of forest creatures. Elves do not use money, and consider all goods needed by another elf something that should be freely given, without trade or barter.

Elf forests are each ruled by a Council of Elders, headed by the Great Tree of the forest. The council has representatives of High King Elf, Elder Sister, High Gardener and the forest's major plants, as well as the Chosen One seat, held in reserve for figures of prophecy. Councils tend to be quite conservative, reacting in response to the forest's moods and cycles. The Great Tree speaks for the plants directly, while High King Elf speaks for the elves, Elder Sister speaks for the dryads and spirits, and the Gardener speaks for the deep forest's creatures. Other gods and spirits may advise, but have no vote. Green elf forests also each have a Vronkal, or king, who has equal partnership with the Council. Yellow elf forests treat the Elder Sister as a queen, who is equal partner to the Council as a whole.

Elves consider humans to be enemies because humans kill trees to make tools and homes. Trolls are enemies because they eat elves and trees. Dwarves are enemies for their deeds in the God Time. Elves tend to base their views on other races solely on their potential threat or benefit. They rarely forget a wrong done them, or a kindness. They form opinions slowly, but rarely change them. Elves distrust humans for the deeds of humans past, though individual humans may prove themselves useful and good, even being named elf-friend...but even elf-friends are judged on a case by case basis. One good human does not make humans good. Elves maintain small units of warriors to protect their woods, and tend to be exceptionally familiar with the land and how to fight in it, able to drive off much larger forces. They can muster large armies, but rarely do, and do not enjoy leaving their forests to fight. Elves prefer arrow fire and small light infantry units, and do not ride in battle. They hate iron, the poison metal, and will never wield it. Its bite poisons them.

Aldrya is the chief of all tree elf gods, mother to elves and dryads. Tree elves worship her almost universally, and her cult is the basis for most elven social interaction. Apostasy or even heterodoxy are rare, though elves may worship friendly gods such as Yelmalio or Flamal (though by other names). Elven minor gods include Flamal the Seed Father, Yelmalio the Unfailing Light in the Darkness, Babeester Gor the Earth Avenger, Earth witch the Knower of the Secrets of the Earth, Ernalda the Earth Mother, Gata the Primal Earth, High King Elf the Guardian of the Forest, Ty Kora Tek the Keeper of the Dead, or Voria, Goddess of Spring. Blue elves worship Murthdrya, red elves worship Slor and black elves worship Mee Vorala.

Next time: Magic chicken-riding lizards.