Thursday, 10 October 2019

Thoughts on the Glorantha Sourcebook

LAYOUT AND ART

My favourite thing about this book and most powerful sensory experience is the quality, variety and integration of the art throughout the whole of the book.

There are some minor quibbles with the dietetic elements. I fantasise about an epistolary world and
this attempt is imperfect, but still noble and good.

Firstly, this book is BRIGHT, which I very much appreciate and which fits the tone and feel of the world it describes.



As someone who has been quietly disappointed in Games Workshops slowly dulling aesthetic and not really happy with its art or the way it integrates image, world-building, infographics and DIFFERING STYLES of art within the same world window;

THIS IS HOW YOU FUCKING DO THAT.



THE DIVINE INFOGRAPHICS


My favourite part of the book is these repeated family trees of the divine hierarchies for the different cultures and celestial courts. Since the superstructure of Glorantha is all about divine powers, these are essentially cosmic maps of the setting.



They are tremendous fun, and very well made. They also feel 'real' or sub-real, they have a pleasing harmony of pseudosense



THE INTEGRATION OF STYLES


There are many different artists throughout the whole of the book but the sense of them as a whole, as representing the same reality, though seen through different eyes, is sustained throughout.

This feels more like the kind of book where the artists have been allowed to draw the bits they find most interesting and then space has been found for it, rather than the other way round.

The fact that there is no absolute, crushing 'Gloranthan House-Style' means it feels like the art as a whole, across the book, can breathe. There is a pleasing range of variety of methods and approaches within a loose but cohesive whole.

This fudges the diegesis somewhat. Some elements, like the bas-reliefs at the start of the book,



 or this vase on page 160,



 seem highly diegetic, as if they are literal artefacts which have been transcribed directly onto the page from the imagined world.

Other pieces have an un-specific diegesis, pictures from inside the world, but with no particular named artist or exact in-world point of view.



We could regard this as imperfect in the abstract but in function, as the book is read, it works fine. The human mind can deal quite easily with this mixture of levels of diegetic and less-diegetic elements, as we do when we are children, and the concept of the book never leans on that structure  so heavily that the differences become a problem.

Simply - these images speak in different voices, but they all feel like they are talking about the same thing.






THE TEXT - THE AMERICANNESS OF GLORANTHA

In both its world-concept and in its writing style, Glorantha feels to me, really intensely American.

This might not make sense initially as, in its subject and its openness to influence, I think it draws hugely from a staggering range of real-world religions and cultures. There is a shitload of Hinduism in there for a start, but there is a lot of Everything in there.



I'll begin with the language

This is really hard to define, and none of it is intended as a criticism. There is a quality here I think of as 'plains English', which, by imagination or not I tend to associate with the middle bits of America. Friendly bearded protestant men with Hawaiian t-shirts and Tiki collections who go to church every Sunday. People who's grandfathers probably spoke German or Dutch.


"Then a great dark spot rose into the sky upon the net. This huge bloated shadow flickered with a smoky glow. The shadow crept across the face of the sun, blotting it out and making all the world cold for a moment. A snapping moment of terror pierced the world, then the dark sky-web vanished, and the edge of the sun crept past the shadow. The shadow disappeared and the sun brightened, but everyone thought it looked paler than it had before. Some said it moved differently, too.

In Pamaltela, the heat strengthened the many spirits of that realm. They entered the jungles, plants, and elves, and combated the rot in their fibers."


There is certainly nothing wrong with this and it does its work. There is something in it that reminds me of American ticker-tape just-the-facts prose. Americans, I believe, do not like compressions of meaning, or elisions. They like a word to be a word and a phrase to be clear, to be linked directly to the next phase and for its meaning to be what it plainly signifies itself to be. They also seem to dislike strong euphony and intensification of rhythm. There is a Germanic tendency there that its better to extend a sentence than to potentially leave any element of it open to inconstant interpretation. Brandon Sanderson is a bit like this in some of his things I've read. It is very clear, democratic, rather Methodist-bible language.



Theogony Gumbo

The simple fact that Glorantha takes from so many different world religions and the combination of its very open-hearted and very open-handed attitude to them, along with the simultaneous access of knowledge and systemisation of that knowledge, speaks itself, in the nature of the intellectual work done, of a particular time and place.

This kind of mingling together of influences would not have happened in this way at many other times.

A little earlier in Anglo-diaspora history the 'foreign' bits would probably be more foreign, more orientalised. A lot earlier and the knowledge either wouldn't exist or the originating religion/cultures that make it up either wouldn't be in conversation with each other or wouldn't get on.

Post 2000's, I think most millennials would probably feel bad about taking aspects of IRL cultures and religions from different real-world ethnicities and just jamming them together anyhow. It seems like the kind of thing someone would get upset about.

So this reads to me as very much a product of the 1960-1990-s era of relative liberalism. And the willingness to systematise the whole thing (though the diegetic elements of the world itself do remark that there is no absolute systemisation of divine order from within the world, only differing interpretations arranged around a wide but fuzzy 'general knowledge).

This is from what I think of a "Cultural Lego Times". Innocent times when a bunch of nerds could just reach out to grab elements of different cultures and fantasy elements and just jam them together like a child making something, without a great deal of angst or drama.

I do not think we live in Cultural Lego Times any more.



The Fantasy Elements

Glorantha has humanoid Ducks in it. Literally they are only in a few pages BUT THEY ARE ON THE COVER AND THEY ARE CANON. So, this is the kind of highly developed fantasy world where it has its own divine hierarchies but clearly at some point Sandy Petersens best friend or someone really wanted to play a humanoid duck, and while they haven't really gone deep on the duck thing since then, they are still in there.

My broad point here is that the genesis of the integration of fantasy elements, with trolls (but different), elves, dwarfs etc (but different) and not hobbits (but we have ducks), again seems to me to come from a particular time and place. The post-Tolkien 60's-70's boom. (Much of Glorantha feels very 70s to me). It has that slightly gauche summery tactile 70's vibe.

On the mid-20thC Paracosm-boom scale, it’s very clearly cooler and edgier than Greyhawk or Blackmoor, and more coherent than Coventry, but not quite as cool as Tekumel, which is like Gloranthas edgy brother who plays in a band and won't let Glorantha into their room.


So all of this makes me intuit that, though Glorantha is, very nobly, a combination of a vast range of influences and has many highly original elements and aspects, the range and origins of those sources, and the manner of their integration and expression, make it feel very American to me.







GODS IN GLORANTHA


If this is about anything it’s about the integration of a coherent Theogony as a magical, moral, cosmic, historic and philosophical superstructure for a fantasy world. If you want to play a game where there are lots of religions and where religion matters then this is for you.

Gods in Glorantha play a dozen roles.


Gods as Aircraft Carriers.

Their simplest is as tanks or artillery divisions in battles. Every culture has a god or godsquad and when they come into military conflict whoever has the strongest god(s) and can get them to intervene more effectually will win battles by having them lend power or simply turn up on the field.

So Gloranthan military engagements are actually 5th dimensional affairs in which ritual and spiritual elements can transform into simple military materiel and visa-versa (a little like 40k).



Gods as Culture-Leaders

Gods incarnate, visitate and reincarnate a whole bunch and this can lead the centre of any culture an effectively-immortal warrior/teacher/prophet/lawgiver who acts not only as a private superman but also as a kind of cultural and moral library and judge.

It’s a little like the British Sovereign is almost meant to be in law, a magical source of power, and a little like if George Washington could reincarnate on each death, but with all knowledge intact, and if all George Washingtons children might be born with a few grammes of divine Washington power. And if you want to invade America successfully, you need to find and permanently kill the reincarnating George Washingon, but once you do that, the rest of the place goes down pretty easy.

Or simply as if all that Eurasian stuff about bronze-age God-Kings was pretty much accurate and literally true.



Gods as Magical and Philosophical Superstrucure Soap-Opera

Since the gods are definitely real, though mainly outside time, and since there is a big library of gods and their exact relations and histories, learning magic, philosophy and history is really learning about this big divine Soap-Opera and trying to get close to, and understand, one or more of the characters.

Magical and divine power in Glorantha is so integrated, and so total, trying to understand it is one of the few useful things you can do. Societies and cultures that gain technological or philosophical dominance, don't do it necessarily by prioritising technology and science, but by getting close to a highly rationalist god or god-philosophy that releases these capacities in them.


God as Atom Bombs

You can basically smash any problem if you can get a big enough god on it.

There seems to be a theme in Glorantaha of Godwars and gods punching each other to pieces leaving holes or damaging reality so that the grainy sinister 90's CGI of Chaos can come through. Since its a D&D world where becoming a demigod is the last rung of promotion and since its quite and agonistic world where adventure needs to happen, this adds an element of tragedy; your super-adventure might end up punching a hole in the Real and bringing Glorantha closer to DOOM.





QUESTIONS
FOR PEOPLE WHO PLAY IN GLORANTHA


How the fuck do you play in Glorantha?

I'm waaaay into Warhammer 40k, to the extent that I have opinions on the different _voice actors_ for the Audiobook Readers in the Horus Heresy series.

Reading this Glorantha sourcebook is probably as close as I can get to what it must be like to be introduced to 40k for the first time. Holy crap this is a fucktonne of stuff to be slammed over the head with.

Even as someone who is generally into pseudohistories, and this being, essentially, part of my job, bit parts of Glorantha were a real slog to get through. There is just a huge, HUGE amount of highly specific history here. Staggering levels of detail, highly specific and, due to Gloranthas close integration of divine order, magical power and temporal culture, highly consequential information.

I know there are a huge amount of playstyles and cognitive/world-engine preferences out there very different to mine and this is probably exactly what a bunch of you are specifically looking for.

People who play in Glorantha, specifically, people who are introducing new players into Glorantha. How do you do it? Is it a loremaster thing where the DM is just deeply read in the pseudohistory and drops it on the unknowing as things go on? Do you need a bunch of experts on Glortantha to play?

From my personal biases, Glorantha is so dense that its virtually unplayable as a game setting, but I know most are not like me, so what are you doing?


Where did Glorantha Come From?

I know there must be a forum somewhere purely about this, and with its own scandals and schisms, are we at the point yet where anyone can summarise 40+ years of paracosm development in a blog comment or medium article? Probably not.

How much of the legendary background is stuff that happened in some game back in the 70's? Or in some wargame? Very large amounts of this read like legendarification of someones play reports, specifically the oddness of the pseudohistories which come off very much like some player-character stuff.

Or am I wrong and its all designed-in? Or did it evolve over multiple books over different eras? Has anyone written the historiography of the creation of Glorantha? And then helpfully done the condensed version because I probably don't have time to read the whole thing.


THE COMMENTS ON THIS ARE REALLY INTERESTING IF YOU WANT TO SEE TRENT DO A DEEP-DIVE ON GLORANTHA AND A BUNCH OF OTHER STUFF

29 comments:

  1. I was pretty deep into Glorantha in the 80s and 90s so I can address both your questions, but don’t have time to do so now. If someone else does so first, I’ll probably just agree or disagree with what they said.

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  2. I think Hill-Cantons-Chris has answered some of your questions on his blog already.

    Also do you know King of Dragon Pass? A 90ties turn based strategy game/crpg mix set in Glorantha. There is a mobile version available I think.

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  3. Re: introducing new players. Same as it ever was, eg bottom up. My personal preference is to use the detailed Clan Creation rules in Sartar: Kingdom Of Heroes and then create a small campaign area, same as I would do for D&D. Obviously one is guided by the principles of Sartar culture etc.

    If I were to run in another region (I wouldn't, that would be like playing an all Eldar 40k RPG...intriguing, but ultimately...how many fucking years do we have?), then I would do the same, minus the (awesome) clan creation. Start small, ditch the rest, with prejudice, until it became relevant.

    Obviously, I'd love to see your take on Sartar: Kingdom Of Heroes. I have a sneaking suspicion you'd find some excellent grist for your mill.

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  4. This page came up with a pretty good history of Runequest: https://www.maranci.net/rqpast.htm
    Myself, I ported my RuneQuest rules to Harn pretty quickly. Ducks and everyone with magic, and limited Iron oh my.

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  5. 1. Where did Glorantha come from?

    It started with Greg Stafford making up stories in the 60s. He was a hippy, hitchhiking between Wisconsin and California, and made up stories to fill time during very long, boring, car rides. Those stories were mostly set in the West of Genertela and covered the First Age.

    In the early 70s he started working on a boardgame set in Glorantha. This was "White Bear & Red Moon," set in Dragon Pass during the late Third Age and set up the conflict between Sartar and the Lunar Empire. He allowed the playtesters of that game to name towns on the map, and one of them (a Carl Barks fan) chose "Duckburg" (renamed Ducktown presumably to avoid copyright/trademark claim by Disney). That game was published in 1974 and included a bunch of history about the map locations and pieces. Greg started publishing "Wyrm's Footnotes" zine that added even more lore about Glorantha, and a couple years later published a sequel game "Nomad Gods" set in Prax, that had a different mode of play (tribes competing to gather artifacts and befriend spirits rather than the more trad wargame model of WB&RM) and added a lot more lore.

    All this happened simultaneously with D&D becoming a big thing, so pretty quickly fans started wanting to combine D&D with Glorantha. An early issue of WF included D&D stats for the main WB&RM heroes by Dave Hargrave (the "Arduin Grimoire" guy). Greg's company (Chaosium) published a couple of D&D supplements ("All the World's Monsters") edited by Steve Perrin. Steve convinced Greg that his D&D house rules ("the Perrin Conventions") would make for a better basis for a Glorantha rpg than straight D&D, and thus RuneQuest was born. There were two RQ playtest campaigns - one run by Greg set in Sartar and the other run by Steve set in Prax, but set a few years prior to the events depicted in WB&RM. Almost everything published by Chaosium for RQ from 1978-83 comes out of one or the other of those campaigns. Perrin's Prax/Pavis campaign was more traditionally D&Dish, while Greg's Sartar campaign pretty quickly got into more Braunsteinish political type stuff (e.g. in one of the early sessions the PCs ambushed and killed a Lunar patrol, so Greg followed up with a tribal moot where the players took on the roles of the the tribal elders debating what to do about the political incident caused by the rash actions of the PCs). At some point while this was going on somebody showed Greg a lead mini of a Donald Duck-type character with a sword and shield. Greg decided these must be the people who lived in Ducktown, and so when RQ was published in 1978 anthropomorphic Ducks were included.

    From 1978-83 Chaosium published a bunch of support material - modules, setting books, Wyrm's Footprints - for RQ, which at this point was mostly sort of "D&D for college students" - a little more serious in tone (despite the Ducks) and ostensibly "realistic" in rules. Almost all of it was set in Dragon Pass or Prax, except for the adventure "Griffin Mountain" - originally written by Jennell Jaquays and Rudy Kraft as a stand-alone setting, but Greg liked it so much that he added it to Glorantha as the land north of Dragon Pass. The idea at the time was that RQ was the "starter" rpg focused on the low-level mortal realm and there would be a follow-up game - HeroQuest - about high-level characters interacting more directly with the gods and myths. This got some private playtesting but wasn't published in this era.

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  6. (cont'd)

    Sometime around 1980ish Sandy Peterson joined Chaosium. He wrote the "Call of Cthulhu" rpg (which became Chaosium's big money maker from then on) and also became Greg's right hand man and co-developer for Glorantha. The first fruit of this partnership was "Trollpak" which consisted of a big book of the myths and history of Glorantha's trolls mostly written by Greg, a big book of the natural history, biology, and social organization of trolls, mostly written by Sandy, and some adventures adapted from Greg's Sartar campaign (where the PCs had started out as troll-fighters but eventually became troll-friends and established a temple to their god Humakt inside a troll lair). This product marked a leap in sophistication and set the tone for things to come.

    In one of the HeroQuest playtests one of the PCs (named Urrgh the Ugly, famously less intelligent than his own horse) had a habit of praying to his treasure, because he was too dumb to be accepted into a traditional cult. When he did so on the God Plane, Greg decided that he resurrected a Gold Wheel Dancer, an extinct race from the First Age who looked like gold coins. This became the basis for an epic adventure published in the "Pavis" RQ set that was sort of a bridge both between RQ and HQ, and between the "prelude" era of RQ and the Hero Wars era of WB&RM.

    Alas, in 1984 Chaosium sold the rights to RQ to Avalon Hill, and that changed the focus of the publications. HeroQuest wasn't really talked about anymore, and the supplements went from being narrowly focused on Sartar and Prax to being large-scale encyclopedic things intended to cover Glorantha as a whole. All of the stuff from this era was co-written by Greg and Sandy. On the plus side, they gave us a ton of new info about other lands (the West, the East, the other continents) and a much more complete picture of Glorantha's history and myths, and introduced the idea of multiple subjective perspectives (whereas the older RQ stuff had pretty much presented the Sartarite perspective as objective truth), and it made for great reading, but was way less accessible for rpg play. By this point AFAIK neither of the original campaigns was still going - Steve Perrin had left Chaosium and was freelancing for TSR; Greg was running the campaign that became the King Arthur Pendragon rpg. Sandy was still running a RQ campaign that was set in Pamaltela, the southern continent. Pretty much everything that's known and published about that continent comes from that campaign, that ran in the late 80s-early 90s, which was never published officially but was released by Chaosium as a work-in-progress manuscript chapbook a few years later.

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  7. (cont'd)

    Around the early 90s the online RQ fan community took off, conveniently just as Chaosium and Avalon Hill pretty much gave up on RQ and Glorantha. In this era fans added a LOT of new material, mostly about lands that hadn't really been covered in the official publications, some of which was later added to the canon, others of which was not. "Tales of the Reaching Moon" UK fanzine added a LOT of material, including previously unpublished stuff from Greg and Sandy.

    In 1992 Chaosium published Greg Stafford's novel "King of Sartar" which isn't a traditional novel but rather purports to be a collection of diegetic documents collected by a Fourth Age scholar trying to reconstruct the story of Argrath and the Hero Wars that ended the Third Age. This was totally different in style and substance than any of the RQ-era stuff and turned the fanbase on its ear. There was a ton of new lore but a lot of it had internal contradictions (not to mention contradictions of previous official canon) and went into great detail on details of Sartarite society and religion that had previously been glossed over in favor of adventuring. This new, deeper, more sociological orientation drove the Glorantha fanbase away from the RQ model and towards a different model reflected in the computer game "King of Dragon Pass" and the storygamish "Hero Wars" rpg (later re-released as HeroQuest). That's about where I bowed out of the fandom, around the turn of the century, so someone else will need to fill in the next 20 years - the various licensed later iterations of RuneQuest, the rise of Moon Design, etc. I have taken a brief look through the latest RQ edition, which seems like kind of a curious mix between c. 1980 RQ (both ruleswise and in its tight focus on Sartar) but with a ton of the additional sociological and mythological stuff that came later integrated into it. I'm not sure if it's something I'd actually want to play or not (but I still like that it exists either way - that at the time of Greg's passing RQ and Glorantha had a high public profile and were getting a lot of acclaim, and he presumably died feeling his creative legacy was in good hands, which was definitely not the case a couple decades earlier).

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  8. 2. How do you play in Glorantha?

    We always played it as "grown up D&D." The PCs were itinerant adventurers wandering from place to place helping people, killing monsters, and gathering treasure. The difference is that the places they went and the beings they interacted with had more depth and backstory attached, and things fit together rather than being randomly piled up (they may have originally been randomly piled up by Greg, Steve, and Sandy, but by the time they made it to us they'd been rationalized and fit into the matrix). I knew tons of Gloranthan lore. The players started out knowing none, and that was okay. Every session would be sprinkled with sidebars where I would explain things and add details and history as it became relevant, a piece at a time. Just enough to keep them intrigued, and to convey the sense that the world was much bigger and richer than the little bits they were experiencing. Gradually they started to remember and internalize more of it, and to make decisions in the game based on it, and to add more detail and background to their characters to weave them more into the setting rather than remaining rootless murderhobos.

    My impression is that the later versions made more of an attempt to foreground all of that stuff right from the start, including big thick books of setting detail that players were expected to read before play began, and that instead of starting as wandering adventurers they would be integrated into a clan and have tons of social obligations and connections and be expected to know rituals and stuff. I never played those versions so i don't know how well that worked out. I can't imagine anybody I've ever played with would've dug it. But I suppose if, by some miracle, everybody in the play group was already an invested Glorantha scholar, it could lead to a richer and deeper experience. But, other than starting with those D&D-style earlier RQ adventures and working your way up organically over the course of a few years of play, I'm not sure how you get there, how one dedicated Gloranthaphile convinces a bunch of newbies to take that journey.

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  9. Re Glorantha vs Tekumel, the main difference (at least as I see it) is that while Greg Stafford created Glorantha and was the final authority and Big Picture guy, he also invited collaboration and accepted a lot of creative input from other folks from very early on, so that Glorantha as it's come down to us today includes not just Greg's creative vision but big chunks of Steve Perrin and Sandy Peterson and Jennell Jaquays and Ken Rolston and a bunch of other people. Especially in the 80s Avalon Hill era Greg made a big point of saying that "Glorantha is your now" and encouraging people to add to it and make it their own. On the other hand, I've always gotten the impression that Tekumel was entirely the creative vision of Prof. Barker alone, and that anyone else who's contributed to it was doing so entirely on the Professor's terms and conforming everything to his vision. While that makes Tekumel purer and more consistent (no Ducks, no canonical characters called "Naimless" and "Urrgh the Ugly," no weird Herschell Gordon Lewis tributes hiding in the Troll Gods, etc.) it also makes it a lot less accessible and inviting. I used to collect and read Tekumel books but I was never really tempted to run a game there because I was always too daunted by the volume of lore and the certain knowledge that there would be things I'd be "doing wrong" due to insufficient mastery of the setting, while I never felt that way about Glorantha (at least prior to the "Hero Wars" era).

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  10. This was the short version Greg told me about how he originally started developing Glorantha. He was a kid reading about the mythology of Greece, Scandinavia, etc., and thought, "I should make up a fantasy world of my own with stories and characters like these ones." and he was never really aware of the works of fantasy writers. He was particularly ignorant of Tolkien until he was an adult. Hence the mythological god and hero focus, vs. more medieval type tales.

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  11. Sandy ran a game for my middle/high school friends and me when we were growing up. When we made our characters he just had us roll them up and plopped us in a simple adventure in Dragon Pass. None of us even started as members of any cults; we did that a couple adventures. That's when I discovered my character was a barbarian Orlanthi, and that I hated those %$&*^ Lunars and their evil Red Goddess, and that my goal was to become a Wind Lord, and then if something really called for it I could fly, teleport, blast foes with lightning, instead of just hack away with my greatsword! Most of the time I didn't remember I hated the Lunars though, I just wanted to go back to that God-Learner megadungeon and find sweet loot for myself. After those first few adventures if someone had to make a new character (death was OSR frequent) or someone new joined the game, we would tell them all about the cults they could start as an initiate of, and what magic they could get. This was after we'd convinced them RQ was better than D&D because of the complex armor, hit location, and parrying rules. [As an adult I just want fights to be fast so I play OSR, but there was definitely some satisfaction to the gladiatorial desperation of fighting humans and monsters in RQ, and the relief when we'd finally scored a strike that actually penetrated armor and disabled a limb or the head.]

    Back to how Sandy ran campaigns: for his adult gaming group usually they played in less developed parts of the world, like Pamaltela or the East Isles, or have them go back in time to the Second Age in Genertela for a while. This let him use the cool stuff Greg and himself and others had made for Glorantha while throwing in whatever he wanted. The crazy cultures and cults that were encountered in those games were extremely fun to interact with. Eventually the group would go on Hero Quests (still using RQ rules) and that's when the player knowledge of mythology and history of Glorantha sometimes mattered. They would reenact the adventures of ancient heroes and gods to obtain some artifact, bring someone back to life, or accomplish some other goal. And of course, being on a Hero Quest the rules of the game were more mythic, changed, symbolic. Pretty neat.

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  12. As a massive aside, there was a time during second edition RuneQuest, when Chaosium started an alternate setting for the game to allow third parties to produce content without having to go through the strict approval processes attached to Glorantha.

    The idea was that each publisher would have its own continent to itself to use for adventures and supplements. The overall setting was called Quest World.

    It didn't take off. Chaosium released an initial boxed set and Games Workshop started work on its contribution via a handful of White Dwarf articles, but I think that's it.

    It's an interesting idea and I think it's a shame it didn't work out.

    Anyway, that's the opposite of a comment about Glorantha, so carry on.

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  13. I don't want to get into a drawn-out argument about this, but I respectfully disagree with your argument about "Lego Times" being over. I don't think they're over, I think there's just a greater expectation that if you do it, you do it in a more clever and conscientious way. I would compare it to comedy. Whenever I hear (usually older) comedians talk about PC culture and how they can't say anything anymore, I can point them to a dozen successful comedians, or comedic TV shows or movies, that still say controversial things and push limits. I think that creators in general should be allowed to have room to experiment, and to fail, and sometimes non-creators can be quick to snap at a creator for doing something they deem offensive. But even then, often times that comedian or creator damns themselves more with their response than in the act itself. You can't please everyone, some people are going to hate you or think you're wrong no matter what. But often times, I think if creators were willing to express more humility when they make mistakes, to take responsibility for it and apologize, they would be surprised by how effective that can be. Anecdotally, I actually had an online encounter with a podcaster recently, where I took offense with something they said and said so pretty provocatively, and to their credit they responded to me with complete sincerity and humility. I'm not sure he and I are totally on the same page now, but I have much more respect for him for how he handled things, and felt some shame on my part for how I had handled things on my end, and I came out of it feeling like it was one of those rare, mythical internet arguments where I feel like we both came out of it reasonably content and having gained some valuable new perspective. I can't speak for him, but that's how I felt anyway.

    So ya, that's anecdotal, and I'm rambling, and I don't feel like adding paragraphs so that's a big wall, but tl;dr I disagree that creators cannot, as a rule, blend cultures, they just have to do it more conscientiously, and be humble to criticism, sometimes even if they believe with absolute certainty that they are correct.

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    Replies
    1. In other words... creators who want to do those things are now yoked to your commentary. If they want to create as they wish, they have to address your concerns to your satisfaction. And the concerns of all the other consumers out there. And anyone on Twitter. And whoever the fuck else shows up. You get the idea.

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    2. You will both play nicely because this shit makes me tired.

      maxca7 - use paragraphs.

      HDA - If someone's being nice you don't get to crank up the testosterone.

      If you have a statement then phrase it as a statement "I think..." if you have a question, phrase it as a question "If X then wouldn't it be the case that Y ...." etc.

      "In other words" is close to "what you really mean is..." which is an unanswerable question, and is also pretty close to an accusation, which again, pushes up the tensions without providing a reasonable opportunity for a response.

      "Wouldn't a necessary result of that be XXXX" has the same broad intent but is something someone can actually answer, and has a calmer tonality.

      I'm probably gonna tone police the fuck out of this because if I don't then it just ends up a bunch of americans wanking each other into a mutual ritualised and repetitive hatefuck and then I have to worry about reading my fucking comments.

      And yes I just realised that I didn't match the same tone that I asked both of you for, well I am a tyrant.

      "Isn't a

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    3. @PJ my response will be short and sweet, no need for paragraphs and hopefully no policing but I acknowledge your concern for sure.

      HDA yes, as with everything else in life, you have to have regard for others. That doesn't mean you can't do the things, you just have to have some conscientiousness about it. Such is life.

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    4. I really don't think my response was overly testy... here I go again. Maxcan7, describing it as "Regard for others" is not accurate. It's a nice-sounding cover for a bottomless pit of suffering called "dealing with the entire planet." You make it sound very reasonable, and if you yourself were reasonable in the cited interaction, that is actually great - but that in no way means people owe you (which actually means The Public) a response or explanation. Anyone with any opinion, worldview or mental/emotional damage can log on and attempt to hold someone to account for perceived transgressions. It is impossible to please them all or even give them answers they can handle or understand. If Patrick doesn't like something I say in the comments, he is free to ignore me. Does that mean he's lacks regard for other people? I should think not.

      Your idea works between functioning people who interact in person, but is totally unworkable as a guideline on the internet.

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    5. HDA I'm not trying to be dismissive, but you are entirely correct and that is kind of the point. It is a bottomless pit of suffering called "dealing with the entire planet". It is messy and confusing and there are few if any certain answers. If you do anything at all, it is inevitable that someone will dislike you for doing it, and it is not always obvious who is right, even when you think you know with absolute certainty. So you can use that as an excuse to not do the thing and just blame the world, or if you really believe in the thing, you just do it and hope for the best. And maybe you later realize you were wrong, or realize it is less certain than you thought, or recognize at least that you may be wrong, and take that in stride and try to make the best of it.

      You can say this is overly simplistic or reductive, but the complexity of the problem we're talking about is such that practically any model of greater complexity than that is going to be over-fit. A simple, heuristical model is going to outperform the more complex model, even if it seems inadequate (because it is, but so is everything else). That's not to say there isn't merit in discussing the logistics further, but I feel comfortable with this approach and you're welcome to dislike me for it ;).

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    6. Not overly simplistic, but overly charitable.

      Once again it seems easy when you describe it - "maybe you later realize you were wrong...". Things sound like they should work well - yet a look around the internet would indicate the opposite. IF you are approached by a reasonable person, and IF you can actually *tell* that they're reasonable, and IF your values/worldview/moral compass/etc are not so dissimilar that you can't have a conversation both of you can understand (this is where many of my interactions fall apart), then wonderful! You're most of the way there. Maybe give it a shot.

      Nevertheless, this seems like a rare occasion as you yourself stated originally. This is the internet. What actually happens is that for every useful message you get... what? Five, ten, twenty useless ones? I feel like this is some kind of ingroup-outgroup confusion going on here. I realize the irony of saying this in a comment section, but - a *default* position of not worrying about or taking seriously the comments of total strangers seems (self-evidently to me - I am a bit bewildered that there is any disagreement on this point) to be the only viable strategy for anyone with an internet connection who intends to create something of value instead of wasting one's time putting out endless fires.

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  14. Not to nitpick but just want to say I think Prof. Barker collaborated quite a bit in the development of Tékumel but I may be misremembering what James Maliszewski said on the subject, so apologies for intruding like this.

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    1. I could very well be wrong about that. I didn’t follow Tekumel anywhere near as closely as I did Glorantha. Tekumel definitely felt more stylistically unified than Glorantha to me. I attributed that to it being s single vision but it might really just be that all of Prof. Barker’s collaborators made more of an effort to stick close to Barker’s style while the collaborators on Glorantha were more stylistically diverse and freewheeling.

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    2. Yeah, I feel so bad bringing it up even because I’m nowhere near the source and this doesn’t work like Google+ where I can tag James to clarify so please don’t take my word for it, you may be right (and what you say makes sense) but I remember this instance I think where James corresponded with Prof. Barker inquiring about a part of the continent and the professor’s response was to counter and ask James what he thought would be found there...but that’s probably a poor example...

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  15. Also I have a tax to pay I think since I didn’t contribute anything of worth to this post, but I’m terrible at formulating solid ideas. I will say I’ve been on the fence about diving into Glorantha/RuneQuest, having heard amazing things from my friend Alex and others, but finding myself unable to run games set in worlds that aren’t my own. Patrick’s review leads me to believe my suspicions are correct, and that while I may enjoy the fiction and the mythology, I’d never know where to start to really run a game.

    I do much better with short bursts of background, like the dressings in Troika!, than I do with long-winded, convoluted, deeply engrossing world settings like Glorantha.

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  16. The comments have largely been so good that I regret they aren't part of the post. So thank you to all.

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  17. thankyoufor this
    every time i mention on rq forums the tastelessness of riping off living indigenous cultures who are constantly robbed of land and culture people go straight to heaping abuse on me. Im trying to write a piece on this pick n mix thing. Cthulhu gamers too but thats less surprising a dumpster fire

    its still a great rpg book and game
    i just wish they would have some guidelines of cultural plunder

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  18. One day I hope to have the spare time to get back to what is ‘current’ in RQ/Glorantha. But, I have found that my original experience with RQ2 and a few of the key supplements (Cults of Prax, The Pavis Rubble mainly) for that have been enough so far. It may not be current fandom’s view of “glorantha”, but all the RQ2 games I played were amazing in how people became engrossed in the world, but more: they played characters with specific beliefs and codes of conduct, based on the gloranthan cults, that started as mere lip service to the game rules, but as play progressed and characters (and players) gained experience, became much more developed and heartfelt roleplay. Nothing like being next to a humakti rune lord in the line of battle and realising that he or she isn’t expecting to get out of this encounter alive. In which case your chances aren’t looking so good either - so why are you both there in the first place...? Generally for reasons other than loot and tombrobbing. Which is why I liked RQ2/glorantha.

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  19. I'm really not sure if I can add anything of use, but here it goes.

    * The Gloranthan fan community has slogans, including the (in)famous Your Glorantha Will Vary; which was Greg’s way of saying ‘we both have visions of Glorantha in our mind; intrinsically, neither is any better or any worse than the other’. Official stuff is based on Greg’s Glorantha for consistency’s sake, but your campaign need not conform to either Greg’s vision or the published material.

    Any campaign that Patrick Stuart runs is no better or worse than Greg’s, or Doyle’s, or Nick’s or Steve’s, etc. *If it is fun, and you and your players like it, is all that matters.*

    * You will have to improvise to answer questions that your players put to you. Yeah, you could look up a thing in one of a hundred books or the Internet, but most of that will be self-contradictory in any case, sometimes by design. Or there could be no answer available, because no one has written all that much about your particular question. You have to make it up and keep going. Sometimes that process really surprises you, and tells you something about Glorantha that no one else knows but would be glad to hear about.

    * There is a very similar argument to be made for Tekumel. Once of the more influential fan articles walks you through starting an EPT campaign that requires nothing but the original core rules. Neither of these settings requires a sage-like knowledge of the background. Sure it helps, but sometimes it can harm as well, if you saddle you players with too much info.

    * In order to run a game of RQG, you need only the recently available slipcase. It has everything that is needed to play, including a small sandbox campaign and adventures that develop and use some of the material in the sandbox. If you haven’t run games in Glorantha before, just being exposed to all this stuff will give everything you need to improvise and develop on your own, along with the Glorantha Sourcebook.

    * One of the articles in the Sourcebook, the Redline History, has been around for years and much of it had no explanation either in terms of rules or objective descriptions of the events described, at least until much, much later. Not knowing the explicit nature of these events did not inhibit any campaign ever run, but figuring out what some of it meant on your own could be both helpful and pleasurable.

    I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir and/or being repetitive. Forgive me if that’s true.

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  20. When I have GMd Glorantha I have tended to take the same kind of line as the classic Tekumel start - have the initial PCs as a bunch of know nothings from the back of beyond and just let the players be clueless and dumbfounded as they find out what kind of a place they have ended up. I have even had a game where the PCs were oridnary Earth people somehow washed up in Glorantha (a trick I have uised in Tekumel too).

    THe Griffin Mountain setting is good for this. It's full of Pleistocene beasties with a shamanic hunter gatherer society so no one is completely all at sea from the get go, and it plays as a straight survivalist game. But as the game goes on the stone age hicks climb the complexities of technology and culture until they too are fighting in the Hero Wars and seriously denting reality.

    And the nice thing about Glorantha is that for the right kind of players there's a lot to get your teeth into. There are always more reasons and aspects to adventure than just the old D&D murderhobo thudanblunder looting; there's mysteries, family feuds, historical conflicts, cultural clashes, religious fanaticism. There's plnety of opportunities for piratical looting as well of course, but without doing a bit of research the adventurers can easily end up out of their depth.

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