Praxians, good, or futile and unpleasant?

From: David Cake (davidc@cs.uwa.edu.au)
Date: Tue 21 May 1996 - 14:22:59 EEST


>From: D M McNamara <D.M.McNamara@durham.ac.uk>

>
> Hello...
>The question was asked, 'lunar empire, good or bad?'

        I think it is far too simplistic a question to ever have an answer
to. The Lunar Empire, like it or not, is one of the most civilised places
in Glorantha, and is run by people representing a bewildering array of
religions and moral attitudes.
        A better question is ask is, 'Lunar Empire, what aspects are good,
what aspects are bad?' - you still end up with answers that are highly
subjective, but they probably give you a bit more insight into the way the
empire really works.

>Well, it does indeed depend where you stand. As far as i see it, there is
>little difference between the lunar and the RW roman empires, in that
>both ultimately serve particular classes or interest groups, and
>legitimate the hegemony through various 'means'.....
>
        The Dara Happan empire has followed a path a lot like the Roman,
but at the same time as the Empire has expanded it has undergone some
profound internal changes of a religious nature.

>However, the lunar empire is more powerful than the romans could have
>ever been - it has weird and wacky 'equalisers' that can stomp any
>problem the romans ever had. For example, the crimson bat, superheroes
>like Jar-eel the Razoress (for a while anyway), horrible chaos demons of
>various kinds, extensive heroquesting jiggery-pokery, lunarised broo,
>RALZAKARK!!! (Ragnaglar?) etc

        Yes and no. The opponents of the Lunar empire have many of these
things as well - every major Gloranthan nation has at least some of this
stuff (and hey, I don't think the Lunars tell Ralzakark what to do). The
Lunars do have an advantage in the area of exotic magics, but not that
great a one. Certainly Argrath and Harreks forces come close in terms of
exotic magics.

        What they do have is an advantage in the area of the non-exotic
magic units, the simple magician units - they are the first Gloranthan
nation to field magician units trained specifically in techniques of mass
combat, and fielded as such. This is roughly equivalent to being the only
nation with substantial numbers of decent artillery troops.
        They also have a far more developed study of military strategy than
most of their opponents, which helps them a lot against most people.

>etc. How could the lunars fail? (i still can't believe they did - maybe
>the parts in 'king of sartar' describing their doom was made up by a
>wistful scribe, i dunno)

        What King of Sartar doesn't consider much, but which it makes
obvious is occuring, is the enormous internal changes within the Empire.
That is at least a part of the answer - its not necessarily the Empire that
falls, but the Emperor. From the Sartarites point of view, its a great
victory, as the Empire stops bothering them. But from a point of view of a
Lunar citizen, they wouldn't necessarily see the Empire falling, just bad
times and polical upheaval, and terrifying natural disasters. But they may
still consider the Empire to have survived, if in a somewhat shrunken form.
After all, the Dara Happan empire (of which the Lunar Empire is only the
most recent, and most succesful, incarnation) has survived worse and come
back.
        Of course, it may be that the death blow has been struck the Empire
and it just lingers on for a few years.

> For a great many people the lunar empire would not have been a good
>place to live,

        No worse than anywhere else, I suspect. Peloria is set to take
quite a battering during the Hero wars, but so is Sartar (Argrath wins
eventually, but the intervening events are highly unpleasant), Fronela (KOW
- - ouch), Kethaela, and several other places.
        And as for the Empire at its height - I think it is indeed a
pleasant place to live. The rulers are less despotic than most places,
there is some class mobility, there is wealth, there is a tolerant and
interesting culture (the big change to the Dara Happan empire, which
sometimes had wealth and peace, but generally also boredom, rigidity and
conservatism).

> Presumably the lunars make extensive use of slaves,
>and a slave-driven economy, although initially possessing immense growth
>potential, ultimately sows the seeds of its own destruction. A constant
>supply of slaves is needed, and without growth, the empire will die
>through inflation and economic failure.

        I don't think the Lunars do make extensive use of slaves. They do
use slaves, but I don't think its fair to describe them as a slave driven
economy. I think slaves are in general a luxury. Take away the slaves, and
the eceonomy does not suffer that much. Life gets less pleasant for the
upper classes, but the peasants lot continues much the same without slaves.

        Their economy is largely driven by peasants and trade. And the
peasants of Peloria probably have it quite good compared to the other
peasant driven economies around the place. A Pelorian peasant is not as
well off as a Sartarite freehold farmer, at least in terms of power
(possibly as well fed or better), but is a lot better off than a Rokari
peasant, for example. Thanks in no small way to a healthy Pelorian
tradition of peasant rebellion (kept alive by the Gorgorma and
Lodril/Monster Man cults), which stops the nobility from getting too
oppressive.

>The limits of the lunar empire
>are far worse than it was for the romans. The invincible malkioni west
>and Dorastor form an unbreakable buffer zone, and to the east there is
>the huge unproductive wastes of Prax and Pent (and kralorelan loonies),
>where an advanced
>agricultural economy like the Lunar's will find it difficult to survive.

        The Lunars have a lot of room to expand West. The 'invincible'
malkioni - in reality probably militarily weaker than the Lunars (these are
not horals we are talking about, just Western knights) hardly even start
until Jonatela. The real reasons why they don't expand West are probably
either that they are not sure if they want to (the Syndics Ban is only
recently lifted, so they may not be quite sure whats out there), theres not
much in it for them (there are already good trading opportunities, which
probably go straight into the coffers of the Carmanian nobility, and they
have a long way to go till they reach a decent sea coast - and they have to
go through the KOW), and it would be unpopular (the first stop along the
way is the Arrolians, who are friendly to the Lunars, and religiously very
similar except for not acknowledging the Emperor, and send religious

tribute).
        Compare this with expanding south - the area is a lot better known
(established trade routes and no Syndics Ban), it is known to contain areas
of great wealth (Esrolia) and have established profitable trade routes, and
is religiously popular (due to the villainous status of Orlanth etc. in
Dara Happan and Pelorian mythology, and generally being on opposite sides
of most major conflicts).
        Nevertheless, if they were not able to expand south, they would
probably expand west, but with a lot less enthusiasm.
        Dorastor is a bit of a barrier, but only if they wanted to expand
into Ralios, which would be impractical to do in any force anyway (its
reached only be one rather difficult route through the mountain passes even
if you have passed through Dorastor).

> We must also not forget the great meditteranean sea, the romans
>friend.

>The lunar empire does not have
>this, therefore it is doomed to soon reach its economic limit

        Oh, they know! They have relied on river trade for a long time, I
imagine. And they are certainly seeking a route to the sea.

> (unless it
>fundamentally changes, eg. becomes feudal, but i can't see that happening
>for a while).

        Much of their territory is fairly feudal as it is. Don't see how
thats necessary, though.

> Therefore, i would argue that the lunar empire is more evil than good,
>because it must expand and subvert other cultures to survive, and
>possesses a maladaptive culture system which will doom its provinces as
>well as itself.

        I think the Lunar Empire is a bit more complex than that. The Lunar
religious proselytising is a powerful element. Compare the successes of
Islam, for example. I think the Lunar Empire is using the same twin thrust
of religious conversion and political expansion - and so far, has been
nearly as successful. I think this is one of the major differences between
the Lunar and Dara Happan Empires, and a reason why the Lunars are winning.

        As for its culture being maladaptive, I think there is a lot of
room for disagreement there. The lunars do indeed subvert other cultures,
but generally only because they are able to offer something.

> Also, the economy (i assume) is a slave mode of
>production, therefore operates off the everyday misery and humiliation of
>those that have been captured through slave raiding and warfare.

        No, I just simply reject this line of reasoning - I think you are
far too hung up on the slavery aspect, IMHO a relatively minor part of the
Empires economy.

> I would have preferred
>wandering through Prax on my trusty blue llama, with my tribe at my side,
>the wind rushing in my face, and dealing with the everyday rituals and
>problems involved in initiation, breeding llamas, having contests of
>strength, marriage, drinking kvass, appeasing the spirits, guarding the
>block, wiping llama spit off my
>armour, etc.

        You forgot spending most of your time half starved, nearly constant
warfare, rabid dislike of anything new or interesting, etc. The Praxians
spend most of their lives in a fight for survival.
        As opposed to the well fed, peaceful, Pelorians, with a culture
that rewards innovation and intellectualism (new with the Lunars after
centuries of Yelmic rule), relative tolerance, and thriving artistic and
intellectual life.

> I suppose there is a danger of viewing non-lunar,
>technologically 'primitive' societies, in a 'noble savage' light here.

        Certainly.
        Maybe I'm just too civilised myself, but I can't see how anybody
might prefer life on the plains of Prax to civilised life in the Lunar
interior. Obviously, the narrow minded Praxians with their rabid xenophobia
will reject it initially, but I bet even they would start to appreciate the
relatively easy life there given a chance.
        And sure, there might be inherent philosophical dangers in the
Lunar way. And I am sure I would rather discuss them sitting in a Lunar
villa, well fed and sipping Pelorian wine and in the company of educated
men, than ranting about them on an empty stomach in the dessert sun
surrounded by illiterate killers. But maybe its just me :-)

        Cheers

                David

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