Re: Tribal (not Clan) organisation for Orlanthi cults.

From: Joerg Baumgartner (
Date: Wed 29 Jan 1997 - 23:31:00 EET

Stephen Lucek:

>Orlanthi culture is successful. It has survived in the most dangerous areas of
>Glorantha, where powerful empires have fallen. So it must be strong. I
>therefore have difficulties with a cult structure based on a clan, in which I
>can see weaknesses. Please correct me!

This is a historical development from the end of the Second Age. Up to then,
there was a strong priestly bureaucracy within large (nation-spanning)
tribes, priests influential enough to steer the course of their kingdoms,
making the actual king little more than a warleader and ritual official.
This was the cult both Lokamayadon and Harmast Barefoot had formed, and
likely even has its sources in Heort's cult (though with a stronger king
before Lokamayadon).

Towards the end of the Second Age Alakoring Dragonbreaker spread his cult of
Orlanth Rex, which favoured small tribes of maybe 4000 adults as opposed to
the earlier tribes which numbered about 100,000 persons per tribe (number
taken from Heortland description (in Genertela Book: "Four large
tribes..."), where IMO Alakoring's cult didn't succeed as well as elsewhere,
partly due to Western influences, partly due to their own Hendriki brand of
the Orlanth cult which IMO was different from Harmast's). This splintering
of Orlanthi power helped destabilize the Empire of the Wyrm's Friends, and
break the dragon-priests' power over the populace, but it left the Orlanthi
weakened. How weakened showed about 250 years later, when Orlanth lost at
Castle Blue...

Now, in the Hero Wars, one major issue is whether the Orlanthi get a leader
who can reunite the splintered minuscule tribes into an empire. There are a
couple of guys remembered as one Argrath who work on this...

>I would imagine priests are rare. My reasons for this are largely gaming, I
>want it difficult for PC's to be priests (or whatever).

That's easy. A priest has to know lots of magic useless for adventuring.
Have the clan leaders demand that the local priest knows at least two points
of Worship Orlanth, two points of Sanctify, two points of Spellteaching, one
point of Soul Sight, four points of Increase or Decrease Wind or Wind Warp,
and of course two points of Cloudcall, and see whether any of your players
qualify. Or give them a rival fitting the bill above, and let him get the
post. To be an active priest is dull, adventure-wise. 90 percent of your
time you get to work for the temple, conduct private prayers, and renew that
Spellteaching spell which provides the main source of income for the temple.
Any adventure you want to go on needs to be disguised as a temple mission,
or you get no personal training in relevant non-cult skills. While there is
power to be had, Free Will is lost to a great extent.

>Also I want PC's to be
>fairly tough for their culture, and so I do not want however many priests
>around, who would then solve all the problems leaving the PC's nothing to do.

Priests don't adventure, they warp the wind, call clouds to ensure rain,
teach spells (teaching one adventurer a spell costs the priest a full day to
recover that Spellteaching spell - if you're nice, the priest can regain

that spell on the day the Spellteaching is done). If there's a military
problem, they tend to be somewhat useless, except for a Thunderbolt for
emergencies or so.

Anyway, the most frequent type of "priest" would be the acolyte or "godi" -
a local grand stead-holder and minor chieftain of a valley or so (if at
sub-clan level), or the clan chieftain or one of his retainers if at clan
level. This individual would manage a stead half of his time, and conduct
the necessary magics the other half of the time. These include some of the
duties of the full priest I mentioned above, but less intensively, since the
godi has a real life.

>So I imagine, in a rural culture, there might be about a priest per 200

Which means about five priests per clan, or one for say 10 steads and 20

>This fits with my idea of many cultures: 1 priest per village (though in the
>middle ages there were probably fewer priests, one per village + surrounding

I suppose that most Sartarite Orlanthi live in hamlets of say three steads
"crowded" together in a valley, with cottars nearby or in between. The
larger villages are the clan centres, with something resembling a clan
temple nearby.

>This means for a clan (population of roughly 1000) you have very few
>priests. The range of magic that is important to the clan is vast, the gods
>must be propitiated, as well as local and family spirits, also farming and
>hunting rituals, healing, magic for fighting, providing protection from the
>magical nasties of Glorantha, as well as being the representative of the
>community (spokesman, law-speaker). Also stead or tool blessing (after all the
>stead is the primary defence of the hearth). There are not enough priests for
>specialisation, and so the clan would be magically weak.

Not really. With five priests (or ten half-time priests) the clan has a fair
share of magic available to its leaders. Spellteaching (of Battle Magic aka
Spirit Magic) is rare, though, unless obtained through ancestors or other
natural spirits (the dryad Tarndisi in Colymar lands, for example).
(Ancestor worship is, contrary to the statement in Gods of Glorantha, not
necessarily exclusive with cultic worship.) The RQ3 rules suggest that 20
devotees to the gods exist in a population of 1000, but this would be evenly
divided between male and female cults. I agree that a priest or even acolyte
of Lhankor Mhy, Issaries, Mastakos or Chalana Arroy would be extremely rare.
Elmal, Heler, Barntar and similar deities would be represented, though.

>A tribe however has enough population to support tens of priests. This seems
>enough to allow quite varied specialisation. Thus if cults are organised
>throughout tribe, then there is much magical benefit for the individual clans.
>Also it is probably good for the god, since instead of largely independent
>priests, you now have group of priests whose power is far more co-ordinated.

True. Only a tribal organisation can afford priests or Lords of cults like
Humakt or Lhankor Mhy. The actual Lightbringer priests would still be rare
in a tribe, IMO, and probably live in the tribe's city (in Sartar, with its
city confederations) or spend a lot of time travelling among the clans.

>The Orlanthi prize individual freedom so I imagine that the size of social
>organisations would be limited by the maximum benefit with minimum
>(i.e. rules). I see that in the tribe there are enough priests to give wide
>range of spells without being too large and unwieldy a group.

IMO specialist priests would be divided in a ragtag way between the clans of
the tribe. Less specialized priests would still act as representative of the
rarer aspects - as associate priests - wherever the specialist is lacking.

>So I do think that there is a force to grouping together the clan priests to
>forming a tribal network.

IMO _that_ would go against Orlanthi individual freedom, and particularism
as per Orlanth Rex cult. It is fairly possible to have warfare within two
clans of one tribe, and where would this leave the tribal network?

There is an intracult, trans-clan (and even trans-tribal) network of
priests, which is one reason for the Orlanth Rex spell Command Priests.

>I imagine the official worship of gods would be a
>tribal affair, at ceremonies taking place at the gatherings of the tribe
>(tribal moot or Thing, which I imagine as a market, law courts, religious
>festival etc.).

Once per year at most, I suppose, at the tribal wapentake/folkmoot.

>I like the idea of private worship of clan, which is separate from tribal
>worship of the gods. The clan propitiates local, house and family spirits,
>probably not lead by priests, but wise women etc. of the clan,

These people are labled Godar (sing: Godi) by me, and are most likely
acolytes per rules.

>or, rarely, a
>shaman. I see this as a naturally way of mixing spirit and divine magic - you
>get spirit magic from the clan, and divine magic from the tribal gods. I have
>never been happy with way the gods are fiddling around with all these spirits
>in RQiii.

Use the Vikings model for clan or sub-clan level spirit worship.


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