Magic in Glorantha (cont.)

From: Sergio Mascarenhas (
Date: Fri 10 Oct 1997 - 17:59:08 EEST

Stephen Martin in GDv5#180 has lots of interesting ideas about shamanism. I
strongly agree with him that shamans are underdeveloped in RQ.

Pasanen :
<< why would a warrior tire himself (spend VIT or VP's) for magic during a
fierce battle? This makes any battle magic ridiculous: the mighty runelord
glowing with blessings is panting on his knees, while his initiates beat
the enemy up! >>
That also puzzled me about my ideas (sometimes I get puzzled with what pops
out of my POW...) but I think I found the answer! Suppose that you don't
spent the fatigue when you do the spell but when its effects go away. Doing
magic tires, but the magician only feels tired once the magic stoped
producing its effects. (The inspiration here is the spell Berserk.) So,
your warrior uses his bladesharp-like spell and continues fighting fiercely
but, once the spell's effects go away, the more powerful the spell was, the
more tired he feels. (Unlike berserk, you still get tired by other reasons
like the act of fighting.)
Now, suppose he his not sure about how long the spell will remain in
effect. He knows that he gained a short time advantage through the spell
but, if he doesn't finish his fighting in that period, he can be in a very
difficult position after the effect is gone. He will think twice before
using magic in the middle of a battle. Or think about the recent discussion
on fighters using healing spells: the fighter used his heal 6; does he
think ' wow, I'm back in business again'? Not a chance, he got realy tired,
better take a rest. Wait! The damn' lunars are comming back again and he
cann't even raise his sword! Better have an healr nearby the next time

(what next time?).

Rick Meints:
<< Sergio seems to be on a quest to rewrite everything about Glorantha. I'm
more in the mood to expand it. >>
Not realy. There is a lot of things (in fact, almost everything) I wouldn't
change about Glorantha. That's why I don't give redundant feed-back to GD
on most of the discussions: most of the time I agree with the position
stated by someone, so there is no point in filling GD with comments like 'I
agree with you'.

<< I don't want the daily to become the rules digest >>
Neither do I. But I think that rules are an issue that should not be out of
the daily either, specialy since there is no rule system for Glorantha.

<< I am incredibly in favour of giving spells much more local names than
just "Bladesharp", but that's where most of the differentiation should
stop. I have a hard enough time keeping on top of all the spells there are
now without remembering that in Carse a "carouse til dawn" spell (also
known as vigor) lasts an extra hour if cast neath the light of a tavern
when a wench is in plain sight. >>
This is an important argument. There are some solutions:
Good editing of published materials (and I think Chaosium is very good at
it most of the time) would ensure easy reference to the spells.
Make it part of role play: spells would be based in some basic and standard
rules (about time and distance measures, basic effects, etc.) and would
have a 'colorful' description. When the player character learns the spell
the GM describes it to him (the way you described in your comments to GD).
 When the player character wants to use the spell, you ask him to tell the
story / describe the spell. If you don't remember the spell, you can sort
out from his description and the general rules what will happen.

<< I'm focussing my energy on trying to write adventures and background
material that can work with almost any Gloranthan system (i.e. rules lite).
Spells and stats and such are only mentioned in general. I'm trying to find
more reasons and opportunities to PLAY, not ways of rolling up characters
or calculating complicated formulas >>
There is something I agree with you: I don't like complicated formulas
either. My greatest complain about RQ is that he makes you more of an
accountant than a role-player. And I like game systems that are simple and
rich (yes, I think that you can have a rich gaming system - meaning a
system that his able to represent most aspects of the game setting).
But that s not to say that we should focus our attention on the background.
The true fact is rules affect the background. Let's look at some examples:
A shaman's fetch. RQ presents the rules and maybe you would say that's
enough, we don't need more rules about the fetch. According to the rules
everybody has a fetch, only that most people doesn't awaken his fetch.

After all, the only rules you have to do it are the shamanic rules. Now
let's focus on the background: If everybody has a fetch, priests do have it
and they should know about it. Why do they ignore such an important aspect
of their self? What's their mythical, religious or rational understanding
of it? For a worshiper of a god, what's the significance of his fetch to
his afterlife? And what about sorcerors? Why do they ignore the fetch when
they need all the magical resources they can get? (After all, the best
description of the awakening of a fetch and his effects is in the first
book of Ursula k. Le Guin's Earthsea trylogy and it is done by a sorceror,
not by a shaman.) This is a question of background. It has impact in PLAY
(the way you play a priest or a sorceror would be completely different if
you had to account for the part of you that stays in the spirit plane). Why
don't we question ourselves about it? Because the RQ RULES don't allow for

The spirit plane. The spirit plane should be an important part of
Glorantha's background and it opens a lot of possibilities for play, right?
No. It is used mostly as a species of mine or production line for spirits.
Why? First, you don't have enough background. Second, why botter develop
that background? You don't have rules to use it anyway.

<< Remember the golden rule of roleplaying: If the rules get in the way of
having fun, ignore the rules. >>
You forgot the second golden rule:
If the lack of rules get in the way of having fun, create the rules.

<< As the newest associate editor of Tales, I'm hoping to get a number of
ideas for future articles. If anyone has any feedback on what they would
like to see in future issues, please let me know. >>
I wish you a great time in your new position. I have a suggestion: an issue
dedicated to the spirit plane. No rules required.


Sergio Mascarenhas


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