Magic, Baths of Nelat, Computer Game

From: Stephen Martin (
Date: Fri 17 Oct 1997 - 22:29:16 EEST

Michael Morrison:
Cake>> ;Which would seem to preclude the possibility that you can be
>> magically intrinsically tough without studying a particular tradition.

>Yes, it would.

>Gloranthans are born with the _potential_ for magic in a magical world.
>My proposed system says that with no training, no help from any sources,
>a person would not learn how to increase or use that potential, and so
>would not be able to "do" magic. Being raised in a particular culture
>gives you the information or spiritual knowledge you need to use your
>magical potential. Or being visited by spirits or gods or other beings
>from the otherworld can give that information or knowledge. A
>in a spiritual and cultural vacuum does no magic, IMHO.

In most respects, I agree with Michael's opinion here -- with rare
exceptions, a Gloranthan born in the wild will never learn magic. Feral
broo are a good example of this, IMO.

The few exceptions are the province of heroes, sagas, and legends, and
only serve as the exception that proves the rule. I think it is important
that all magic in Glorantha, for humans at least, be tied to specific
magical traditions, whether that tradition is Divine, Shamanic,
Sorcerous, or merely basic craft/family-type magic (which I am in favor
of treating Spirit Magic as, in certain cases).

>A side effect of this view is that standard creatures (fixed INT) also
>have a potential for magic, but never learn to use it. A creature that
>can use magic is special, a magical creature, I don't want every rabbit
>in the forest casting spells left and right for every possible purpose.
>Glorantha is magical, not ridiculous.

At one point, Chaosium was considering the idea that most animals had a
small amount of magic which they could instinctively cast -- a lion might
know Clawsharp, a rabbit Mobility, a turtle Protection, etc. In a stress
situation, they would instinctively cast the spell.

I do like this idea, even though it was never developed very far. It
allows for some interesting effects -- explains why some big cats are
really fast (cheetahs), others are very deadly (lions), others have a
reputation for stealth (tigers). Could explain the old myth of pythons
charming their prey into not moving. Although not _all_ animals would
have such magic, I think that some should.

In different parts of Glorantha, the same species might have different
spells. Thus, in Teshnos tigers would have a reputation for being very

stealthy hunters, since some tigers might instinctively cast the Silence
spell. In southern Peloria, tigers might be known in folk tales as deadly
and violent monsters, because some of them instinctively cast Fanaticism.

There are a number of ways to justify this magically -- since all tiger
hsunchen humans are reborn as tigers, some might very well be born into a
tiger who is not associated with a tiger hsunchen tribe. Especially since
the tiger hsunchen are close to extinct now. Couldn't some of them retain
some instinctive memory of the tribe's favored spells?

Also, a very small percentage of most species are naturally born with
intelligence, per the published sources. This gives two possibilities:
first, all animals might be possible of learning magic only if they are
somehow taught it, and they can then cast it instinctively. Does no good
to teach a rabbit Disrupt, as it can only cast it instinctively, and
cannot target it without free INT. But, if I was an intelligent deer, and
I somehow learned a useful spell liek Mobility, wouldn't it be in my best
interest to teach my non-sentient kin and herd-mates the same spell, so
they would be around for me to mate with, to help defeat predators, etc.

Secondly, if a small percentage of animals can be born with intelligence,
why can't a small percentage be born knowing some sort of instinctive

This makes for MGF IMO -- a crack PC hunter goes out to kill a deer, but
he can never quite seem to catch the (Coordination-using) animal -- it is
just too "clever" for him. Or, it just never seems to tire, thanks to its
instinctive anti-fatigue spell.

Also, although a Spell Spirit cannot operate a human or animal body if it
possesses it, does anyone think it possible that occasionally such a
spirit might be born into a human or animal form? Its a stretch, but such
a creature would then know its original spell, and could cast it
instinctively (that is what Spell Spirits do now anyways, cast their
spells instinctively).

BTW, this whole possibility implies that this is one way humans might
have originally developed or learned Spirit Magic. A very few were born
with the instinctive ability to cast a certain type of survival-oriented
spell. As the Great Darkness went on, and humans were hard-pressed to
survive, they eventually figured out how to teach others. This seems a
plausible origin for the family/craft-type magic some people seem in
favor of.

This also explains why most Spirit Magic spells are (and should) be very
physically-oriented -- no crop enhancements, no resurrection rituals --
just the ability to perform magical enhancements (as Greg once described
it in a short article I posted to the Digest awhile back).

Finally, this would also imply that a human could force an unintelligent
animal to learn a spell, then somehow train that animal to cast the spell
on command. Again, without full INT I don't think an attack spell could
be cast, nor a spell which the animal would cast on an object, but
wouldn't it be useful to have a warhorse that cast Mobility on itself
when you spurred it, or an alynx familiar that could cast Silence or
Conceal on itself when you whispered the right command in its ear with
Mindspeech? Again, MGF.

My thoughts on this matter, anyways.

>Current RQ has several different systems of magic all using one stat:
>POW. By using different stats, you could make the distinctions between
>the systems even greater. And even more bizarre for a user of one
>system when he or she encounters a user of a different system -- he or
>she wouldn't even have the common stat; the new system would be totally
>alien. And from a game POV, you couldn't train in different systems
>easily because you'd be an absolute beginner in a new system, with your
>stat for that system at or near zero.

Very similar to the different Ka stats in Nephilim. I think this is an
interesting idea, and had considered it as a possible basis for
Heroquesting. In addition to standard POW (equivalent to Sun-Ka),
heroquestors could develop Darkness POW, Water POW, Earth POW, Sky POW,
and Air POW, upon which some of their HQ abilities might depend. Thus, an
old Orlanthi heroquestor might have a high Air POW, even though his own
POW is relatively low in game terms.

This keeps HQ from becoming super-RQ, because you don't need a 55 POW to
survive. Your POW can remain at 18 (or even 12), but if your Air POW is
35, you can use it instead of regular POW at appropriate times (such as
when facing a spirit related to any of the elements). Comments?

And Michael's theory on diminishing magic in Glorantha is very
interesting, though I don't think it's true. Acts of Great Magic are
still very possible in the Third Age -- the Red Goddess, the Pharaoh, the
quintuple rebirth of Arkat, the return of the Waertagi, the (eventual)
reappearance of Brithos, the awakening of the Brown Dragon, almost
anything associated with Argrath (if you believe the sagas); need I go

Thomas Gottschall <>

>> Still, Glorantha can be magic-rich even if it's farmers are not.

>Is this really so ? Are not Barntar & Ernalda two of the most worshipped
>gods in Sartar ? I can quite easily see the worshippers having a lot of
>nice prayers for their daily work, one good to make the plow go faster
>through Ernalda, one to make the bull who pulls it tire less, one to
>bless the crops, one to make your scythe sharper, one to make the tools
>break less often, etc.
>Now why should a part of the populace who is needed in times of peace
>and war have less magic than the ordinary warrior ? Would not rather the
>opposite be the fact ?

Also, please note that all of the spells you mentioned above are very
easily adopted to war -- Plowsharp = Bladesharp, etc. This is one reason
the Orlanthi farmers make such good militiamen -- their inoffensive
farming spells work just as well when applied to weapons and war.

This may not be universal -- I could see it as a side-effect of the War
Clan/Peace Clan thing which has been discussed before. Most farmers in
Glorantha might only be able to use "Plowsharp" on a plow. But an
Orlanthi clan which has dedicated part of its Clan Spirit to War knows
that the spell will work on swords as well, with only a minor

Now, straight War Clans gain a benefit on their war magic, but my opinion
is that they cannot cast their Bladesharp spell on a Plow -- it just
don't work. And so their Peace Magic suffers. Peace Clans are the same in
reverse -- they are not able to modify their Plowsharp spell to work on a
sword. Flames?

V.S. Greene
>Well, what I want is something that will handle both the virtually
>magic-less sheepherders and the magic-mastering Heroes

What makes you think herders are "virtually magic-less"? An Orlanthi
herder is just as likely as a warrior to know his full INT in spells --
his spells are just more useful, like Detect Sheep, and Heal Sheep, and
Repair Broken Staff, and run Faster than a Sheep, and Not Get Tired When
Chasing a Sheep, and Become Strong Enough to Pick Up a Struggling Sheep,
etc. Peaceful spells are no less powerful than Warlike spells, they are
just a different type of magic.

Andrew Joelson
>> Why do you assume that Super Runequest stats or Conan the Barbarian
>> could re-enact the Baths of Neliot? What if the Baths test something
>> other than sheer physical toughness.....<snip>

>Because I heard Sandy Petersen say so at a con (GC IV, I think).
>Orlanth wnet there to gain knowledge; he emerged with the necessary
>knowledge/data/inspiration to perform the LBQ. Presumably that's why
>Harmast went there.....
>It is worth noting that Hwarin Dalthippa also succeeded there,
>and evidently went back there to 'retire from the world'.

What makes you think Hwarin Dalthippa did a Nelat quest? Also, Orlanth's
going to the Baths of Nelat has never, as far as I know, been directly

related to the Lightbringers' Quest, not even by Harmast. This myth and
quest explains why Orlanth is a wise god. It is similar (very) to Odin's
gaining wisdom from the head of the giant Mimr.

And, in fact, in one place it specifically states that Orlanth's prize at
the Baths of Nelat was Mastakos the Mover, implying that the gaining of
wisdom there is only one possible result of this quest. This is,

essentially, the place where Orlanth learned how to teleport.
In regards to questions on the Gloranthan computer game, I can offer a
bit of history.

A Gloranthan computer game was first started about 2-3 years ago by a guy
named Troy Selyem. He was converting the Dragon Pass boardgame into a
computer game. At some point, he basically disappeared, though I have
heard he may have resurfaced recently. I hope so -- the beta version I
saw, while very basic, was very cool and worked really well.

Although Greg like dthis project, he wanted more from it -- less of a
wargame, more of an interactive game. More culturally relevant than a
wargame. I heard that someone had started on the game, and I believe the
pictures are from that one. As far as I know, work is continuing on it,
though I have no knowledge of how the game works. But the art is cool,
you must admit -- if we could get someone to do art like that for the
fanzines, life would be great!

>Well, what I want is something that will handle both the virtually
>magic-less sheepherders and the magic-mastering Heroes, and that can
>both a world where the gods are little more than stories that invoke
>and where the gods are true and real entities. Something that can handle
>the various Glorantha gaming philosophies, something that can be used
>everybody on the list, and by the neophyte gamers.

>And _then_ I want world peace and universal prosperity. :)
[emphasis mine]

At least you have your priorities straight!

Stephen Martin
- -----------------------------------------------
The Book of Drastic Resolutions


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