Re: Elder Races

From: Nick Brooke (
Date: Wed 21 Jan 1998 - 22:13:05 EET

Sergio wants (and thinks nobody's giving him):

> non-human *PCs* with non-human motivations, non-human biology,
> etc., but which don't include necessarily a complete unability
> to live along with humans.

That's what we have. A *normal* elf, dwarf or troll wants to live
among humans, have humans for best friends, work for human ends,
etc. just as often as the reverse situation occurs (humans giving
up all of their time to elf, dwarf or troll concerns). There are,
however, exceptional/abnormal cases where members of any of these
Elder Races (and/or humanity) may make common cause with other

These are the "broken"/apostate dwarfs (who no longer devote every
thought to the service of the World Machine), "rootless" [not "ruth-
less"] elves (who don't hear the Song of the Forest and are freed
to follow other imperatives), and trolls who know humans. The fact
that Glorantha *institutionalises* the existence of some PC-worthy
members of the Elder Races, and specifically *allows* that they
may get along with humans, other races, etc., seems to me to give
you what you want. Then the Elder Race *societies* retain their
alien flavour (factory-worker/tree-hugger/hungry-scary-monster),
but you're fine to go ahead with "weird and different" PCs, and
indeed with "weird and different" Elder Race societies, if you so

> I'm not asking for "more human-like" Elder Races, I'm asking
> for "less Alien(the movie)-like" Elder Races.

Uh? I don't get this one: Grue and Broo are atypical. Try me again.

> The way you expose your argument is very interesting:

Why, thank you! I speak, of course, from a mix of personal experi-
ence and informed knowledge of the world. I'm delighted to have
interested you while doing so.

> you can play (unqualified) troll PCs in an all-troll setting;

I *have* played and refereed trolls, both in an all-troll scenario
and in mixed parties. Hell, my longest-running character ("when I
were a lad") was a Death Lord of Zorak Zoran! The greater ease of
playing trolls is partly because Uz are closer to humans (and to
RPG-monster norms) than the plantlike Aldryami and machine-slave
Mostali, and partly -- of course -- because so much more has been
printed about them. The two factors are of course linked.

> you can play *Rootless* elves (can I conclude that non-ruthless
> elves are unsuited for PCs?);

I understand the intention of the authors of RuneQuest/Gloranthan
sources has been to make "Rootless Elves" suitable for use as PCs:
other elves "ought" to be concerned with the well-being of their
own forest to a degree that would normally preclude their use as
player characters, though clearly there are settings (including
locations, scenarios, campaigns, adventurer parties...) where this
wouldn't be a problem. In general, Aldryami are as likely to get
involved in "meat animal" business as humans are to worry about
ecological balance, deforestation and environmental harmony: some
may, but they're weird.

My own gloss on this is that "immature" (PC) elves will, in the
course of time, "mature" into harmony with the Forest. It's quite
natural for young elves to wander forth, see the world, interact
with other species, etc.: and just as natural, in time, for them
to "set down roots" in a home forest and devote themselves to
its care, upkeep and feeding.

> you seem to think that dwarfs - if "broken" - can be played in a
> mixed party provided you integrate them in the party because of
> their *hilarity value*. Do I spot here a value scale?

Oh no, certainly not. I have few if any personal preferences, and
take great care to conceal such as I may possess whenever I post
to this Daily, remaining, as ever, strictly impartial and above
the fray... that's what you expect from me, isn't it? :-)

The Mostali dwarfs were intentionally written to be a parody of
industrialised factory-age culture: it wasn't for nothing that
the seminal article on the race (by Greg Stafford, in Different
Worlds #24) was called, "Why I Dislike Mostali". But even there,

there's an outlet: both apostate ("broken") and/or heretical (esp.
Openhandist or Individualist) dwarfs make *fine* player characters.

While *normal* dwarfs are fun, either for amusement value (cf. the
ES scenario-sequence where their general uselessness is revealed),
or as an alien, implacable, inhuman, crafty, scheming and greedy
race of monstrous foes, seeking to build their Doomsday Machine
and "repair" Glorantha, while doing so obliterating the "errors"
of Growth (cancerous), Free Will (distracting), Humour (obviously
faulty and counterproductive), etc., I'd suggest it's unlikely to
be much fun playing normal dwarfs in a normal dwarf context:

: Their life is set for them in exactly the way their parents did
: it, and as long as they do not fail in their ancient way then
: they, too, can join the assembly line right there next to mom
: and dad, and grampa, and great-grandpa, and great great grandpa
: ... (I cannot go on).
                        -- "Why I Dislike Mostali", GS, DW #24

The disadvantages of playing members of a race who (when orthodox)
strive to be obedient, unimaginative, humourless and inflexible
are easy to see. Better to lift them "out of context" -- which is
why I'd find it hard to use orthodox Mostali in a Mostali setting
as player characters in a RuneQuest game. Harder than Aldryami or
Uz, certainly.

Note that I've seen a highly amusing -- yes, it's that "fun" thing
again: Gods, does the man think of nothing else when he's playing
games -- scenario by Mike McGloin and Oliver Jovanovic, set in an
orthodox Mostali society, where the PCs are all secretly heretical.
This borrowed heavily from the idioms of the "Paranoia" RPG, in

which *everyone* is suspected of being a Commie Mutant Traitor,
belonging to Secret Societies, etc. -- and, in fact, every PC in
the game *is* a mutant traitor -- but where society's assumed
"norm" is that they're all loyal agents faultlessly obeying their
benevolent superiors. So all the dwarf PCs try to *look* "holier
than thou" -- ultra-orthodox, above suspicion, etc. -- in order
not to be suspected of deviance by the Nidan Conclave (Paranoia
players would say, "The Computer"). (But maybe that's too enjoy-
able for the apparent Portuguese role-playing idiom?)

> You think trolls and elves (and sometimes dwarfs) can be played
> by themselves, just like humans. If they can be played by them-
> selves, they certainly can be played together without making them
> clones of each other.

I'm *sure* they can be played, both by themselves and in groups of
other adventurers. Nobody's saying that all members of the Elder
Races are identikit clones without personalities or differences:
that'd be very unplayable (and uninteresting).

It's obviously easier for GMs to run scenarios and campaigns where
every player shares common objectives. This is why single-culture
(and single-cult) adventures and scenarios are usually so much more
interesting than generic dungeon-bashes: playing Yelmalion Militia

in "Gaumata's Vision" or one of the many Oz "Sun County" tournament
scenarios is *vastly* more fun IMO than playing a generic PC party
through the same experience. And that explains why I think it'd be
easier to have fun playing members of the Elder Races in a dedicated
campaign (where background, setting, plot, characters and nuances
all further exploration of the characteristics of Aldryami, Mostali,
Uz, or whatever society, myth, worldview, etc.) than as weird one-
off extras in a "normal" PC party (where the unique concerns of the
inhuman members are a distraction from the "common goal", and tend
to be sidelined, if only because the GM lacks time to explore them

You hate Dwarfs, I hate Ducks: that's why there's democratic politics
and horse-racing in this world. Opinions are bound to differ. Luckily
for both of us, it's easy to play games set in Glorantha without ever
needing to meet either a Dwarf or a Duck (or, thank gods both above
and below, a Grotaron).

> The phantom of *High Fantasy cliches* is yours: I never played AD&D
> or Tolkien-based games

Yur, but it's a valid one: that *is* what we're up against!

> [skip the demonstration that my examples could perfectly be
> applied in Glorantha]

That's the point: it's not a "demonstration of your examples", it's
a flat statement of accepted Gloranthan background, much of which
can be found in the major recent source for the Elder Races. But you
wrote this off as "silly" (why?), and proposed "your examples" as,
one is forced to presume, some novel alternative.

> I didn't denounce *all* [the AH supplements'] contents as "silly",
> only some.

What you wrote in V5#342 was: "Making elder races behave in silly
ways (and IMO this is what most recent materials about dwarfs, trolls
and elves achieve)"... Pardon me for assuming you found the contents
of the most recent source on dwarfs, trolls and elves "mostly silly"
on such scanty evidence.

> After all, Nick, it wasn't me that wrote:
> - That trolls are like head-bangers (remenber the discussion about
> troll music?)
> - About the *hilarity value of a "broken" dwarf*
> - About the *the f***ing Ducks*
> - About heavily RW-human-based sexuality for trolls
> - About trolls eating what-ever-you-like *'a l'orange*
> and other very, very human inspired cliches... :-)

Sadly, it wasn't. I live in hope that your contributions will, in
time, be as amusing and interesting as these bygone gems. :-)



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