Nonhumans again; Mostali et al

From: Vesa Lehtinen (
Date: Fri 23 Jan 1998 - 20:25:12 EET

Referring to the latest discussion about nonhumans:
        There are two extremes in the handling of nonhumans;
        In one end there is an utopian interspecies bliss with
complete understanding. Even if it would not be unlikely and
unrealistic, it would be rather boring. Seems also extremely
        In another end is a typical AD&D approach where most
NPC races are automatically Chaotic/Neutral/Lawful Evil. I
consider this also very boring but it is rather common.
        One of the strengths of Glorantha is that it is not,
unlike very many other fantasy worlds, overtly dualistic as a
whole. Sure, humans are afraid of trolls and for a good reason.
But trolls are not AD&D orcs who can hunt and kill for no other
reason than having Alignment called Chaotic Evil. They are
raiding the homestead because they are *hungry*! Or for other
comprehensible reasons.
        However, I have seen scens where the only
purpose of a nonhuman NPC - usually troll - is that
the PCs can kill him. With all due respect, I think that
using that NPC for a purpose of gaining experience checks for
combat skills is just as stupid as killing orcs for a sole purpose
of collecting experience points.
        IMO it is a waste to use a nonhuman (uz, aldryami,
mostali, whatever) merely for combat encounters without a
very good reason. If a troll clan begins to regularly raid
especially the area your clan holds dear, fight them all right -
but I think that the roleplaying part of the scen should
include finding what the heck is going on (And you have my
permission to call this "problem-solving"). But if the only
interaction between humans and trolls, for example,
is combat you just as well go back to dungeon-bashing.
        However, making nonhumans more "human" -
for what it's worth - goes beside the point. If you want a
character that behaves like a human, use a human character.
Interaction of any kind - combat included - with a Mostali
factory, Troll caverns or elf forest should not be like a walk
throught a Central Park. I do not want to run and roleplay
scens where they behave like 20th-century humans.
        And I do think that what makes trolls what they are is
that they are *nocturnal*, period. And even if they were
mellowing flower-power dancers (which they are not) they
should be nocturnal.
        I also think that behind every kind of social system,
there is a reason why it was formed like this. Biological,
sociological, magical, whatever. Calling it stupid just
because you do not understand why, tells more
about your perceptions that about the background.
        (There; got it out of my system)

BTW, Chris claimed that:
>Sergio writes
>> Look, putting
>> trolls to dark places is like imagining monsters under your
>> bed in the night. And like thinking that the abandoned house
>> is haunted. So usual, and, somewhat boring.
        No, he did not. That was Panu.

Nick Brooke
>You mean like committing genocide and killing gods, the way those
>classic GDQ modules end up? Sorry, Glorantha's not written to be that
>kind of world.'
        Poor choice of words, I'm afraid, Nick. I presume
you were referring to AD&D approach where PCs kill
truckloads of orcs and goblins and kill gods to get their
treasure. Yet another way to gain XP.

        To note, I do not dislike Mostali.
        I think that the expression of "world machine" in the
mundane planer actually refers to the Mostali society as a
whole. They consider themselves to be the most important p
art of the world - just like m,ajority of the human societies,
Uz and Aldryami. Every Mostali is a part of the world machine
and their overseers try to make them "well oiled".
        I also think that if they want somebody to replace
sprockets, they build a Nilmerg which are far easier to create;
Average mostali do have some ability to design but, from the
modern point of view, it is limited. Iron dwarf is able to repair
his musket, for example, maybe even "personalize" it but
would not start adding touch-triggers, scopes or (gasp) rifling.
 "Don't fix it unless it is broken" is probably originally their phrase.
        (I do think that dwarves could have some kind of
crossbow sights - reportedly Chinese had one for theirs.
I also think that different Dwarven regions have different
technologies - muskets of Nida, cannons of Dragon Pass,
hand grenades of Greatway, to list those I know of)
        Mostali are technologically superior compared to
the rest of the Glorantha, that's true. However, even IRW
the technological or even the numerical superiority does
not mean everything, warfarewise. Besides, once they
were stuck to a certain troops tactics, other species
surely invented numerous ways to counteract it. So
Nidans (and others) increased their defenses instead
of relying on offense.
        Mostali technology is not exactly Industrial
Revolution. They do have steam engines IMG, but of
Newcomen variety (first steam engines from 1700's that
were so massive they were mainly used to pump water
from mine shafts), not James Watt. And I am not sure
they would have Difference Engines, for example.
        Mostali are the masters in the world of material
mechanics. That also makes their worldview very mechanical.
In a "religious" sense, World Machine is probably Mostali
version of, say, Cosmic Axis Mundi and exists in the God plane.
        This mechanistic world view includes the "magic
ecology" and does not resemble 20th century materialism.
Shamanistic spirits - which malkioni see minor devils - are
to Mostali like what a diode or a transistor is to a modern
electrician - just part of the machine at large - and spells
are what software means to a human computer programmer.

        What is wrong with the world machine ? It does not
work like they want, that's what.
        I remember reading somewhere that mostali nod when
Red Moon rose and said something like "exactly in schedule".
I think that "repairing a world machine" is a Mostali version of
HeroQuest; Lunars send troops to fight Valind, Mostali send
repair and recovery teams to "restore the balance" - for what
it's worth...
        Also, in the original Krarsht writeup (in Cult of Terror)
Mostali do, in occasion, meet krarshtkids underground but that
dwarves prefer harder materials (granite, marble and basalt) and
krarsthkids live in "softer" ground.

Quack, Quack,
Death to Argrath
Vesa "Aku" Lehtinen


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