How Glorantha Works

From: Jane Williams (jane@williams.nildram.co.uk)
Date: Sat 02 May 1998 - 01:08:40 EEST


A few ideas have been coalescing since the debates on the size of the Sky
Dome, and the theist/atheist arguments on who gets blown over more or less
forced me to pull them into shape. This isn't by any means complete, but
it may be a step in the right direction.

Apologies in advance for the very loose terminology: I'm not into
metaphysics, so have probably misused some terms.

The atheist (if Glorantha had such, but let's not get into that), as I
understand it, sees the world as controlled and explained by a set of
laws. These laws include geometry, physics, chemistry, genetics, and so

on. For the purposes of convenient reference, let's group them all
together under the heading of Mundane Law.

The theist (and the mystic, and shaman, etc, etc.) sees the world as
controlled and explained partly by these (for the minor stuff, where it
doesn't matter), but much more by what I want to call Mythical Law. This
says things like "when Yelm is stronger than Orlanth, the sun shines
through the clouds". It determines that if three sisters attempt a
difficult task, only the youngest will suceed. You might summarise it as
"things work the way the stories say they ought to work", with an extra
helping of "as above, so below". And, of course, Mythic Law isn't as cut
and dried as Mundane Law: 1+1=2 everywhere, but there can be
disagreements about How the Sun Died.

Mundane Law and Mythic Law often come up with different answers to the
same problem. Given that the Sky Dome is a hemisphere, and is thousands of
miles across, how high is the centre? The diameter divided by 2, or "you
can jump there from the top of the highest mountain"? In Glorantha, both
of these answers can be true. It depends on which set of laws you persuade
to apply to the situation. If you pull out a theodolite and a set of
cosine tables, Mundane Law will apply. If you climb a mountain, pray to
Orlanth, and jump, Mythic Law will take over.

Magic, as a general rule, consists of convincing Mythic Law to apply where
Mundane Law would normally control things.

On the Heroplane, only Mythic Law applies. Heroquesting consists of using
that to alter things in the HP, then convincing the mundane world to

follow suit.

Without someone deliberately concentrating on one set of laws or the
other, which controls things, Mundane or Mythic? That depends on which is

strongest. And that depends on who has been reenforcing each one. Mundane
Law tends to win (Entropy being a part of Mundane Law!), but every act of
magic or worship in Glorantha strengthens Mythic Law. And this is a very
good thing. Take a look at Glorantha: it's a lozenge floating on an ocean,
in the middle of a sphere or three. What do you think would happen if
Mundane Law won, and Gravity noticed what was going on? That's why the
Sacred Time ceremonies are so important. No matter what event they
reenact, they reenforce Mythic Law. And without Mythic Law, Glorantha
would not exist.

Comments? I don't *think* this contradicts anything, does it?

Jane Williams jane@williams.nildram.co.uk
http://homepages.nildram.co.uk/~janewill/gloranth/

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