Sorcery vs Lunar Magic in RQIV

From: Graeme Lindsell (
Date: Thu 24 Jun 1993 - 14:04:57 EEST

 Nick Brooke and MOB are both voting for replacing sorcery with Lunar magic in the base RQ4 package. I think it would be unwise to do this because:  

 i) There is no reason to believe a new version of lunar magic would be any less buggy than sorcery, and the old version of lunar magic in GoG is a particularly dull structure IMO. Dull because it is useful almost exclusively for killing people, and that's because spirit magic seems primarily useful for killing people, with some exceptions like glue, farsee and the detect spells. If we decide to introduce new Lunar magic into the book now, with less than a year to run, the playtesting will be just as difficult as introducing new sorcery rules now.  

 ii) Lunar magic is used by only a very small total number of people Glorantha-wide, and they are all found in the Lunar Empire. Even if RQIV is supposed to be based around Prax, Sartar, the Holy Country and the Lunars I believe it would be unwise to devote a large section of the RQIV basic rulebook to a form of magic that is very geographically restricted. I would rather see Lunar magic in a Lunar pack: very few PC's will ever have become Lunar magicians as they have to be illuminated first, and I haven't seen any Lunar magician NPC's in any of the published adventures. Sorcery has a much wider geographical range than Lunar magic as a technique: most regions of Glorantha have at least some sorcerers present. Sartar and Prax are exceptions rather than the rule, IMHO.

 iii) I agree with a previous poster who estimated that there are probably at least as many sorcerers in the lunar empire as there are lunar magicians.Those who know some sorcery will probably be even more common: the Lunar empire is civilized, and according to RQIII character generation 50% of civilized characters are taught sorcery. I know this is meant to apply mainly to whole civilizations not to just inside one culture but I still think that the Lunar Empire will have a fair percentage of its citizens knowing sorcery, apart from just the Carmanians.

 This would not be unaligned sorcery per se: I see the Lunar sorcerers as being related to the philosophical schools of Greece, the Stoics, Cynics, Epicureans etc. These were all concerned with "right living" more than the existance of divine entities, and I think that the sorcererous emphasis on natural laws would attract philosophers. As long as the philosophers accepted the supremacy of the Red Goddess they would be tolerated.

 I think this is in keeping with the Greco-Roman themes I see in the description of the Lunar empire (though I also feel there is a strong Byzantine influence as well). These philosophies were mainly attractive to the educated, who I see as the main users of sorcery in a society; I think in some parts of the empire it would be considered
"progressive" for an Irripi Ontor to know some sorcery, and be
conversant with these philosophies (much to the horror of the traditionalists, of course). They might be fairly common in Dara Happa amongst those unfortunate enough not to be able to trace their ancestry to Yelm. Using the Stoics et al is handy for the GM too, since there is a lot of history and philosophy he can adapt to a Lunar campaign.

 iv) I think the statement that sorcery won't work without a social context is untrue: the social context of spirit and divine magic as presented in my copy of the RQIII rules (GW hardbound) are pretty scant, and they work OK. Sorcery just needs a set of rules that aren't broken IMHO. RQIII presents the three types of magicians usually seen in myth (and in history): the tribal shaman, the priest and the sorcerer. To say that the first two can be described by generic rules, with specific data for each culture, but the last has to have new rules for each separate culture seems a bit stange to me, and might inspire new players that they are in for the kind of
"whole new rules in every supplement" treatment that I see in White
Wolf's Vampire stuff. IMO The base rule book has to include the generic rules for all three type of magician plus a specific cult write-up for all three.

 v) I'm puzzled as to why Chaosium decided to invent a whole new set of rules for Lunar magicians. The Lunar magicians seem to fit the description and origin of sorcerers pretty well (civilized origin, educated, lot of training needed). If we had an unbroken sorcery system I'd make the lunar magicians another school of sorcery, with an emphasis on mental and illusion powers, unique chaos sorcery that derives from Illumination, and having the same lunar cyclical effects as lunar rune magic. Thus inside the Glowline all these sorcerers would have spells twice the intensity of normal sorcery.

 If we were to leave sorcery out of RQIV I would use the space for an expanded list for spirit magic, to give it less of that combat only feel (where, for example are the spells that induce mental states other than fear, confusion or anger?), or for some more expanded cult write-ups, rather than for a form of magic used almost exclusively by NPC's in a limited, if important area of Glorantha.


 PS: I think RQIII is actually as deficient in its treatment of tribal/animistic cultures as it is of sorcerers: all tribes have the same generic full range of spirit magic, they are only distinguished by the rune magic they all seem to have, not by their spirit magic. The pure shaman is just as dull as the pure sorcerer. I think all the animist cultures should have some spells forbidden ("the darkness spirits are enemies of the tribe"), most available as per usual, and some available for free or even without needing the INT to memorize them: "Due to the pact made by Wozden the Founder, we are allied to the fire spirits of the land" ->members of the tribe Ignite, Extinguish, Firearrow and Fireblade at half the normal cost in INT to memorize, though the MP cost is the same.

Graeme Lindsell                      Email:


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