Glorantha vs. Earth

From: Sandy Petersen (
Date: Tue 12 Apr 1994 - 06:38:49 EEST

Lewis propounds:

>Perhaps for Glorantha we should call it Petersen's Curse, but in the
>very dry regions of Pamaltela and the Praxian Wastes it would be
>knien as Salvation Sandy...

        Dear Lewis: Bite me.

Guy Robinson sez:

>The priest has sacrificed POW for his reusable spells and as such
>would treat Bless Crops spells differently from those that assure
>his defense and offensive capabilities...
>a Wizard has only the MPs that he has to hand. As all his spells
>use this source he might refrain from using them to allow him to
>hoard them to aid his defense

>The Priest however can cast his peacefull... spells and still have
>powerfull ... Magic to hand at a moment's notice

	I think this argument is erroneous. And here is why.
	Firstly, Guy, you apparently think that all Gloranthans live  
a life in fear and trepidation, needing handy attack magic available at all times. I think this is true only for adventurers and for citizens who dwell in lands that support adventurers. I don't think most priestesses of Ernalda ever enter hand-to-hand combat in their life. Neither do most western Wizards.

        Secondly, you must look at the magical ecology. If life is dangerous in the way you've described, to the point that priests and wizards must retain a goodly means of protection, then many priests are going to be worshipers of stuff like Humakt, Storm Bull, Golden Bow, etc. The peaceable cults of Barntar and Dendara will be less-around, because less-survivable. So the truly useful Rune spells like Bless Crops are going to be rare, because their priests are rare. But wizard's aren't restricted in this manner. One wizard can cast a protective spell as well as another, or a blessing. Hence, wizards are more flexible than priests. If the war's over, but everyone's already joined Zorak Zoran, you're stuck. None of your Rune levels are going to be able to quit and join Flamal now that crops and healing are the order of the day. But all a wizard has to do is learn a new spell to switch emphasis.

        Thirdly, you speak of the priest's POW as if it were an infinite resource. There's only so much POW a priest is going to sacrifice in his entire life. If he's spending some of it on Absorption or Earthpower, then that POW is NOT available for Bless Crops. Every point spent on self-indulgent protection is one less Bless Crops that you don't get access to in need. But the sorcerer can cast his own blessing spells at any time at any place. He is not as limited.

        Fourth and lastly, I think most folks greatly underrate the utility of specialization, which I believe to be a major factor in Gloranthan magic ecology. I think that in a cooperative wizard-using society like the Hrestoli and Rokari, there is a strong tendency for some wizards to be healers, some wizards to be crop specialists, some wizards to be combat-oriented, etc. If this is the case, your local farm wizard isn't going to be reluctant to enhance the growth of your prize pig because it will hurt his MPs for later usage. Some other wizard, with combat spells, will protect him against the Bad Wizards.

MOB sez:
>we don't know much about schooling in Glorantha do we?

        I find it hard to believe that there are schools (in the modern sense) anywhere in Glorantha. Organizations that teach specific skills exist, of course. How else would we learn how to read and write. Or ride? Or otherwise train our skills up. But not generalized organizations for teaching. I think that highly-civilized areas like the Lunar Empire, Kralorela, and the West might have the same sort of scholarly learning that the Ming dynasty supported.

        The Colleges of Magic of course, are simply the equivalent of a wizards' guild. Their training is perhaps more broad-based than the carpenters' guild (at least they probably learn more World Lore), but they are still not real universities, like the ones invented by the Arabs.  

Devin Cutler opines:
>I am extremely worried that Glorantha is becoming anthropologized.
>By this I mean that given regions in Glorantha become essentially
>transplanted Terran equivalents, to the detriment of the fantasy
>feel of the game.
>Pamaltela is quite obviously an amalgem of African and Australian

        I agree with Devin a lot.

        I can't speak for the weird Australian-oid material that has been coming out recently, all about "skins" and "Left-Hand path", etc. How closely is it based on Australian culture?

        I have striven in my own Pamaltelan material to create a new culture, unlike anything I know about in either Africa or elsewhere. The marriage custom is loosely based on a theme sometimes practiced by (I think) the Cheyenne, but the oasis stuff, the lineages, the marriage taboos, are all my own creation, only loosely influenced by what I've read anthropologically.

        Don't be misled by the black skins of the Doraddi. I've tried to make them Pamaltelan, not African, and not Australian.

        I think it's okay for a culture to have a certain "odor" of a parallel terrestrial culture. So the Lunars smell a little like the Greco-Romans, or the Carmanians are a little like the Persians. Such similarities help players to interact with the locals, and also helps gamemasters figure out what some unpublished aspect of society might be like, when they need to know it for their games. For instance, no one has ever written a text describing in detail what a celebratory feast is like in the Lunar Empire, Kralorela, Prax, or Sartar, but I bet anyone in the Daily could quickly slap one together for his players to participate in, and make it convincing, just by following the cultural biases of those regions. Of course, little extra tidbits would be thrown in by any good gamemaster to make it Gloranthan (i.e., the decadent Lunar feast would probably include walktapus and maybe even herd-man).

        But I feel, with Devin, that exactly adapting terrestrial cultures to Glorantha (as seems to have been done with the Pamaltelan "skins" material) is an error. Though my players know that Kralorela is "China", when they visit it and see it close up, they will quickly realize that the differences between the Dragon Empire and real-world China are profound.


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