Initiation,kinship, bits

From: John P Hughes (
Date: Mon 18 Apr 1994 - 23:22:31 EEST

Howdy folks, John Hughes reporting for temple duty. Please, not the guided teleport room again....

When Voria blooms in the darkness
Her blossoms swing light from each tree When Dragon awakes and spreads fire
It's then that our land will be free.

BROO GRASS Lewis, why do Aldryami eat Broo Grass? Wouldn't that assist in propagating it's seeds?

And isn't broo grass a chaotic musical style? :-(

CULTURAL INITIATION - MY TWO BOLGS WORTH The discussion has certainly been a stimulating one, but to my mind a lot of unnecessary attention has been paid to RQ rules rather than to human and community behaviour.

In my own explorations of Glorantha, I always try to keep in mind that the rules, especially those relating to magic and cults, are (very!) rough simulations and abstractions created for gaming purposes rather than ethnographic descriptions of Gloranthan reality. I treat them with cautious disrespect.

Point One: most Gloranthan settlements are of a size that the adolescent children are known to most of the village. Even in most cities, if the culture is organised along clan or tribal lines, individual 'suburbs' or blocks would grow up composed mostly of members of individual tribes. 'Welcome to Aldachur. You seek Thunderstone of the Tovtaros Tribe? Those Ironspike folk dwell along the north watchtower, near where the main sewer goes under the wall. Go there and ask the women at the well or the men in the dyehouse.'

Point Two: what do we mean by the game abstraction 'sacrificing POW' whether temporary or permanent? OK, granted that some part of your essence is absorbed into the temple or the god(dess) and you sometimes get NEAT spells (the main game phenomena) - but what are the other correlates? Worship, prayer, involvement in temple ritual such as singing or drama, listening to or reciting sacred stories, training or being trained (not the highly specialised cult skills, but 'Godsday School' stuff like how to dance windershins or 'Sacred Hymns To The Wind A101'). In essence - community involvement centred on the temple - interestingly the one thing that most questers of the wargaming/monster-bashing school tend to avoid. No wonder it's such a rules abstraction.

Point Three is similar - what does it mean to pass an Initiate test? And how does a priest decide if your Jump Skill is 45% or 50% or 55% or whatever? How important is exact (abstract) qualification against the fact that you're reasonably 'proficient' in the major cult skills, are obviously eager (you spend all your free time baiting Lunar traders in the local hophouse or publicly singing heroic cult ballads till the moon turns blue) and that the priest has known you all your life (plus your relatives, who probably contribute a substantial proportion of his income).

Which brings me to - 'any temple on a holy day'. By this I mean that most priests are in a position to KNOW prospective initiates reasonably well, and that cultic barriers are probably a lot more fluid that the games abstractions indicate. And of course, not everyone in a church is baptised/sealed/elected/circumcised or whatever. If some snotty-nosed brat whose breasts are only just beginning to bud hangs around your temple wanting to listen to the stories, watch the training and handle your iron sword, wouldn't you encourage her - even if you knew she was a regular out on Old Windbag's hill?

Elaborate formal standardised induction tests seem to me fairly alien to most Gloranthan religions, and religious authorities checking up on them even more so. Can you imagine a Jaw of Krarsht doing a tour of the temples, checking the books to make sure no one slipped in with only 48% Scream Obscenity?

The nexus of any temple is it's community, and the criteria for acceptance depends on whether or not the priest is convinced of your suitability IN THE BROADEST TERMS. So trust the priest, and hope to the Goddess the priest trusts you. Even if no formal category such as 'lay member' (remember lay members?*) or 'friend of the temple' exists, you can be sure that the local priest will either make one up especially for you, or treat you as well as the other initiates - if your attitude is right.

Similarly, even if you're wearing an iron breastplate, no priest in her right mind will let you inside the temple unless your piety can be independently verified or you're willing to crawl a lot and be treated like nobody while she assesses you. And if you've done anything, even in the name of your god, that the local temple disapproves off, well it's time to move on ironboy. So check local temple politics before you slice a tax collector and then run to the Wind Temple to hide.

Once upon a time, roleplaying rule-systems were designed for psychopath(et)ic murderers interested only in maximum violence (the characters! the characters!) and anything relating to human interaction was abstracted into a die roll so that no time was lost in fighting the next illuminated chaotic Eurmalian were-vineyard. I'd like to think those days are passing, even if sections of the RQ rules relating to cultic acceptance do carry a lingering odour.

So I say have a healthy disrespect for the rules, and a greater respect for roleplaying and for the community of worshippers that constitute the temple. By Arkat, that was the way I learned what my religion was about, rather than just what spells and skills it taught! I guess this makes me a member of the non-abstracted interpreted-interaction low initiate pantheon initiation faction!

'A chaotic illuminated Eurmalian were-vineyard has been sighted? Lets kill i... I mean, lets ask the parish council if it's alright to kill it! Right after I finish this 'Sacred Tapestry Weaving' class!' :-)

I wander her hills and her valleys
And still through my sorrow I see
A land that has never known freedom
And only her rivers run free.

ALEX ON KINSHIP Alex's diagrams continue to haunt me...

^ "Is it always the case that these relationships are
_symmetric_ though?^

It can go either way. 'Direct exchange' works best for smallish communities, but from a MLD's point of view asymmetric relationships are best for intrigue, politicing etc. You may have to get three or more clans on side to pull off a particularly shaky marriage deal, (or a break-the -marriage deal for that matter).

Kinship Rule 1: MAKE IT UP! Human kinship is not only weirder than you imagine, it's weirder than you can imagine! (with apologies to Prof. Haldane).

Confession time, Alex. Most anthropologists HATE kinship systems :-). We suspect that the people who make a special study of them are frustrated symbolic logicians who should be locked away in a mathematics department. Kinship has very little to do with biological relationships, and has everything to do with the symbolic construction and ordering of the world, politics and keeping outsiders who ask stupid questions (anthropologists) hopping. The rule systems are never written down, and always seem to be changing - it's like being permanently 'gregged' :-). In regard to your second question:

^ can it be that each skin divides the tribe up into 'Us' and
'Them' in distinct ways.

Arghh! Well yes, it is possible and it certainly does occur, but I suspect your players would lynch you if you tried to put it on them. 'Let me get this straight. Clan A and Clan B are allied against Clan C, but members of Clan C regard Clan A as ritual friends but can never trade anything with Clan B. Clan D on the other hand...'

I just don't want to think about it.

Yep, it's so weird it can only be true. These bizarre alliance combinations (both globe and lozenge) are probably made up by clan elders to justify their existence: they're the only ones who actually understand the whole system, and are continually called upon to negotiate exchanges. Often you can't even borrow a cup of sugar without five intra-clan meetings and three rituals; and the sugar will have to pass through three clans before it gets to you; will be repaid (plus three pigs and an umbilical cord) to an entirely DIFFERENT clan, and borrowing the sugar this time means that clan X can borrow a glass of milk from you at any time in the future. (This is humorous but fairly accurate!). Its not the goods, the trading, that is important but the MEETING and the TALKING.

Kinship Rule Two: Keep it simple!

As I suggested in the kinship article, MAKE UP something simple and let your players get used to things a little bit at a time. An avoidance relationship or two, a restricted marriage category or an illicit romance between banned partners can generate lots of plot hooks. Leave the 16 skin bilateral shifting alliance tribes to masochists or bored mathematicians.

^ Do these relationships change over a prolonged period?
(or periodically?)

Something else too frightening to contemplate. These relationships are usually fairly stable, but sometimes have to adapt to catastrophes like war, famine, population explosion or (a perennial Orlanthi problem) simply wiping each other out! In my own tribe, the Tovtaros of Northern Sartar, the Ironspike clan has nearly become extinct because of its strong cultic allegiance to Orlanth Martial and the leadership of a nearly invincible thane who keeps surviving full-frontal charges even if his followers don't. However, the tribe has always had a smallish 'adoptee' clan called 'The Exiles', reserved for newcomers who wished to settle (originally Tarshish, of course). Not surprisingly, this clan has been swelled by southerners since the Lunar invasion and has taken over many of the tribal duties traditionally carried out by the Ironspikes. Lucky the Orlanthi don't have intricate arranged marriage systems to worry about!

There's a nice section in King of Sartar on the Colymar Clans (pp 205-209) that is full of ideas for Orlanthi inter- clan relations.

I drink to her sons and her daughters
Those ones who would rather have died
Than to live in the cold chains of bondage To bring back the rites we're denied.

Where are you know that we need you,
What thunders where storm used to be?
All gone, like the rains of last season And only our rivers run free.

How sweet is life but we're crying
How mellow the mead but we're dry
How fragrant the grape but it's dying
How gentle the wind but it's ice.

^ In your GIE, John, what did the other players do? Did
^ get to be, frex, the hawk possible-totem? Or the sea? I
^ think of lots of cool possibilities, and with a facilitator, it
^ shouldn't get mushy. (I can see how it could turn into
^ something from one of those acting classes where the
^ teacher has the students do all kinds of weird things, but
^ lets hope not.

Spot on comment Martin. First of all, the exercise is a storytelling exercise, a co-creation between the player/character and the MLD. In this particular case, the other players didn't intervene at all, but accompanied the unfolding tale with clapper sticks and soft drumming. (Yeah, I know it sounds all sensitive third-age, but it WORKS really well). In situations where I'm prepared ahead of time (usually convention modules I must admit) I DO sometimes assign brief NPC roles for player characters, usually in dreams, visions of flashback sequences. The trick is to have a brief (one paragraph!) character sheet, and a simple goal stated in plain language: 'Your goal as the water spirit is to scare/threaten the trader with the vague suggestion that she will kill her lover with her own hand.'

Some multiforms and other 'roleplaying theatre' games can go off the deep end; they're certainly for (experienced) players who take the co-creation / mutual storytelling ethic seriously. On the Australian Convention Circuit (where we have a healthy tradition of experimental gaming going back to the mid eighties) we have what we call 'The Roleplaying Contract'. This document encourages players to take responsibility for involving all other characters and to creatively add to the plot while not straying from the storyline.

However, the GIE is not one of these. It occurs within the context of a vision, and involves only one player exploring her creative imagination through the matrix of her character: Literally ANYTHING can and should happen. It can also be brought to an end at any time: the MLD simply suggests that bodily sensations and consciousness are returning.

What good is a youth when it's aging
What joy is an eye that can't see
When there's sorrow in stormwind and shower And still only our rivers run free.

John P. Hughes                             "When a Lhankor Mhy 
Department of Archaeology & Anthropology   approaches, the gods 
Australian National University             depart."			   Praxian Wisdom



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