Re: RuneQuest Daily, Tue, 17 May 1994, part 1

Date: Wed 18 May 1994 - 02:18:48 EEST

Devin Cutler here:

Jesper Wahrner makes some good points about RQ and Glorantha, but I think he fails to realize that their will always be a schism between Glorantha as a literary creation and Glorantha (RQ) as a game.

While a good literary creation does have to possess internal consistency, it does not have to provide, in full view of the public, a formulised mechanism for its inner workings.

Because a literary creation is bereft of such a requirement, it can be as imaginative and complex and as richly woven as the author's mind can imagine.

A game, needing to provide consistent functional mechanics with which to describe not only a finite list of set circumstances which might arise in a literary creation, butalso any number of infinite situations that will arise during role playing, can only approach accurate description of a literary setting at a cost of complexity and playability.

Let's face it, for RQ to mirror Glorantha even closely, the way Glorantha is currently evolving (i.e. one god = 250 cults or vice versa), there would probably need to be a 50,000 page rulebook.

This dichotomy between Glorantha (the literary creation) and RQ (the gaming creation) is often at the heart of many of the debates on the net. It is also, IMHO, one that is key to the question of RQ's survival (and Glorantha's) and has roots in my well documented beefs with Greg Stafford.

I will leave my finer points to anyone wanting to discuss this with me in private, but suffice to say that I see two camps in the RQ/Glorantha field:

  1. The Scholars
  2. The Gamers

The scholars really tend to focus on Glorantha as literary creation. They tend to despise the RQ rules as God "Learnerisms" and generally seem more interested in Glorantha as a vehicle for examining ethno/socio/mythological processes rather than as a medium for entertainment.

The gamers tend to focus on the game mechanics. They enjoy Glorantha for the most part, but only as a vehicle in which to enjoy role playing games. Not all gamers (I include myself here) are hack and slashers. We simply put entertainment value first and foremost. We still crave a consistent and
"realistic" gaming world, just not one that has become hostile to the fact
that it was designed to be gamed in, not to serve as a tool of study.

IMHO, Glorantha is daily becoming more and more hostile to Gamers. The constant switching and playing around with "game world history", et el, makes it extremely difficult to engage in any sort of campaign. For example, I try to follow Glorantha as much as I can, but I do not enjoy setting up an entire scenario around the fact that Kolat existed in Godtime, and then finding out that he was a God Learner construct.

Similarly, despite any brilliant explanations to explain the Elmal/Yelmalian switcheroo, the move sucks, and has really bolluxed a number of campaigns out here in California.

Changing rules (i.e. from RQ2 to RQ3) is one thing, and that can be traumatic enough to a campaign that strives for internal consistency, but taking established facts (i.e. in CoP, Yelmalio IS the one who is revered by Hill Barbarians, he IS the one ambushed at the Hill of Gold, he IS the one worshipped in Dragon Pass) and then tossing them into the shitter really rubs me the wrong way.

Similarly, I am becoming less enamoured of how cults are being handled. Why this need for so many different cultic variations over Glorantha (i.e.
"...what we really need is a cult of Yelmalio for Peloria, one for Prax, one
of Pavis, one for Grazelanders, one for Sartar...")? Yes, cults varied wildly here on earth, but Glorantha is not earth.

I do not find it unreasonable in the least to find that, say, Humakt is worshipped in exactly the same manner in Esrolia, Prax, and Ralios. Why? Because Humakt lives in the world of Glorantha. He speaks directly with his worshippers, he shatters the swords of apostates, he grants Divine Magic. In other words, unlike Terran deities, which are notoriously absent from direct intervention during modern times, the Gloranthan deities manifest themselves actively and continually.

I do not find it unreasonable to believe that Humakt himself, through Divinations and the like, has prescribed a single mode of worship throughout Glorantha.

I mean, let's face it, if the Jews were constantly receiving direct updates from Yaweh on a weekly basis, Judaism (or any other religion) would probably become a very uniform affair. Regional differences in religions arise because of human interpretations (which differ) regarding how God wants people to act.

Back to the two camps, suffice to say that I don't see the purpose of Glorantha as primarily a means of mirroring and examining Terran people's relationships with myths, and therefore, Gloranthan society should not deign to mirror Terran analogues. I see Glorantha as a superb place in which to role play Runequest.

As long as the scholars continue to "run the show", I feel that Glorantha will likely become a wonderful literary creation (and fiction should be published) but will die as a game. Certainly, new players will be extremely intimidated by a game system where the world can change at a whim, where the gods they read about in one supplement (GoG or CoP) are determined to be later constructs in another. Such multiplicity and changeability make for great scholarly debates but they really bite when you try and GM in that environment.


Devin Cutler

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