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Stew Stansfield

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About Stew Stansfield

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    Stew Stansfield, duck-fondler
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  1. Every role-playing game and world likes its exceptionalism, and promoting it doesn't always come across well. But, that danger aside, Glorantha is quite possibly unique in that it was developed not only as a sandbox to tell stories, but to understand how and why stories work. As a world of myth, it focuses on stories, the power we invest in them and the power they have over us; how they resonate in our lives; how they provide meaning and structure. And that power will vary from listener to listener, irrespective of what the storyteller intends. So on the one hand, we have a world of mythos. And on the other hand, particularly in the form of a game like RuneQuest, we have the prism of logos. Role-playing games, and geek fandoms in general, tend to be very logos-heavy. We categorise, reduce and determine. There is a fundamental tension there; sometimes fun, sometimes clunky. As the Gloranthan community started to draw together, particularly in online form, we engaged in communal debate and storytelling, and discussing Greg (and others') creation. The logos was strong, as it always is. 'Your Glorantha May Vary' started as a very mild reminder that Glorantha, as a world of mythos, is not about rationalising a world down into single greater and common truths, or worshiping at Greg's unimpeachable altar, but more about exploring the meaning and power we get from it ourselves. And to enjoy that. As we as a fandom still didn't quite get that at times, the saying hardened into 'Your Glorantha Will Vary'. That's all I ever saw it as, I guess. It's certainly how I use it. And, looking at our fandom at times, I'm not convinced the need has disappeared. (I do agree that it should be used with purpose, however; and not littered around like confetti as a weak shibboleth.)
  2. A somewhat mischievously contrary point, but since we're talking about a phenomenon that is in part about challenging the very basis and ownership of knowledge and understanding... Duck Tricksters worship Humakt. It's fairly obvious when you think about it. We're used to Tricksters being modelled as provocative, contrary and absurd figures that challenge cultural insight and convention. But what happens when the cultural norm is itself provocative, contrary and absurd? But that is perhaps not the main reason. Greg was, for the most part, content to leave ducks as a lightly sketched and ambiguous element in the margins of Glorantha. But, very occasionally, he had a rummage and dug a little deeper. One of the most interesting insights was his belief that ducks are, like Delecti, liminal. Inbetweeners. Defined as either one thing nor another, but with potential to each. Between satire and seriousness, tragedy and comedy, acceptance and derision, Man and Beast, etc. Liminality is one of the most interesting and poweful concepts in myth, but also—by its very nature—one of the most difficult to describe. Greg said that he believed the ducks' relationship to the Death rune was a "misinterpretation" of their inbetweenness. That relationship itself highlights the tension often inherent in liminality; the lack of resolution. Because Death is Separation; the clear push over the threshold into another state; resolution and the crossing of the boundary. But the entire condition of ducks is rooted in irresolvable ambiguity. So your little warbling Death-cultists provoke and challenge the very basis of reality for the Durulz as much as your, say, Eurmali does elsewhere. And consider that several stories have the duck-people and Delecti living a curiously symbiotic and almost neutral co-existence: Mutually Assured Liminality. Duck Humakti gnaw at the security of this existence by provoking the necromancer and his minions at every opportunity, and questioning truths. Tricksters. A lot of people use ducks as a light-hearted, silly, mundane antidote to the mythic basis of Glorantha. But they're got a few provocative stories to teach us, too. Unsurprising, really, as they're Tricksters to us as their Humakti are to them...
  3. Now some specifics. Caladralanders gets thrown around a lot, to our occasional ire. Caladrians was mooted as the proper exonym a while back, but there's been some backsliding. The endonym they use is Karkudja (History of the Heortling Peoples, p. 6). 'Kar' seems to reference kin or progeny and its relationship — Greg told me that the name Veskarthan means 'Great Father'. Their founder and ancestor God is thus Kudja (ibid.). Another critically important hero is the Silver Age heroine Tessele the True, who has been described in somewhat different ways (as noted in my post above) by Greg and Chuck. She is named as the "demigoddess leader of the tribe" at the Dawn, but is occasionally ascribed greater qualities. (I'll edit this when I find the reference.) Gender is one of the most consistently misunderstood aspects of the Twins. While this is in part because gender-inflected elemental essentialism is so strong in Glorantha, the fact that no-one bothers to read the cult write-up doesn't exactly help, either. (Grrr.) Here is what Chuck wrote: Role of Men and Women in the Cult: By the evident nature of the cult, men and women are equally able to take up any role offered by the cult. Women identify with Caladra and men with Aurelion, but either sex can identify with the Hot (purifying, warrior) or Earthy (fertile, nurturing) aspects of the Twins. The ultimate goal of the worshipper of either sex is to master both in Harmony. - Tales of the Reaching Moon #7, pp. 28–29. And this is the crux of the cult. It isn't the disparate union of a fire entity and an earth entity, with radically different and separate powers - but the union of two entities that shared their powers equally with each other ("So great was their joy that the Twins resolved to share ever after their elemental natures -- Fire Within Earth.") and encourage and expect their followers to do likewise. I'm not sure why I keep bothering to type this, as no bugger pays any notice. Chuck doesn't mention the gender of the Fire cult the God Learners found in Caladraland ("They discovered two obsucre cults, Aurelion, a minor Earth god of Jrustela, and Caladra, a subcult of Lodril located in Kethaela."), but Greg refers to the Dawn Age Caladrians worshipping "Caladra, Volcanic Goddess" in History of the Heortling Peoples. (Like I said, I'm not sure they were on the same page, but...)
  4. First, a general note. Caladraland is a conflation of two separate ideas and approaches. On the one hand you have Greg's stories about Lodril/Veskarthan; on the other you have Chuck Huber's stories about the Volcano Twins. Caladra and Aurelion were adapted on their inclusion by Greg into his world, but many aspects are idiosyncratically Chuck's. While these two worlds co-existed fairly well in the earliest days of Gloranthan publishing, that was in part due to the simplicity of their framework. Once each aspect began to be developed in its own right, things started to become incongruent. This is why there's tended to be a lot of confusion on some aspects. (As will no doubt be seen in this thread.) Chuck's revamped RQ3 write-up of the Twins in Tales of the Reaching Moon #7 kickstarted this process. In it he revamped the Twins into a God Learner experiment... that survived. It was written at a time when knowledge of heroquesting and the God Learners was fairly inchoate, which has rendered some aspects a little fragile. At the same time, Greg was working through his own ideas on Veskarthan (as first seen in King of Sartar). While the central myths of Manirian Lodril had been long been known, they'd always had something of a grand and hazy 'in the background' quality, and not directly impinged upon Caladraland in the same way Chuck's more detailed approach had. This began to change with publications like History of the Heortling Peoples and The Middle Sea Empire. The issue? The two approaches didn't really inform each other. I had spoken to Greg several times about Caladraland, and when I mentioned the God-Learner methodologies in relation to the Twins, he was honestly confused. Moray and Telerio are perhaps the most detailed and prominent example of God Learner heroquestors we have in published Glorantha (fan or official), and they don't appear in—or inform—those Unfinished Works at all. Similarly, Chuck didn't know how Greg was going to expand upon and develop his own stories in the region. A lot of confusion about the place comes from the assumption that these two stories are perfectly informed by each other and should be compatible. Sometimes they just aren't. That tension can also be quite interesting. Caladraland is often referred to as a land of Fire and Earth; but at a deeper level I think it is a land in tension between Harmony (Chuck and the Twins cult) and Disorder (Greg and Veskarthan).
  5. Ha! We've had great fun with Classic! I still very much enjoy Retail, but find I go through patches – particularly after playing for a dozen years plus. The time and memories invested in my main characters tend to draw me back, though (and not just in terms of sunk cost). (The bumblebee mount might help, too...) Even the kindest critic will say BfA has 'issues', but I've still quite enjoyed it, overall (if not to the level of Legion, Mists, Wrath and TBC). Still not made the journey to Wailing Caverns yet, sadly, and I fear we're a bit overlevelled now. Had good Goonies fun in the Deadmines, though! I am looking forward to doing massive Blackrock Depths runs when the time comes. That for me is the ultimate dungeoneering experience...
  6. Hi, Phil, Sadly we only have gnomes (and accompanying lesser beings...) on Hydraxian Waterlords at the moment (<Gnome Sweet Gnome>). We do want to do some Hordies, but with the time commitments of Classic it might have to wait until we've levelled a bit, I fear. Hope to see you on our travels, anyway – or will shout when we get around to levelling our Horde characters! – Stew (also on Argent Dawn).
  7. Hi, all! Well, this thread's been up for three years and it's been a good run! There've been some really fun posts and I'm grateful for the interactions. But I'll probably draw my contributions to a close in the form of this thread. Please continue if you'd like (don't mind me)! One thing I would say, though: Glorantha's ducks are, for the most part, little more than a superficial shibboleth; a fairly shallow badge of tribal belonging; the sign that doesn't really signify anything. But occasionally, if we let them, they become more interesting. Try and focus on telling those rarer stories if you can. They pay off in the end. 😀
  8. Trif, it's quite clear that you aren't twigging how this is escalating - or why it escalated. You played a significant part in this when you dropped a bollock and referred to 'SJWs' and 'red-pillers' in your initial moderation, which just helped set things off. Now it's your site, sure. But it's not just your site site since it became Chaosium's promoted forum. If it's to remain that, I don't see how this trend is sustainable. If the only overt moderation after this nonsense is for you to give a week ban to someone who is complaining about potential issues of prejudice—however misplaced you feel that complaint might be—this is only going to get worse. Even on a cynical level the optics are fucking awful, to put it mildly - irrespective of how any of us might feel on the ethical issues actually being discussed.
  9. In a couple of weeks, World of Warcraft Classic is going to be released. I didn't actually start playing in vanilla WoW myself (having started a few months after the release of The Burning Crusade expansion), but am looking forward to going back to the old paradigm and getting some serious adventurin' (and drinkin' and bandagin') done. Myself and a few mates will be rolling on the Hydraxian Waterlords realm (the EU PvE role-playing server); anyone that wants to join us is more than welcome. I'm not sure how many people on these boards are into MMOs or video (computer! COMPUTER!) games in general, but the WoW Classic release is a fairly big event for some of us fogeys, so I thought I'd see if there were any other interested parties. Gnomelovers are especially welcome.
  10. It's usually mentioned as woad, yes. But as an alternative i I have a sneaking preference for... blue carrots. Blue carrots are mentioned in Martin, Simon and Duncan's write-up of the Anas Clan in Tales 19 and I've rather taken them to heart. Now, vegetable dyes are often nowhere near as colourfast as we think they are, but I just handwave that away (or assume an appropriate mordant). I like to think ducks just throw their clothes into the soup.
  11. "This is a race cursed by the gods during the Great Darkness for not joining them versus the forces of Chaos. It is unknown whether they were originally human and became feathered and web-footed, or originally ducks cursed with flightlessness and intelligence." – RuneQuest (2nd ed., 1979), p. 79. "Legend claims that these odd creatures were cursed during the premortal times. It is unclear whether they were humans cursed with feathers and webbed feet or ordinary ducks cursed with intelligence and flightlessness." – RuneQuest (3rd ed., 1984), Creatures Book, p. 15. "The origin of the ducks is a mystery to outsiders. Legend claims they were cursed by the gods in the Great Darkness for not joining them versus the forces of Chaos, although it is unclear if they were humans cursed with feathers and webbed feet or ordinary ducks cursed with intelligence and flightlessness." – Sartar Companion (2010), p. 110. "It is unknown whether they were originally human and became feathered and web-footed, or originally ducks cursed with flightlessness and intelligence." – RuneQuest Glorantha Bestiary (2018), p. 31. I realise that what I'll term 'the Borderlands paradigm' is strong (not least as it's the longest description of ducks published, and has been reprinted practically word for word in River of Cradles, and also the RuneQuest Glorantha Bestiary), but it's worth remembering that Borderlands (1982) does note (Referee's Handbook, p. 25): "Their origins are obscure, though some tales tell of them as an avian folk who forswore their allegiance to Yelm to follow Orlantha, and were denied the sky as punishment." (Emphasis mine.) I know, this is a fairly long-winded way of defending the potential for something I don't actually believe (!), but I like that the sources are intentionally ambiguous and like to reiterate that they're not as proscriptive as is often assumed. Indidentally, this is also the case for keets, for whom the idea that they gave up their powers of flight is pretty standard. (Particularly because it reinforces—and self-reinforces—the perception gained from Borderlands for ducks, given the contrast: one kind cursed involuntarily to flightlessness for their own cowardice and selfishness; the other voluntarily and selflessly sacrificing it to save the world.) But, were I to be provocative, I'd suggest that the most neutral reading of Revealed Mythologies would suggest that modern keets are likely descended from ancestors that never could fly. But there's a lot going on, there - not least 'Greg things' vs 'Sandy things'.
  12. I did shamelessly copy William's style for the dragonewt cities, which are just perfection, in my book! (And probably a few other things besides...)
  13. If it's good enough for a (dragon-)snail! (What are snails, anyway... slugs that went on a heroquest to gain armour?) But, more seriously, I suspect it's a bit of both. When I first started doing this in earnest, I started drawing ducks in phrygian-style helmets. Over time I started elongating the 'proboscis' and then started to curl it around into a whorl, much like a snailshell (and Air rune, of course). Then I thought: why not use an actual shell from a large snail? It sort of took off from there and became a bit of a shtick. Having written all this, I've just realised you may just mean the first image, with the sea shells? D'oh! Sorry! Yep, that's ceremonial. Though I suspect a Rune Priest of a Water entity using the armour favoured and enjoyed by that rune's denizens will enjoy a little more protection than wearing a helmet covered in shells would in our world.
  14. Personally, I've always thought the best smoking leaf comes from elves. Most upmarket cigars are made from Runners, though the very best are likely made—or at least claimed to be made—from dryad- or nymph-leaf. Ducks hire brave adventurers to venture into the elfwoods to find and capture the choicest leaves for their tubes of truth-seeking. The aldryami are obviously not particularly pleased with this and any expedition faces being hunted and composted by exceedingly angry elf warriors. But that's OK – they make great cigar boxes.
  15. I've been quite lazy lately, sadly, but thought I'd update things with a mix of finished pieces, works in progress, concept and development sketches... Duck Rune Priestess of Engizi Clad in ritual armour composed of freshwater shells from the Creek-Stream River and saltwater shells collected on pilgrimages to Mirrorsea. ***** Duck Rune Lord of Humakt Wearing the typical panoply of a horned helmet, ring-mail jack and studded leather, and carrying a bronze greatsword. ***** Spearducks! An (unfinished) update (centre), of an old sketch from a dozen years ago (left); and a Vingan Nestguard (right). ***** Sootfeather, pyromaniacal spirit-cultist of Oakfead With his pet rubble runner. ***** A map of Dragon Pass As owned by everybody's favourite bandit.
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