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About scott-martin


  • RPG Biography
    Glorantha caught me right before puberty and I never really got away.
  • Current games
    Killing the god with the silver feet, one clack at a time.
  • Location
  • Blurb
    For luck, for laughs, for the great unknown.
  1. A Magical Economy

    Ja, I was thinking about simply going in to have our lucky plow sharpened and blessed . . . but forgot the mechanics for that. The documents are full of fetishes and charms "providing one use of Spell X" or whatever. Maybe supporting this "chattel property" is part of what the priests do on cult time while waiting for someone who can afford spell training. It's vibrant Gloranthan peasant magic either way.
  2. A Magical Economy

    One of the best documented we have, Seven Mothers, "has no spirit of reprisal" (at least in the Cults of Prax formulation). Do ut des, as the Romans said. If I stop giving, god stops giving, but our relationship ends there. But if I come back with the sacrifice, I can buy whatever magic is on the shelf. IMG the "uninitiated Dara Happan mob" narrative is only partially complete, with Pelorian laborers worshipping an entire complex of entities beneath the aristocratic notice of the Buserians, who scoff and see no god there at all within the block parties aping the wedding of Yelm. Likewise, there are hints that rokarite women communicate significant magical expertise outside the rules of zzabur and beneath formal notice, even though they personally never have two clacks to call their own. Cottars and shepherds aren't rich on the material scale but they get the job done. And people like Wolf Brothers may not have formal spells listed in RQ2 because their magic is invested in who they are, immunity to bronze, shapeshifting, all these wonderful exotic gifts.
  3. A Magical Economy

    Ten of us get together, it's 5% held back from that harvest, literal Spare Grain. And because spirit magic is reusable that investment continues to enrich our stead week after week until the person who knows that spell dies and we need to go back to the priest. Maybe next year we apply that 5% to something else we need. Meanwhile the temple has these spell spirits just hanging around willing to be "monetized" if the priest brings someone in who passes the test and can learn. Leaving those spirits in the box while our people suffer and starve doesn't strike me as something god likes to see.
  4. A Magical Economy

    IMG these marginal situations have a self-perpetuating character, where people with low cultural capital (access to productivity magic) get pushed toward under-improved fields, soil that hasn't been enriched, bad carpentry, etc. They're more concerned with surviving Dark Season than with reinvesting surplus resources to get ahead . . . their meager sacrifices will never buy a spell. Meanwhile their land will require dramatic outside intervention if it's ever going to be as fertile and wonderful as we know a happy grain goddess can support, so that acreage tends to get passed over when you have to allocate crop blessings. Poor land IMG is a product of poor people and vice versa. And in my Glorantha, desperate people on the margins are one of the places Chaos crawls back in. Different societies have different strategies for managing people on the bottom. From the early Sartar materials I always liked to think the Orlanthites had a sense that even a wretched stick picker could impress the examiners and get enough credit to go home and get a better night's sleep, gather more fresh water, plant a garden, make things better. Not every clan will be generous with the resources that trickle down to the margins. Some will, of course, concentrate their magic at the center to preserve the strong. That's just how it goes. People make choices, collectively and individually. In Tanisor, it's a pretty good bet that most of the dronar are absolutely miserable because (despite rhetoric) they're mostly alive to power other people's prosperity magic. I'd rather be an ambitious stick picker in fallen Sartar than a serf in modern Seshnela. The motivations and character of that magical 1% come in here. You can keep all the Barntar magic to yourself and live extremely well, or you can spend a little cult time to teach a few of those 99 farmers a thing or two. IMG most of the really successful gods prefer that cult leadership actively promulgates cult magic . . . that's how those communities prosper within Time while their counterparts drift to the edge of extinction. Even if an indolent priest can trick the "spirits of reprisal" and ignore community service requirements, a community starved for magic just can't compete when better-equipped competitors come around. Especially in a situation like the Sartarite Diaspora where the cult is already on the defensive and fighting for survival, I can see the 1% being unusually generous with magic. Smoke 'em if you got 'em, so to speak -- if you don't spend these spells and other cultural capital to support the generation you have, you may not have another generation of free Orlanthites to worry about. Maybe this sense of "crisis pricing" is built into various game rules. I think it's built into Pavis-centric RQ2 cult credit. But either way, if I'm in the Sartarite 1% and I truly want our way of life to get through this, I'm going to teach some spells to the hill people who still believe in our gods. We might have forgotten them in previous generations, pushed them to the rocky slopes. Now they're all we have.
  5. A Magical Economy

    I like this bottom-up economic approach because it opens the door to modeling how much cultural capital a community invests in individuals. If a given young adult -- a Rurik -- represents X lunars equivalent in training time, that's what the community spends on education. Some communities would then be more or less generous with "cult credit" and distribute surplus magic and other training time in advance at what they hope will be a fair return on present value. It depends on the examiners and what they want. Donations to the cult also give a sense of how many improvement rolls and access to spell spirits affiliated individuals "deserve" in a given season, year, lifetime -- I have a feeling this shows up in RQG. Some people donate labor, others give the equivalent of POW or other "magic points" in prayer and religious service. A few might have cash but I think most sensible examiners would price cash transactions at a huge mark-up -- all the money on the lozenge won't help me if I can't fill all the temple roles on the holy day or keep our young people from moving away to town. It starts with souls. If I were the big man at Nochet Grand Market this is how I'd organize our spell trading activities, but luckily I am not.
  6. Trade and Markets in Glorantha

    Teleos at least is said to have "shifted" during the Closing so it apparently happens -- but rarely enough that the dislocation could be detected and was considered worth mentioning. Mostly flagging this point because I've had difficulty getting a sense of linear intercontinental distance. The Homeward Ocean may confound navigation and so appear bigger or smaller than various methods suggest. For all I know there are relativistic effects. On which note, I wonder now whose epochal feats of sail revealed the Homeward islands. Maybe these were unknown to modern cartographers before the Cradle Saga?
  7. Cost of Iron

    What tantalizes me throughout is how far Seshnela has fallen in order to have any surplus whatsoever. Presumably the Laurmal pacts supported domestic demand in the imperial age and now the surviving population is so reduced and desperate that they're willing to sell off heirloom armor and new mine production alike. Possibly a large part of modern enchant iron revolves around reconstituting "found" iron recovered from Kanthor, needle by needle if need be. I'm sure others have noted over the years that virgin ingots (dare we imagine bars and plate as forms of commerce?) must have been extremely rare in Lunar Peloria between the time the Janube route was Closed and the reopening of Dragon Pass. For all I know Syranthir brought ur-metal to the bowl in economic quantities and this was one of the Carmanians' many military advantages -- I suppose it depends on how badly the Jord dwarf colony needed coal. While iron is precious in the south, I wouldn't be surprised if the northerners are still dazzled by the relative wealth.
  8. On the other end of the scale, your uncles pull their punches because behind the mask they don't want to hurt you permanently -- maybe when they were young, their initiators showed similar restraint. A bad uncle may take on a deeper aspect of an enemy god and do more damage. I like the mystery this thread opens up between the content of the initiation -- the experienced truth of the god -- and the ritual performance. Maybe all(*) Gloranthans learn certain cosmic truths as a condition of going through life, participating in the seasonal cycle and ultimately going beyond. That's the experienced truth. The shape of the rite varies with cult, its regional expressions and what the initiate brings to the table. Is it the same rite? All I really know is what happened to me, what I saw and how my tribe does it. And maybe as I travel I recognize the face of god in the strangers' rites. Otherwise, well, it's one of those strange gods like the ones my uncles impersonated that one time. Best to all next week at Sacred Time: Schloss Neuhausen and to those who are only there in spirit this year. * Orlanthi all as always
  9. Cost of Iron

    This is super exciting because I have Prince Valiant on my mind. Do the Issaries Trader Princes play a role in helping cash-poor storm cults get an occasional hu-metal piece that they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford, either by hosting questers along the way or via less tangible channels?
  10. The Metals of Acos, or What Bertalor Knew

    There it is! I knew I'd seen a list and couldn't find it. So he has ul- where the Hrelar Amali ennead would support ti-metal for "silver." Otherwise a match for the Altinelan pantheon.
  11. The Metals of Acos, or What Bertalor Knew

    I considered the dangers of Laddy & Lammy as well but Bertalor needed a "Lo" to fit lo-metal. I tend to think of the slur as a Carmanian catch-all for all the local pagan wise guys (some stormy, some fiery) in their part of the world -- "Ladaral" in general may be a matter of condescending northern vowel shift. (!) How "Lodril" appears by that name in Dawn Age Seshnela and then in Peloria in time to make it into Plentonius is a darn good question. My best guess is that Lodril's people predate the rockwoods and so could move a lot more freely before their range was punctuated . . . those in the west were completely absorbed, those in the northeast eventually became part of the Dara Happan complex. Somebody told Bertalor it was "lo-"metal. If all his other gods line up, there's something going on here. I should have also asked the question How many metals? because by the God Learner era the editor feels compelled to answer decamonist questions of where Stone (brother of Mostal) fits in. It's nice that he assigns it to Gata because it explains why dwarves are sometimes classed as earth creatures, but the reference to it being her "bones" instead of ga-metal effectively wrecks the entire "bones of the gods" theory. Are there mineral bones for the other elemental courts? Or is earth special? The text does not say. In terms of the pernicious Vadeli, the entity we now call Mostal has all those odd tentative relationships with Law, whether it's called "Stone" or "Acos" or "Urtiam" or even (if I recall the source) "Malkion." Vadeli contacts may be a source of this garbled myth. I'm also open to liberated dwarf slave cultures -- human or otherwise -- carrying fragments in the shadow of the Rockwoods. Those genderless dwarf-haters who received Nelat's cauldron, for example. Maybe one of them shared the metal names and the Nine Gods pantheon names are just a coincidence.
  12. Our canonical source for Gloranthan metallurgy is a perplexing document. I'm not the first person to recognize this. Let's return to it for a laugh and read it close. Who in Glorantha? We now know that as "later duke of Fromalwal" the author is almost certainly the same Bertalor who also ruled as king of Seshnela from 73 to 89 -- while the nominally out-of-setting introduction to the text doesn't mention the grander title, we can attribute it to Greg and Sandy hedging how closely to integrate the Serpent Kings material with their evolving setting. The joint saga of King Bertalor and the Vadeli Trader is of course preserved in detail elsewhere. Either way, since our author has yet to receive the ducal title he may be extremely young here (maybe mid teens), which explains the "like a lover I suppose / poor lonely bastard" reference in the life of someone we know eventually fathers at least three children. This may even be a child's tutorial assignment, in which case its somewhat remedial nature makes sense. (Think of the papers Merlin assigns Wart and Kay in T.H. White.) His "loneliness" may also relate to isolation from courtly intrigue around Thamor, who it is said took an "aldryama" for a wife. When in Glorantha? Since these are the days of Sacred Lords it's possible that a legitimate heir was conceived before Thamor (r. 39-73) attained his majority and dissolved the regency, but we also know the future King Bertalor's mother returns to the forest in 42. By 57 he's already duke of Fromalwal, so we don't have decades of him hanging out doing sorcerous research before being invested as heir apparent. Once again, this suggests the "juvenile authorship" scenario. The important thing is that this is not just a "first age document" but dateable to well before the Broken Council, God Project, Sunstop, etc. Dorastor is empty. Vuranostum Leaps-Over-Walls is consolidating horse power in Peloria, inviting Lodril to Raibanth, opening the Temple of Dayzatar, etc. Hrelar Amali is still a thriving cult center in the forest that separates the western colonies from Central Genertela. What Bertalor believes: the world is called "Acos," not "Glorantha." There are nine greater deities . . . not five for the elements, not 13 for a celestial court, not at first glance the same nine great gods venerated at Hrelar Amali. Their names map fairly easily onto the canonical names of Gloranthan metals, suggesting a link between the people who recognize these gods under these names and the people who developed the nine-element system. The Galanini are the people of Ehilm, the god of gold; no imperial religion of Dara Happa is known or noteworthy. Lodril rules fire and, perhaps bizarrely to those who know him as the peasant god, is characterized by his "purity." Maker (Urtiam) and Grower (Uleria) are brother and sister. The author (along with his God Learner editor) is familiar with the concept of "scissors," perhaps as a figment of pre-Darkness Danmalastan now extinct except in rare medicine bundles and other heirloom magic. He also appreciates lo-metal weaponry, which again seems to have died out by the Third Age. What Bertalor doesn't know: Mapping the Nine onto modern Gloranthan mythology reveals discontinuities and gaps. Urtiam and Zrethus have dropped out of common scholarly use by the early God Learner era, forcing his editor to translate the terms. This may simply be part of Bertalor's attempt to demonstrate his thesis (we've all been there) or reveal his relative ignorance of the more familiar Dayzatar (isolated in Yuthuppa half a continent away) and Mostal under that god's modern name. Who or what is the "urtiam" that gives its name to iron? Along these lines, an author familiar with Zaramaka would recognize that entity as an easier fit for [s/z]a-metal instead of shoehorning in Sramak and confusing my own arguments elsewhere. Likewise, Lorion is not one of the Nine he knows, so even if the original metal name stems from Lorion and not Lodril, he can't help us there. No reference to the dual-phase nature of sa/lo metal, even though he appreciates lo-metal and would be eager to convert sa-metal if he knew it was possible. Who worships the Nine? I don't think this is the Hrelar Amali pantheon because the names are "wrong" -- Nakala and not Xentha, Zrethus and not some more characteristic Ralian star deity (unless the Yelornans are keeping secrets), Sramak, the mysterious Urtiam, arguably Gata and not Ernalda. The absence of a Flamal is also troubling; we might also expect an Eurmal who isn't here. Testing all these relationships suggests new insights about archaic Ralian religion and the ultimate origins of the Elemental Rulers system, but it doesn't help us address where Bertalor gets his ennead. Luckily the fragmentary Snodal Saga suggests that these particular entities are still acknowledged as "the gods of the primary elements" and progenitors of the Altinelan civilization. In their recollection, by the way, the primal storm god's name was still Humakt and Ehilm was a concoction of Lodril seeking to balance the world . . . Ehilm, in turn, becomes grandfather of Eurmal. But we digress into arcana. Either way, talk of "Acos" and nine elements probably comes to mortal theology via such primeval channels. Whether it came to places like Hrelar Amali in a pure form, I don't know. How many elements? Western elemental magic is far from unified on this question. Zzabur's sigil bears the familiar five-element system. Bertalor does not single out Nakala, Sramak, Gata and (H)umat(h) as qualitatively different from Uleria or Urtiam. He also does not identify a ruling god of what we would call the modern solar element that unifies fire, sun and sky. In this he steers closer to Xeotam, who also recognized Cold as well as Sky (Zrethus) and Fire (Lodik) but no independent Sun. Bertalor's uleric principle may be what we would now call "lunar" in its feminine quality and rulership of terrestrial silver. Urtiam remains enigmatic. Note also that Xeotam knows "Tolat" but not "Lorion" and tries to resolve an apparent question over whether the real name of "Dame Darkness" is Nakala or Xentha. Saramaka and Aether do not appear as "Sir Sea" or "Lord Light." Aether still figures under that name as a primeval Dara Happan figure. Saramaka may have been introduced to land cosmology in some later mer-contact. Who named the metals? If you believe that lo-metal is associated with Lorion then Bertalor is wrong and his list of nine gods acknowledged in Dawn Age Seshnela -- the same list they recite in 15th century Altinela after mortals have forgotten -- contains a different "Lo." Lodril and Lorion may be the same person. Lo-metal is red and Lodril has fallen a long way. These might be dwarf words but no lo-mostali appear in the sources. Were there lo-mostali once? Is this a mystery of the sa-mostali? Or does the list come from an outside metal-working tradition? We may be looking at a rare hint into inner Third Eye Blue religion here. Why is this "sorcerer prince" obsessed with fighting? At this point strict brithinite caste rules evidently do not apply in the forest of Hrestolism, Seshna paganism and outright Vadeli influence. While Bertalor may have never been more than an dilettante "sorcerer" of courtesy, he's unquestionably a hereditary aristocrat. It's feasible that he's only interested in weaponry (horal business) as an economic problem but I would be surprised if he didn't at least try to put this theoretical material into practice. Trivia: he is depicted in the sagas as a full snake-legged serpent king.
  13. Why is sea water salty while most lakes are not?

    While many first-generation game systems treat alkali and acid interchangeably for damage purposes (in RQ2 "household lye" is POT 2 "acid"), chaos seems to operate on what we call acidic lines. Spit snake spit is "acid." Gorp are effectively mobile acid pools. Krarsht cult chemistry is probably acid-based. And the River of the Damned back in Balazar (just to add to your list) is also POT 2 "acid," which is really pretty nasty to swim through. While the runic opposition of "Law" is controversial I've had the Zistor rune of "purification" preying on me for a few months now. Acid plus base yields water and salt, of course. Chaos plus cosmos may yield water and salt also, the grand magasta process at work. I wonder if zre and sra are esoteric brothers somewhere, with lo bridging the gap. (Also even if first-age Seshnegi sorcerer-prince didn't know about Lorion and mistakenly attributes "lo" to Lodril, what language is he failing to fit into his own elemental system? Mostalite? "Urtiamite?" Some lost and primal "Acosian" system of stability and stone? Tojarinor the commentator lets the Lodril attributions go, either because he finds nothing wrong with this passage or doesn't have enough information. An enigma. Will do a fresh thread later.) But down to, uh, earth, I'm told wool dye processes here on earth are primarily acidic whereas the linen chemistry is very different. Metals are mordants. Who owns the Gloranthan rainbow?
  14. Why is sea water salty while most lakes are not?

    There it is in plain sight! A lot in there, much of it crazy so I'll keep it to myself . . . but one reason earthly alchemists venerate the "golden" fleece is that the brighter the color, the dirtier it is, which means it yields more potassium carbonate after careful washing. It's starting to sound like we would call the purifying water a lye bath. For people living far upland, this is what "salt water" looks like. But more practically, who are the sources of Cloud Clear types of magic right now? This is meaningful to cultures that recognize clouds as water phenomena on high, so sheering those "sheep" means banishing high water. Sky can do it. It's the core spell for the Gods of Glorantha version of Yelm, taught in every shrine. Yelmalio has it in Cults of Prax, with notes that while sky and storm can both do weather magic, the storm versions are stronger. I recall Sandy promising something similar for Dayzatar (zre) but that layer of the digests seems to be broken. Storm can do it. Orlanth has it as ultimate commander of the air and I wouldn't be surprised if some people think he stole the sheep (ownership of high water) as well as the cauldron. Brastalos, presumably. Still a lot I don't know about how Magasta (sra) got his wife. Cloud is also the aspect of air that "contaminates" sky and needs to be cleared to restore harmony. I wonder how Nelat and company contributed to with the rivalry between storm and sky back in the day -- Uleria is a blue planet, after all.
  15. Why is sea water salty while most lakes are not?

    Some great alchemy here. I suspect vanishingly rare Nelat cultists -- did they once inhabit what's now the Neleomi coast, a lost tribe like turtle people? -- would work with caustic salts as "waters that don't wet the hands." Not a lot of data on Gloranthan soaps but they would have them. I went to the darkness ownership of hunger too but wonder if there's a strain of dark/sea esotericism -- a "stygian heresy," as it were -- that considers hunger as dark unsettled in itself and _rising_ toward something to consume. Early in the theogony this was the origin of Styx and the seed of Zaramaka, remaining unsatisfied through the evolution until the hungry oceans rose to conquer first earth then sky. Once they reach their utmost, they descend. It's a drastic oversimplification, but brisk and leaping Heler wants to soar. Burst and bleeding Sky River Titan needs to fall. Of course this really sets up sea and sky as a dyad in itself, which is probably the secret of why lo- and sra-metal are the same substance in different phases. The substance that falls is heavy and liquid, bearing its load back to Magasta for processing before rising again (behind the scenes, like the blue moon) to rejoin the sky, pure again and ready to drop. We don't see the heleric principle reascend to heaven any more except as steam on humid days -- the flood age is over (for now). But the sky is blue and not gold. We generally only see water falling now. When it rises we call it "fire" and its metal floats. Maybe we call the portion that rises beyond the lo- phase "zre-metal," the part that rejects the cycle of rise and fall. Sra liquid on the bottom phase, zre bright at the top, lo in between . . . a different Tale of Three Brothers. Mountain people have a different relationship to the water cycle than river valley people and both are alien to the sea. Triolini are going to be biased because I don't see any native to fresh water -- only one murthoi species is mentioned as fitting that bill -- but they're probably the best experts in the field. I wouldn't be surprised if Wachaza conceals alchemical mysteries behind the violations of surface tension in naval warfare though. He's related to Magasta's dark half, the hungry part. Magasta's airy wife is her own thing. EDIT for all I know Magasta's stunted, ugly, clever, beautiful children with feet call him "Malkion" but this is probably a blasphemy to just about everyone else. EDIT AGAIN sra-metal aspires to the condition of na-metal on the way through the Pool. many puffers have tried to coerce ga-metal from both na- and lo-metal via the salts of Nelat and other formulations, but if they succeed they do not say for fear of little men . . . there are no lo-metal dwarves listed under that name.