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John Biles

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About John Biles

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  • RPG Biography
    Gamer since 1982
  • Current games
    FFG Star Wars, TORG Eternity. Love many others but don't have infinite time
  • Location
    Texas
  • Blurb
    A texas historian of Britain in theory; a historian of the US in practice. I've lived on two continents and was born in Uruguay but grew up in Texas.

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  1. My understanding is that most Orlanthi don't really have enough academic inclination to do so.
  2. Basically, you can always try to change myths, though the more radical the change, the more likely something blows up in your face. So a myth where Chalanna Arroy takes care of orphans would probably not be too hard to create, because it fits her well. One where Chalanna Arroy is the head of a brothel (where Uralda, Ernalda, Esrolia, Dendara, Kygor Litor, Vinga, Orlanth, Heler, and Humakt get pimped out), though deeply hilarious, would probably require ludicrous resources to create. Too much of the latter is part of why the God-Learners went boom. You make myths by starting a Heroquest, then doing something *different* than the normal myth. Once you blaze a trail, you keep doing it until it gets easier.
  3. This is all heresy that doesn't fit the new model of how Malkionism works, but you may find it interesing: Aeolian Church (This still under Construction A LOT) In the beginning was Makan, the foundation of reality, the mind-which-creates, and Chaos, the sea of endless change. We cannot know and need not care how long Makan dwelt upon his thoughts before making the world. All we know is this. He gazed upon the Chaos; it defied him and he set out to be the master of it. In the First Action, he defined Truth, the First Rune. He applied Truth and banished the lies of Chaos, creating land and sea and sky by forcing endless change into the stability of a single truth. This is the First Action. Then he defined other things and strengthened the basic frame of the world by creation of the Runes, further differentiating everything and laying down the laws by which everything acts. In the Third Action, he breathed into some of his creations, awakening their minds. Some he especially blessed, the Saints, who would guide the others. The Saints gathered all who would follow them and created Danmalstan, the land most blessed of the Creator. The rest remained, creating other kingdoms and tinkering with the power of the runes; some transformed themselves into Elves, Trolls, Dragonnewts and so on. For a time, there was a golden age, and the Saints ascended to dwell with Makan. But without their guidance, the people fell into sin, especially those who followed the foolish Vadel. In other lands, demons entered, calling themselves spirits or gods and swayed others and those who had abandoned their humanity plotted deep plans to make their Rune dominant. Thus the Fourth Action became known as Decline. And then Chaos itself broke into the world, the way opened by foolish men and krjalki. In the Fifth Action, Malkion came, inspired by the Creator, trying to turn the tide of disaster. In their fear, the people called this Destruction but we know its true name. Sacrifice. Malkion let himself be slain to save the world by opening the way to Solace, shaming the gods and spirits and Chaos itself into retreating and giving men hope. Even his slayer, the atheist sorceror Zzabur was so moved, he spent much of his strength returning the Sun to the sky. Even as this happened, Malkion's son Hrestol returned from the Underworld with the Secret of Joy of the Heart, aided by the Lightbringers. But now Zzabur tried to assert that everyone must follow *his* rules. He slew Hrestol who tried to stop him, but not before Hrestol taught many disciples the secret of Joy of the Heart. Some disciples gathered his teachings into the Book of Hrestol, and our founder, Aeolus, added his own Meditations to it. He taught us the art by which we bond to a Patron Saint to protect our souls from the Lies of Vadel and to wield the power of the Invisible God. Now began the Sixth Movement, the Age of Joy of the Heart. Unfortunately, in time, many Malkioni became the corrupt God-Learners, who delved too deeply into the mysteries of Chaos, failing to understand that the author of their 'Abiding Book' was Vadel himself, and so they destroyed themselves and freed the sea to rage against the land again, destroying much of Seshnela and closing the seas to us until Saint Dormal manifested himself and ended the Closing. It is to be noted that Rokar the Prophet was another mask of Vadel, spreading lies and corrupting Seshnela to wickedness. We know this because of his ties to the 'Sharp Abiding Book'. Anything drawn from the Abiding Book is clearly evil. Their efforts to subjugate us bear further witness to this. Further, the Red Emperor now sits in the throne of the Wicked Emperor in the North and seeks to enslave us all. Many fear that the Seventh and final Movement, Apocalypse, is about to begin. Castes In Danmalstan, there was a rigid caste system, but we have found it no longer works. Yet, adherence to certain laws grants the blessing of the creator. Everyone is born into a caste system, but those who dislike their birth rank, or who aspire to become men-of-all may undergo a holy test at age 14 and every 7 years thereafter. Those who pass it may change caste; those who spend at least 7 years of adulthood in every caste may try the test to become men-of-all, our greatest heroes and leaders. They are rare. Perhaps one in 100,000 or less manage to do this and few even try. About one in five hundred who try to change caste die; most fail the test. But you can keep trying if you don't die. The Castes: Governors: The highest caste, they rule over the others. They act as generals in war but do not actually fight. Priests: They study the ways of the Saints and the Grimoires of wizardry. They ensure the people gain the blessings of the Invisible God. Soldiers: Soldiers fight and make and fix weapons. Many soldiers provide support services to the actual front-line soldiers. Makers: Everyone else is a Maker, though some Makers do things like transport goods. They make up the bulk of the population. Magic Every believer must attend weekly church services on RestDay? (day seven). During the service, the faithful pray and read from the Book of Hrestol and the Meditations of Aeolus, experiencing the stories told from it, culminating in the Joy of the Heart, for half the day. The rest of the day is spent in rest and prayer. Part of the service is a divine blessing which augments his or her ability to perform common magic. Anyone who has attended weekly church can also benefit from the blessing radiated by the local Church. This typically focuses around a single rune and is most commonly the Water, Plant, or Earth Runes. At age 14, you undergo a holy rite in which you live out stories of the holy texts and choose a Patron Saint, who will guide you henceforth. You gain a blessing from your Saint and now can learn Common Magic appropriate to your Caste. Everyone learns Common Magic appropriate to their Caste; some join Fraternities and Sororities which teach spell magic appropriate to their caste. The Holy Society of Saint Barnabas, for example, teaches agricultural spell magic to its members. These societies require 30% of your time; their leaders gain even greater power, but 70% of their time is spent on holy activities. Priests have the broadest magical power of the four castes. In the other castes, many never progress beyond Common Magic, but in the Priestly Caste, most do so, for obvious reasons. One who can only do Common Magic is an Acolyte, who assists the Priests and studies the mysteries. After passing a Heroquest, they can move up to Priest status, devoting 30% of their time to devotionals and beginning study of Grimoires, from which they learn spells. Eventually, they can become a Saint-Caller, devoting 70% of their time to holy work and learning to call upon their patron Saint to duplicate their great deeds. The Church The Clergy: Every village has a Shrine to the Invisible God and the Saints. Every village's Shrine is basically independent, though some have more influence than others and they hold Synods periodically where delegates meet and discuss issues of mutual interest. Every village has at least a Priest and a few Acolytes. Most have a Saint-Caller, a Priest, and a few Acolytes. Only the bigger communities have more than one Saint-Caller. Gender: Both men and women can rise to the top in the Church, but it's rare to be a different gender than your chosen Saint. The Saints During the Third Action, the Invisible God especially blessed certain of the new Men with his power, the Saints. They watch over all of us even now; every person has a special bond to one of the Saints. A handful of later people have also been blessed by the Creator with Sainthood. Perhaps even you, one day, if you pray and obey the Creator's laws. (I can post the Saints if people are interested; they're a mixture of adapted Orlanthi gods and Malkioni saints. But this eats up a loooot of space) Wizards There are no schools of wizardry outside the church, but the Church practices wizardry through the orders. Notable Stories / Heroquests I have a lot more of these, but I'm cutting most of them, because, again, space. Esmerelda Sets The Household In Order: It was a quiet day in Storm Season and Esmerelda decided it was time to get things organized before Sacred Time came. The first thing she found was her daughters were busy flirting with boys instead of ensuring the work of the house was done. If the leaders didn't set an example for the people, who would? So she chased off the boys and sent her daughters to organize everything. Then she went to see their Priest, but he was busy trying to help pull a wagon out of a ditch, which was not his job. So she found Saint Uriel and got him to pull the wagon out of the ditch, while the Priest went to go make preparations for Sacred Time and to pray for the people. Then she found her husband, Saint Orlando, and his friends busy getting drunk and partying in the Great Hall instead of patrolling the borders to watch for trouble, for Danmalstan was facing increasing, strange attacks. Once she rousted them to their duties, she turned to see if the costumes had been prepared for Sacred Time, but the costume makers had turned to doing the rites themselves while their Priest was off doing other people's jobs. So she assured them the Priest had returned to his duties, so they could return to theirs. But then a great rainstorm came down because the Makers had bungled the rite. She got the Priest, her Husband Saint Orlando, and one of the Costume Makers. The Costume Maker garbed Saint Orlando as the Great Wind, the Rune of Air, and the Priest prayed to aid the illusion and then he ordered the storm to leave, empowered by her magics, and the storm departed. The sky was clear and blue and beautiful and all things now were in their proper place and playing their proper roles. And so she went to take a well-earned nap. This is used to initiate Priestesses sealed to Esmerelda, to bring order when the community is in chaos, and to aid people in performing their roles in society well. It can also be used to control the Weather. Gerlant's Honorable War: Assigned to defend the borders of Danmalstan during the Lightbringers Quest, he fought honorably, letting nothing turn him aside from his duty. From the North, an army of Ice Trolls tried to break into Danmalstan, but he led the defense against them in the Great Northern Pass, for his honor was shown by his valor. From the South, the Dragon-Boaters tried to bribe him to open the way for them, but he refused, for his honor could not be bought with money. The Beast-Riders invaded, burning and pillaging; he defeated them and accepted their surrender without killing them or enslaving them, for he fought with honor. The Green Amazons tried to bribe him with beautiful women, but his honor could not be overturned by lust. During the Long Night, he needed sleep so badly, but his honor kept him awake. Vadel tempted him to make himself King, but his honor sustained him. And when his strength finally failed him; he fought to the end, buying time for Danmalstan's people to escape. His wife had gone with the Lightbringers, so he could not be healed and he died, but the Invisible God took him up into Solace at that moment, for he had always fought honorably. Now he defends Solace, ensuring nothing can ever taint it. This is used to initiate Priests sealed to Gerlant, to seal honorable deals, and to strengthen Soldiers to fight on in defense of the community. What is Sinful? Vadel introduced the ten corruptions: 1. Disobedience to the Laws of Malkion: Only Makan deserves your worship, but if you have to fake worshiping other gods to avoid being slaughtered, he will understand. Devotion is more important than specific laws. Survival trumps clinging to past ideas, for the dead have no ideas. 2. Deceit: Never lie to fellow believers; never violate a contract or cheat on a mercantile deal. Anyone who threatens your survival does not deserve honesty; tell them what they want to hear. 3. Greed: The accumulation of wealth is fine as long as it is done honestly. Wealth by theft, fraud, violence, and the like is greed and condemned. You must give generously to those in need. 4. Gluttony: Avoid gluttony, so that in rich times you can save up for the lean times. Holy feasts, however, honor the Saints and Invisible God, but should be open to all believers. 5. Theft: Do not steal from any believer or any non-believer who is not at war with you; taking the property of those trying to kill you is only your due. 6. Arrogance: Never hesitate to stoop in order to conquer. Pride only gets you in trouble. 7. Hatred: You have a right of vengeance, yet those who are consumed by anger become monsters. Think carefully and avoid letting it consume your life. In some circumstances, the Officials may authorize you to carry out vengeance and then you should show them the wrath of the Invisible God. 8. Incest: Sex with anyone more closely related to you than second cousin is absolutely forbidden. Those who are married are forbidden to have sex without anyone who is not their spouse; you must be at least sixteen to marry. Unmarried adults are not forbidden to have sex, but must take responsibility for all children produced. 9. Murder: Violence is always an option, but not necessarily the best one. As Esmerelda teaches, If you surrender to your impulses and anger, you will not find the best solution. Murder of members of the community is a deadly sin; killing outsiders is not necessarily a sin, but it's often unwise and shouldn't be the first choice. Especially if it brings trouble on the community. 10. Service to the Devil, Wakboth, who is also known as Nysalor or Gbaji: Pagans claim they dropped a rock on Wakboth, trapping him. You can't pin Wakboth under a rock any more than you could trap a wind or sunlight under a rock. He is an Essence; flesh is a mere garment. He returned as Nysalor, known also as Gbaji, to try to destroy the world in the First Age. In the second age, he tempted the wizards with power and nearly destroyed the world. In the third age, he has come as Shepelkirt the Red Goddess to lead the Pelorians to their doom. Because of him, no mysticism can EVER be trusted. The archetypes of all sin are Wakboth the Devil and his son, Vadel the Fool Who Gazed Into the Abyss. Wakboth is the inner voice of sin within all, the desire to rebel and the lust for power. Vadel is the master of the ways we turn desire into action. Chaos is sin and sin is Chaos; they are one and they have the same fruit: Destruction. By joining the Church and persevering in your faith, you experience the Joy of the Heart which will lead you to Solace on your death. If you stray, you should go to a holy person who will guide you back to the light, assigning you a penance to make up for it. Any sin can be forgiven if you are sincere and do penance (or die in the process of atoning; the Creator knows if you would have finished it in life.) Krjalki (Non-Humans): Anyone can be brought to the light of Malkion and should be! But it is rather hard. That being said, do not needlessly provoke them, for they are powerful and you owe it to your community to not get everyone else killed because you saw a chance to get some silver or some Elf killed your grandfather. You can check out the full version here.
  4. Gawain has a built-in weakness (gets weaker as the sun goes down) and has two stories which don't really revolve around his strength level at all (Gawain and the Green Knight and the Gawain and Ragnell tale).
  5. That's kind of a legacy of how most of them, IIRC, started out as Heros in the Glorantha boardgames. There's a CS Lewis quote I couldn't find about how clinging to things will only make them curdle in your hands. I think it's in Perelandra. Russian style nesting dolls would be a good metaphor here, with each layer bigger and fancier than the one inside it; the world grows outwards and upwards, containing the past, but being bigger and more impressive than the previous one. Also, this feels Deist to me (not a criticism). The Divine made the world but it's our job to make it a heaven or hell. You call them sophists later, but they strike me as pragmatists -- you figure out what works and you worry about WHY later. That's how social science operates - observe, then figure out the patterns from what you observed. (Then discover things that don't fit your theory and you cry). And a certain amount of 'our perception is the only reality we can know'. I now have an image of Tolkien shouting at the God-Learners (He hated allegory and wanted people to take stories on their own terms, inside the reality they create. Tolkien is kind of weird because he mixed Post-Modernism and Traditional Catholicism.) Illumination would probably lead to some Trader-Prince trying to turn all of Maniria into a gold coin, anyway. Sophist doesn't strike me quite right, though thinking about how people trained in Greece and Rome to win arguments by understanding how their opponents thought... Anyway, this is an interesting approach. I see it almost as something where sorcery works by changing that shared perception which is the only reality we can know anyway. They don't worry if they're changing the 'real' world, because you can never reach that real world, but you can change the shared world of ideas. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding your ideas.
  6. The Grail Quest is one of the best illustrations of how Arthuriana as we know it basically is the result of a bunch of people writing Arthur Fanfiction, then Mallory tried to take the best fanfiction and tie it all together and sometimes you can see the seams. Though Galahad's biggest problem for me is that he's the result of mind-control rape, yet somehow the 'greatest Christian knight'. Getting back to Argath, a lot of what he does is stuff that none of the Glorantha systems have had very good mechanics for, though 13A in Glorantha probably comes the closest, though maybe the new Runequest has enough stuff on Heroquesting that a PC could aspire to do it.
  7. Most of what Lancelot does is small-scale adventure stuff, though his relationship with Guenevere does drive the collapse of the Kingdom. But there's a long period where basically the PCs can run around having adventures and the NPCs are off having adventures and no one gets overshadowed. He only really drives the plot at the end, where the country blows up after the Grail Quest. In fact, he spends so much time adventuring, it's really easy to set up 'Sir Lancelot is off in York, fighting strangely identical knights, and only you can do the plot thing, as all the Round Table Knights are off adventuring. As compared to Argath, who increasingly dominates everything in Dragon Pass. (Though if your campaign is outside the DP area, Argath could just as well be Mr. Potato-Head Reborn.)
  8. Good use of reskinning. I don't know the original adventure, but this seems fine and you provided guidelines for adjusting to the size of the PC group.
  9. This may be uncanonical due to Mongoose's version of Glorantha being thrown on the fire, but: The Empire’s greatest achievement in new myth creation is clearly the Goddess Switch. God Learner sorcerers of Pythos University devoted many years of research to fi nding two pagan deities of separate cultures who had similar myths. They also needed low-powered deities who were incapable of retaliation. They chose the respective Grain Goddesses of Wenelia and Slontos: Inica, goddess of wild rice and Einkorn, the goddess of grassland wheat. Their adventurers, who blended in with the wild grazing and foraging peoples of both lands, learned two similar myths: ‘Inica Feeds the People’ and ‘How Einkorn’s Bounty Filled the Land’. Squads of HeroQuesters journeyed into these myths, playing the roles of the goddesses’ attendants. Over many iterations, they slowly altered the stories, until finally Inica and Einkorn were drawn into the same story. A few minor deities proved resistant and were slain during this process. Eventually, prompted by HeroQuesters with RuneQuest Sight, the grain goddesses were forced to admit that they had to be long-lost sisters. Then the sorcerers enacted a new story in which the two goddesses, to stave off a world-eating famine, traded husbands. The god-talkers of the Slontan gatherers experienced visions of their new grain goddess, as did those of Wenelia. In their dreams, they learned new myths, which were not so much different from the old ones. At first the switch appeared to be a great success, proving that the pagan gods were false and essentially interchangeable. A few flowers stopped blooming in each place but so what? Then the crops failed. Inica’s delicate grain could not be cultivated in Slontos and Einkorn’s grass-wheat was damp and blighted in Wenelia. Fruit stopped growing in Wenelia and in Slontos no marriage lasted for more than a year. In 908 these changes are apparent to the experimenters of Pythos University and to the cultures affected but word has yet to spread across the Empire. Battalions of mercenaries prevent travellers from entering the worst-hit areas. Assassins are dispatched to silence those who try to tell the tale. (page 20 of their guide to Glorantha) The Guide to Glorantha discusses the switch, but doesn't say who. The Glorantha Wiki says it was Ernalda and Dendara in RQ3.
  10. I expect most clans have little to no metal of their own and some clans have a *lot* of metal. Those tribes close to the mountains likely have a lot of it and some of their clans focus as much or more on mining than herding / farming / raiding. Every clan has its own smiths, though, fed by metal secured by trade and raid. One of the things which probably sustains Boldhome is large scale mining, then trading ore for food. The Creek-Stream River may have gold and silver in it, washed out of the mouhtains, though, so the tribes along that may extract some and then trade it for hard metals.
  11. The Sartarites can only be described as 'peaceful' by stretching the word to its very limits. Rather, they don't have their act together enough to conquer anyone. But they're pretty violent. That being said, the Lunars are imperialists and the Sartarites only become such when Argath takes over and then they soak Peloria in blood and set it on fire.
  12. Thinking about marriage raids. The model would be Orlanth and Ernalda. Woman wants out of an oppressive marriage she can't escape for some reason, gets guy to come challenge her husband, sometimes it escalates into a battle, she goes back with her new protector, marries him. (I could also see this being a custom where you have to overcome your future wife's guardian in three contests to then marry her.)
  13. While there are epic adventure stories from the period of the Vedas, the Vedas proper are basically religious and philosophical texts. You're probably thinking of the Mahabarata and the Ramayana, which both actually date from substantially post-Vedic India. The Rig Veda is a collection of hymns to various gods. The Yajur Veda is a collection of prose mantras for worship. The Sama Veda is a collection of chants, some of which delve deep into philosophy. The Atharva Veda is basically a collection of spells, medicine, and other procedures for life. I can't get that text to unbold. The Vedas do get into a bunch of the stuff of ordinary life, since ordinary life overlapped with religion in Vedic society. Here's a wikipedia link that makes a good introduction to Vedic culture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedic_period
  14. The problem with the Lunars and the God-Learners wasn't cosmopolitanism, it's that in Glorantha, if you gain large amounts of power, especially if you're illuminated, you go crazy with it and start doing stupid things like monkeying around with Chaos as a tool or screwing with the gods for fun and power. Ambition is the key; the higher you reach, the more you immolate yourself.
  15. Sartar is probably the only example I can think of where having a vision for change doesn't create something bad that then gets worse and worse and ends in gore-soaked destruction. Pretty much anyone else with a vision in Glorantha ends up a monster. Argath's saga is just one of many examples of this kind of thing. Also the history of Glorantha pretty much says 'If someone is Illuminated, kill them before they burn and destroy the world''
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