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The Colymar Campaign and the Star Heart


Bohemond

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I'm currently running the Colymar Campaign and I'm preparing for the Third Impossible Task. When the characters are alone in the dark of the Hell Pit, they need to find themselves by finding their Star Hearts. But only Sartarite men have Star Hearts. Sartarite women have their Secret Souls, but that's a rather different concept. Is that how female PCs (of which I have three, so I need to figure this out) deal with being alone in the Pit?

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I  would suggest something along the line of the following for female PCs..

 

They seek to awaken the deep feminine of their “Vibrant Womb”—their deep soul that they discovered during their initiation that allows them to know the truth about the rhythms of the Life/Death/Life cycle and understand the ancient secrets of wild nature.

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4 minutes ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

YGMV, but if I told my female players that their characters needed to awaken their "Vibrant Womb" while the menfolk activated their "Star Hearts," they'd probably tell me to stick it in my "Orifice of Dark Winds." :D

I managed to refrain from suggesting something akin to this when I read the post because I thought it would be uncivil to tell a fellow poster to shove something

vibrant womb are you serious, men get star hearts but we get vibrant wombs?

so thank you for pointing this out

 

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so...what would you call the deep female knowledge of the cycle of life-death-life...their ability as creatrix?

Far from being sexist or derogatory or somehow "less" than a Star Heart; the term "vibrant womb" is  a celebration of their Ernalda earth mother magic.. its a term of acknowledgement of power.

If we look at feminist Jungian authors such as Clarissa Pinkola Estes..the embracing of the Life-death-life cucle of the  Vibracy of the female creatirix role is paramount, notably in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype..

"Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing."

The Life/Death/Life cycle moves like this: Think of a circle and at the top, is the Zenith (highest energy), then moving down the righthand side of the circle, imagine stops, like on the face of a clock, each one with a name:

Thus:
Zenith (at noon)
Beginning of entropy (losing a little energy)
More entropy
Loss of energy/ drying and dying
Death into dark
Nadir (at 6 o’clock)

Then imagine just to the left of Nadir…
Spark Of Life In Dark: Conception
Incubation
Quickening
Labor
Birth
Rising Energy
More Rising Energy
Zenith (high noon)

And again.
And again.

These are the cycles of all life, all endeavor, all the stars and planets and interests and ideas…all follow this cycle of rising, descending, and rebirth to new energy, fresh life again.

So I apolgise if the term "Vibrant Womb" causes offense...and ask what would you call this vitality and  vibrancy of innate creation within each woman?

Edited by Martin
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Yeah, sorry Martin, I know you meant well but.... no.

Women have hearts too. I'd suggest that while it is not the traditional womens path, anyone from Heortling culture who travels to the edge of existence like this obtains the star heart (just that is not normally part of a womans path, so it will be new to them). The heart is more fundamental than the genitalia. 

If you want to make a myth about it with a specific female spin, the Second Son obtains the Star Heart from the Third Mother. So have them meet the Third Mother if you wish. 

 

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Game myth aside, telling a woman without a womb, or one barren, or one unable to function in any perceived "normal" way something like that is bound to cause some hurt. Same if you tell a man who struggles with infertility issues on his own or spouse's behalf. It's such a minefield.

YGMV, but consideration at the table should always be paramount. 

And, someone please tell my Humakti to use her womb for anything. No, really, she'd like correcting them. :)

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On 10/27/2019 at 12:10 AM, Bohemond said:

But only Sartarite men have Star Hearts. Sartarite women have their Secret Souls

Have a look at Greg Stafford's original versions of male and female orlanthi initiation that the Sartar Book uses for its basis:

https://www.glorantha.com/docs/ernaldan-initiation-rites/

https://www.glorantha.com/docs/orlanthi-initiation-rites/

The Star Heart is the mystery that allows men to survive I fought we won, although not everyone actually has a Star Heart, your belief in it gives you to hope and power to survive. The women's equivalent are the secret words given by Ernalda, all women are given their secret words, but they need not be embodied within them. In this test just change the words Star Heart to Secret Words, or if you want to be more HQG call them" I am the Goddess", "Whispers from the Goddess" or "Ernalda within" or what ever goddess the Hero follows. Try this:

Quote

Your Whispers from Ernalda

Handle the manifestation for a hero’s Whispers from Ernalda as an extended contest against a manifestation of her greatest Flaw. For example, if the hero is hated by the Greydogs, she is attacked by all the curses of that clan, their ancestors and guardians; if he is lustful or an addict, then he is seduced by a demon of Temptation; and so on. The hero must select some appropriate ability with which to overcome his Flaw.

On any victory, the hero recalls her Whispers from Ernalda and gains a Lingering Benefit to the ability used to overcome her Flaw. The echoes of the Whispers bounce around the stairs and allows the hero to find her way down to (comparative) safety.

On a Complete Victory he can spend 1 Hero Point to embody her Whispers and place them in her own breast, giving her a new ability “I am the Goddess” starting at the same rating as her Flaw.

On any defeat, the hero suffers a Lingering Penalty to the ability she used. He may try one more time to recall her Whispers from Ernalda. After two defeats, the hero is lost in the Pit of Hell and cannot find her way out. Worse yet, the other heroes cannot find her. Most likely, the hero is lost forever having returned to the Goddesses Dream in the Courts of Yelm.

For the vibrant suggestion, I'd be a dead GM in my group...

 

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Heortling men will already have experienced the Star Heart myth during their initiation, but there is nothing about it that is specifically man-focussed or would exclude a woman from attaining it. It's not as though she can't stand alone against her weaknesses and flaws. The party questing in the Colymar campaign isn't necessarily questing/identifying as Heort either, merely facing a similar problem using Heort's example (of which all Heortlings know at least the broad strokes).

If a player wants an approach to the Star Heart challenge in a fashion that reflects traditional Heortling gender norms and ideas of feminine power (rather than just Vinga-ing through Heort's path), perhaps "There is always another way." provides some guidance. Heort faced his demons alone, but was that the only option available?  What if a character strong in Harmony manages to find her comrades despite the Dark, and teaches them to help eachother overcome their flaws, each applying their strength where another is weak. I Fought, We Won.

Following in Heort's footsteps is of course a well-trod path, but the deeper lesson of of I Fought, We One was that everyone everywhere was struggling in their own ways, and together overcoming the Dark. Ultimately, it's formost about the character. A woman who walks the path of Babeester Gor, Redalda, or Maran is going to face being Alone in the Dark differently than one following Ernalda would. I could see an Issaries initiate of whatever gender taking the "other way" approach above with through Communication as "easily" as an Ernaldan might carry it off with Harmony. Anyone who follows Eurmal, Humakt, or Lhankor Mhy might also find yet different paths. Many struggles, one victory.

Edited by JonL
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David’s suggestion that the secret words of Ernalda correspond to the Star Heart is a good one. Of course remembering that the Orlanthi aren’t gender essentialist - it is normal for Vingans to experience theStar Heart during her initiation. For characters in other cults, give them what seems most appropriate, or let them experience the Star Heart because they are at the edge of creation, or make something up.  

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Now I want to play through the Colymar Campaign as an Argan Argar follower. 

I do not fear the long night, for I am of the Darkness.

I need no star's light to bring me hope, for I feel others struggling within the Darkness, and know that we are not alone.

I shall find the others in their struggles, and exchange with them the words of Unity, so that my friends will know hope as well.

United, we shall bring hope to all.

Edited by JonL
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On 10/28/2019 at 11:26 PM, JonL said:

Heortling men will already have experienced the Star Heart myth during their initiation

From https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com/home/gloranthan-documents/glorantha-2/cultures/orlanthi-initiation-rites/

Quote

These are the things that people experience differently. Most people get to the Second Son, who explains to them the things that lie beyond. Most people are content with that.

But some will have to go farther, and they will see, perhaps touch or (more rarely) even get their own Star Heart and place it into their breasts.

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Thanks for all the good suggestions! I'm not entirely against the idea of the Vibrant Womb--one of the PCs is an Ernaldan and another is an Odaylan man who accidentally got a sex change as the result of a quest, then got pregnant by a minor Star-godling, gave birth and could have chosen to return to being a man but decided to remain the child's mother. Both of them might well groove on the idea of a Vibrant Womb. But the third PC is a Babeester Gori, who clearly needs something else. 

On a deeper level, though, I think having female PCs default to their womb as their source of greatest strength is problematic because it centers them on their reproductive capacity. That might be historically appropriate, but Glorantha isn't historical and while some female gamers would really groove on that, others will find it a tired fantasy trope and want something quite different. 

What I found surprising when I ran into that detail in the campaign is that the Star Heart is essentially a men's principle (Vingans counting as men mythically), which means that the scenario is assuming all the PCs are male (though not necessarily all the players). That's a problem I think the campaign has already--the Orlanthi hero gets to do great deeds for a woman, and some male PC gets to sleep with Estel Donge. It would be really nice to see a campaign, or even just a solid scenario, that is written with the assumption the central PC is an Ernaldan and that the adventure is aimed at female players/characters.  

Edited by Bohemond
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33 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

It would be really nice to see a campaign, or even just a solid scenario, that is written with the assumption the central PC is an Ernaldan and that the adventure is aimed at female players/characters.

Strong agree. Ernaldans and Eirithans seem to end up stuck in womb-temples in the setting, although there are some notable examples (HeroQuest Glorantha, I believe, has one of the example characters being an Ernaldan).

Also, I think it's not really historically accurate to center female PCs on their reproduction. That's kind of a modern European fantasy view. I just read The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros, a famous premodern biography of an Ethiopian saint who gelled resistance to the Jesuits and Catholicism, and the introduction spent quite a bit of time discussing how strange she (and Ethiopian women in general) seems in her hagiography because she has none of the characteristics accorded to female saints in Western Churches because non-Westerners don't care that she is a woman. She's a powerful, terrifying saint and she embodies that.

I think the vision of reproduction in history is wayyy overstated. Women's food and weaving production was something far more obvious and valuable, and not every woman could bear children. And childcare was just as crucial to survival as birth!

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5 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Strong agree. Ernaldans and Eirithans seem to end up stuck in womb-temples in the setting, although there are some notable examples (HeroQuest Glorantha, I believe, has one of the example characters being an Ernaldan).

Also, I think it's not really historically accurate to center female PCs on their reproduction. That's kind of a modern European fantasy view. I just read The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros, a famous premodern biography of an Ethiopian saint who gelled resistance to the Jesuits and Catholicism, and the introduction spent quite a bit of time discussing how strange she (and Ethiopian women in general) seems in her hagiography because she has none of the characteristics accorded to female saints in Western Churches because non-Westerners don't care that she is a woman. She's a powerful, terrifying saint and she embodies that.

I think the vision of reproduction in history is wayyy overstated. Women's food and weaving production was something far more obvious and valuable, and not every woman could bear children. And childcare was just as crucial to survival as birth!

I was just reading around, and there's so much about Ernalda's weaving, ie. her ability to provide, clothe, shelter, protect and arguably provide the markers of civilization and social stratification that you could play around with. It's not exactly combat magic, I guess, but there are interesting story hooks in there! Imagine Chaos (or maybe Sorcery) blasting an entire community's memories away, and as an Ernaldan you need to reestablish social norms, cast out offenders, set up magical defenses against further damages or whatever. I don't know - have some fun with the base concepts. The opposite could be true as well, of course - imagine a community that pisses off Ernalda (or an Ernaldan high priestess) and suddenly they find themselves unable to accept any kind of decision-making organization as they've been cursed by Ernalda denying them communality or something.

I mean, you could obviously give her rock demons to smash stuff or whatever even if that's more of a Maran thing (another goddess that could do with some limelight in combat adventures I'd imagine), but even with the more "domestic" (actually societal) purview of Ernalda in mind, there are things that could be done.

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5 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Women's food and weaving production was something far more obvious and valuable, and not every woman could bear children

Notably, when Heortlings vote, the women bring either a big spoon/ladle or a distaff as their token of franchise. 

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25 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

The opposite could be true as well, of course - imagine a community that pisses off Ernalda (or an Ernaldan high priestess) and suddenly they find themselves unable to accept any kind of decision-making organization as they've been cursed by Ernalda denying them communality or something.

That's the whole premise of the disappearance of Orane in the HQG book - and central to my HQG Orlmarth campaign.  Without their peaceweaving powers, the community starts to disintegrate. 

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7 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Also, I think it's not really historically accurate to center female PCs on their reproduction. That's kind of a modern European fantasy view. I just read The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros, a famous premodern biography of an Ethiopian saint who gelled resistance to the Jesuits and Catholicism, and the introduction spent quite a bit of time discussing how strange she (and Ethiopian women in general) seems in her hagiography because she has none of the characteristics accorded to female saints in Western Churches because non-Westerners don't care that she is a woman. She's a powerful, terrifying saint and she embodies that.

I think the vision of reproduction in history is wayyy overstated. Women's food and weaving production was something far more obvious and valuable, and not every woman could bear children. And childcare was just as crucial to survival as birth!

Speaking as a professional historian (medieval Europe with occasional excursions into classical Greece and Rome), I do think women's reproductive capacity and the things connected to it were the central element for society's understanding of women in the Classical and Early Medieval periods--women tended to be defined by qualities relating to reproduction (virginity, marriage, loyalty to husband and children, etc). Women who were infertility or whose sexual history made control over their reproduction problematic were generally lower status. One simple example--in the first written English law code (Aethelberht of Kent's), nearly every mention of women has something to do with sex or marriage. That said, it wasn't their only function--cloth production is heavily emphasized across almost all these cultures, for example. Women in early Greek writing are often discussed in conjunction with housework. And one can always find examples of women who broke the rules through adultery, public protest, doing things only men were supposed to do, etc. (And my female students are always startled and kind of excited that I give whole lectures on women's experiences in the ancient and medieval world.) There is a small amount of evidence from Norse culture of women using weapons and Roman gladiators were at least occasionally women. 

I think for me, the biggest challenge is finding ways to write scenarios that center on women that A) don't just treat the women as substitute men--the violent hero is a Vingan! B ) find ways to make non-martial challenges interesting to play through--"Ok, I made my Heal Wounds role, now what?", and C) are stories that female players would find fun and interesting--sure, reproduction is a hugely important concept, but do women want to play through stories about being pregnant? Is Ernaldan spirituality actually something women want to explore in a game, or is likely to make them feel relegated to the traditional domestic role that a lot of them get pressured into in real life? Obviously the answer will vary from player to player, so asking your female players what they want is important.

The Odaylan who get pregnant (mentioned above) was a male player's PC, and initially he was a bit iffy about playing a temporarily female character. But he rolled with it and after the PC got pregnant, we had some fun with him trying to get insight into what having a Sky godling's baby might involve. He had to track down a Redaldan known for her skill at foaling who gave the character some decisions to make--did want this baby to take after its mother or its father? The PC decided she wanted it to take after her, meaning it would be a physical being, not a disembodied deity to be worshipped. During a quest into the Underworld, a Darkness deity tried to demand the baby in exchange for passage, and the player had to decide just how important the baby was. When it came time to give birth, the male characters had to fight a Hollri that was assailing the Loom House (spirits of cold wanted to destroy the baby, which was after all associated with Fire) while the Darkness deity reappeared in the Loom House and tried to take the baby, which allowed the PC to defy it again and then gave the Babeester Gori a chance to fight to defend her. And when after birth the PC was able to decide which sex they would be, the player chose to stay the baby's mother. It was a fun sequence to play through and it felt like I was making the process of childbirth feel as important as fighting a battle. But whether a female player would have enjoyed it as much as a male player, I'm not sure. He enjoyed it in part because it was a very different experience than he as a man was used to having in an RPG. 

I think one issue is that it's easy to satisfy male players because they have a lot of models for male-centered storytelling--most fantasy stories they've seen are centered on male and feature traditional male preoccupations. And the vast majority of scenarios offer a wide range of models. Nor does society button-hole and restrict them in ways that make these stories seem dull ("Aw man! Another story where I have to kill the trolls and rescue the kidnapped woman?") But women are much more limited in the range of stories we've traditionally told about them. Some women respond to those limits by wanting female characters who get to be the violent protagonist. Others want stories that feel distinctly different from violent confrontation because violence feels too much like male preoccupation that doesn't connect to their interests--some women are genuinely interested in stories of heroic motherhood or community-building or Jane Austin-style romantic concerns. But we don't have a lot of models for how to translate those concerns into the fantasy RPG, and just making the stories about reproduction is going to make some female players feel button-holed into the traditional female role. So how do you make a task like weaving a tapestry as interesting as fighting a band of broo? I haven't tried to tackle that yet, but I have a few ideas. 

(Sorry, it's early morning, I haven't had my caffeine yet, so I'm at risk of just letting my brain meander through everything that's bobbing to the surface. I'll be quiet now.)


 

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3 hours ago, Bohemond said:

So how do you make a task like weaving a tapestry as interesting as fighting a band of broo?

Ok first: that baby epic is fucking amazing.

This, I think, is honestly two separate questions.

First, it conflates the work men do as "fighting", which I think we all agree is not an accurate representation of the main way men spend their days but rather an idealised vision from heroic narratives blown up over the ages. Mostly men hunted, grew crops, cut woods, built things, and so forth, with conflict being a part of their role.

Imagine if the roles in Glorantha were mostly like Barntar.

But mostly it's an underlying conflict in the gaming world in the first place. Coming as it did from wargaming, many trad games - of which without a doubt RuneQuest is one of the most traddy - focused on actual fighting, not on conflict. As if conflict didn't involve all the things it could. (HeroQuest is not at all the same.) There are literally people churning out settings that use intensely popular systems focused on emotional struggle, like Powered by the Apocalypse - Monster of the Week is basically Buffy, where supernatural conflict is a stage for dealing with trauma, interpersonal conflict, love, sex, and breakups. Some games are about communities trying to survive a hostile world - the absolutely hair-raising Dream Askew/Dream Apart is a double game about life in the fantasy shtetl and life in the queer community after the apocalypse.

These games, and a bjillion more, have fighting (because everyone loves punching evil in the boob), but it's got the same resolution rules as every other conflict: will the crops grow this season, will i befriend the white deer, will i pass my initiation, will i do the ceremony right, will i swim the river or drown? it's all the same. (The current incarnation of RQ is much better about this, to its credit.) A Quiet Year is a fascinating exercise in a limited-period community-building ttrpg.

So the real question is: what conflicts are interesting to your players? And how do these reflect in player choice of character roles?

If you have many interesting conflicts, maybe it's okay in your Orlanthi society that stabbing shit is for Men (including Vingans) and defending the stead proper is for the bloody-handed Gorites and their axes. Women all have knives, they're not helpless, but they fight different battles. Maybe "Man" is what Orlanthi call Wind rune people and "Woman" is for Earth-rune people. After all, that's why we have initiation: the gods see who you really are deep down. Who cares if you have a beard (or don't want to: we have pregnant mare's urine for that), you're a Woman if you have Earth, like Barntar. Men, sure, they stab the enemies we can see, but Women fight the invisible war. Crops. Safety. Both wars suck, but this isn't the Green Age. There's treaties to be made and alliances to be forged with spirits. The future requires wisdom and boldness: not just cattle-rustling, but also trading missions, wisdom to be learned from ancient legends and ruins. Fresh blood must be brought in for the animals. Men and Women are needed for these things.

(What do they call other rune people? What about shamans, and wyters? What about Moon rune people who don't trust the Red Moon?)

 

Edited by Qizilbashwoman
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5 hours ago, Bohemond said:

did want this baby to take after its mother or its father?

As usual, astounding.

1 hour ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Both wars suck, but this isn't the Green Age. There's treaties to be made and alliances to be forged with spirits. The future requires wisdom and boldness:

The parallel to the gendering of the Praxian Covenant is super interesting. Instead of the vague and cheerful "e pluribus unum" of IFWW success in a broken world requires specialization. Some are eaters. Some are eaten. Some are Eiritha. Some are the Bull. Those who arbitrate the distinctions are Daka and their visible portion is Waha. Maybe that's the model for the Kerofinelan hierogamy where two forces meet and one becomes "male" and the other "female." Authorities on the prehistory of Pairing Stone probably know a lot more about what happens when gender systems that evolved independently encounter each other. 

Meanwhile most of us spend a lot of time as barntar types even as adults, more like undifferentiated DH drones or hapless oasis people. Some become parents. Some become fighters or magic-users and those roles get gendered too. Waha teaches weapons and Eiritha teaches magic. People who know weapons are the "sons" and people who know magic are "daughters." The masculine is Death and the feminine is Fertility, more or less. There are special people who follow different routes to differentiation. There are also more intense forms, as when the Bull is too butch for normal people to even deal with. 

Depending on the specific historical expression of the compact a lot of this often gets mapped across elemental lines. The "earth" people mostly became girls and the "storm" people mostly take the boy pronoun. The "sky" dynamics are a little more esoteric given the vertical fixation there. "Water" is fluid. Expand into the complexities. When "earth" girls are an easy fit, the uppity earth is literally "moon." Storm and sun have their own dynamic. Dark is like a cremaster movie. 

Tapestries are magic only slower. Run it as a ritual enchantment, keep feeding points into it despite all obstacles + distractions and the weavework will start to move.

 

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[Julie Brown reluctantly cut but we need to hide everyone else's shame]

10 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

broo detected

Exactly! The obscenity of whether / how many broo are "female" is probably the underside of this, like the way both a cheerful baubo and awful phallic mother are both "gorgons."

Which reminds me two things I wanted to wedge in there. First, all of this is probably part of how Androgeus functions to unravel the world. Gender as compromise means transgressing the opposition liberates whatever is tied up in those secret knots. 

Second, I am rarely happy with Man rune so maybe it's time someone quested hot and heavy into that to figure out how its gender works, where to find Woman rune(s), etc. A basic stick person could be anyone, no sword or hourglass Fertility figure. Maybe the addi is also a drawing stick, which in turn becomes the tattoo needle. Only in some societies does the stick person become dudes only. I naturally see the mark of zzabur all over that.

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