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Glamour and the Crater

Nick Brooke

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Now our Rough Guide to Glamour has gone Electrum, I thought it might be nice to share the first notes I sent Glorantha’s master cartographer Colin Driver while he was working on the map that ended up on p.60 of the book:
The thing I really want to get across with this map is is the relief. I did it very crudely with that grey gradient (steep upward slope) and black bar (Crater Rim), but it’s got to be possible to draw those more attractively. This is about showing the relationship between the Walls (the black outer wall of chunkiness, the white inner wall of Disney) and the terrain (the human-occupied city on the flat lowlands, the magical pleasure palaces and noble estates rising up the rumpled mountainside, with the Imperial Palace of Moonson at the lip of the Crater, and the white Silver Road / Bridge as a connecting thread running through the picture).
Essentially, the top half of the map above is on a constantly upwards gradient (inc. relief features: knolls and crags and ridges, etc.), with Moonson’s Palace as the very highest point in the City, a couple of thousand metres above ground level. Once we rotate it 45 degrees it should be easier to show that just beyond the Crater Wall is a bottomless pit
The lower half of this map is essentially flat lowlands. The ground becomes rumpled and hilly as you move upwards (into the grey zone), and rapidly rises to the Crater’s peaks (the black zone). The City of Dreams and the Old City (the darker red semicircle) are on a raised ridge that sticks out from the Crater – they’re much lower than its crags and peaks, but significantly higher than the ground below (you have to go up staircases to get to the highest parts of the old city).
Silver Road / Silver Bridge: the grey line from the top to bottom of the map is the main route through the city: entering at the Gate of Four Beasts, it rises (via what’s essentially a magical suspension bridge) to the Old City, passes through the Citadel of Halfway, and then becomes a silver arc rising in a parabola towards the Imperial Palace – it actually keeps going beyond the Palace, stretching up to the Red Moon itself, but we don’t need to go that far. I wonder if a cross-section showing the relative heights of things would be useful?
Outer Walls, Gates and Towers: the thick black circle around Glamour is the main city wall, and the 18 red diamonds are its gates. These are big, thick, chunky, impressive fortifications: think of the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, or the Gates of Nineveh. Equally impressive is the Inner Wall that separates Inner Glamour (the green semicircle) from Outer Glamour (the pink semicircle), that has a couple of its own gates. The Gate of Four Beasts is the biggest and most impressive of these gates, and should stand out as such.
Inside the green semicircle of Inner Glamour, there’s another circular wall around the City of Dreams, which we call the Wall of Sleep. This is more delicate, fairytale, Disney, Arabian Nights, Mad King Ludwig architecture: the six white dots mark its towers, tall slim minarets. This shines like silver, white marble or moonlight. I think ideally it’d be drawn in white unless that gets confusing with roads (which could be grey instead) (it is still in black on the map above, please correct this).
The City of Dreams is a magical pleasure garden/palace complex for the ruler of the world’s greatest Empire: it’s a Forbidden City, Xanadu, Versailles, Vegas Adult Disneyland for the Emperor’s pleasure. There are palaces dotted around its terraced grounds – some parts are wild grottoes and mountain glades, other parts are terraced hanging gardens with beautiful waterfalls streaming down from the crags.
Outside the City of Dreams are the two green “horns” on the map. (Ignore the waxing & waning labels). The one on the left is the Silver Horn, which is a weird wilderness containing a mix of picturesque ruins, isolated sorcerers’ towers, research observatories, secluded estates where folk be strange, follies, and dark woods haunted by magical creatures. There are no roads through the Silver Horn, or none that you can trust: if you set off into this Forbidden Forest, all those magical creatures, werewolves, wild women and the like are going to lure you off the path and do unspeakable things to you.
The one on the right, the Ivory Horn, contains stately homes, formal planned estates and small palaces owned by the seriously wealthy, all set among landscaped parkland and terraced gardens. These are private gated communities: you could ride between them along well-maintained scenic roads, take picnics on beautiful hilltops, etc. Where the Silver Horn is wild and dangerous, the Ivory Horn has been tamed.
(The City of Dreams is a mix of both, reflecting the Red Emperor’s schizophrenic tendencies and lapses into insanity: if you’re invited to one of Moonson’s parties, you’re never quite sure whether it’ll be a formal togas-and-frocks dinner, an anything-goes pansexual orgy, or a terrifying experience where unlucky guests will be chased across a private hunting preserve by baying packs of the Imperial Family (and their deformed ancestors and descendants), all dressed in animal skins and wielding sharp sickles)
That leaves two significant places on the map.
The Citadel of Halfway is the gateway between Outer and Inner Glamour. It’s a walled citadel, a city-within-a-city that looks kinda like the Kremlin or the Vatican City. St Basil’s Cathedral is actually a feature, as is a Red Square called “Red Square” (which is marked on the map as a red, er, rectangle). The gateway the Silver Road passes through is, of course, the Silver Gate, and it’s possibly a hybrid between the clunky/ chunky/ functional architecture of the other city gates and the Disney fantasy minarets inside the City of Dreams – this is the place where those two styles collide.
And Moonson’s Palace is amazing. It’s all white or silver curtain-walls and towers and lattices and minarets, straight up the mountainside, with waterfalls raining down from the Crater (somehow, don’t ask me, it’s magic), and the Emperor’s House is at the very tip-top of a Crater-rim peak, where the Silver Bridge touches it and then goes hyperbolic up to the Moon itself (I know, it’s just a white line of light on the map, but it’s all kinds of awesome)…
Edited by Nick Brooke
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One thing I was thinking of adding during the late stages of pulling our book A Rough Guide to Glamour together was a sequence of stick-figure technical drawings, like XKCD comics or IKEA assembly instructions, showing how the Goddess “danced her last dream” and rose into the Middle Air, leaving the Crater behind her. These would have accompanied the map of Glamour and the Crater. I’ve attached my notes below, but in the end we decided it was unrealistic to get this done to an adequate standard in the time available, and they were never commissioned.
This may be crazy, but I think I know what we need to show how Glamour relates to the Crater, and it begins by showing how the Crater relates to the Red Moon.
Essentially, while the illustration by Jakob Rebelka is all well and good, it fails to capture the topography of what occurred when the Red Moon Goddess famously “danced her last dream upon the face of the earth.” (It’s superb as an example of devotional art; but it’s not so useful for us urban planners)
So let’s think instead about a set of cartoons, technical drawings of stick-figure simplicity.
[1] The first frame shows a woman dancing on a flat plain (posture as per Rebelka, only as a red stick figure), with dotted arrows indicating her direction of rotation (clockwise) and direction of ascent (vertical). Here’s what we’re illustrating from Lunar holy scripture:

Then the Goddess danced her last dream upon the face of the Earth, sketching out the plans for her heavenly and temporal domains, revealing the secrets of her inner soul to the High Initiates of her Lunar cult.

If we want to make this more complicated, there’s a crowd of other stick figures watching her dance. They’re standing all around her, but their leader is a red stick man with a three-pointed crown and he’s standing to the south-east.

[2] In the second frame, she wraps the earth she’s dancing on around her, forming what will become a perfect sphere (the Red Moon), but at this stage she’s still connected to the ground. She’s swirling the ground up around her as she dances, like it’s a conical cloak, or one of those huge Mexican folk-dancer’s skirts, or maybe it looks something like twirling pasta up from a plate? So you have a conical shape rising from the ground towards a sphere that’s coalescing around our dancing stick-figure girl. She’s still spinning clockwise, and rising vertically – both the arrows are the same.

Then she took the ground she had danced upon, and wrapping it about her like a cloak or a cuirass, clinging her secrets close to herself, she ascended into the sky, rising higher and higher until she reached the Middle Air. There she took her seat and began turning slowly, watching over her domains in history and myth from the heavens.

That crowd’s still watching her rise; many are prostrating themselves towards her (down on their knees, praying). But they’re a minor detail. The red stick man with the crown isn’t grovelling: he knows the score.

[3] In the third frame the geography is all set up. There’s now a solid red sphere hanging in mid-air, rotating clockwise (same arrow), but no longer ascending: it’s the Red Moon. We can’t see the stick-figure girl any more: she is the moon now. (If it’s convenient for the moon to have a “Man in the Moon” face, it looks like her; but that may be an unnecessary detail)
The conical bits of ground that had been rising with her have kinda snapped, and where the Moon broke loose from the ground is a circular crater. I’ll describe that in a bit. It might look a bit like the splashback when a drop of water lands – in fact, looking at some high-speed photos of water droplets might be inspiring: imagine them played backwards.
There is nothing in the interior of the crater. Inside that ring of crags is a bottomless pit, 25 miles across. Rotating in the air above it is a sphere of earth, the Red Moon, which is logically also 25 miles across (although as a heavenly body she now plays by different rules of scale).

Where the Goddess had taken the Earth for herself was left a great gaping hole, whose bottom no mortal knows. Its sides were lined with steep impassable walls with but a single entrance. This entrance is protected by Glamour, the capital city of the Lunar Empire, and also the First Inspiration of Moonson. From there the Red Emperor, Son of the Moon, rules over the Empire, while his scarlet mother watches from overhead.

Here are those descriptions of the Crater I promised you:

  • Guide to Glorantha p.141: “Gathering the very earth from about her the Red Goddess ascended into the sky, leaving behind a great empty spot called The Crater, into which no mortal may look or think without going mad, which is surrounded by a ring of impossibly tall crags.”
  • Guide to Glorantha p.317: The Crater did not exist before 0/27 (1247). That year the Red Goddess danced her Dance of Memory and Promise, revealing her inner secrets to her companions and followers. Then she took the ground she had danced upon, clutched it closely about her like a cloak, and ascended into the sky. As she rose the earth reached vainly for her child, raising a ring of steep and impenetrable mountains which rise for miles into the air and form the walls of the Crater.
    The Crater is approximately 25 miles in diameter and its peaks are 2 to 3 miles high, creating a tall ring resembling a crown. Climbing the mountains is impossible for humans. Nor would anyone want to, for inside the ring of mountains lies nothing but a slick-sided drop-off pit into the Underworld.
Now, I think this is still part of frame three: on the ground, on what will turn out to be the south-east side of the Crater (we could show compass directions to make this clear, in which case we should have showed them all along?), the red stick man with the crown is drawing a red circle on the ground (it’ll be an oval, as this is a perspective view) to define the circular walls of his city, Glamour. It’s going to be on the edge of the Crater, so the ground isn’t flat – while the lower half of the city is on what was still flat ground after that twisty cone started rising, the other half rises stupidly steeply up the craggy ring of the Crater’s outer wall.

Upon the Surface World, the Red Emperor was left behind to fill in the void left by the Goddess’ departure. He summoned the first of his Inspirations. With the other High Initiates, he led them in the Dance of Returns, and drew upon the world the plans and dreams where they would live, giving strength and comfort to those who had made the dance, and making secret doors for reaching the Goddess and other Lunar realms.


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@Jeff drew us a quick cross-section through Glamour while we were finalising details, to make sure we were all on the same page:
No photo description available.

Jeff: Vertical scale of the city is exaggerated, and the Crater Wall is reduced. Sunbirds and firebirds are there because I was listening to Station to Station. And yes, the Silver Bridge is architecturally impossible. That's fine because the City of Dreams is not in the mundane world. Also the architecture in the City of Dreams should be impossible.
Nick: I concur. It's insane. Mad King Ludwig designing video game levels.
Mike: This is why we've never tried to show it before.
Nick: This is why we need some overt vagueness within the "City of Dreams" circle - clouds or rainbows or snowflake shapes or fractals or some such nonsense. My own take would have half of Outer Glamour kinda flat, and then the steep rise of the Old City (former Diadem of Towers).
Jeff: I imagine the whole thing is plopped on the foothill of the Crater like a coin. I just want to get in that I don't think that the City of Dreams is level. I imagine it like Lombard Street
Nick: Canon accepted. If you can draw contour lines to match, I will instruct the magnificent Colin to turn your dreams into virtual reality.
Mike: Yes. Sorry, I didn't notice the contours might imply the City of Dreams was on a plateau. It is really almost vertical.
Jeff: I particularly like imagining Moonson's Palace looming two miles above the city, like a vast and luxurious version of Blofeld's Piz Gloria. More proof that the Red Emperor is Telly Savalas.
Nick (humouring him, because the Red Emperor is Elvis) That is, to be frank, your best argument yet.

Edited by Nick Brooke
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