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God on the Road


Crel

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I was brainstorming some adventure ideas for my campaign recently, and one that popped up was to use some version of the "God on the Road" trope. I don't know if it has an "official" name, but I'm thinking of when, in myths or in folk tales, a god or other important being disguises itself like an ordinary human and walks among the people. Prominent in my memory is the story of the angels going to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible (along with some of Jesus's appearances after death, I believe), but as I recall this is a trope common to other belief systems as well. For example, I believe Odin's a bit infamous for doing so.

Does this trope exist in your Gloranthas? How does it interact with the Great Compromise?

My first thought was something like this, involving Orlanth, because one of the adventurers is currently dealing with religious struggles on whether or not to accept Argrath's weird version of Orlanth-worship. The adventurer's currently haunted by the spirit of a pal of Alakoring Dragonbreaker who, as you may suspect, is not a fan of the King of Pavis. But shouldn't the Compromise prevent this sort of deity-wearing-human-guise from occurring?

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Interesting. The more common case is the flip-side: treating a sufficiently powerful heroquester as being their God, in any meaningful sense. So if you encounter Rurik Runespear while he's on his hero path, you might as well call him "Yelmalio." And then there are the unusual edge cases, e.g: seeing Glamour out and about on the streets of her city. But what you're asking about is more an "everyman" thing: how do you "heroform" as an anonymous nobody? (I mean, Lanbril does it all the time, but that's different)

I absolutely think that it should work in Glorantha: that is, the way you treat a broken, down-and-out Praxian brave reflects the way you'd treat the injured god Waha, and Waha knows it, etc.

In one of the German freeforms from the nineties, I played the Ralian Hero Garundyer of the Seven Storms "in disguise" as a stock Ralian Orlanthi warrior, which helped to add more mythic oomph to our Lightbringer's Quest: he took on the role of Flesh Man and not Orlanth, to show that any Orlanthi could do the same.

And there are also some fascinating mythic ramifications re: the way you treat defeated Lunars, which we'll be saying more about in our Moonbroth Oasis book. If you treat someone the way the Goddess was treated, you're reinforcing her myth cycle. Smart move.

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There is one possibility I can think of. From King of Sartar;

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From the beginning of time, Orlanth and the dragons have been enemies. Orlanth slew Aroka and Sh'hakarzeel, and many which were lesser. They had, in their turn, ever plotted against Orlanth and humankind, who had robbed them of their ancient world.

One day Eurmal found a new way to betray his master. He found a foolish man, and split his tongue, the way a bird's tongue can be split to make it talk. And he also split the man's brain and his heart. That way the man would understand dragon speech.

The man, who is called Rostand the Speaker, enjoyed the effect. The dragnets, which were always something to fear, spoke to him and he understood. He found his way to a dragon, and rather than being eaten, he learned a song from it!

 

Eurmal has form when it comes to manifesting in the world and meddling. So perhaps there is a chance that the next trickster your character meets on the road could be the worst one of all.

Edited by EricW
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6 hours ago, Crel said:

Does this trope exist in your Gloranthas? How does it interact with the Great Compromise?

I avoid the direct "god" in the world idea in my Glorantha. But... there are several approaches I will use.

This is one:

6 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

if you encounter Rurik Runespear while he's on his hero path, you might as well call him "Yelmalio."

Then there is the dream form.  Dreams obviously take you into a piece of the Otherworld (which one? who knows, doesn't matter).  And there you can be walking along and find yourself talking with your god.  This is a common motif I've used - and it can result in obtaining odd or unusual gifts.

Or there is the ritual ceremony/worship form.  Holy day ceremonies bring the Otherworld and mundane world together.  You can go to Storm Home and sit in Orlanth's Hall drinking his ale.  

In any case, the gods aren't going to be able to talk to you about the Orlevings or the Grey Dogs or the Lunars and tell you what they are doing (any more than Divination could). But they could set you on a quest, or give you a task, etc.

5 hours ago, EricW said:

Eurmal has form when it comes to manifesting in the world and meddling. So perhaps there is a chance that the next trickster your character meets on the road could be the worst one of all.

Usually Raven in my games. But any trickster is clearly an avatar of Eurmal and bound to do anything at all.

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23 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

And there are also some fascinating mythic ramifications re: the way you treat defeated Lunars, which we'll be saying more about in our Moonbroth Oasis book. If you treat someone the way the Goddess was treated, you're reinforcing her myth cycle. Smart move.

Meaning Orlanthi executions = the sacrifice of Teelo Norri? Hm, interesting. I like that. It's the right flavor of cheeky for Glorantha.

23 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

I absolutely think that it should work in Glorantha: that is, the way you treat a broken, down-and-out Praxian brave reflects the way you'd treat the injured god Waha, and Waha knows it, etc.

Yeah, that's a good example of the story trope or archetype which is in my head, the "Everyman is the deity" sense of it. I might try muddling a bit with Campbell and seeing how/if those types of stories map onto his Hero's Journey at all.

I feel like Glorantha's authors tend to focus on the "big myth" a lot of the time, which makes sense, but makes these sort of folk tales or "small myths" get lost in the mire.*

*N.B. I haven't read the whole Stafford Library, don't yell at me if it's filled with little folk stories.

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On 5/3/2020 at 8:55 AM, Crel said:

I was brainstorming some adventure ideas for my campaign recently, and one that popped up was to use some version of the "God on the Road" trope. I don't know if it has an "official" name, but I'm thinking of when, in myths or in folk tales, a god or other important being disguises itself like an ordinary human and walks among the people. Prominent in my memory is the story of the angels going to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible (along with some of Jesus's appearances after death, I believe), but as I recall this is a trope common to other belief systems as well.

This kind of "avatar" situation is one of the biggest traditionally religious elements missing in Glorantha, I would say. Ancient Greeks could say "oh, and then I met Hermes on the road" and think it was nothing weird about that.

You could certainly encounter someone on a this-world heroquest or godforming a divinity, but you don't quite get the traditional version. 

On 5/3/2020 at 8:55 AM, Crel said:

For example, I believe Odin's a bit infamous for doing so.

Correct. As did Zeus (as Zeus Xenios). In both cases, they were also doing their job as patrons of hospitality, checking up on how people treat strangers, rewarding and punishing accordingly. Zeus, of course, also went down into the mortal world to bang ladies.

(Fun side note: In Sweden during the Caroline era (17th century), the Odin myth was either transformed or reinvented into the idea that king Charles XI, in disguise under the alias "Greycloak", went and checked on his subjects the same way.)

On 5/3/2020 at 8:55 AM, Crel said:

My first thought was something like this, involving Orlanth, because one of the adventurers is currently dealing with religious struggles on whether or not to accept Argrath's weird version of Orlanth-worship. The adventurer's currently haunted by the spirit of a pal of Alakoring Dragonbreaker who, as you may suspect, is not a fan of the King of Pavis. But shouldn't the Compromise prevent this sort of deity-wearing-human-guise from occurring?

If you're concerned about compromise-breaking, divine encounters could always take place in "soft places", where The Compromise is more of The Recommendation. In sufficiently sacred places (like Thunder Mountain, in my campaign), you slip partway into the godworld just by physically visiting.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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8 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

(Fun side note: In Sweden during the Caroline era, the Odin myth was either transformed or reinvented into the idea that king Charles XI, in disguise under the alias "Greycloak", went and checked on his subjects the same way.)

Clearly a HeroForm or reenactment HeroQuest.

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On 5/3/2020 at 9:54 AM, EricW said:

Eurmal has form when it comes to manifesting in the world and meddling. So perhaps there is a chance that the next trickster your character meets on the road could be the worst one of all.

Well, allegedly. The modern Orlanthi explanation for the creation of the EWF is clearly strongly biased against it, and Eurmal doing it is as much a stock explanatory trope for bad things as it is an attempt at a factual explanation.

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Here's an idea: what about natural events momentarily transporting people to the Hero Plane without their knowledge? 

So say there is a momentous storm, and you take shelter in a cave or an empty shepherd's shack. Then, someone enters and asks for shelter. You treat them in a certain manner, and the morning after the stranger is gone, the storm has lifted and some manner of karmic justice befalls you. Only then do you realize that the Storm brought you to the Gods world for one night, where Orlanth himself tested you in disguise. 

Or in older parlance, a bit of a "short world" interaction, I guess.

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21 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

what about natural events momentarily transporting people to the Hero Plane without their knowledge? 

Yes, I definitely see this happening.

I used that mechanism in my HQG game when the PC's were chased by Lunars into the woods of the Colymar Wilds.  The SKoH writeup notes: "Colymar Wilds. This is a magical wildland in the Thunder Hills – a dense and dark forest. It is inhospitable to mortals and guarded by the powerful spirit Tarndisi. People who enter never exit unless they know the secrets of the Wilds. Many strange creatures and magical entities reside in the Wilds."  I interpreted that to mean that if you enter without the write knowledge or rituals, you end up in the Hero Plane (probably part of the Spirit World, but could be otherwise).  In this instance, they ended up within the Hunt for the Lady of the Wild in which they were both hunting and hunted (and the hunters included the Lunars manifested as Demon Hounds).  I also blended in the 13G heroquest of the Fangplace.

The Puzzle Canal in Pavis is another such place, though it only occurs at specific times (e.g. Sacred Time) and then you can end up on the River Styx in the Underworld.

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20 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

 

(Fun side note: In Sweden during the Caroline era (17th century), the Odin myth was either transformed or reinvented into the idea that king Charles XI, in disguise under the alias "Greycloak", went and checked on his subjects the same way.)

You find something similar in Shakespeare, with Henry V's tour of the camp in disguise. "A little touch of Harry in the night".  Interesting story, lousy ethics! 

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Also, Haroun al-Rashid,

Quote

The Caliph Haroun-al-Rashid sat in his palace, wondering if there was anything left in the world that could possibly give him a few hours’ amusement, when Jaffar the Grand Vizier, his old and tried friend, suddenly appeared before him. Bowing low, he waited, as was his duty, till his master spoke, but Haroun-al-Rashid merely turned his head and looked at him, and sank back into his former weary posture. Now Jaffar had something of importance to say to the Caliph, and had no intention of being put off by mere silence, so with another low bow in front of the throne, he began to speak.

"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "I have taken on myself to remind your Highness that you have undertaken secretly to observe for yourself the manner in which justice is done and order is kept throughout the city. This is the day you have set apart to devote to this object, and perhaps in fulfilling this duty you may find some distraction from the melancholy to which, as I see to my sorrow, you are a prey."

"You are right," returned the Caliph, "I had forgotten all about it. Go and change your coat, and I will change mine."

A few moments later they both re-entered the hall, disguised as foreign merchants, and passed through a secret door, out into the open country. Here they turned towards the Euphrates, and crossing the river in a small boat, walked through that part of the town which lay along the further bank, without seeing anything to call for their interference. Much pleased with the peace and good order of the city, the Caliph and his Vizier made their way to a bridge, which led straight back to the palace, and had already crossed it, when they were stopped by an old and blind man, who begged for alms...

several Byzantine Emperors,

Quote

Leo the Wise, perhaps inspired by stories about the ways of Harun al-Rashid, would sometimes disguise himself and look for injustice or corruption. On one account, he was even captured by the city guards during one of his investigations. Late one evening he went walking alone, disguised, without any papers. He bribed two patrols for 12 nomismata, and moved on, a third city patrol arrested him. When a terrified arresting officer recognised the ruler the next morning, he was rewarded for doing his duty: the other patrols were dismissed and punished severely.

and the Emperor Nero, who was rumoured to hang out with Roman street gangs for kicks.

Quote

Suetonius, Nero: "Although at first his acts of wantonness, lust, extravagance, avarice and cruelty were gradual and secret, and might be condoned as follies of youth, yet even then their nature was such that no one doubted that they were defects of his character and not due to his time of life. No sooner was twilight over than he would catch up a cap or a wig and go to the taverns or range about the streets playing pranks, which however were very far from harmless; for he used to beat men as they came home from dinner, stabbing any who resisted him and throwing them into the sewers. He would even break into shops and rob them, setting up a market in the Palace, where he divided the booty which he took, sold it at auction, and then squandered the proceeds. In the strife which resulted he often ran the risk of losing his eyes or even his life, for he was beaten almost to death by a man of the senatorial order, whose wife he had maltreated. Warned by this, he never afterwards ventured to appear in public at that hour without having tribunes follow him at a distance and unobserved. Even in the daytime he would be carried privately to the theatre in a sedan, and from the upper part of the proscenium would watch the brawls of the pantomimic actors and egg them on; and when they came to blows and fought with stones and broken benches, he himself threw many missiles at the people and even broke a praetor's head."

Edited by Nick Brooke
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4 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

You find something similar in Shakespeare, with Henry V's tour of the camp in disguise...

My Gloranthan version is here, of course:

This is the Story of the Emperor Who Had No Clothes,
and the Shadow who took them, and what came of it.


http://etyries.albionsoft.com/etyries.com/folktale/nocloths.html

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On 5/5/2020 at 1:42 AM, Sir_Godspeed said:

Here's an idea: what about natural events momentarily transporting people to the Hero Plane without their knowledge? 

So say there is a momentous storm, and you take shelter in a cave or an empty shepherd's shack. Then, someone enters and asks for shelter. You treat them in a certain manner, and the morning after the stranger is gone, the storm has lifted and some manner of karmic justice befalls you. Only then do you realize that the Storm brought you to the Gods world for one night, where Orlanth himself tested you in disguise. 

The only problem with this is that the deity is bound by the compromise not to interact with the mundane world in any premeditated ways. It is fine if a follower of the deity invites the deity for a ride. It isn't quite clear whether that follower could be an elemental entity (a wind) or whether this has to be a physical, alive person doing the invitation. (The body could still be something else - a doll, a wind, whatever)

Many a ruling deity has trickster feats.

There are of course places and/or times when or where the border is weak or even non-existent. The arrival of the Eternal Battle that roams Prax and the Wastes is such a case. An extreme and extremely flashy one. (Has it ever visited Pavis, the Paps, or the Block?)

Magical weather  - usually combined with reduced visibility - is a typical effect of such a transition. Fog, mist, rainfall, smoke, a dust storm, flirring hot air, a fata morgana, a rainbow, a shadow, or a tidal wave can sweep people and places along into the hero planes. Effects like a lightwall or darkwall (as per the spirit spells) can mark (and mask) such transitions, too. There may be an effect similar to triggering a Warding 1 spell.

 

On 5/5/2020 at 1:42 AM, Sir_Godspeed said:

Or in older parlance, a bit of a "short world" interaction, I guess.

If Orlanth himself appears, it won't be a short world (i.e. one cut off the Ultimate) as Orlanth is a conduit to the same.

 

Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

The only problem with this is that the deity is bound by the compromise not to interact with the mundane world in any premeditated ways. It is fine if a follower of the deity invites the deity for a ride. It isn't quite clear whether that follower could be an elemental entity (a wind) or whether this has to be a physical, alive person doing the invitation. (The body could still be something else - a doll, a wind, whatever)

There are a few cases when deities intruded into the mundane world, such as the example I quoted, when Trickster taught a man to talk to dragons. King of Sartar hints that Orlanth adheres most strictly to the compromise, but the other gods may transgress to an extent. 

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14 minutes ago, EricW said:

There are a few cases when deities intruded into the mundane world, such as the example I quoted, when Trickster taught a man to talk to dragons. King of Sartar hints that Orlanth adheres most strictly to the compromise, but the other gods may transgress to an extent. 

Trickster has plenty avatars willing to channel the deity, humans, beasts, natural forces... and Trickster isn't exactly a rule-abiding entity anyway. "I didn't agreed to no bloody Compromise, I didn't!"

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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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