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What did Greg Stafford think of the Orlanthi and Lunars?


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Dragon Pass and Prax especially have a Western feel to them. With the ducks and all, we could fix Dragon Pass as California and Prax as the surrounding desert. Dragon Pass belongs to the Dragons, who represent Zen. The Orlanthi are settlers and the Lunars are invaders.

Holy Country, where the Orlanthi come from, should be New Orleans. The golddiggers who settled California belong to that strain. It's a slave-owning feudal society, basically Catholic. The Pharaoh is the Pope.

Peloria should be New England. Yelm worshippers are Puritans, so Protestants. Lunarism is what you have in Hollywood. Tarsh is Los Angeles.

There's a dialectic between old and new. Eventually the dragons eat everyone up.


Such an interesting conversation I have to jump in. I never played in Glorantha but did own the Finnish translation of the 3rd edition as a child. The rules were too hard so we played other games, especially Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that was much influenced by RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu.

Recently I bought the scans of Wyrm's Footnotes, which are most fascinating. The layout and feel have much in common with the Principia Discordia, another product of that time and place.

Edited by Vili
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On 5/29/2020 at 9:42 PM, Darius West said:

To accept chaos in any form is to become the enemy of the world.  That is not morally ambiguous.  And anyone who tells to that they want to destroy the world to "build a better world" should never be trusted, especially when their personal habits are very unsavory; I mean, do you really want to live in their ideal world?

It's an objective fact of the world (I think it's an objective fact?) that a little Chaos is necessary for the world to continue existing (the whole point of the Chaosium). Now, it might be argued that the best way to maintain the balance is to constantly fight tooth and nail against it and all pretend that this isn't the case, but from a philosophical standpoint, the lunars are right in seeing Chaos as a necessary part of the world.  


  As for Argrath destroying so many of the Gods, well, firstly it wasn't really him who did it, but the Devil; failing a ritual isn't intentional.  

I personally can't see any reasonable reading that makes Argrath's ritual of the net an "Oops!" moment rather than a deliberate act, but to each their own. 

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9 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

One of the good things about Arthur is that after gaining the crown and kicking the tar out of the saxons, he doesn’t do a lot. Yes, there’s the occasional war, but he’s not really driving the plot. Being a perfect king is a rather passive job. You can tell how he doesn’t get that much screen time in Malory later on.

In a way, Lancelot is more annoying, because he does drive the plot, and he’s a “you will never be this good or this cool” NPC.

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.)

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5 minutes ago, John Biles said:

Most of what Lancelot does is small-scale adventure stuff, though his relationship with Guenevere does drive the collapse of the Kingdom.

And auto-wins any tournament he participates in, which can be a massive annoyance. Fighting for second place isn't a lot of fun.

(I also massively dislike how nothing that makes Lancelot so perfect is earned. Apparently great knights are born, not made, and Lancelot just had the maximum possible amount of the Knight gene.) 

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On 5/27/2020 at 1:11 AM, Rick Meints said:

He definitely preferred playing a Lunar character in live action freeforms. I have a feeling he personally related more to the Lunar way than the Orlanthi way.

Yes, my impression too.

On 5/27/2020 at 6:11 AM, John Biles said:

The real undercurrent of Glorantha is that Mysticism leads to murderous grandiose insanity and huge stacks of corpses.

It was my impression, and I discussed mysticism with Greg quite a lot at one point, was that Greg took mysticism very seriously, had read a great deal of it, and was very sympathetic to it. He also felt that many/most people known as mystics were not really doing mysticism, or were failing badly at it, both in Glorantha and in real life - and that the moral dangers of using mysticism to justify your actions was very real. The treatment of Illumination in Glorantha is intended to show this danger, but it is not intended to be a simplistic, one-sided, thing either. 

The story of how Greg's idea of Illumination was based on his personal experience of some people associated with the Berkeley household of Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband Walter Breen has been told a few times. Greg and some of his friends (I believe Steve Perrin?) attended social gatherings there, and Bradley was a co-founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is so central to early RuneQuest, and a major part of the local pagan community. Bradley and Breen were involved in practices from the Western Esoteric traditions that could be regarded as mystic, and having other things in common with Nysalor, such as symbolism of light and freedom - for example, Rosicrucianism, the teachings of Dion Fortune, and Aleister Crowleys OTO. They were also people who are now regarded as deeply corrupted with unpleasant secrets - Breen was a known child abuser even at the time, and it is very likely Greg would have heard about it at some point (it was certainly well known in Californian science fiction fandom in the 1960s), Bradley became publicly known as one after her death. It is not hard to see how the image of the corrupt mystic Nysalor could have arisen from that situation. 

But my impression was that Greg also was a keen student of texts such as the yoga sutras of Patanjali, which at one time he said was core to understanding Gloranthan mysticism, and took them very seriously.

And it is worth remembering that the Bhavagad Gita is literally a dialogue with Krishna about the moral doubts of Arjuna, after which Arjuna engages in a war in which he kills hundreds, thousands, of people. The idea that mystics can be responsible for huge stacks of corpses did not start with Greg. 

Greg did not at all draw a strict line between fiction and games, and the real and profound. I think that great spiritual truths can be expressed and explored through fiction and games was something that he felt deeply and that was the reason why he lived the life he did.

In some Lunar texts, such as the Life of Sedenya published in Rule One Magazine, we find the instructions that 


“When you speak of me, tell of yourself first,” said the Goddess. She was instructing her followers how to teach others about Her. “How will we do that, Great One?” they asked.

“Tell who you are, of your first memory, your akindling, and your sevening,” she replied. Since then all persons who speak for her or about her have followed those instructions.

The earliest document I have from Greg about the deeper Lunar mythology was a few pages that Greg handed out to some people attending the first Australian RuneQuest Con  (labelled Moon Myths #1, if anyone else still has it). Greg began it with that rule, the First rule of the Goddess, and obeying that rule the first page was autobiographical from the point of view of Greg Stafford. He describes his own first memory, 'kindling' and 'sevening'. In short, Greg describes himself as 'Illuminated' and talks about the guidance of the Goddess in his life, as well as references to his shamanic practice. 

Thats not to say that Greg may not have, especially at other points in his life, felt similar deep connections to other philosophies, including the Orlanthi. But he certainly felt a deep connection to the Lunar way and its underlying ideas, even while acknowledging its 'dark side'. 

Edited by davecake
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@Redmoongodess Yeah I'm familiar with the Samuel Haight stuff. I'm not a fan of metaplots in general, but they're not innately bad, and as I've noted before at some point you have to pick a starting time. Would you raise the same objection to the God Learners and the EWF? To Arkat and Gbaji? Presumably not because they're in the past, right? Well, if you go with the new 1625+ timeline for RQG then so is the liberation of Sartar - and honestly, I don't think that's innately awful. (The main reason I set my campaign to start in 1615 was because I think The Cradle is an awesome scenario and I want to run my players through it).

Plus, Argrath/Kallyr/Harrek are far more interesting and well rounded NPCs than Samuel Haight ever was. :)

I mean don't get me wrong, I'd love to see supplements that supported a game set in the West (I suspect sorcery will need to be a lot more fleshed out than RQG has at the moment for that to be feasible), or with PC Lunars. I presume that as long as RQG proves reasonably profitable we'll eventually get that, and in the interim I assume @Nick Brooke and others will continue to produce quality work on their web sites - fan material, sure, but that's no bad thing if it's high quality.

I don't see Chaosium moving in a "Argrath and His Amazing Friends" direction, personally - YGMV has been around for a long time, after all.

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I wanted to thank everyone for this thread. I learned a lot about Glorantha... and I learned a few things about the people who posted on it as well.

Of all the posts I read, this one resonated the most for me, not only in terms of its logic, but it seemed to explain the sometimes over-the-top arguments that several people made:

On 5/29/2020 at 12:40 AM, Jeff said:

Greg's favorite depended on whose point of view he was writing from at the time. Mine as well. All of the Gloranthan cultures have something really interesting, admirable, noble, whatever about them. And also something really awful, destructive, ignorant, whatever about them. They are mortals, after all.

Greg's genius in creating Glorantha, as far as I can tell, is creating cultures and conflicting points of view that people can line up alongside and be utterly certain the other side is wrong, wrong wrong --- just like the fictional people living in these fictional cultures. Neither side is obviously right or obviously wrong (except to the folks who know the other side is wrong, wrong, wrong) and that is no easy feat!

I also want to thank everyone who discussed the White Moon Movement. I had skimmed the name a few times in my reading. But I hadn't really soaked in the details. The fact that there is a movement that is splitting the Lunar Way and the Lunar Empire makes the the Lunars a hell of a lot more interesting to me. I really appreciate being pointed in that direction.

Again, thank you everyone. I learned a lot. And Glorantha is even more impressive to me than it was before I read the posts on this thread. Thank you.

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"But Pendragon isn’t intended to be historical, just fun.
So have fun."

-- Greg Stafford

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9 hours ago, creativehum said:

The fact that there is a movement that is splitting the Lunar Way and the Lunar Empire makes the the Lunars a hell of a lot more interesting to me.

Also Greg spent a lot of time and effort trying to understand what came before the Lunars/Lunar Empire.  Whether Dara Happan (and understanding that not even that was some monolithic place), Pelandan, Carmanian, Weeders, etc., he created a fascinating blend of multiple cultures that ultimately led to the Lunar Empire, yet those cultures also live on in the varied Lunar satrapies and provinces. I've always found the Lunar Empire to be a fascinating place and hopefully we will see more of that revealed over time.

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