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Mining in Glorantha


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Was wondering how mining works in Glorantha.  Metal is the bones of the gods, but only *sometimes* (and I seem to remember rarely at that) turns up in bone shape.

Who does the mining? There's no miner occupation for Sartarites in SKoH (but there is one for stickpickers).

What God do miners worship?  For Olanthis is it Esolia (the body of the earth) or Ty Kora Tek (the hidden wealth of the earth)? Actually neither seems right to me. They may need propitiating, but I suspect there is a different god for miners. Almost certainly an earth god.

Where is metal found?  Glorantha is magical. The distribution of metal deposits shouldn't be the same as for the RW, where it is governed by physics and geology.  Maybe it's more in plains, as that's where battles between the gods were more likely to have been fought? 

How deep underground is it? Is it like Bronze age mining? https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-bronze-age-mining-smelting-casting-metallurgy.html has a picture of ancient copper mine. Very narrow tunnel.  I vaguely remember ancient Spanish silver mines looking the same. Or is it closer to the surface and we are almost looking at open cast mining?

Looking at Sartar, do all tribes/clans have sources of bronze/copper/tin (at least)?  If not, which ones do and which ones don't? How many members of such clans are actively engaged in the mining occupation? I can't believe that Sartar imports all its metal.

This isn't just academic. Maybe your mine runs out and you have to heroquest to fix the problem (maybe finding a new deposit). If a clan doesn't have a source of metal on its lands, it's going to need to trade. That means diplomacy, bartering and shipping (caravans). All potential story sources. What happens if your partner's mine runs out? If they decide to stop trading with you? Maybe someone else is offering them a better deal. If you're digging in the earth metal might not be all you find.  Darkness spirits? Krashtkid tunnels? Other buried chaos horrors?

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1 hour ago, DrGoth said:


Looking at Sartar, do all tribes/clans have sources of bronze/copper/tin (at least)?  If not, which ones do and which ones don't? How many members of such clans are actively engaged in the mining occupation? I can't believe that Sartar imports all its metal.

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.  


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32 minutes ago, GAZZA said:

Isn't all metal in Glorantha the blood or bones of gods that were injured/killed in the Godtime, or is that no longer the case?

That's the myth for the deposits of metal in the soil and rock.

There is a number of dead mountain entities whose bones are available for the miners. The bones are bound to be shattered and crumbled if their deaths were violent. And there was plenty violence in the Gods War. Many a river broken, many a volcano exploding, many an entity falling from the sky, at times fatally, many a dark thing welling up from below only to be burnt or hacked apart, and many a storm entity losing an arm or a leg in one of those activities. (Any metals left unaccounted for?)

The most common mountain god is an aspect or son of Lodril, by whichever name he is known. But that same deity also is one of the prime suspect for mining activities, and for shaping rock and metal.


One does wonder whether or how the Golden Age knew any metal, though. There is not supposed to be any strife that far back in mythic times according to a simple reading of the Monomyth.

Fortunately, even the God Learner concoction presented in RQ3 Gods of Glorantha has previous conflict, like the tectonic battles between dragonkind and giantkind. There are the frequent pointers at the fact that the Solar Emperor rose to his position through strife and struggle. Entekosiad introduces Vogmaradan. The myth of Idovanus and Ganesatarus in Fortunate Succession also implies struggle from the outset.

Lodril's descent into the earth is both an act of love-making (Lodril being the hot sperm impregnating the fertile Earth with Storm) and a conflict, with Lodril wrestling "a squirming thing", leaving both of them in tatters and on the brink of destruction when what remained of either merged. So, brass and tin (from Lodril), copper and/or lead (from the thing below that Lodril wrestled) or even Predark (with earlier victims attached?).

The Green and Golden Age were an age of creation, and by extension also of regeneration. There may have been generous deities who maimed themselves temporarily to bring forth metal for themselves or their associates to work with. A temporary discomfort.


The other subject for mining is of course how the stuff ended up underground with the need to be dug up. At times even tunneling into mountainsides or deep down, although I suppose that natural crevices or pit mines will be the typical approach to mining - not just for metals, also for stones that can be knapped, or be used as jewelry, or as pigments. Plus there is the need for salt, and there may be places producing rock salt rather than re-crystallized brine.

The miner needs to know about how the crust of the Earth Cube came into being, in order to know where to dig, or he needs an entity who knows and can be asked for a Divination.

Deposits imply underground movement, and forces at odds with one another. Real world geology is full of interaction with what can be identified as Gloranthan elements. Metamorphic rocks, igneous rocks, hydrothermal deposition, basal rocks, eruptive material... Heat, pressure, shock all play a role in this. And there are known forces in Glorantha that do such things, and there can be entities deducted in the interior of the Earth Cube that contribute to outcomes that reflect real world geology and geochemistry without having to learn about the real world geochemistry if the myths are somehow relatable.


One of the biggest "problems" with Gloranthan geology is pretty much the same that the natural philosophers brought up in the knowledge that the univers is a bit over 6000 years old. We have hundreds of meters worth of sedimentary rock in many places, and it is layered, as the underground exploration at Snake Pipe Hollow clearly states. And that takes many many cycles of erosion and sedimentation, of areas covered by sea.

Fortunately, there is a simple myth in the merman cosmology (currently out of print, in Missing Lands) which mentions that the Earth Cube was the first food, born within the vertical current of the Axis Mundi. The sea entities call the Earth Cube "Bab", the food deity, which makes it clear that for the entire duration of it being submerged (and continuing for the five sides which still are submerged), they have been feeding on it, and also left their imprint on it.

The primal sea is a mollusk inside a shell of Darkness, and now a pearl grew within. As that pearl irritated the mollusk, it secreted layer upon layer of chalky matter on it.

When the Earth Cube was submerged in the seas, all manner of Varchulanga's deep sea monsters welled out of the dark underbelly of the seas, the domain of Drospoly. These also include the watery children of Sokazub, the darkness animals of the seas. All manner of worms (armored ones leaving behind their carapaces), minuscule plankton with various kinds of shells like opal (a geologist term for thin sheets of silica that may sink down to form layers, in some cases the semi-precious stone mined like in Coober Pedy, in more cases aggregating into glass-like stuff under pressure that is known as flint), all manner of chalky exosceletons of things in the seas, taking their energy if not yet from a fiery sky then from the glow of the event horizon of the Chaosium where unlimited potential became - and still becomes - the stuff of Creation, and the Ultimate source of Energies at the top of the vertical vortex that would become the Cosmic Mountain after Earth had surfaced and then Sky was formed to diffuse those energies, making them bearable for the weaker entities populating the world.

By the time the Earth Cube had risen out of the water, its surfaces had been bored into and secreted on many times over, leaving layers of ground material embedded in the chalky deposits, with bodies of water and darkness having intruded deeply into it, and still worming their ways into it. And Earth responded, with chthonic entities that may resemble serpents or reptiles, struggling with these intruders. The Behemoth (used as the mortal hero of the Earth Faction in Sandy's Gods War) is just one of many such antibodies in the employ of Earth to keep intruders at bay. Their movement made the interior of the earth tremble as the hardly plyable matter was condensed and shifted around. Earth Shakers, or perhaps Earth Stirrers, fully submerged. And these struggles will have seen their victims, with pieces torn off, entire sections of dead stuff left behind, including bones.

Then the surface of the top side of the cube fell mostly dry, and sky inserted itself, then moved to impregnate the Earth, as the Cosmic Mountain solidified into Stone (Latsom?), the entity and substance cherished and mourned by the Mostali. Hot celestial semen pressed into cavities from previous invasions, sending pockets of water steaming into surrounding material, creating outgrowths on all surfaces of the Earth Cube. Surfaces covered by forests of coral where any light was to be had, and by protective shells of tentacled feeders creating even worse, bizarre forests growing out of the vertical walls, or down from its lower surface, into the deep undersea of Drospoly where Darkness may have solid enough pillars connecting the cube with the deeper Below that one could travel there dry.


So, there is a crust of the earth, and beneath that crust there are crevices and caverns filled with all elements (possibly excepting Moon apart from places where the fallout from the inevitable crashes of each Lunar body may have seeped deeper into the body of Earth). The Earth Cube is not completely inert, and certainly was not when the outside invaded. The squirming thing that wrestled with Veskarthan, and things like it wrestling with bodies of Sea intruding as well as with the beings from the Underdark Sea worming their way into it born from Varchulanga.

The Stone of the Cosmic Mountain was alive, and the lesser mountains were seeded in a similar manner - Rock was made from Earth as a kind of scab to protect the softer parts below, and a lot of the Earth Cube hardened in that process, at least around the crust where the fighting happened and things died, and also around the wounds that it received later as a result of the Breaking of the Earth and the Implosion of the Cosmic Mountain. There are still many places in the inside of the Earth which are vibrantly alive, ginormous Earth elementals, or soil full of life crawling, squirming, etc.

Then a wave of entities populated the Underworld as Umath crashed into the Earth in the north. Rushing right through it to the deep Underworld of Darkness, with pieces and fragments shed on the way down, following some of the Planets that had gone before, and followed by the southern planetary son of Strength, Green Alkor, who was shredded in the same way as his victim, and became red Shargash in the process starting with him blocking the advance of the Intruder in the sky.


In other myths, the birth of Storm was a hard and violent labour. Umath emerged first, pushing up his father Aether, to be followed by his sister (some say daughter) Serenha, and leaving behind an unborn third sibling, of indeterminate gender, refusing to leave the downbelow inside the womb of earth, the spirit of Deep Air, intruding into the empty womb where Aether had formed, witnessed by the Three Curious Spirits in the sidebar story in Uz Lore. There may be other wombs, some occupied by still-born or yet unborn entities, trapped there by the Compromise.


WIth trapped seas sloshing around, at times squeezed lifeless, with magma sloshing around, at times cooling off, at times squeezed out to emerge on Earth's surface like a pimple pressed out (or as a phallic protrusion, and possibly both in one), all manner of metamorphosis is going on in the outer layer of earth, among the deadened scab that is rock. Dead bodies get ground up, bones shattering and cracking up, or deforming. The hot bones of the sons of Lodril may even melt, leaving an unlayered molded metal then ground up into nuggets of brass.


As these fragmented pieces of godsbone are subjected to grinding, that same grinding also transports off the crushed bits, and waters permeating the crushed parts will carry them into crevices or caverns where they may drop their burden. Rock comes in various heaviness, and some of it may be as heavy as the metallic expressions of the elements, creating placer deposits - some on or near the surface, others deeper below.

Placer deposits usually are covered only lightly, and can be accessed by shoveling away the "inert" (not metal-bearing) cover, or by slushing it away using the current of re-directed water. (Think Herakles and the Stables of Augias for a similar instance of clearing away the unwanted stuff.) It helps that all surface waters are kin to the rivers that hungrily reclaimed the top surface of the Earth Cube, and will pick up whatever they can before sorting it through and then discarding it in less animate passages. 

So, whatever you know about gold-digging as in panning and sluicing over vleeces is applicable to all Gloranthan metals except for solid Sea Metal, which floats and requires a skimming technique. There can still be soil deposits of sea metal, often side by side with amber, ambergris (which in Glorantha may come from more species than just sperm whales) and similar light minerals washed into lagoons near sea shores and trapped there over time.

All solid metals will be found as nuggets or flakes, intermixed with sands rich in heavy minerals (like magnetite), in the real world used for metal smelting, or as pigments or the basis for pigments.

The powers of Darkness include corrosion, and the metal may be covered in patina, or may be reduced to inclusions in almost completely corroded ores. Oxide or carbonate copper ores like Malachite may include flitters of natural copper metal even in the real world, and native copper forms when sulphide copper ores comes into contact with oxygenated water before oxidation contines further into these oxidic ores which provide mineral pigment, also sought by miners.


Given the abundance of native metal in the Gloranthan crust, smelting of ores is rarely practiced in Glorantha. While the pyrotechnology for it exists - there are kilns for pottery, and there are glassmakers ovens, and there are people who cast bronze and tin alloys - the special tricks to smelt an ore using just the right amounts of charcoal and air from bellows or wind holes would be fairly accidental. It is possible that melting out native copper or native bronze from the corroded ore around it may produce some additional metal from inadvertant smelting as the conditions are bound to become somewhat right.

Extraction of metals by amalgamation with liquid Sea Metal and then separation through evaporation or distillation will be known to Gloranthan metallurgists, too. The only metal that fails to alloy with Sea Metal (or any other known metal) is iron, the Death Metal with the power of separation - just like in real world chemistry.


Things that can be mined:

Treacle (no, seriously), Tar, Amber, Ambergris and other such resinous plant or beast-made matter.

Graphite, Coal, Lignite, Peat


Flint, Jade, Obsidian other material suitable for knapping

Soapstone, Jet, Galena and other minerals that can be carved using flint tools


Salt, Soda, Salpeter, Gypsum, Alabaster, Alaun, other mordant minerals

Kaolin, Clay

Chalk, Lime

Gems (precious and semi-precious stones alongside with crystallized Gods' Blood), Crystals, Pigments

Truestone, Adamant


Where and how do people mine?

Underground and tunnel mining typically starts with layers or clefts filled with the desired stuff sticking out from somewhat vertical cliff faces, or possibly inside natual caves or in rock perforated by digging creatures (including krarshtkids and trollkin or special rock-eating maggots bred by the Gorakiki cult). People start harvesting it from surface-accessible material, then follow the layers underground, and underground mining has been invented.

Strip mining is a fancy word for digging aside layers of sediment that cover up what you want to get at. As large scale soil movements are possible using earth elementals, don't discount the possibility of strip mining at once.

Pit mining is done into sediments (like the infamous diamond or coltan mines in Kongo) or into sedimental rock close to the surface. Flint mining in rather soft chalk on Bornholm  shows that even Mesolithic and Neolithic people did so to get at their valuable tools.

Quarrying is a form of mining, too. So is digging up clay for pottery, and cutting peat or grass sods as building material.

Evaporating brine to get at the salt is a mining technique, too, as would be creating such a brine through input of liquids (water, acids).

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Telling how it is excessive verbis


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BwT may have written something on this in an adventure which features the dead remains of a long forgotten Goddess. 

Coming to a Chaosium book near you.... When it's Ready. And if. 

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17 hours ago, DrGoth said:

What God do miners worship?  For Olanthis is it Esolia (the body of the earth) or Ty Kora Tek (the hidden wealth of the earth)? Actually neither seems right to me. They may need propitiating, but I suspect there is a different god for miners. Almost certainly an earth god.

The Caladra & Aurelion cult mine diamonds, earthblood and firebone. They are connected to Mostal but Aurelion is the Earth God involved, I think.


Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 


Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/10/2020 at 7:31 PM, jajagappa said:
On 7/10/2020 at 6:57 PM, Ian Absentia said:

these are bitumens, right?  Crude oil/tar and coal?

Effectively yes.  

The remains of long-dead Aldryami from the Gods War.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 


Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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  • 2 weeks later...

Two thoughts:

First: Alternative to bones of the gods: There is an adventure seed in one of the Heroquest supplements as I recall, in which a star falls from the sky (crack in the sky dome is visible), and where it hits is a very hot crater with scattered lumps of various  metals.  The adventurers are of course not the only folks who may pursue this find, and by the time the lumps of metal cool they are likely to have company .

Second:  Someone drafted up a monograph on trade in Glorantha, what various regions import and export.  As I recall Sartar is a metal exporter. Which makes sense as it has many places significant to the Gods War.  Lots of bronze bones or fragments thereof.    Of course this is NOT canon, but I recall it as consistent.   Let's search for it- 

OK, there has been more discussion of long distance trade in Glorantha than I thought.  Sometimes opposed by people who find it dull in-game, or think their players will find it dull  -   but if everyone finds it dull then why have so many people discussed and detailed it?









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