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Your favorite dark elements in Glorantha.


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I must confess, the first thing that made me swim in the ocean that is Glorantha lore was not Runequest at all. It was in fact due the extensive world building of Greg and the gang, and also, the obvious influence of antiquity both in religion and cultures. For that reason, i am not actually impressed when i found in suplements and books (specially in old books, because the writting in Chaosium seems to be a little bit more tame in the current Runequest) with rather dark of directly amoral (in a modern perspective) elements. In fact i like that kind of lore, like the absolutely patriarcal state in between the solar cultures, the reliance of massive soul sacrifices in the Lunar Empire and the slave civilization of Fonrit.

Now, the subject of the post: What is your favorite dark, amoral or simply horrible piece of lore in the setting? I am talking about those cultural elements that make you remember that people in Glorantha have a kind different worldview.

In my case, well, i made a post about it some time ago. While not the most terrible thing in the setting, the reliance of some orlanthi cultures on human sacrifice is something both unusual and really cool in the context of a cultural family based mostly on bronze age indo-europeans.

While Fonrit is (in a modern perspective) an absolutely horrible society, the guide and other suplements made that clear in the first paragraphs so you quickly make this idea in your head about them beign some kind of evil empire. But Orlanthi...The books and pieces of lore are usually heavily biased in their favor. They are a kind of meta-protagonist in this point, and while they indeed have some ideas that may clash with our current morality, most of that is more or less tame compared with other cultures in Glorantha (their reliance of violence, for example). But human sacrifice...Yeah, that is pretty unusual, specially talking about the usual """good guys""", and the mentions about it are so puntual and superficial in the books that they create the idea of that beign something completely normal for them. I absolutely love that reminder about the so distant nature of the cultures in this world.

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I don't know about favourite, but one that always sticks in my mind is turning people into herdmen. That's pretty awful if you think about it, but well within the Praxian compact.

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The way that Trolls treat Trollkin is pretty dark.

In my Glorantha, Gardeners are precisely that, they do the gardening for the Aldryami. What I mean by that is that they manage the forests, they tidy, help things grow and prune. What do they prune? Those Aldryami who are bad for the forest, who do not fit or are just in the wrong place. So, they can engage in a bit of ethnic cleansing, moving Aldryami around or killing off the bad ones or the ones that don;t fit a certain part of the forest.

 

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I like the points above.

In the past I'd have said broo, for obvious reasons, or just the inimical nature of Chaos, which goes beyond D&D-ish evil into more Lovecraftian terrain without being Call of Cthulhu (per se).

More recently I'd say Vadeli since I've enjoyed playing them as GM in my current game. A fun foil to Western Malkioni ideals. 

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I like the Hellwood Aldryami, bitterly xenophobic elves who have secretly sold themselves to chaos to protect their woodlands. They're not only dangerous because some of them are disguised chaos monsters, they're dangerous because its an idea which could spread, an idea which other elves in desperate circumstances might also embrace.

Next time a community of elves are threatened with total annihilation by humans or trolls or whatever, just maybe a visitor from a distant land knows a secret way to obtain the horrible strength they need to defend their beloved woods.

Edited by EricW
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Broo reproduction.

Troll's views on eating sentients including other Trolls.

The lethal gritty combat system (Applies to RuneQuest only)

Griselda and co. 

Edited by Thaz
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The biggest impact on a young me was all of Cults of Terror.  Lived up to its name.  The most impactful on the players was definitely a run against a Thanatar temple, before they understood what what was...  We went from fantasy gaming to horror very, very quickly.

Still my favorite was the final Divine Intervention of a Broo Rune Priest for...Plague.  Someone in the group had it, no one knew who and they all fell out with each other over it. 

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I like the realpolitik and moral ambiguity of the setting: Trolls hate chaos, but tolerate cave trolls. Praxians hate chaos, but recruit Broo as mercenaries. Sartarites hate chaos, but the "Werewolf Guard" protects the king.

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Treack Markhor, the renegade knowledge priest who embraced the chaos god Atyar to obtain the power to devour the knowledge of others.

The Treack subcult of Thanatar continues to betray his old god, even in death his subcult provides all of the knowledge god’s magic to chaos.

There is more than a hint IMO that Atyar / Tien / Thanatar have a deep secret connection with the knowledge god Lhankor Mhy . In God Time they couldn’t hurt each other.

Edited by EricW
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1 hour ago, EricW said:

 

The Treack subcult of Thanatar continues to betray his old god, even in death his subcult provides all of the knowledge god’s magic to chaos.

I doubt that Treack would be able to provide anything like that in RQG nowadays.  He's a renegade, not a god. 

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4 hours ago, metcalph said:

I doubt that Treack would be able to provide anything like that in RQG nowadays.  He's a renegade, not a god. 

Cults of Terror lists the spell "Summon Spirit of Teaching (Thanatar-3, Atyar):

Quote

 

Summon Spirit of Teaching (Thanatar-3, Atyar): duration 1 day, range 160m, non-stackable, non-reusable

This spell must be stacked with both Summon Guardian and Summon Specific Guardian, and it must be cast from within a Warding spell or the spirit summoned is treated as malign. The spell summons back the spirit of Treack Markhor, the traitorous priest of Lhankor Mhy who founded the Atyar cult. He is a neutral spirit, and will immediately demand the sacrifice of battle magic POW equal to a tenth of his current POW. He will teach Lhankor Mhy Rune magic via rapid teaching. Twice the POW required for the spell must be permanently sacrificed to him. He knows all Lhankor Mhy Rune Spells.

Treack Markhor: Int 23 POW 6D6+6

 

Probably an out of date reference.

Edited by EricW
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The fact that horrid ideologies and beliefs such as chaos led slavery and the dwarfs being a-okay with causally murdering millions of people for one tower, are just as cosmically valid as the ones that preach the virtues of mercy and justice, and are actually often MORE popular than the options that are far more merciful and wise.

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1 hour ago, redmoongoddess said:

The fact that horrid ideologies and beliefs such as chaos led slavery and the dwarfs being a-okay with causally murdering millions of people for one tower, are just as cosmically valid as the ones that preach the virtues of mercy and justice, and are actually often MORE popular than the options that are far more merciful and wise.

Humans find it remarkably easy to justify terrible things, if they believe it is for a good cause. My favourite quote from Bridge of Birds: "mass murderers are often great reformers, but not necessarily the other way around"

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Thanatar.
I read it when CoT first came out and became illuminated. It was the first time I understood why people would become chaotic. 

I can even see a peaceful transition and succession planning in the more civilised temples. The old high priest being a willing sacrifice so that their knowledge lives on.

If ever I have a RW Evil Empire it will be because I've learnt Thanatar's cult secrets.

Then Gaumata's Vision. The little people are doomed if the Good Guys win. They're even more doomed if the Good Guys lose.

Edited by Rob Darvall
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2 hours ago, Rob Darvall said:

Thanatar.
I read it when CoT first came out and became illuminated. It was the first time I understood why people would become chaotic. 

I can even see a peaceful transition and succession planning in the more civilised temples. The old high priest being a willing sacrifice so that their knowledge lives on.

If ever I have a RW Evil Empire it will be because I've learnt Thanatar's cult secrets.

Then Gaumata's Vision. The little people are doomed if the Good Guys win. They're even more doomed if the Good Guys lose.

Someone once asked Mark Tilden, inventor of Robosapien and BEAM robotics, what is goal in life was. From memory he said "to take over the world with my robotic creations without it interfering with my cable TV reception"

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3 hours ago, Rob Darvall said:

Thanatar. I read it when CoT first came out and became illuminated. It was the first time I understood why people would become chaotic. 

Anyone who has revised for final exams and not understood the hideous temptation of "Ingest Scroll" / "Devour Book" Rune spells will never grok how Lhankor Mhy cultists can fall into Atyar-worship.

(In my family, we traditionally learn by osmosis -- if you sleep with your head next to a textbook, the ideas in it will creep into your brain during the night. It's always worked for us, that's all I'm saying) 

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On 6/18/2020 at 6:44 AM, metcalph said:

I doubt that Treack would be able to provide anything like that in RQG nowadays.  He's a renegade, not a god. 

Though a hero level sub-cult usually has some Rune magic, sometimes that more often associated with another deity, all of LMs magic seems a lot. 

On the other hand, the Atyar cult surely knows at least all of LMs sorcery if you want to go down that route, and surely have ways to rapidly teach it too - Devouring Book on sorcerous grimoires, for example (making initiates copy out sorcerous tomes so the priests can devour them seems one likely possibility). 

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Arkat's war and Nysalors Empire are both, separately, favourite darker aspects of Glorantha. Which ever one you think is more ultimately correct, they are still both monstrous justified only by the other being more monstrous. 

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16 minutes ago, davecake said:

(making initiates copy out sorcerous tomes so the priests can devour them seems one likely possibility). 

Places an awful lot of trust in initiates to copy out the grimoires accurately as well require an uncharacteristic amount of patience by the priests to wait as the tome is being copied.  I think they just devour first without making copies for others as that fits better with the ethos of their god.

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3 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Places an awful lot of trust in initiates to copy out the grimoires accurately as well require an uncharacteristic amount of patience by the priests to wait as the tome is being copied.  I think they just devour first without making copies for others as that fits better with the ethos of their god.

In order to become an initiate (a Doom Seeker), they must have mastered a cult skill - and one of the cult skills is Read/Write. So a small but notable minority of initiates will be quite capable of copying a grimoire. And presumably you threaten to have them murdered if they fail you

But yeah, they can just steal and devour other peoples grimoires. And sorcerers make good Guardians, that you can then make teach you sorcery, too. 

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In addition to all the obvious stuff already mentioned (Broos, Troll eating habits, prejudice against Trollkin, etc.), I would also mention the fact that a good chunk of Heortlings keep slaves. This is often avoided by playing in a clan that doesn't keep them, or a clan that somehow only keeps limited time slaves (for debt repayment or punishment, as opposed to life-long indenture)... but a group that actually addresses this head on in a game would probably need to be fairly mature.

There's a bunch of human sacrificing going all around Glorantha, but the most famous and gruesome is definitely the Crimson Bat's eating habits. I assume that @Nick Brooke has successfully completed total brainstorming of the BRP Central population because nobody has mentioned it yet!

And of course, Chaos, along with the very wonderful Cults of Terror and other such books, are kind of a carte blanche for GMs to come up with whatever messed up stuff they want, and that's awesome (especially since I originally came from the Call of Cthulhu side of the Chaosium product line).

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16 hours ago, davecake said:

In order to become an initiate (a Doom Seeker), they must have mastered a cult skill - and one of the cult skills is Read/Write. So a small but notable minority of initiates will be quite capable of copying a grimoire. And presumably you threaten to have them murdered if they fail you

90% in a cult skill to become an initiate is clearly ridiculous.  Even Lhankor who did have a 90% requirement in Cults of Prax now only has a 50% requirement in RQ:G.   Looking at the revamped version in Shadows on the Borderlands, the 90% requirement is shifted the the Doomed (Acolytes).

Secondly relying on a text copied by a fellow Thanatari is cleartly insane.  They could always take a page from the Name of the Rose and poison the paper (ie the scroll is transcribed onto a special form a paper which is POT 20 per page when eatern) on which it is written or more subtle poisons ((insert lies into the text "the high priest is planning to take your head" or the "The copyist of this scroll is totally trustworthy and can be entrusted with whatever gold, treasures and magics you chose to give him" or "Saying Hrothmir's name backwards three times confers you temporary immunity to magics cast by Storm Bull").

Thirdly there is the time element.  Copying a text by hand  was quite a lengthy process in the Middle Ages and I doubt the Gloranthans find the process much quicker.  We're looking at a season or two of downtime and I doubt the Thanatari would be so paitent.

Lastly I doubt that grimoires are solely resident on the page and have some otherwordly component.  Merely copying a grimoire would not copy the wisdom within, it has to be illuminated so to speak.

 

 

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1 hour ago, metcalph said:

Secondly relying on a text copied by a fellow Thanatari is cleartly insane.  They could always take a page from the Name of the Rose and poison the paper (ie the scroll is transcribed onto a special form a paper which is POT 20 per page when eatern) on which it is written or more subtle poisons ((insert lies into the text "the high priest is planning to take your head" or the "The copyist of this scroll is totally trustworthy and can be entrusted with whatever gold, treasures and magics you chose to give him" or "Saying Hrothmir's name backwards three times confers you temporary immunity to magics cast by Storm Bull").

Would consuming a lie actually mess up a Thanatari? Or would it just result in a spell fail? If it was that easy surely all the important libraries in the world would boobytrap their treasured scrolls, by salting their shelves with at least a handful of interesting looking scrolls designed to mess up knowledge thieves.

Edited by EricW
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