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Was Argrath a hero or a villain?


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It is interesting how quickly people on these forums quickly descend into the worst excesses and mistakes of the God Learners in their assumptions about how mythology works.

He was both. I thought that was pretty intentional on Greg's part?

Glorantha has lots of examples of good Illumination. Daruda was a great teacher who achieved union with Nothing and then re-entered the world in order to share his bliss with those who needed it.

On 7/28/2020 at 11:09 PM, Nick Brooke said:

Even Argrath's Saga presents them as innocent victims. It's only the extremist ultras that try to deny his victims' humanity, or pretend they deserved what he did to them.

Bronze age warfare shouldn't quite be subject to the same moral compass we would ourselves apply.  They are a society where the routine slaughter of animals  for sustenance is a matter of necessity and religious observance.  The death of enemies is a matter for which you rejoice and thank the gods.  if you can slaughter them in massive job lots, so much the better; thank the gods even more.  To talk about innocent victims is culturally ignorant and inappropriate.  Were they innocent victims when they sent their sons to lay waste to Sartar ?  Were they innocent victims when they bent their knee to Ralzakark instead of resisting chaos to their last breath, or at least having the wit to flee the territory?  What about when civilians of their own empire were fed to the Crimson Bat to keep it in the field?   They are part of a society that sowed the seeds of its destruction long before, and in a situation of total war, there are no longer any civilians on either side.  The Hero Wars are a total war, and I like the fact that they are modeled on the Bronze Age Collapse.  On the other hand, if you think the Assyrian Empire had innocent civilians, I might grudgingly accept that children under 7 could be considered innocent victims, but only because they hadn't yet been processed into replacement  resources in the hegemonizing murder swarm of their society yet.

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17 minutes ago, Darius West said:

Bronze age warfare shouldn't quite be subject to the same moral compass we would ourselves apply.  They are a society where the routine slaughter of animals  for sustenance is a matter of necessity and religious observance.  The death of enemies is a matter for which you rejoice and thank the gods.  if you can slaughter them in massive job lots, so much the better; thank the gods even more.  To talk about innocent victims is culturally ignorant and inappropriate.  Were they innocent victims when they sent their sons to lay waste to Sartar ?  Were they innocent victims when they bent their knee to Ralzakark instead of resisting chaos to their last breath, or at least having the wit to flee the territory?  What about when civilians of their own empire were fed to the Crimson Bat to keep it in the field?   They are part of a society that sowed the seeds of its destruction long before, and in a situation of total war, there are no longer any civilians on either side.  The Hero Wars are a total war, and I like the fact that they are modeled on the Bronze Age Collapse.  On the other hand, if you think the Assyrian Empire had innocent civilians, I might grudgingly accept that children under 7 could be considered innocent victims, but only because they hadn't yet been processed into replacement  resources in the hegemonizing murder swarm of their society yet.

Is this a bit?

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2 hours ago, Darius West said:

Bronze age warfare shouldn't quite be subject to the same moral compass we would ourselves apply.  They are a society where the routine slaughter of animals  for sustenance is a matter of necessity and religious observance.  The death of enemies is a matter for which you rejoice and thank the gods.  if you can slaughter them in massive job lots, so much the better; thank the gods even more.  To talk about innocent victims is culturally ignorant and inappropriate.  Were they innocent victims when they sent their sons to lay waste to Sartar ?  Were they innocent victims when they bent their knee to Ralzakark instead of resisting chaos to their last breath, or at least having the wit to flee the territory?  What about when civilians of their own empire were fed to the Crimson Bat to keep it in the field?   They are part of a society that sowed the seeds of its destruction long before, and in a situation of total war, there are no longer any civilians on either side.  The Hero Wars are a total war, and I like the fact that they are modeled on the Bronze Age Collapse.  On the other hand, if you think the Assyrian Empire had innocent civilians, I might grudgingly accept that children under 7 could be considered innocent victims, but only because they hadn't yet been processed into replacement  resources in the hegemonizing murder swarm of their society yet.

How is this different from America in the 20th century, Darius? Is factory slaughter different? Is American Exceptionalism and Patriotism different? All we do is rejoice and thank God for slaughtering enemies in massive job lots. Obama's first action was a drone strike that hit only civilians and he continued to rack up massive civilian casualties. The children of soldiers who died or were maimed in Afghanistan are now dying and being maimed in the same war in Afghanistan. We just fed our own children to COVID "for the economy": 97,000 infected officially due to the school openings.

This is the worst take I've seen on this site.

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The Hero Wars are not "total war" in the way that concept is normally understood. They are a war of Heroes, which has cosmic ramifications in a similar way that the Kurukshetra War did. And many of those ramifications were not planned or expected. 

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6 hours ago, Darius West said:

same moral compass we would ourselves apply

I'm not sure the moral compass of the 20th century (at least), will be judged particularly well by posterity!  A bit too early to say where the 21st Century is going...

Also, I'm not sure a Bronze age "moral compass" is always particularly helpful.  Glorantha is only relevant as a gaming setting if it offers intriguing moral dilemmas to 21st century players *imagining* that they are in a world that is a bit bronze age ish.

And, judging by this thread, it seems that it's doing that quite well!

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Oh dear, it seems contemporary mores and politics have finally entered this arena. With a severe allergy to that, along with my increasing divergence from Gloranthan canon, I think I'll take my leave before the demands, revisions, councils and bannings begin (though I hope they do not). So adieu, everyone, and thank you kindly for the many good ideas. In the end, even the Red Elvis Impersonator, whom I paid for, had his uses.

"Guards! Guards! Get me another doe-eyed slave! This one has burst."

"At once, Impersonator."

(Exit)

 

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Regardless of the particularities of Darius' post, the point does remain that moral universalism ("all humans* are moral entities") is arguably** not present in much of the ancient world. To much of Glorantha, foreigners aren't real people (unless special relations apply), and have no moral rights. 

Whatever you make of that as an external observer is up to you, but that's the gist of in-universe ethics. 

(*or sapient beings, whatever)
(**arguably is doing a lot of carrying here, moral universalism and particularism are complex concepts and shouldn't be treated as a clean dichotomy. We have plenty of examples of Orlanthi entering treaties and relations with non-humans and non-Orlanthi as more or less equals, for example.).

EDIT: But haven't we been through this whole ethnocetrism rigamarole like three times already in this thread?

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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2 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Regardless of the particularities of Darius' post, the point does remain that moral universalism ("all humans* are moral entities") is arguably** not present in much of the ancient world. To much of Glorantha, foreigners aren't real people (unless special relations apply), and have no moral rights. 

Whatever you make of that as an external observer is up to you, but that's the gist of in-universe ethics. 

(*or sapient beings, whatever)
(**arguably is doing a lot of carrying here, moral universalism and particularism are complex concepts and shouldn't be treated as a clean dichotomy. We have plenty of examples of Orlanthi entering treaties and relations with non-humans and non-Orlanthi as more or less equals, for example.).

EDIT: But haven't we been through this whole ethnocetrism rigamarole like three times already in this thread?

I just didn't want to have that conversation again because we have had it and the idea that the Orlanthi are fighting a total war is ridiculous in the extreme and that they are somehow Peculiarly Different from Us is also strange

People who think foreigners aren't people abound in our own society, let's not pretend otherwise

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8 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Regardless of the particularities of Darius' post

That could apply to a lot of Darius' posts ...

Always thought-provoking, though.

6 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

I just didn't want to have that conversation again because we have had it and the idea that the Orlanthi are fighting a total war is ridiculous in the extreme and that they are somehow Peculiarly Different from Us is also strange

Arkat did fight a total war. There is an area in Aggar that is the path that Arkat took to Dorastor and it is still a blasted land, full of ghosts, where little grows, over a thousand years afterwards. Arkat, Sheng Seleris and Argrath are very similar in places and all used/will use total war in some situations.

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As I've said, the Hero Wars are not Total War as that concept is understood in the Modern Age. It has plenty of pauses, truces, and even shared ceremonies. Ethilrist knows personally Argrath, the Red Emperor, and Harrek. And that is despite getting killed by Harrek.

These are heroes - they fight their battles personally. They confront the gods, and the powers of the cosmos personally - and so can your characters. Get your head out of 20th or 21th century warfare and think Alexander, the Pandavas and Kauravas, Achilles and Hector, Cú Chulainn, and Thutmose III.  

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Posted (edited)

Gloranthans were fighting a war of mutual extermination which had long since gone nuclear, in the sense the destruction of the entire realm hung in the balance. The idea of genteel rules of war are a 20th century deceit practiced by people who have no concept they could possibly lose, a deceit which I suspect will rapidly wither away in the coming genocidal super weapon wars of the 21st. If the price of failure is having your family traumatised and abused at the hands of the conquerers, there is no weapon too terrible to imagine using, to prevent that from happening.

 

Edited by EricW
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8 minutes ago, EricW said:

Gloranthans were fighting a war of mutual extermination which had long since gone nuclear, in the sense the destruction of the entire realm hung in the balance. The idea of genteel rules of war are a 20th century deceit practiced by people who have no concept they could possibly lose, a deceit which I suspect will rapidly wither away in the coming genocidal super weapon wars of the 21st. If the price of failure is having your family traumatised and abused at the hands of the conquerers, there is no weapon too terrible to imagine using, to prevent that from happening.

 

I don't think that's true. If you take Argrath's decimation of Peloria and such, for example, it's clearly a consequence of his personal grudge with the Red Goddess and the imperial machinery in a larger sense, not really a hatred of "Pelorians" as a wider category. That's what's meant by lack of total war above - conflicts tend towards the personal, even if the consequences and wider ramifications are obviously collective as well. 

Think the Epic of Troy. Marriage spat turns to destruction of a city. Most citizens are essentially narrative collateral damage. 

Also, even if it's kinda obvious but maybe worth mentioning regardless, pre-modern style armies are literally, physically incapable of maintaining total war, because total war involves set front lines, active professional armies and so on. In a subsistence economy, a significant amount of the soldiery needs to periodically go back home to till the fields and perform agricultural labor, and there is nowhere near the available manpower or logistical infrastructure to maintain fixed fronts. 

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1 hour ago, EricW said:

Gloranthans were fighting a war of mutual extermination which had long since gone nuclear, in the sense the destruction of the entire realm hung in the balance. The idea of genteel rules of war are a 20th century deceit practiced by people who have no concept they could possibly lose, a deceit which I suspect will rapidly wither away in the coming genocidal super weapon wars of the 21st. If the price of failure is having your family traumatised and abused at the hands of the conquerers, there is no weapon too terrible to imagine using, to prevent that from happening.

 

20th century rules of war aren't genteel by historical standards, and rules of war are downright ancient. The basic five principles of modern laws of war- military necessity, distinction, proportionality, humanity, and honor- can all be recognized in war codes from antiquity (the Deuteronomic Code, the Mahabharata) and late antiquity (Abu Bakr's orders to his troops). 

Most importantly, they're not fighting a "war of mutual extermination", and I am literally unable to understand how this is a reading that can be derived from any of the sources. The only way you can presume this is a war of mutual extermination is to presume not just some things about the Lunar Empire that are difficult to justify in light of the sources, but also presume other things about Argrath that are also even less justifiable in terms of the sources (and totally elide Argrath's alliances with the Fazzurite faction in Tarsh, too) and then extend these justifications out universally in a way that ultimately renders every single entity in Glorantha totally incoherent in their vision of the universe.

After all, if the Mostali are repairing the World Machine in order to exterminate every other thinking being in Glorantha, we must question why they accept the existence of Uz and Aldryami at all and presume that they are normal functions of the universe that have gone awry rather than thinking of them as Chaotic infiltrators attempting to sabotage the World Machine by any means necessary. Ideology shifts to justify actions, and if Gloranthan societies really were preparing to commit genocides in the lead-up to the Hero Wars, we would see that manifesting in the ideology on display. And we do not. 

And then to add onto all of this, the historical inspirations for Gloranthan cultures exaggerated massively in their historical records of events when it came to scale. Absolutely no credible historian of antiquity believes that the Persian army at Gaugamela really had between 250,000 and 1,000,000 soldiers on the battlefield, as the ancient sources about the battle claim. So when a Gloranthan document makes a similar grandiose claim about numbers or about scope, we should probably be extremely cautious about treating it as a factual statement. (Especially when it's a statement about events on the Other Side which are specifically called out as being beyond the ability of any participant to view objectively!)

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51 minutes ago, Eff said:

After all, if the Mostali are repairing the World Machine in order to exterminate every other thinking being in Glorantha, we must question why they accept the existence of Uz and Aldryami at all

The Compromise allows or mandates their existence.

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1 hour ago, Eff said:

After all, if the Mostali are repairing the World Machine in order to exterminate every other thinking being in Glorantha, we must question why they accept the existence of Uz and Aldryami at all and presume that they are normal functions of the universe that have gone awry rather than thinking of them as Chaotic infiltrators attempting to sabotage the World Machine by any means necessary. Ideology shifts to justify actions, and if Gloranthan societies really were preparing to commit genocides in the lead-up to the Hero Wars, we would see that manifesting in the ideology on display. And we do not. 

I like the idea of extending Mostali ideas of Chaos to cover the buggy organics.

"Sorry, Sir Mostali, but we have trespassed on your lands only to hunt a Chaos warband..."
"Designate Overseer has judged that you are Chaos. Your erroneous self-destructive vocation does not alter your fundamental registry, thus the suggestion is to start with yourself. However, your presence will be tolerated until system wide repairs are completed. You may proceed, but do not disturb any work crews working at higher than Beta-8 priority."

40 minutes ago, soltakss said:

The Compromise allows or mandates their existence.

Surely the Compromise is only a temporary patch that keeps the system working while ordinary functioning is restored. 

Edited by Grievous
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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

The Compromise allows or mandates their existence.

The Mostali think the Compromise is an unnecessary botch-job. When they complete their repairs, there'll be no need for any of that bodged crap any more.

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Total war is the mobilisation of the entire national economy and a feature of the industrial era, it's entirely implausible for earlier eras. It's the mass mobilisation of the entire state apparatus to conscript civilian needs to the machine of the war. This is fundamentally a feature of the late 19th and early 20th century, with the entire economy of the nation and all its citizenry mobilised by the state to create a state of unified warfare at the cost of all other functions.

Even the Lunar Empire fighting Sheng Seleris wasn't fighting a total war; it merely was experiencing an empire-wide invasion. Calling pre-factory, pre-industrial wars "total war" is entirely inappropriate.

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I almost want to say we need an essay on the Gloranthan Way of War, with variation by social types (chieftains do not war the same way as states or empires), and then specific variations for specific societies... the problem of course is who would write it.  or read it.  or buy it.

 

....I need more coffee.

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1 hour ago, Nevermet said:

I almost want to say we need an essay on the Gloranthan Way of War, with variation by social types (chieftains do not war the same way as states or empires), and then specific variations for specific societies... the problem of course is who would write it.  or read it.  or buy it.

 

....I need more coffee.

I wrote a little mini-essay outlining my elaboration of how Orlanthi societies fight based on the Hero Wars material as part of a somewhat longer piece comparing Kallyr and Argrath. I think it'd be hard to get too deep into anything beyond the Lunars/Sartarites/Praxians triangle with supplemental Kethaelan visions without getting extremely inventive wrt to Malkioni, Teshnans, Kralorela, etc. 

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To be clear, I wasn't being completely serious.

Mainly, I'm just struck once again by the fact that a bronze age world works differently than our modern one in terms of what social institutions exist.  As a good little Weberian, I'm constantly aware that bureaucracy is not ubiquitous in Glorantha, and that changes so many things.  

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9 hours ago, Eff said:

I wrote a little mini-essay outlining my elaboration of how Orlanthi societies fight based on the Hero Wars material as part of a somewhat longer piece comparing Kallyr and Argrath.

Eff is being modest. Her article is here, and it’s great: insightful, thought-provoking, and consistent with my take on Glorantha. Have a look?

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8 hours ago, Nevermet said:

To be clear, I wasn't being completely serious.

Mainly, I'm just struck once again by the fact that a bronze age world works differently than our modern one in terms of what social institutions exist.  As a good little Weberian, I'm constantly aware that bureaucracy is not ubiquitous in Glorantha, and that changes so many things.  

And what bureaucracy there is is far more primitive and personal than that Weber was describing in Economy and Society (which is a great book). Bureaucracy is largely that of scribes, who serve the household of rulers and carry out their wishes. That's what most Lhankor Mhy and Irrippi Ontor initiates do by the way. They record harvest collection for temples and rulers, distribution of food, payments from ruling households, correspondence with distant rulers, and so on. They are important because of whom they serve - the Orlanth Rex of a Sartarite tribe is not going to follow the directives of a Lhankor Mhy scribe, she gives orders to LM not the reverse. But she might follow the Prince of Sartar's written directions that are presented (and probably even written) by said scribe. 

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@Quizilbashwoman 

Quote

Total war is the mobilisation of the entire national economy and a feature of the industrial era, it's entirely implausible for earlier eras

I am not so sure about that, as some Late Antique societies for example were basically armies on the move. So their wars would naturally fit your description. 7th-century wars in the Eastern Mediterranean will also fit the bill. Furthermore, but it is a different problem, a total war would require, from my point of view, a mobilisation going well beyond economy.

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10 hours ago, Jeff said:

And what bureaucracy there is is far more primitive and personal than that Weber was describing in Economy and Society (which is a great book). Bureaucracy is largely that of scribes, who serve the household of rulers and carry out their wishes. That's what most Lhankor Mhy and Irrippi Ontor initiates do by the way. They record harvest collection for temples and rulers, distribution of food, payments from ruling households, correspondence with distant rulers, and so on. They are important because of whom they serve - the Orlanth Rex of a Sartarite tribe is not going to follow the directives of a Lhankor Mhy scribe, she gives orders to LM not the reverse. But she might follow the Prince of Sartar's written directions that are presented (and probably even written) by said scribe. 

Yep... this is fully what I expect.

 

Also, you're encouraging me to talk more about Weber here.  That is dangerous.

(Though his ironic liberalism is a good moral frame for players to think about what they see in Glo-  ...ok, I'm gonna stop there)

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