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Optimistic Glorantha: Eucatastrophic Hero Wars outcomes


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The Guide gives a few hints at the plans of various groups in the Hero Wars, with some hints about the outcomes (eg, Aldryami reforestation across much of western Genertela). I'm interested in different ways that matters could turn out that are not only positive for the groups in question, but also perhaps transcend at least some hatreds and divisions. It is easy enough for me to envisage, to continue the Aldryami example, woods inimical to dwarves, trolls and humans; I'd welcome more optimistic outlooks, even well outside the usual tone of Gloranthan procession.

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In a way, the Third Age is another step on the way to emancipation of mortal humans and deities. The God Learner experiment of the Second Age was an earlier try, Lunar ascension a different method, and Argrath's ascension and the botching of the Ritual of the Net hinted at in the Argrath Book of King of Sartar may be another one.

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36 minutes ago, Joerg said:

In a way, the Third Age is another step on the way to emancipation of mortal humans and deities. The God Learner experiment of the Second Age was an earlier try, Lunar ascension a different method, and Argrath's ascension and the botching of the Ritual of the Net hinted at in the Argrath Book of King of Sartar may be another one.

The Third Age is also another step on the way to emancipation of mortal humans and other species. 

But the optimistic outlook would be the realisation that humans may need more than just themselves to defeat the Devil in the Fourth Age. In which case hopefully the PCs can preserve enough of Glorantha for there to be hope for the future. 

Edited by jongjom
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A few days ago, someone on the Facebook group commented that they found the canon end-stage for Glorantha (as per King of Sartar) to be quite depressing (and I can't really disagree), and they wondered about a positive end and this is what I wrote for a happy ending.

The Lunar Empire is cleansed by the White Moonies and Orlanth, Ernalda and the White Moon Goddess end up in a happy threesome, spiced up by Draconic powers and a bit of Chaos, with Harshax as their love-child. Sartar is the priest at the wedding as the players have resurrected Larnst and taken Sartar's unifying peaceful magic and spread it across Genertela with the help of the re-incarnated Pharoah and the Only Old One who have become drinking buddies along with Cragspider. Jar-eel and Annstad live happily ever after. Argrath dies a bitter old drunk in a Kralorelan port talking about he could have been the champion. Harrek is poisoned by Gunda the Guilty as she fell in love with a Holy Country PC who was killed by Harrek. Sheng stays in Hell because the PCs interfere in Argrath's Lightbringer Quest and have him bring back Sartar instead or maybe Harmast. Pavis finally (with the help of PCs) regenerates Prax and the Desert Trackers actually manage to put Genert back together and the Wastes start to come alive again. Elder Sister spends several centuries chasing the Red Emperor across the White Moon and haranguing him about it's all his fault and how he should've listened to her. YGWV (sometimes drastically). I love canon, I love reading about it and I love breaking it and Glorantha has lots of great canon to break. King of Sartar is a tragedy, but your roleplaying campaign doesn't have to end up a tragedy, the PCs can pull out a happy ending at the last minute if they and you want it to happen. Lord of the Rings was about 30 minutes away from a TPK and I'm sure Greg wouldn't mind at all. A while back someone described an amazing campaign where Melo Yelo ended up as the Emperor of Dara Happa, about as far from canon as you can get and it sounded like a very fun campaign.

 

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1 hour ago, jongjom said:

The Third Age is also another step on the way to emancipation of mortal humans and other species.

Is that ironic emancipation? (Like Jar-Eel's (or Lincoln's!)) What kind of emancipation is on offer? And is anyone consciously fighting for it? 

And ultimately... does it perhaps look too much like our world for us to get excited about it? 

1 hour ago, jongjom said:

But the optimistic outlook would be the realisation that humans may need more than just themselves to defeat the Devil in the Fourth Age.

So a compromise with the Gods - a kind of constitutional theocracy - or a flipping of the master-slave relationship where the God's work man desires? 

These are genuine questions. Like Jenh I'm troubled by Glorantha's pessimism (while relishing it's tragedy). Ultimately - we may want other options than: "Do you want to play the taliban or the evil empire they are fighting? It really doesn't matter which. It will all go wrong whatever...."

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 The thing I like least about the 'expected' shape of the fourth age, even more than the end of magic and the severing of people from the gods, is that the elder races seemingly die out by the time the Harshax are re-inventing the written word and trying to understand the Hero Wars.

My favorite development in the RQ:G game in which I'm a player is the player characters' creation of a new Earth+Darkness complex in southern Dragon Pass, a place founded on Earth magic and protected by Darkness, which harmonizes and regulates the other elements in defense of the Earth.  It's a community deliberately patterned on Silver Age Esrolia, home to a bewilderingly varied array of people (humans from several cultures, dark trolls and free trollkin, green elves, beastmen, the occasional duck) and dominated by the spiritual presences of Ernalda and Argan Argar.  It unites powers and approaches that haven't been harmonized in quite this way since the First Age, before Nysalor and the Bright Empire.

I've grown convinced that one of the reasons the Hero Wars go so badly out of control, and result in what seems to me such a terrible outcome (the end of magic and non-human sentience) is that Argrath takes on more roles from the Greater Darkness than he should, while lacking a few crucial ones entirely.  In 1626 he's well-positioned to embody Storm Bull in the Darkness, the power that faces the Devil personally in the ultimate battle, but after kings Broyan and Kallyr each die while attempting to embody Orlanth he takes on their role too, and tries to be both the Storm King who cements the Compromise and the Storm Bull who meets the Devil horn to horn.  Even if he weren't mythically straining himself already by trying to be both Orlanth Lightbringer and Storm Bull of the Eternal Battle, this formula for re-enacting the Greater Darkness and defeating the Devil lacks a key ingredient: the Unity Battle.  The victory of Glorantha over Chaos in the Greater Darkness hung on at least three points: Orlanth's quest into the Underworld, Storm Bull's battle with the Devil in Prax, and the Unity Battle where the last remains of the mortal world gathered together against the last Chaos horde, fought it, and won.

From what we know of the later Hero Wars, Argrath tries to add the Unity hero to his roles, bringing together an empire of Prax, Esrolia and Sartar to fight the Lunars over Tarsh and the southern provinces, but ultimately fails.  The Red Emperor raises a victory stele in Boldhome, Argrath is forced to flee with his companions to Broyan's Hall in the Otherworld, and the only way he gets the Empire's boot off Sartar is by bringing Sheng Seleris back into the world.  Sheng eats the Red Emperor, replaces him, and is replaced in turn by the apocalyptic Monster Empire, probably led by Ralzakark.  As we know, Argrath's final moves in the Hero Wars are to complete Orlanth's Lightbringers Quest in a way that ends with garroting all the gods save possibly Eurmal, before he calls several True Dragons to rend the moon apart.  The post-apocalyptic world is left to recover sans gods, sans magic, and apparently sans elder races, until the Devil comes swinging through in another 600 years.  When you look at the state of the world now, I reckon the Devil probably, finally wins at the end of the 4th age.

I think the first step towards thwarting that outcome is lightening Argrath's load.  Obviously having his coterie of hero-companions wasn't enough, even when he delegates responsibilities to them they're still his responsibilities that he's delegating.  There needs to be a Storm King, separate from Argrath, who'll abandon the mundane struggles of the Hero Wars to venture out on the Lightbringer's Quest with a few companions, as Orlanth did.  There needs to be a Unity Hero to assemble and coordinate the Middle World struggle long after the Storm King departs on their quest.  There needs to be a Storm Bull stomping the bounds of Prax, keeping the powers of the desert alive and in readiness to face the Devil himself in the final battle, after the Unity Army vanquishes his horde.

For the Glorantha in which my group's game takes place the player characters have created a seat for the Unity struggle to begin again in earnest: a citadel founded on Earth and Darkness like the Only Old One's Palace of Black Glass, harmonizing the other elements around that foundation.  That community's influence has helped Leika Black Spear of the Colymar ascend as the Prince of Sartar.  In that Glorantha Argrath arrived in Boldhome to find the Sartar brazier already lit, and became the new Prince Leika's lover, then consort.  We're still in the early stages of the Hero Wars in my group's Glorantha, and the big events of 1628 have yet to unfold, but that version of the setting seems to be on its way towards a very different formulation of the end of the age than what is assumed in King of Sartar.  Hopefully this version results in a less drearily pessimistic Fourth Age, with trolls and elfs and dwarfs still running around because Aldrya, Kyger Litor and Mostal aren't lying strangled in Hell.

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7 hours ago, jenh said:

It is easy enough for me to envisage, to continue the Aldryami example, woods inimical to dwarves, trolls and humans; I'd welcome more optimistic outlooks, even well outside the usual tone of Gloranthan procession.

To save the reforested lands, an Elf hero quests to the Green Age and returns with the secret of the Dark Forest.  This secret allows the trolls to break the Curse of Gbaji, but it requires the sheltering darkness of the forest canopy to do so.  A Great Compromise is reached between Aldrya and Kyger Litor, and the Great Dark Forest spreads across the land.

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12 minutes ago, dumuzid said:

When you look at the state of the world now, I reckon the Devil probably, finally wins at the end of the 4th age.

There's the optimism we were looking for! 

12 minutes ago, dumuzid said:

For the Glorantha in which my group's game takes place the player characters have created a seat for the Unity struggle to begin again in earnest: a citadel founded on Earth and Darkness like the Only Old One's Palace of Black Glass, harmonizing the other elements around that foundation.  That community's influence has helped Leika Black Spear of the Colymar ascend as the Prince of Sartar.

Yes!! Kindling the flames of renewal from the pieces already in place. I like this. I like too the links with OOO whose empire was perhaps the least destructive and vainglorious that Glorantha has seen. (And Leika defo has some dark OOO secrets and affiliations... ) 

But mostly I like that you have created a space (and a place) for Unity. A space from which the blinkered cultural relativism Glorantha can be examined and challenged by it's inhabitants - and for them to overthrow pessimistic fatalism of the authors! 

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41 minutes ago, Nick Underwood said:

Is that ironic emancipation? (Like Jar-Eel's (or Lincoln's!)) What kind of emancipation is on offer? And is anyone consciously fighting for it? 

And ultimately... does it perhaps look too much like our world for us to get excited about it? 

So a compromise with the Gods - a kind of constitutional theocracy - or a flipping of the master-slave relationship where the God's work man desires? 

These are genuine questions. Like Jenh I'm troubled by Glorantha's pessimism (while relishing it's tragedy). Ultimately - we may want other options than: "Do you want to play the taliban or the evil empire they are fighting? It really doesn't matter which. It will all go wrong whatever...."

Ironic emancipation based on in- and real-world conscious and sub-conscious human action. And yes, very much something to get excited about. 

Gods are sacrificed, sentient races gone, landscape blasted and yet still the Devil returns. The optimistic answer to prevent this is to conclude King of Sartar 's last sentence an Age early.

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2 hours ago, jongjom said:

Ironic emancipation based on in- and real-world conscious and sub-conscious human action. And yes, very much something to get excited about. 

I like in the in-world/real-world dimension which Glorantha is so good at. (Does anyone else think HeroQuesting is a bunch of characters getting a table for a role-playing session?) 

2 hours ago, jongjom said:

The optimistic answer to prevent this is to conclude King of Sartar 's last sentence an Age early.

Good answer. Full of that in-world / real-world ambiguity and well worth quoting in context:

"As  mentioned  above,  the  next  expected  appearance of  the  Devil  is  in  2277.  That  is  only 77  years  away  from us  now, and with  a margin  for error, possibly within  our lifetimes. What will  we  do,  if  it  is  true,  when  our children are adults  and we  have  done  nothing to  prepare them, and theirs after? ...  So I encourage  each person to turn to that  inner  dragon, and cut  it  out  with  the  broken sword, if  need  be, and arm each other for the return."

Edited by Nick Underwood
Got one of the typos.
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10 hours ago, jajagappa said:

To save the reforested lands, an Elf hero quests to the Green Age and returns with the secret of the Dark Forest.  This secret allows the trolls to break the Curse of Gbaji, but it requires the sheltering darkness of the forest canopy to do so.  A Great Compromise is reached between Aldrya and Kyger Litor, and the Great Dark Forest spreads across the land.

I love this! And there is hope too even in the Guide, since the woods are hostile only to most humans.

@dumuzid, you've captured a lot more fully a thought I had had about Argrath and the way he seemed to bring people into his orbit only to shed/sacrifice them - it doesn't feel like there's much of a "we" there. Further, destruction rather than creation seems to be not only his means but also his aim, and I can't expect much good to come from that.

A PC group is ideally suited to adding in more voices to the situation with Argrath, whether that's alongside him or against him or just rendering him irrelevant.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts so far!

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13 hours ago, Martin Dick said:

A few days ago, someone on the Facebook group commented that they found the canon end-stage for Glorantha (as per King of Sartar) to be quite depressing (and I can't really disagree), and they wondered about a positive end and this is what I wrote for a happy ending.

 

Now all you have to do is record this in an interesting manner et voila, an interesting entry to Glorantha Has Talent? (see elsewhere on this website)...I might be sick but i can envision a muppet news cast... complete with old farts heckling from the balcony.

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13 hours ago, jajagappa said:

To save the reforested lands, an Elf hero quests to the Green Age and returns with the secret of the Dark Forest.  This secret allows the trolls to break the Curse of Gbaji, but it requires the sheltering darkness of the forest canopy to do so.  A Great Compromise is reached between Aldrya and Kyger Litor, and the Great Dark Forest spreads across the land.

That could also explain why the elder races seems to be vanishing during the fourth age. It's not that they are extinct, it'just that they are hidden in those dark corners of the Great Forest, out of reach for humankind. I love that survival through compromise-between-old-ennemies idea because it just goes so well with my own angle on the 4th Age.

In My Glorantha, the fourth age is when the Elder Races go into hiding, much like the Gods had to do during the Great Compromise. For the first 3 Ages since the birth of Time, gods could only be heard via ceremonies, and could only be reached by heroes. But their creation, the Elder Races, were still living near humankind pretty much everywhere on Glorantha.

In the 4th age, the Gods are completely gone, but, IMG, the Elder Races are just very very rare and hard to reach, much like the Gods used to be.

It's much like if there were only 3 ages, and that this 4th Age would in fact be the 1st Age of a brand new world, born out of New Compromises between the Elder Races.

Using the Great Dark Forest unifying Trolls and Elves as an inspiration, I want to discover what the other New Compromises could be. Maybe the Trolls had a New Compromise with the Dwarves too, allowing them to hide under the Dark Stone Bridge.

Maybe the Dwarves and the Elves have their own New Compromises, allowing them both to hide in the depths of the Branching Caves or in the canopy of some Growing Ruins.

Maybe the participation of long gone Elder Races would become essential for some of those New Compromises, and that could further explain the return of Pinchining the last Gold Wheel Dancer. (Who would have been the Gold Wheel Dancers' old ennemies ?)

Maybe some lesser known Elder Race would have annihilated its old enemy long ago, and without any means to bring them back and accept a New Compromise, their own fate would be sealed.

Maybe this 4th Age is a New Compromise between Humankind and the Gods, allowing those older powers, those runic essences, to hide inside us, in our own heart and soul, and manifest themselves in our passions and our moments of transcendance. 

Edited by Hijabg
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10 hours ago, Hijabg said:

It's not that they are extinct, it'just that they are hidden in those dark corners of the Great Forest, out of reach for humankind. I love that survival through compromise-between-old-ennemies idea because it just goes so well with my own angle on the 4th Age.

While I doubt I'll ever get to exploring the 4th Age (so much still to explore in the 3rd Age!), the idea of some compromise between Elder Races that allows them to exist, yet hide, is appealing.

10 hours ago, Hijabg said:

Maybe the Trolls had a New Compromise with the Dwarves too, allowing them to hide under the Dark Stone Bridge.

That has an appealing sound to it.

11 hours ago, Hijabg said:

Maybe the Dwarves and the Elves have their own New Compromises, allowing them both to hide in the depths of the Branching Caves or in the canopy of some Growing Ruins.

Perhaps it has to do with the rise of the White Moon - something that allows a balance between the Grower and the Taker.  

11 hours ago, Hijabg said:

and that could further explain the return of Pinchining the last Gold Wheel Dancer. (Who would have been the Gold Wheel Dancers' old ennemies ?)

Yes, the Gold Wheel Dancers could be part of that too.

The Gold Wheel Dancers were creatures of transformation - they could become Useful Tools to others.  In the Broken Council LARP run in the 90's the Gold Wheel Dancers had mostly changed permanently into a final tool form (except for Speaking Wheel, the last of the Gold Wheel Dancers - and even he transformed in the end).  [Fyi, I played Speaking Wheel in that game, I was able to transform into a Golden Trumpet which became the Voice of Nysalor.]

Their enemies ultimately were the dwarfs or humans who just saw their final form as a beautiful tool to be either used or hoarded.  This would have been the opposite of what the Gold Wheel Dancers sought - which was to be Useful in some greater fashion.

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Could be Glorantha slowly being medievalized in the 4th Age, and the Elder Races slowly becoming (externally) homogenized to become basically the fey. 

I'm sure that's not a very attractive scenario for those who've already played a lot of Pendragon, but for me it kinda works.

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2 hours ago, jajagappa said:

While I doubt I'll ever get to exploring the 4th Age (so much still to explore in the 3rd Age!), the idea of some compromise between Elder Races that allows them to exist, yet hide, is appealing ...

There's a lot of mythic resonance to the idea of race(s) with potent individuals (but so reduced in numbers as to be threatened, as a race, by humanity) doing some magical "withdrawal" or "hiding" of their people, in the face of humanity's growing numbers.

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On 8/1/2020 at 9:02 AM, jenh said:

I'm interested in different ways that matters could turn out that are not only positive for the groups in question, but also perhaps transcend at least some hatreds and divisions.

Sorry, I've got nothing. Virtually everything that happens in the HeroWars seems to be an attack on someone else (hence the "Wars" part) .

No, actually I do! The raising of the Boat Planet might not be universally liked, but it's almost certainly a net good (as usual, go Kallyr!). 

Edited by Akhôrahil
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On 8/1/2020 at 3:38 PM, dumuzid said:

I think the first step towards thwarting that outcome is lightening Argrath's load.  Obviously having his coterie of hero-companions wasn't enough, even when he delegates responsibilities to them they're still his responsibilities that he's delegating.  There needs to be a Storm King, separate from Argrath, who'll abandon the mundane struggles of the Hero Wars to venture out on the Lightbringer's Quest with a few companions, as Orlanth did.  There needs to be a Unity Hero to assemble and coordinate the Middle World struggle long after the Storm King departs on their quest.  There needs to be a Storm Bull stomping the bounds of Prax, keeping the powers of the desert alive and in readiness to face the Devil himself in the final battle, after the Unity Army vanquishes his horde.

This has the additional advantage of letting PCs actually do some important stuff. Argrath is like if king Arthur did everything in the Arthurian legends, rather than enabling the heroics of others.

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4 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

This has the additional advantage of letting PCs actually do some important stuff.

And there are more of those opportunities.  Argrath is King of Kethaela, yet we know he's off up north - who's really going to do that?  (Might be the Unity Hero, but could be a leader drawn from each of the Sixths)  Argrath is King of Saird, but he can't even protect the Earth Queen there - could be one or more roles there who really have to deal with the Red Tides.  Who's going to help the desperate folk fleeing the Red Tides, and other chaotic horrors?  We need a new Heort or new Ivarne....

9 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

No, actually I do! The raising of the Boat Planet might not be universally liked, but it's almost certainly a net good. 

And offers a lot of opportunities for Heroquesting.  Need to get to some remote island in the midst of the Dark Sea in the Underworld? Hitch a ride on the Boat Planet.  Need to get to some place in the Sky?  Same deal.  Or you want to visit the famed City of the Dawn to trade?  Get onto the Boat Planet as it rises back up from the Underworld.  May be lots of opportunities with that for merchants, sages, and questers who seek allies.

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One of the rather unsatisfactory things in the King of Sartar ending is that after Harrek and Argath fall out... Harrek just *leaves*.

Harrek is not the just leave type, he's the chop Argath into kibble and dance on his corpse if they fall out type.  So he kills Argath, turns his skin into pants, steals all of 

Then he ruins the plan of the Trolls to flood Dragon Pass with gold and cause inflation by stealing it all.  This will be important, later.

Also, he skins Jar-Eel and gives all her power to Gunda.

Then he convinces the Trolls they should sign up with his plan to invade and loot Peloria.   Let's face it, killing Solar-aspected people is in their wheelhouse.

The Screaming Murder And Theft Horde then pours north.  The Praxians go with him because it's a chance to kill people and rob them.  The Black Horse Troop go along to avoid becoming Harrek's underwear.

Ralkazark, seeing what's coming, digs a big hole and hides until the next age.

Argenteus tries to lead an army against him, but too many banana sandwiches have left him mostly useless and he is defeated and Harrek skins him and makes a red coat and a white glove out of it and gives them to a young boy, who becomes the new King of Rock and Roll.  The Crimson Bat also gets skinned and becomes Harrek's boots.  

Gunda then convinces the dwarves that the Red Moon has to go and she has a plan.  So they take all that gold, build a giant catapult and fling it at the Red Moon, which breaks up, releasing all its power across  Glorantha.   The Red Goddess comes forth and she and Harrek obliterate each other.  

Glamour and Gunda hook up and create a new, better queendom in Peloria where anyone who worships Yelm must wear ashes and live in a trash can.

Okay, that was just me being ludicrous.  I do think Harrek would try to chop Argath into kibble, though.

I am working on a less silly idea.  

 

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In my Glorantha, one of the things that Heroes do in the Hero wars is to restore that which has been lost. So, they bring back the Elder council that used to rule the Elder Wilds, they bring back the First Council that ruled Dragon Pass, they bring back the Only Old One, they bring back Arkat's Dark Empire and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends and so on. 

Of course, what they bring back is not the same as what was before. Perhaps they don't have the right regalia, the right rituals and don't know the right words, perhaps there are different people involved and so on. But, it works. Each comes back and establishes a small piece of harmony and peace in their respective areas.

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"Eucatastrophe" most formally refers to a sudden event, one that is predictable in hindsight but often not in foresight. As such, the most likely candidate for an unexpected save at the eleventh hour is simple- a reassembled Empire of Ganderland, sending forth quack teams of Heroes to help bring the unwinding world beak together. 

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