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why is Argrath considered an asshole?


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9 minutes ago, Darius West said:

These are modern sentiments that have no place in a bronze age environment if we want to get serious about roleplaying cultural sensibilities.  While we are at it, we should perhaps ask ourselves whether slavery is better or worse than death?

I completely agree with this.  It just isn't the nature of the world as presented, nor in line with what we know about our own ancestors.  (Or, if we are honest, about our own deeper rooted, glossed over by civilization, urges.)

Two out of my five Zoom players had their family eaten, body and soul, by the Crimson Bat during character generation.  One was an exile and had to leave his home for five years.  Another has no living family, they being mostly killed by Lunars.  I had thought to squeeze in more "but what have the Lunars done for us?" type things, but there is no way that the players were having any of it.  They are all in for extreme violence against the Lunars, and I am curious how they perceive events as they unfold.  Right now they are in 1619, and going through the Eleven Lights scenarios.  They have no idea what is coming.  But their efforts saving the populace from the Bat, and the weirdo cultists trying to hunt down and sacrifice literally anyone they can get their hands on, has not endeared them to the side of the Goddess. 

Modern, overfed, couch-comfy morals aside, it is immersion breaking to not take up arms and fight like hell.  I suspect that Argrath will get a warm welcome, and hope that the campaign goes long enough for the players to start to question when to stop the war.  With major events coming up like the Windstop, I don't see that question hitting their thought process any time soon.

 

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It's surprisingly complicated. Greg had already written at least a little about just about every place except for what we now call Central Genertela (Sartar, Prax, Shadows Dance, Holy Country and

There are places in Glorantha where the magical geography facilitates bringing the God Time into the mundane world. In all of Sartar, the Lunars determined that this was a place of raw power, and not

I liked Drew’s take on multiple Argraths - that he’s both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and every insider is in on the joke: the carefree Orlanthi adventurer “Garrath Sharpsword” is a mask, just like the gr

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The Windstop is bad in the same way that killing the Sun was bad. But what good Sartarite or Tarshite would actually want to live in the golden ossification of the Bad Emperor's rule?

Of course, the conflict is not quite identical between Sedenya and Orlanth as it was between Orlanth and Yelm. Orlanth's desire for a place in the universe all his own was somewhat more abstract than Sedenya's similar desire manifested in the material Red Moon. But then again, Orlanth's desire might well have been very different at the point in his existence where he actually held Humakt in his hand and prepared to cut down Yelm-Murharzarm.

But we can certainly compare the two quests- an upstart deity, coming from a history of suffering, demands a proper place from the existing order, is rebuffed, fights for that place, gathering allies from the fringes of existence, finally culminates their struggle in slaying the ruler of the existing order, and then has to, after a long period where they establish their sovereign rule over the universe, then lose it and are forced to venture into the Underworld to recover what was lost, forcing a reconciliation between the two former rivals and a degree of mutual non-interference.

Except that, as King of Sartar says, that had already been done before and so wouldn't work, so this time Orlanth rises again a mere four years after his death. Not surprising when you're dealing with two mutable, changing deities. And the final resolution is certainly different on the surface, but we can certainly hope, and I think credibly believe, that it's a reconciliation too.

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6 hours ago, Dissolv said:

Modern, overfed, couch-comfy morals aside, it is immersion breaking to not take up arms and fight like hell.

 

Yes, no one in the history of the world, even back in the bronze age, ever thought that killing people was bad, slavery was bad, and that violence was the best option in response to any ill that befalls them. And within Glorantha, Orlanthi society explicitly specifies that there are other ways than violence, there is a determinedly pacifist goddess and cult, and Sartarite clans that don't hold slaves and won't hold slaves. I guess they like their couches too.

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29 minutes ago, jenh said:

Yes, no one in the history of the world, even back in the bronze age, ever thought that killing people was bad, slavery was bad, and that violence was the best option in response to any ill that befalls them. And within Glorantha, Orlanthi society explicitly specifies that there are other ways than violence, there is a determinedly pacifist goddess and cult, and Sartarite clans that don't hold slaves and won't hold slaves. I guess they like their couches too.

While a case could be made for killing being unacceptable it is far more difficult to show that it was in any case other than murder.  AFAIK there is absolutely no evidence of any anti-slavery polemic before the Achaemenid Iranians.  Most ancient law codes were really keen on the idea of retributive violence, prescribing it as the fitting punishment.

The Sartarite clans which don't hold thralls don't do so for religious reasons, imitating their ancestors.  There is no indication that it is a result of Gloranthan abolitionists.

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3 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

While a case could be made for killing being unacceptable it is far more difficult to show that it was in any case other than murder.  AFAIK there is absolutely no evidence of any anti-slavery polemic before the Achaemenid Iranians.  Most ancient law codes were really keen on the idea of retributive violence, prescribing it as the fitting punishment.

The Sartarite clans which don't hold thralls don't do so for religious reasons, imitating their ancestors.  There is no indication that it is a result of Gloranthan abolitionists.

Well, at some point you come back to ancestors who accepted or rejected thrall-taking, and presumably there was some kind of argument there that couldn't have purely been from tradition. And probably a related story in the modern day. 

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50 minutes ago, Eff said:

Well, at some point you come back to ancestors who accepted or rejected thrall-taking, and presumably there was some kind of argument there that couldn't have purely been from tradition. And probably a related story in the modern day. 

For the Sartarites, in a lot of cases it seems to stem at least partly from Hendriki descent or influence. And in their case, it probably comes out of their relationship with the Larnstings and their focus on Orlanth's powers of freedom in particular in their history and myths.

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Some of you guys seem to really want genocide to be natural and inevitable. I'm guessing it's also immersion breaking not to have every war crime imaginable played out, because every soldier commits them - it's just human nature, after all, no one has ever disagreed with that except in the modern era.

This is gross.

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1 hour ago, jenh said:

This is gross.

I am sorry you feel that.  The issue seems to be what you want out of a fantasy version of the RW Bronze and Iron ages.

I suppose it is a matter of where you draw your own personal line concerning 'fantasy'.  This is by no means a new issue, much print being spent over an RPG named Recon in the '80s.  It simulated the Vietnam War in gory detail, and was roundly condemned for the level of simulation it went into.

I will, however, always remember one question that arose (Dragon?  White Dwarf when it was good?) that stymied a lot of the critics.

"How much worse is it to call in a napalm strike on a village than to cast fireballs at a kobold settlement?"

I am appalled by the evils humanity has undertaken, and still undertakes. That doesn't stop me enjoying Glorantha.              I prefer simulation because it is the Bronze Age that interests me, not because I favour vile acts.

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4 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

I am appalled by the evils humanity has undertaken, and still undertakes. That doesn't stop me enjoying Glorantha.              I prefer simulation because it is the Bronze Age that interests me, not because I favour vile acts.

Simulation is not a single thing, where if you try to simulate Glorantha you must include everyone always committing genocide and everyone always being fine with slavery unless it's because of some reason that really truly isn't anything to do with people objecting to slavery. People did a lot more eating, sleeping, and shitting than they did killing, even in Glorantha, but somehow that doesn't tend to fall into what gets simulated. What gets simulated is a deliberate choice of the person doing the simulating, and what they consider important and plausible derives from their taste and outlook.

As for fireballing a kobold village: yes, for several decades I've been disturbed at how most roleplaying games are so centred on violence. There are vast swathes of human experience to explore, and yet.... And when games like Runequest tout the game-changing lethality of combat, it's never actually to encourage non-violence, it's to increase the difficulty of winning.

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I did like the Hero Wars idea of a Healers campaign or a Scholars campaign, and I have had games fall apart because of one PC who has become a 'combat monster' (his words not mine).  I prefer to try and simulate the whole society, slaves and slavers, sick and healers, beggars and merchants etc etc.

That doesn't mean that we can't disagree over whether a fictional character is an asshole in his fictional context. 

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5 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

Very likely it was a matter of the comparative strength of the groups. 

Can we afford the risk of trying to enslave them?  If not, we welcome them! 

Pragmatism frequently wins the day.  We may wish otherwise, but it is still true.

 

 

The Clan Questionnaire, going back to King of Dragon Pass, posits that thrall-taking was a matter of how your ancestral clan dealt with the incorporation of refugee foreign peoples back in the Storm Age. So that's certainly not how the game itself positions the question of thrall-taking. 

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If you are playing in warrior cultures or in cultures with warrior castes and empires based on conquest, violence on all scales is always an option taken by some. Heroic fantasy thrives on such cultures.

I have read fantasies with significantly less violent cultures, some of them with as traumatic or more forms of human on human interactions, never mind nonhumans. These can be done, but they aren't Glorantha, a setting grown out of the publication of a wargame featuring magics of mass destruction.

Glorantha is already a very humane setting on the topics of STDs (there are none, other than broo larvae) and rape. Slavery, human mass sacrifice to evil or chaotic deities, or even to beneficial harvest rites, and magical escalation that affects millions is the hard fact from which the stories that define the world have been spun. 

 

Woke sensibilities don't go well with either Bronze Age/Ancient World or heroic fantasy themes. Can you play Glorantha without touching on such subjects? Probably yes, if you keep out of the greater frame of stories, and if you avoid the cataclysms. Don't play in an apocalyptic setting where the main question is who will be hit by the cataclysms then.

 

Revenge for bygone wrongs is a big theme in Glorantha, and the antagonists will go to almost any length to achieve that. The Windstop is a desirable outcome for Dara Happan die-hards wishing to undo the humiliation of conquest at the end of the Gbaji Wars and by the EWF. Unforgivable! (And no notion of acknowledging the wrongs done by Palangio, the 1042 raid, or the True Golden Horde...)

Wrongs beget other wrongs. The Pentan horse nomads have similar grudges for being expelled from their homelands in Peloria. Sheng Seleris was the vehicle for them to reclaim those lands, and to get even for ancient wrongs. That's always a recipe for atrocities.

 

The climate strike against the Kalikos questers is nothing that can be blamed on Argrath. The Lunars had started an untenable, world-destroying series of quests, and would not stop even when their empire was in shambles. Short of a genocidal invasion of the empire (for which he lacked the resources), interfering directly with the detrimental quest was the best option to stop this build-up of imbalance. All the pent up force of winter that struck the Empire afterwards had been accumulated by a (at that point) six decades of heroquesting. 

The Lodrili farmers who had informed Argrath of these rites were struck by the summer-less year as much as the culprits in the rice belt. At least their deities and their magic wasn't taken away from them. Not an atrocity.

 

Releasing Sheng Seleris: on par with Harmast Barefoot releasing Arkat, and then Talor. Do you blame Harmast for the Telmori curse and the destruction of the Maboder, or for the cursing of Dorastor?

The Orlanthi of Dragon Pass had two experiences with forces allied to Sheng - Jaldon's Great Raid and the Battle of Quintus Vale, one against Praxians, the other against the Opili tribe from Pent. The Vendref also had a tale to tell about being enslaved by horse warlords. The oppression by the Lunar army was as bad, again and again. But neither Jaldon nor the Opili came with Chaos horrors destroying the souls of tens of thousands

The New Lunar Temple used up hundreds of slaves as sacrifices, too - way more than the original method by Yara Aranis herself. ("First Slave" is the captive spirit of a nomad warrior who had tried to rob the first of the Temples of the Reaching Moon, still inside the Silver Shadow which has a natural Glowline effect as long as the moon hovers above the Crater. The second temple at Good Shore which projects the Glowline beyond the Silver Shadow actively hunted for sacrifices.) The preparations there may have killed more Sartarites than the two visits of the Crimson Bat in 1602 and 1619.

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37 minutes ago, Eff said:

The Clan Questionnaire, going back to King of Dragon Pass, posits that thrall-taking was a matter of how your ancestral clan dealt with the incorporation of refugee foreign peoples back in the Storm Age. So that's certainly not how the game itself positions the question of thrall-taking. 

That depends on how you understand myth and the process of its construction

 

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6 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

That depends on how you understand myth and the process of its construction

 

Well, not exactly. I am saying that the game's design decisions indicate that we are meant to understand that the practice of thrall-taking was not a matter of ruthless pragmatism in its origin, but rather a question of how to treat dependent people. Which is an intrinsically moral question. That may be out of character for antiquity (I think it isn't, because there are strong debates about whether chattel slavery is permissible in Greece starting around the time of Aristotle, the Achaemenids banned most forms of slavery, etc.) but Glorantha's also not really an antiquity simulator, and you can go eat one of Bob's Bison Burgers if you don't believe me. 

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These are "fantasy role-playing games." I find it disturbing to learn that the fantasies some people enjoy role-playing in their games emphasise slavery, torture, rape and crimes against humanity to such an extent that they'll vociferously lobby for their inclusion, even when they know it's at the expense of other people's fun. But we really don't have to pay attention to those people. We can be better than that. And until they learn to write books, rather than edgy comments on the intertubes ("But mah Bronze Age authenticity!!"), what's the problem? Hardly anyone is reading their shit, and eventually (we can hope) they'll grow out of it.

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54 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

These are "fantasy role-playing games." I find it disturbing to learn that the fantasies some people enjoy role-playing in their games emphasise slavery, torture, rape and crimes against humanity

I don't take any personal issues with this - it's more a case of "but if my players don't want to support the appalling things Argrath does, is the campaign even playable?" That is, the world can include awful things (I calibrate this to what I believe that game will benefit from, which has a lot to do with the attitudes of the players, which tends to mean a softer touch than one would find in Steven Erikson or Joe Abercrombie) but if the PCs are expected to support and take part, that's another matter entirely. 

I think Argrath is both a bad person and a bad character, but him being a bad person only becomes relevant if you're expected to support him - there's no shortage of bad people in Glorantha, after all...

Edited by Akhôrahil
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58 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

These are "fantasy role-playing games." I find it disturbing to learn that the fantasies some people enjoy role-playing in their games emphasise slavery, torture, rape and crimes against humanity to such an extent that they'll vociferously lobby for their inclusion, even when they know it's at the expense of other people's fun. But we really don't have to pay attention to those people. We can be better than that. And until they learn to write books, rather than edgy comments on the intertubes ("But mah Bronze Age authenticity!!"), what's the problem? Hardly anyone is reading their shit, and eventually (we can hope) they'll grow out of it.

I don't think that is a fair summation of the argument Nick.  One doesn't deny these things exist in the world, but one doesn't have to play them or glorify them.   

Ompalom, Ikadz, Thed and the rest of the Chaos pantheon are theoretically playable, just not in any game I run or would want to play in.  It doesn't mean that we eliminate them from Glorantha, nor that we remove any evidence of their evil.  To do so would be to lessen their impact and any good reason to 'Hate Chaos'.  

The question of whether Argrath is an asshole is a matter of perspective, pure and simple.

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10 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

I thought this was a discussion concerning the moral culpability of an individual fictional character - did I get that wrong?

Gaming enjoyment is something quite different.  

OK, delete everything I wrote between "unpleasant stuff" and "you risk," and then re-read. 

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