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Lore of Glorantha for newcomers


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Hi everyone I've just signed up and this is my first post. I hope I'm not creating this topic in the wrong place.

We are a new player group for RQ. We are using the latest edition. We played DnD, Pathfinder, but we are new to RQ and Glorantha. There is no problem with the system. However, we are having some difficulties regarding the nations of Glorantha. Generally when I depict them to my players I tell them about the real world influences and similarities. So that they can visualize the game in their minds. You know like the Cimmerians in Conan are like Ancient Celts. All of my players have an education background in Classics, archaeology or Ancient History. In fact -besides its system- this is why we chose this setting for it sets in Late Bronze Age-Iron Age or in ancient age in general. Therefore, it helps greatly to compare these nations with the historical influences to help them imagine (or live even in their minds) the world and the game. However, in Glorantha I can't understand who is who or how to depict them to my players. For example, Orlanthi looks like a mix of Celtic, Germanic-Norse and (even Etruscan?) tribes. At first I thought the Lunar Empire is something like Rome, but later with its satrapies I thought it is more like the Empire of Alexander the Great and the states of his Diadochi (esp. Seleucians).

So, I am waiting for your advices how I might depict these nations to my players with

 
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I would expect a lot of replies to this!

For me, I would use something like:

  • Orlanthi: Celts/Vikings/Anglo Saxons/Asterix's Gauls
  • Lunars: Babylonians/Persians/Maybe Romans if you want
  • Praxians:  Native Americans/Steppe Nomads
  • Pentians/Grazelanders: Steppe Nomads/Mongols/Huns/Turkic
  • Dara Happans: Babylonians/Sumerians

But, of course, none of these is a good fit, really.

 

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With your question you touch a topic, which is not only confusing for new visitors to Glorantha, but also raises discussions between old-time fans and supporters of Glorantha.

As Greg Stafford has told many times, we're still exploring Glorantha, so a lot of the information we have at a certain point of time may change over time, when we learn more about certain areas of Glorantha and therefore are able to understand them better.

For example during (I think) the HeroQuest 1 era (around the change of the - real world - century and afterwards) Orlanthi were depicted very much as a Celtic/Germanic cultural group, but in the last years, especially with the release of the latest RuneQuest version, this view changed more to a mediterranean/minoan culture (which as far as I know did more match Greg's original vision of the Orlanthi).

You also have to understand, that these real world associations are helpful, but in most cases incomplete, as the Gloranthan cultures are often a mixture of what we know as real world cultures.

One of the most current and in this context most helpful documents regarding your question may be the (sadly currently in hiatus standing) web comic Prince of Sartar, as you got a lot of visual impressions directed by the imagination of @JeffRichard, the Creative Director of Chaosium.

But in the end it is your decision, because the moment you start playing in Glorantha it becomes your Glorantha.

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

I would expect a lot of replies to this!

For me, I would use something like:

  • Orlanthi: Celts/Vikings/Anglo Saxons/Asterix's Gauls
  • Lunars: Babylonians/Persians/Maybe Romans if you want
  • Praxians:  Native Americans/Steppe Nomads
  • Pentians/Grazelanders: Steppe Nomads/Mongols/Huns/Turkic
  • Dara Happans: Babylonians/Sumerians

But, of course, none of these is a good fit, really.

 

I will use soltakss as a launchpad for how I view these cultures. Keep in mind that I will be equally wrong.

  • Orlanthi: Celts/Gauls, non-maritime Vikings, Thracians. Even if you could also use them for inspiration, avoid anglo-saxon terms.  A bit of all of this but none of them really. Also keep in mind that "orlanthi" as a term is very, very broad so there will be a lot of variation from place to place. Sartarites are from a clannic/tribal culture that have been organised into a kingdom with strong urban centers but they are still very tribal and their core. 
  • Lunars: Babylonians, Sumerian, Persians. You can use some Romans element for inspiration but avoid roman terms. They are the progressive layer on top of conservative societies (Dara Happans, Carmanians)
  • Praxians:  Steppe Nomads. This one is hard because the Praxians are vey diverse. I'd say ancient (pre 5 century BC) steppes nomads from the pontic steppes (Prax) and Central Asia deserts and steppes (the Wastes with a good dash of American west). I would avoid native american tropes (it just doesn't fit into an ancient world) except for some shamanist elements and some american west desert imagery for the Wastes.
  • Pentians/Grazelanders: Steppe Nomads/Mongols/Huns/Turkic. I have seen them as such for a long time but actually, there are some element of Scythians specifically for the grazelanders
  • Dara Happans: Babylonians, Sumerians

I think it is useful to look for inspiration For central Genertela in the ancient world (say pre 5 century BC and muuch earlier) between eastern Europe and India. 

Edited by DreadDomain
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5 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

Hi everyone I've just signed up and this is my first post. I hope I'm not creating this topic in the wrong place.

Welcome!  And this place works fine for your questions.

1 hour ago, DreadDomain said:
  • Orlanthi: Celts/Gauls, non-maritime Vikings, Thracians. Even if you could also use them for inspiration, avoid anglo-saxon terms.  A bit of all of this but none of them really. Also keep in mind that "orlanthi" as a term is very, very broad so there will be a lot of variation from place to place. Sartarites are from a clannic/tribal culture that have been organised into a kingdom with strong urban centers but they are still very tribal and their core. 
  • Lunars: Babylonians, Sumerian, Persians. You can use some Romans element for inspiration but avoid roman terms. They are the progressive layer on top of conservative societies (Dara Happans, Carmanians)
  • Praxians:  Steppe Nomads. This one is hard because the Praxians are vey diverse. I'd say ancient (pre 5 century BC) steppes nomads from the pontic steppes (Prax) and Central Asia deserts and steppes (the Wastes with a good dash of American west). I would avoid native american tropes (it just doesn't fit into an ancient world) except for some shamanist elements and some american west desert imagery for the Wastes.
  • Pentians/Grazelanders: Steppe Nomads/Mongols/Huns/Turkic. I have seen them as such for a long time but actually, there are some element of Scythians specifically for the grazelanders
  • Dara Happans: Babylonians, Sumerians

Branching off from others.

Orlanthi:  I think a much stronger affinity is with the Hittites or other Anatolian cultures, with some Mycenaean (Iliad), Thracian, and Vedic India.  There's also been a suggestion recently in line with Bactrian cultures (Alexandrian era), particularly for Sartar.  For Esrolia, blend in more Minoan, Etruscan, and stronger flavor of Vedic India.

Dara Happans:  as above, Sumerians, Babylonians, perhaps also Mohenjo-Daro and a touch of ancient Egyptian

Lunars:  Assyrian, Persian (on top of Dara Happans and others), and bordering on Alexander/Seleucids but with Vedic India blended in (particularly from a religious perspective)

I'd largely agree with notes on Praxians and Pentans.

 

 

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Somewhat more outre thoughts on visual inspiration that play into having players with a classics/antiquity background, focusing on RQG core homelands:

Sartarites: Eastern Woodlands American Indians. In particular, my personal internal model of backwoods/rural Sartar villages is based very heavily on the look of Iroquois/Anishnaabe (Algonquian) villages and communities. The cities have direct artwork, but I still use reconstructions of Cahokia to inform my sense of minor buildings.

Lunar Tarsh: Greco-Bactrian or Indo-Greek, in that I tend to like the thought of Dara Happa/Lower Peloria as highly Greek visually to go along with its plethora of city-states/poleis held together with varying degrees of effectiveness by assorted central governments (plus my interpretation of the whole Ten Tests myth...)

Old Tarsh: Neolithic Old Europe. Entirely inappropriate, in that Neolithic Old Europe was agricultural and Old Tarsh is agricultural only marginally, but there's something about those fired-clay floors that just sparks my imagination and helps give them a sense of being "displaced people".

Grazelanders: Alans, Huns, Xiongnu, with somewhat more of an influence from Crow/Cheyenne/Lakota than usually seen. Gers, not tipis, though.

Praxians: Comanche, Osage, Pawnee. Plains peoples from the southern, drier parts of the Great Plains. Ancestral Puebloan peoples for the oasis folk. Substantial Bedouin influence as well.

Esrolians: All the old paintings on the tombs, they do the sand dance, don't you know? Lots and lots of Hollywood Ancient Egypt, thick eyeliner, etc., to go along with the gobs of Minoans and the parts of Robert Graves that don't properly belong up in Lunar Tarsh in the Hon-eel and Reaching Moon temples.

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6 hours ago, Oracle said:

For example during (I think) the HeroQuest 1 era (around the change of the - real world - century and afterwards) Orlanthi were depicted very much as a Celtic/Germanic cultural group, but in the last years, especially with the release of the latest RuneQuest version, this view changed more to a mediterranean/minoan culture (which as far as I know did more match Greg's original vision of the Orlanthi).

 

Let’s muddy the water just one more time... Some of the more modern takes of the Orlanthi are very much like the protagonists in the Bhagavad Gita

 

6 hours ago, soltakss said:
  • Orlanthi: Celts/Vikings/Anglo Saxons/Asterix's Gauls
  •  

 

3 hours ago, DreadDomain said:
  • Orlanthi: Celts/Gauls, non-maritime Vikings, Thracians. Even if you could also use them for inspiration, avoid anglo-saxon terms.  A bit of all of this but none of them really. Also keep in mind that "orlanthi" as a term is very, very broad so there will be a lot of variation from place to place. Sartarites are from a clannic/tribal culture that have been organised into a kingdom with strong urban centers but they are still very tribal and their core. 
  •  

I personally like Dacian/Thracian/Hittite myself

 

1 hour ago, jajagappa said:

Orlanthi:  I think a much stronger affinity is with the Hittites or other Anatolian cultures, with some Mycenaean (Iliad), Thracian, and Vedic India.  There's also been a suggestion recently in line with Bactrian cultures (Alexandrian era), particularly for Sartar.  For Esrolia, blend in more Minoan, Etruscan, and stronger flavor of Vedic India.

 

In my world as well. 

 

50 minutes ago, Eff said:

Sartarites: Eastern Woodlands American Indians. In particular, my personal internal model of backwoods/rural Sartar villages is based very heavily on the look of Iroquois/Anishnaabe (Algonquian) villages and communities. The cities have direct artwork, but I still use reconstructions of Cahokia to inform my sense of minor buildings.

I had never considered Algonquin, hmm. Perhaps the 6 nations confederate of the Iroquois could be cool?

 

No, final analysis, Anatolian or Vedic for me. 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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4 hours ago, Eff said:

Old Tarsh: Neolithic Old Europe. Entirely inappropriate, in that Neolithic Old Europe was agricultural and Old Tarsh is agricultural only marginally, but there's something about those fired-clay floors that just sparks my imagination and helps give them a sense of being "displaced people".

Joerg has opened my eyes to a bit of research that has me convinced that neolithic has an importent place in the bronze age world we know and love. Has he got to you as well?

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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7 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

Hi everyone I've just signed up and this is my first post. I hope I'm not creating this topic in the wrong place.

<snip>

 

Great question! This one comes around every now and again, and always (as soltakss says) gets traction!

 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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I tend to think of Balazar as the more “Native American” culture spot.  Stone spears, arrows and throwing axes.  Strong hunting culture.  Deerskin clothes.  Pair bonded with dogs, not riding animals.  That sort of thing.     

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14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

Hi everyone I've just signed up and this is my first post. I hope I'm not creating this topic in the wrong place.

Welcome, and hopefully the right place for you. Definitely the right place to ask this.

14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

We are having some difficulties regarding the nations of Glorantha. Generally when I depict them to my players I tell them about the real world influences and similarities. So that they can visualize the game in their minds.

Influences should always be many, often from unrelated cultures. Getting down to a single parallel will create clashes of disbelief later on.

 

14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

You know like the Cimmerians in Conan are like Ancient Celts.

Not exactly how I imagined them - but then that's the risk with making these assumptions. But then, that may depend on your definition of Celt. Are we talking about the majority of Hannibal's troops at Cannae, for instance? Are we talking about the mythical Milesians leaving Iberia in ox-hide curraghs for Ireland?

 

14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

All of my players have an education background in Classics, archaeology or Ancient History. In fact -besides its system- this is why we chose this setting for it sets in Late Bronze Age-Iron Age or in ancient age in general. Therefore, it helps greatly to compare these nations with the historical influences to help them imagine (or live even in their minds) the world and the game. However, in Glorantha I can't understand who is who or how to depict them to my players. For example, Orlanthi looks like a mix of Celtic, Germanic-Norse and (even Etruscan?) tribes.

Orlanthi are a case of a farmer-warrior culture surrounded by centralized urban civilizations, having experimented with urban life, some adopting that, others rejecting that.

Their peculiar definition of a clan is something I have not yet found in any culture - an exogamous group of 500 to 1000 people, headed by an elected cheftain/priest who has the last word  on 95% of all the property in the clan but who can be challenged whenever being unjust.

There are elements of Germanic "hundreds" here, or "Sippe", but blown up to a size which no Germanic farmers' republic ever managed to maintain in a stable format.

Their material culture comes from herding sheep and cattle and doing grain agriculture alongside side crops which may include vegetables, wine, orchards for fruits. They inhabit a climate range from subtropical to subarctic, usually in highlands (hence their moniker "Hill Barbarians") or adjacent lowlands.

Their religion defines their magic, which in turn influences their material culture. Their personal magic stems from identifying with their patron deity inside the polytheistic pantheon they all sacrifice to. These individual identifications with a single cult are the most pronounced among the Orlanthi of all cultures, many other cultures have a less personalized relationship with single deities of their respective pantheons.

Another strong personal magic stems from ancestry. Ancestral spirits or even deities can grant boons to their descendants if they take on the ancestors' values.

Perhaps as important to shaping their culture are the magics for their community cohesion. In Glorantha, each community of a certain size and magical potential creates an esprit de corps, a magical representation of the community. In order to interact with these collective entities, the Orlanthi summon a spiritual intercessor with these magical entities, personifying that entity and giving it worship in exchange for quite specific blessings.

These facts of magical economy shape their material culture, much like religious beliefs shaped the ancient cultures. Looking at Egypt without looking at their death rites overshadowing their everyday activities won't give you much insight into a population of farmers depending on annual floodings to provide them with extraordinarily fertile fields in a warm climate.

 

When it comes to "visualizing", matching relative body size, skin , hair and eye coloration will come into play. Well, Gloranthan humans are more colorful and diverse than our own planet's upright apes. Not to the extent of manga hair coloration, but dark brown-hued skin and red or fair hair are pretty normal combinations. Rather than strange hair colors, there are strange skin colors around. Blue, green, actual ruddy red or fairly bright yellow are possible skin colors inherited from magical ancestry.

Orlanthi redheads usually come well tanned rather than the pale skin you find in western European-descended redheads. Any comparison of the Orlanthi with Vikings, Celts and Germanic tribes brings up phenotype expectations which are usually way too white.

 

The material culture of the Orlanthi reflects the climate range they live in, the religious preferences, and their primary occupations.

Textiles are fairly optional when not dictated by the need to protect against cold. Holy people of various cults are expected to go totally nude, and participation in rites may call for nudity as well. That said, the culture has a strong urge to display status by ostentatious ornamentation, and that does include textiles and furs besides jewelry and symbolic armor.

Orlanthi admire the dieplays of wealth by their neighboring cultures,and want them for themselves. Those who can afford them will wear clothing and jewelry in imitation of neighboring cultures and display furniture, tableware or even architecture adopting those styles, usually while replacing representations of magical identification with the deities of that culture with their own deities.

Gloranthan metal is way more common than it was in the Iron Age or any historical Bronze Age, but most of it is bronze, with significant amounts of unalloyed copper, lead, and alloys like pewter being used as well. There are rarer metals like Sea-Metal - stuff that can take on a liquid shape or can be solidified. The solid material has about the density of sea water. Gold and silver are coveted, but used a lot in ostentatious displays of wealth (as such displays help to make the wearer more like the deity she or he identifies with). Most of these metals and even alloys can be washed out of deposits as native metal, including larger parts of gods' bones (or bones of other magical entities with stron elemental associations).

Gloranthan iron (or steel) is a rather rare material with magical or rather anti-magical properties. It is the metal of death and separation, and can be superior to bronze. The magic of smelting iron is restricted to the Mostali and possibly a few secret cults who managed to steal those secrets.

 

Orlanthi culture is a contradiction between pastoralist ancestral origins and a history of being one of the most advanced urban societies in the world (at several peaks of civilization, usually followed by a decline and return to non-urban life as a reaction).

One point of Orlanthi culture is that a small group of people can be as productive in their primary activities of raising crops and herds as a big, centralized state or city. Orlanthi agriculture is not dependent on big communal works to provide irrigation or drainage, and the bureaucratic apparatus and centralized rule that are necessitated by such demands

When such water works are necessary, the Orlanthi can handle those. In that regard, they bear some similarity with the Frisians who maintained Germanic farmer republican attitudes even through the feudal period while handling huge communal endeavours in flood control and draining of land. Unlike the Frisians, the Orlanthi don't normally have to fight the sea intruding on land slowly sinking below sea level, and most places they inhabit have enough seasonal rainfall to avoid having to irrigate their fields.

 

The Orlanthi farm resembles the Neolithic farming adapted for cold winters. While there are Orlanthi lucky enough to live in places where you don't have to stable your herds through the worst of winter, most of them live in uplands which cannot be used as pasture year round, with access to high or otherwise seasonal pastures where to drive the majority of their herds in transhumant practice. These transhumant practices are a major distinction from both their more sedentary, urbanized neighbors and from their almost purely nomadic neighbors (Praxians, horse nomads). Dairy and meat are a significant portion of Orlanthi primary production, with meat consumption a feature of their religious practices. Pious persons may gorge themselves on meat fairly regularly in the sacrificial rites, regardless of social status. High status people may have meats on a daily basis - possibly less as a dietary preference and more as a display of status. Office holders represent the community and the community's pride (which in turn is fueling the community cohesion and the magic available to the community). There is no element of envy in putting the leaders - the holy people handling the communal magic - in as ostentatious apparel and displays of wealth, but rather one of communal pride. The splendor displayed by the holy people reflects the community.

 

14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

At first I thought the Lunar Empire is something like Rome, but later with its satrapies I thought it is more like the Empire of Alexander the Great and the states of his Diadochi (esp. Seleucians).

The Lunar Empire is the latest in a succession of empires dominating the lowlands of northern Central Genertela. All of these empires have been headed by divinely blessed emperors desended from the ruling deities or at the very least a demigod ancestor descended from the supreme deity. Like all the empires before, it emerged from overthrowing the previous regime.

All kingdoms or empires in Gloranthan are based on the religious importance of their rulers. In the Lunar Empire, this may be even more true than elsewhere, as the emperor is the reincarnating demigod son of the Red Goddess who founded (or took over) the empire when she still walked the world as a demigod avatar of her ancient magical power.

The Lunar Empire is a magical empire, of several layers of imperial magics and harvest magics. Some of those magics date back to Paleolithic ancestral practices, possibly including fire farming, alongside horticulture.

The Roman Empire has too much of a Republican pre-history to be a good parallel for more than a superficial similarity. Another name for the Satrapies has been Sultanates.

At the heart of that empire is a riverine network of cities overseeing irrigation agriculture around them, with just the minimum amount of herding necessary to sustain the plow beasts used for growing rice or cereals in dry farming. Cereals really dominate the diet.

Irrigation is required, as there is little rainfall during the growing season, and most of the available water comes from the snow melt, both locally and in the (Orlanthi-inhabited or wild) surrounding uplands. Centuries of cultivation have reduced forestation of the land to a few lingering major areas, replacing them by grasslands used for herding - mainly of smaller herd animals like goats, and of horses.

The temperatures of the Lunar empire are comparable to the US midwest (before the recent anthropogenic climate change), except for a rather recent magical anthropogenic climate change introduced by the Lunar Empire. 

 

The Lunar Empire brought a bunch of revolutionary magical and social changes, and created a few New Model Cities, but it also rules over some of the most ancient and most persistent cities in the world, whose urban culture and domination over the surrounding farmlands underlies a majority of the new ways. If you want to take the Roman Empire as your parallel, you should look at those parts of the empire which were based on the conquest of older empires, including the successor states of Alexander in Greece, Asia Minor, the Levante, and Egypt, and the former Carthaginian lands. The Danubian and Atlantic Coast conquests of the Roman Empire are not a good comparison for the Empire as a whole, although the Danubian conquests offer some parallels for the Empire's interaction with the Orlanthi.

British and Gallic conquests are culturally in the forefront of what people of Western European descent picture as the Roman Empire. And while there are good anecdotal similarities in e.g. the Iceni uprising or episode in De Bello Gallico or the Germanic campaigns (including Varus' battle), many of these are misleading. Likewise the all-important role of the Mare Nostrum (aka Mediterranean) for the infrastructure of the Roman Empire must not be under-estimated. The Lunar Empire has a riverine infrastructure resembling the Indus or Ganges valleys or the lower Nile Valley. Sluggish rivers almost a mile wide dominate most of urban Peloria. While there are some functional roads in the Empire, some even magical, the majority of traffic and trade depends on the rivers. Control of the rivers is half of the imperial authority, although almost nobody admits to that.

Part of that is the history of having been conquered (or even rescued) by horse-riding nomads, nomads some of whom claim a shared ancestry with the urban culture. The lands of the Lunar Empire emerged from the apocalyptic Greater Darkness under the able leadership of horse nomads which then was marred by a succession of let's say less able emperors too confident in their god-like and god-given status. Apart from barbarian foes (the high culture of the Orlanthi and their non-human allies, which at that time was possibly more civilized than the lands under the horse warlords), an upsurge of the urban population under their rule seeking their own identity as sun-blessed overseers replaced the horse nomads, who were driven off into the inhospital (to humans, especially from agricultural societies) grassland steppes of Pent (which offer ideal horse-breeding conditions, though).

Horse nomad neighbors with a national memory as imperial overlords over a farming population are one main topic of he history of the empires preceding the Lunar Empire, and are a recurring and serious threat to the Lunar Empire as well.

 

The other recurring theme in the Lunar Empire are mystical insights altering the reality of the land. Illumination. The Lunar Empire is one such movement, the third such major change of the magical and physical reality of the lands, the Third Age mystical empire. The First Age (aka Dawn Age) saw the Bright Empire (grown out of cooperation with the Orlanthi civilization), the Second Age saw the draconic Empire of the Wyrm's Friends and ther dragon reality take over the ancient empire for a while. Other, less blatant mystical insights or aberrations like the Spolite Empire with its Darkness orientation also turned up in the Second Age, at first before the EWF, then again after the fall of the EWF when becoming the dominant creed in the Carmanian Empire (the empire toppled by the current Lunar Empire).

 

The sequence of empires in the lands surroundin Mesopotamia may be the better ancient comparison to the Lunar empire. Alexander and his successors bear some similarity to the Carmanians, but so do the Persian horse riders preceding Alexander. The religious fervor of the Lunar Empire shares aspects of the early Caliphates, although the religious and social tenets don't share that much. Looking to the Sassanians or the Byzantines may be more fruitful than looking to the early Roman empire, but then take either back into a Bronze Age environment with demigod kings and magical feats of battle like in the Vedas.

 

Material culture can be surprising, but then use of concrete in Catal Hüyük's terrazzo floors predates metallurgy. Technologies coexist in closer temporal and local proximity than at any time in Old World history.

Parallels from the pre-Columbian New World are harder to use because of the importance of domesticated cattle for plowing and domesticated horses for warfare. And bigger domesticated beasts in the mythical past.

 

I find that superficial similarites with naval cultures or with cultures not using animal muscle lead to visualisations that trigger a dissonance. "It's like modern America, only without fossil fuel engines or electricity." In other words, not alike.

 

14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

So, I am waiting for your advices how I might depict these nations to my players with

If you want to use past civilizations as short-hands, always use multiple sources, point to a few similarities that apply and to strong dissimilarities which don't. Use Meso-American, African or South-East Asian ones in connection with Fertile Crescent-adjacent ones.

People must eat, and feeding them is the basis of all cultures. The infrastructure and magic for keeping the people fed are integral to all Gloranthan cultures, and then comes the mythical past, usually reflected in the main figures of the culture's dominant reliigion.

Thus it is Orlanth, the rebel king, who overthrew the previous urban/celestial Evil Emperor and freed his sophisticated wife who brought an ancient agricultural society into his pastoral clans and tribes, and that merger defines Orlanthi culture.

Thus it is divinely ordained centralist government by Yelm the Sun God over the entire array of subservient deities, some of them rebellious but kept in cheick, and then the Red Goddess returning that divine right government along with a philosophy of mystical liberation.

Thus it is the strict, "logical" caste system of the westerners instituted by Malkion, maintained by Zzabur, and reformed by Hrestol for the "monotheistic" West.

And there is eastern mysticism and meditation, at times combined with mystical martial arts, at times with draconic magic and symbolism, carried forth by the great mystical sages who advised and instructed emperors or became dragon emperors.

There are the two nomadic cultures inhabiting the wastelands of central Genertela, one horse-riding and -worshipping former emperors of what is now the Lunar Empire, the other Beast Nomads riding anything but horses and a culture based on survival after the devastation of the Chaos Wars and dealing with the all too present remains of that Chaos.

 

Material culture and appearance are linked to habitat, climate, history and religious/mythical preference. Find a balance for these in your parallels.

 

Horse nomads will loan from the well-known horse riding cultures of the Old World - Scythians, Gauls, Sarmatians, Huns, Bedouins, Magyars, Mongols, Cossacks. The material scaled back to an ancient world feel, with iron replaced by bronze and certain Iron Age devices like chainmail not available. (Don't even mention stirrups, or absence thereof.) They have a traditon as urban overlords. They have a history of following great leaders displaying powerfuly mystical magics (which made e.g. the Char-un Tribe devout if rebellious followers of the Lunar Empire).

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14 hours ago, DreadDomain said:

but avoid roman terms

Except in names, where where pseudo-Latin is everywhere. Much like the Orlanthi have pseudo-Germanic/Celtic name elements all around the place. 

This is basically a worldbuilding artifact of previous interpretations/visions.



In terms of artstyles and aesthetics, there's also a lot of India around. Lots of statues from the Lunar Empire and Esrolia are straight up based on Hindu sculptures, for examples. Some Orlanthi ascetic warriors look a bit like Hindu sadhus as well, judging from the guide. There's probably a convenient similarity (like the convenient similarity of Hittite-Hallstatt-Dark Age Germanic aesthetics) with Sumerian-Akkadian robes, wraparounds and loincloths with similar garments from the Indian subcontinent (and also with similar Greek clothing, I suppose).



Also, a subversion of typical fantasy convention of "barbarians versus the decadent empire": the Orlanthi "Hill Barbarians" are on the tanner side, and the Imperial Lunars are on the paler side, *in general*. This doesn't always bear out with regards to prominent named characters though, as far as I've seen.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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3 hours ago, Joerg said:

Welcome, and hopefully the right place for you. Definitely the right place to ask this.

Influences should always be many, often from unrelated cultures. Getting down to a single parallel will create clashes of disbelief later on.

 

Not exactly how I imagined them - but then that's the risk with making these assumptions. But then, that may depend on your definition of Celt. Are we talking about the majority of Hannibal's troops at Cannae, for instance? Are we talking about the mythical Milesians leaving Iberia in ox-hide curraghs for Ireland?

 

Orlanthi are a case of a farmer-warrior culture surrounded by centralized urban civilizations, having experimented with urban life, some adopting that, others rejecting that.

Their peculiar definition of a clan is something I have not yet found in any culture - an exogamous group of 500 to 1000 people, headed by an elected cheftain/priest who has the last word  on 95% of all the property in the clan but who can be challenged whenever being unjust.

There are elements of Germanic "hundreds" here, or "Sippe", but blown up to a size which no Germanic farmers' republic ever managed to maintain in a stable format.

Their material culture comes from herding sheep and cattle and doing grain agriculture alongside side crops which may include vegetables, wine, orchards for fruits. They inhabit a climate range from subtropical to subarctic, usually in highlands (hence their moniker "Hill Barbarians") or adjacent lowlands.

Their religion defines their magic, which in turn influences their material culture. Their personal magic stems from identifying with their patron deity inside the polytheistic pantheon they all sacrifice to. These individual identifications with a single cult are the most pronounced among the Orlanthi of all cultures, many other cultures have a less personalized relationship with single deities of their respective pantheons.

Another strong personal magic stems from ancestry. Ancestral spirits or even deities can grant boons to their descendants if they take on the ancestors' values.

Perhaps as important to shaping their culture are the magics for their community cohesion. In Glorantha, each community of a certain size and magical potential creates an esprit de corps, a magical representation of the community. In order to interact with these collective entities, the Orlanthi summon a spiritual intercessor with these magical entities, personifying that entity and giving it worship in exchange for quite specific blessings.

These facts of magical economy shape their material culture, much like religious beliefs shaped the ancient cultures. Looking at Egypt without looking at their death rites overshadowing their everyday activities won't give you much insight into a population of farmers depending on annual floodings to provide them with extraordinarily fertile fields in a warm climate.

 

When it comes to "visualizing", matching relative body size, skin , hair and eye coloration will come into play. Well, Gloranthan humans are more colorful and diverse than our own planet's upright apes. Not to the extent of manga hair coloration, but dark brown-hued skin and red or fair hair are pretty normal combinations. Rather than strange hair colors, there are strange skin colors around. Blue, green, actual ruddy red or fairly bright yellow are possible skin colors inherited from magical ancestry.

Orlanthi redheads usually come well tanned rather than the pale skin you find in western European-descended redheads. Any comparison of the Orlanthi with Vikings, Celts and Germanic tribes brings up phenotype expectations which are usually way too white.

 

The material culture of the Orlanthi reflects the climate range they live in, the religious preferences, and their primary occupations.

Textiles are fairly optional when not dictated by the need to protect against cold. Holy people of various cults are expected to go totally nude, and participation in rites may call for nudity as well. That said, the culture has a strong urge to display status by ostentatious ornamentation, and that does include textiles and furs besides jewelry and symbolic armor.

Orlanthi admire the dieplays of wealth by their neighboring cultures,and want them for themselves. Those who can afford them will wear clothing and jewelry in imitation of neighboring cultures and display furniture, tableware or even architecture adopting those styles, usually while replacing representations of magical identification with the deities of that culture with their own deities.

Gloranthan metal is way more common than it was in the Iron Age or any historical Bronze Age, but most of it is bronze, with significant amounts of unalloyed copper, lead, and alloys like pewter being used as well. There are rarer metals like Sea-Metal - stuff that can take on a liquid shape or can be solidified. The solid material has about the density of sea water. Gold and silver are coveted, but used a lot in ostentatious displays of wealth (as such displays help to make the wearer more like the deity she or he identifies with). Most of these metals and even alloys can be washed out of deposits as native metal, including larger parts of gods' bones (or bones of other magical entities with stron elemental associations).

Gloranthan iron (or steel) is a rather rare material with magical or rather anti-magical properties. It is the metal of death and separation, and can be superior to bronze. The magic of smelting iron is restricted to the Mostali and possibly a few secret cults who managed to steal those secrets.

 

Orlanthi culture is a contradiction between pastoralist ancestral origins and a history of being one of the most advanced urban societies in the world (at several peaks of civilization, usually followed by a decline and return to non-urban life as a reaction).

One point of Orlanthi culture is that a small group of people can be as productive in their primary activities of raising crops and herds as a big, centralized state or city. Orlanthi agriculture is not dependent on big communal works to provide irrigation or drainage, and the bureaucratic apparatus and centralized rule that are necessitated by such demands

When such water works are necessary, the Orlanthi can handle those. In that regard, they bear some similarity with the Frisians who maintained Germanic farmer republican attitudes even through the feudal period while handling huge communal endeavours in flood control and draining of land. Unlike the Frisians, the Orlanthi don't normally have to fight the sea intruding on land slowly sinking below sea level, and most places they inhabit have enough seasonal rainfall to avoid having to irrigate their fields.

 

The Orlanthi farm resembles the Neolithic farming adapted for cold winters. While there are Orlanthi lucky enough to live in places where you don't have to stable your herds through the worst of winter, most of them live in uplands which cannot be used as pasture year round, with access to high or otherwise seasonal pastures where to drive the majority of their herds in transhumant practice. These transhumant practices are a major distinction from both their more sedentary, urbanized neighbors and from their almost purely nomadic neighbors (Praxians, horse nomads). Dairy and meat are a significant portion of Orlanthi primary production, with meat consumption a feature of their religious practices. Pious persons may gorge themselves on meat fairly regularly in the sacrificial rites, regardless of social status. High status people may have meats on a daily basis - possibly less as a dietary preference and more as a display of status. Office holders represent the community and the community's pride (which in turn is fueling the community cohesion and the magic available to the community). There is no element of envy in putting the leaders - the holy people handling the communal magic - in as ostentatious apparel and displays of wealth, but rather one of communal pride. The splendor displayed by the holy people reflects the community.

 

The Lunar Empire is the latest in a succession of empires dominating the lowlands of northern Central Genertela. All of these empires have been headed by divinely blessed emperors desended from the ruling deities or at the very least a demigod ancestor descended from the supreme deity. Like all the empires before, it emerged from overthrowing the previous regime.

All kingdoms or empires in Gloranthan are based on the religious importance of their rulers. In the Lunar Empire, this may be even more true than elsewhere, as the emperor is the reincarnating demigod son of the Red Goddess who founded (or took over) the empire when she still walked the world as a demigod avatar of her ancient magical power.

The Lunar Empire is a magical empire, of several layers of imperial magics and harvest magics. Some of those magics date back to Paleolithic ancestral practices, possibly including fire farming, alongside horticulture.

The Roman Empire has too much of a Republican pre-history to be a good parallel for more than a superficial similarity. Another name for the Satrapies has been Sultanates.

At the heart of that empire is a riverine network of cities overseeing irrigation agriculture around them, with just the minimum amount of herding necessary to sustain the plow beasts used for growing rice or cereals in dry farming. Cereals really dominate the diet.

Irrigation is required, as there is little rainfall during the growing season, and most of the available water comes from the snow melt, both locally and in the (Orlanthi-inhabited or wild) surrounding uplands. Centuries of cultivation have reduced forestation of the land to a few lingering major areas, replacing them by grasslands used for herding - mainly of smaller herd animals like goats, and of horses.

The temperatures of the Lunar empire are comparable to the US midwest (before the recent anthropogenic climate change), except for a rather recent magical anthropogenic climate change introduced by the Lunar Empire. 

 

The Lunar Empire brought a bunch of revolutionary magical and social changes, and created a few New Model Cities, but it also rules over some of the most ancient and most persistent cities in the world, whose urban culture and domination over the surrounding farmlands underlies a majority of the new ways. If you want to take the Roman Empire as your parallel, you should look at those parts of the empire which were based on the conquest of older empires, including the successor states of Alexander in Greece, Asia Minor, the Levante, and Egypt, and the former Carthaginian lands. The Danubian and Atlantic Coast conquests of the Roman Empire are not a good comparison for the Empire as a whole, although the Danubian conquests offer some parallels for the Empire's interaction with the Orlanthi.

British and Gallic conquests are culturally in the forefront of what people of Western European descent picture as the Roman Empire. And while there are good anecdotal similarities in e.g. the Iceni uprising or episode in De Bello Gallico or the Germanic campaigns (including Varus' battle), many of these are misleading. Likewise the all-important role of the Mare Nostrum (aka Mediterranean) for the infrastructure of the Roman Empire must not be under-estimated. The Lunar Empire has a riverine infrastructure resembling the Indus or Ganges valleys or the lower Nile Valley. Sluggish rivers almost a mile wide dominate most of urban Peloria. While there are some functional roads in the Empire, some even magical, the majority of traffic and trade depends on the rivers. Control of the rivers is half of the imperial authority, although almost nobody admits to that.

Part of that is the history of having been conquered (or even rescued) by horse-riding nomads, nomads some of whom claim a shared ancestry with the urban culture. The lands of the Lunar Empire emerged from the apocalyptic Greater Darkness under the able leadership of horse nomads which then was marred by a succession of let's say less able emperors too confident in their god-like and god-given status. Apart from barbarian foes (the high culture of the Orlanthi and their non-human allies, which at that time was possibly more civilized than the lands under the horse warlords), an upsurge of the urban population under their rule seeking their own identity as sun-blessed overseers replaced the horse nomads, who were driven off into the inhospital (to humans, especially from agricultural societies) grassland steppes of Pent (which offer ideal horse-breeding conditions, though).

Horse nomad neighbors with a national memory as imperial overlords over a farming population are one main topic of he history of the empires preceding the Lunar Empire, and are a recurring and serious threat to the Lunar Empire as well.

 

The other recurring theme in the Lunar Empire are mystical insights altering the reality of the land. Illumination. The Lunar Empire is one such movement, the third such major change of the magical and physical reality of the lands, the Third Age mystical empire. The First Age (aka Dawn Age) saw the Bright Empire (grown out of cooperation with the Orlanthi civilization), the Second Age saw the draconic Empire of the Wyrm's Friends and ther dragon reality take over the ancient empire for a while. Other, less blatant mystical insights or aberrations like the Spolite Empire with its Darkness orientation also turned up in the Second Age, at first before the EWF, then again after the fall of the EWF when becoming the dominant creed in the Carmanian Empire (the empire toppled by the current Lunar Empire).

 

The sequence of empires in the lands surroundin Mesopotamia may be the better ancient comparison to the Lunar empire. Alexander and his successors bear some similarity to the Carmanians, but so do the Persian horse riders preceding Alexander. The religious fervor of the Lunar Empire shares aspects of the early Caliphates, although the religious and social tenets don't share that much. Looking to the Sassanians or the Byzantines may be more fruitful than looking to the early Roman empire, but then take either back into a Bronze Age environment with demigod kings and magical feats of battle like in the Vedas.

 

Material culture can be surprising, but then use of concrete in Catal Hüyük's terrazzo floors predates metallurgy. Technologies coexist in closer temporal and local proximity than at any time in Old World history.

Parallels from the pre-Columbian New World are harder to use because of the importance of domesticated cattle for plowing and domesticated horses for warfare. And bigger domesticated beasts in the mythical past.

 

I find that superficial similarites with naval cultures or with cultures not using animal muscle lead to visualisations that trigger a dissonance. "It's like modern America, only without fossil fuel engines or electricity." In other words, not alike.

 

If you want to use past civilizations as short-hands, always use multiple sources, point to a few similarities that apply and to strong dissimilarities which don't. Use Meso-American, African or South-East Asian ones in connection with Fertile Crescent-adjacent ones.

People must eat, and feeding them is the basis of all cultures. The infrastructure and magic for keeping the people fed are integral to all Gloranthan cultures, and then comes the mythical past, usually reflected in the main figures of the culture's dominant reliigion.

Thus it is Orlanth, the rebel king, who overthrew the previous urban/celestial Evil Emperor and freed his sophisticated wife who brought an ancient agricultural society into his pastoral clans and tribes, and that merger defines Orlanthi culture.

Thus it is divinely ordained centralist government by Yelm the Sun God over the entire array of subservient deities, some of them rebellious but kept in cheick, and then the Red Goddess returning that divine right government along with a philosophy of mystical liberation.

Thus it is the strict, "logical" caste system of the westerners instituted by Malkion, maintained by Zzabur, and reformed by Hrestol for the "monotheistic" West.

And there is eastern mysticism and meditation, at times combined with mystical martial arts, at times with draconic magic and symbolism, carried forth by the great mystical sages who advised and instructed emperors or became dragon emperors.

There are the two nomadic cultures inhabiting the wastelands of central Genertela, one horse-riding and -worshipping former emperors of what is now the Lunar Empire, the other Beast Nomads riding anything but horses and a culture based on survival after the devastation of the Chaos Wars and dealing with the all too present remains of that Chaos.

 

Material culture and appearance are linked to habitat, climate, history and religious/mythical preference. Find a balance for these in your parallels.

 

Horse nomads will loan from the well-known horse riding cultures of the Old World - Scythians, Gauls, Sarmatians, Huns, Bedouins, Magyars, Mongols, Cossacks. The material scaled back to an ancient world feel, with iron replaced by bronze and certain Iron Age devices like chainmail not available. (Don't even mention stirrups, or absence thereof.) They have a traditon as urban overlords. They have a history of following great leaders displaying powerfuly mystical magics (which made e.g. the Char-un Tribe devout if rebellious followers of the Lunar Empire).

 

Thank you very much for the effort you put to your reply. I felt like I was in a middle of a scholarly debate and that was great. This is why I chose to sign up to this forum, for when I compare it to other rpg forums I find this forum's member are highly sophisticated and kind. Glad to be here.

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17 hours ago, Joerg said:

When it comes to "visualizing", matching relative body size, skin , hair and eye coloration will come into play. Well, Gloranthan humans are more colorful and diverse than our own planet's upright apes. Not to the extent of manga hair coloration, but dark brown-hued skin and red or fair hair are pretty normal combinations. Rather than strange hair colors, there are strange skin colors around. Blue, green, actual ruddy red or fairly bright yellow are possible skin colors inherited from magical ancestry.

 

Awesome Joerg, one of you best yet! Finding you missing anything is a chore Joerg, but you did miss the manga eye colour of Sartarites/Heortlings... Grey, green, hazel, and orange..!?!

 

14 hours ago, RexHiemis said:

Thank you very much for the effort you put to your reply. I felt like I was in a middle of a scholarly debate and that was great. This is why I chose to sign up to this forum, for when I compare it to other rpg forums I find this forum's member are highly sophisticated and kind. Glad to be here.

Joerg is phenomenal for that!

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On the visual side, look up for and show them images of the orlanthi of Six Ages: Ride like the Wind. They are not Sartarites but Vingkotlings, an ancient orlanthi tribe from before Time, but they are very useful to imagine the southern Orlanthi. The dominance of blue, long coats almost poncho-like, the absence of pants, the particular beards and moustaches... those are all traits the Sartarite can be seen with too. The dark skin is also present. Looking for "Six ages Rams" (Ram People was how the orlanthi were know in other places for a lot of time, because of their preference to herd sheep over other animals like cow, goat or pig) in google images provides sufficient images.

The Grazelanders are very similar to the Riders in that game too: light skin and hair, scythian-like clothing, horses...

I also recommend looking up @KleiosCanvas on twitter, she does magnificent gloranthan art that helps visualize how the world looks.

Edited by Jape_Vicho
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I've been partial to imagining Sartarites/Heortlings as being like a mix of the Samnites, Etruscans, and Italo-Celts (in terms of material culture and lifeways) As for everyone else.... Grazelanders are Scythians; Esrolians are Minoan/Mycenaeans; Lunars contain Babylonians, Assyrians, and Seleucid Hellenes living in perfect harmony; and Praxians are ... well .... a fun mix of all sorts of nomadic horse-riders (though there's definitely some elements of southern Plains Indian culture and some Pueblo elements, e.g., the Hopi/Tewa-like hairstyle of bison tribe women.)

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I think at this point the Sartarites are easier to explain as their own thing than try to say they are like so and so. For example, with my players who know nothing about Glorantha, I say, "They are an ancient world warrior culture, with feuding tribes and caravan cities. Hospitality and honour are very important to them, and they hate being ruled by outsiders, although they are very loyal to their warlord Prince (who they claim is descended from a founder god). Their main gods are a Storm God and an Earth Goddess, and have lots of minor deities, most of which share in the myths and stories of their main two gods."

Some might visualise Kafiristan of the Man Who Would Be King, or they might think of Thrace and Macedon, Vedic India, or even ancient Slavic cultures (I have one campaign where all the players are Polish). But that's just for visualisation - they know it is actually none of the above.

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31 minutes ago, Jeff said:

I think at this point the Sartarites are easier to explain as their own thing than try to say they are like so and so. For example, with my players who know nothing about Glorantha, I say, "They are an ancient world warrior culture, with feuding tribes and caravan cities. Hospitality and honour are very important to them, and they hate being ruled by outsiders, although they are very loyal to their warlord Prince (who they claim is descended from a founder god). Their main gods are a Storm God and an Earth Goddess, and have lots of minor deities, most of which share in the myths and stories of their main two gods."

This is an important point for new players. Most of mine (except the classical graduates) would struggle with most cultures beyond Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Ancient Britains'. We have plenty of source material that says what they are, in the core rules it says (page 24)

Quote

 

...Sartar [...], a mountainous kingdom made up of Storm-worshiping hill tribes united by the royal house of Sartar. Sartar recently liberated itself from the Lunar Empire, and in doing so began the Hero Wars. It is now ruled by Kallyr Starbrow, and is a hotbed of magical questing, petty feuds, and would-be Heroes.

Cultural Stereotype: The Sartarites are quarrelsome, reckless, and fiercely independent. Men are emotional, often violently passionate, with swiftly shifting opinions and feelings. Women are cunning, practical, and vengeful. The Sartarites are devoted to Orlanth and Ernalda, and hate the Lunar Empire with a burning passion.

 

Which I find more than enough for new players (I have two starting in a game next week and this was enough for choices) plus the large colour chapter pictures from the core book.

There's then nearly seven pages on Sartar itself for new players to read, plus two good pictures of how men and women look. Plus loads of fantastic colour art. The RQ colouring book is a major resource for new players.

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8 hours ago, David Scott said:

This is an important point for new players. Most of mine (except the classical graduates) would struggle with most cultures beyond Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Ancient Britains'.

Agreed for the players. I didn't know what the hell a Thracian or Scythian was until 6 months ago.

But for me the usefulness of having references (historical, geographical, cinematographic, comics, whatever) is mainly for the GM.  As I said on Facebook, I'm a fairly new Gloranthan GM (I starting GMing in the setting less than 2 years ago), and getting a good mental picture of what this or that piece of Glorantha looks like was my biggest problem. I think that's what people mean when they say that Glorantha is "difficult to get into" or "intimidating". The available game material gives a decent overview which is totally functional and lets us get the job done, but some of us GMs like to have some guidance for adding some extra colour and detail, or things to read/watch to find ideas for NPCs or stories or whatever. That's where references are useful.

My players don't need to know what a Thracian is. But I can find out and make good use of it as a GM for my games. I assume this kind of knowledge is useful for the authors when they write the books we buy. So it can also be useful to me when I write my own adventures.

Edited by lordabdul
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22 hours ago, David Scott said:

RQ colouring book

Indeed, the colouring books are an excellent place to start, especially if the age profile of your starting players was 7, 9, 11, and 2 who are old-enough-it-is-is-considered-impolite-to-speculate.

It will amuse me when they start to learn about the Heroic and Classical ages at school, they’ll be thinking, Oh, that’s a bit like the Lunars and the Orlanthi.

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