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Technology in Glorantha


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Me, "Well they look like bronze, but it's really the bones of dead gods" Player1, "Cool. some weird mythical metal mashup" Me, "Yes, there are also other metals that look like gold, silver,

I mean, in the real world, pure iron is something of entirely specialist interest, mostly in the laboratory. Steels begin with a 0.002% or higher carbon content, and terms like "wrought iron" exist pr

I think vertical windmills make a kind of sense - they're vastly simpler than Dutch windmills. And Old Wind canonically has sacred windmills, I think?

9 hours ago, Bill the barbarian said:

Yes, but its 1625, most left with the Lunar Armies...

There's probably a Turkey enclave left somewhere in Dragon Pass. Their shamans are prophesying the coming disaster of Kriss-Muss, and their warriors are busy gearing up to defend against the usual barbarian incursions. Meanwhile Turkey merchants are occasionally met on the road and rumour is that one is thinking of setting up shop in Apple Lane. 

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Fonrit has millers (Guide p. 43) and there are water mills in Peloria: The Empire works like a good waterwheel, which goes on day and night whether the miller is there or not. (Guide p. 307). And there's also a hamlet in Colymar called Greenbrass, though the name might not be from the mill's brass anymore.

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On 1/22/2021 at 10:03 AM, egyptian said:

I'm really new to Runequest, and still trying to get my head around the setting. One of the things that's giving me some trouble is understanding the technology level of Glorantha. I know it's 'Bronze Age', but I also see a lot of things that would be anachronisms-heavy horse, two-handed swords, crossbows, heck some of those clothes dyes probably wouldn't have been around until the 19th century! I'm as ready to accept differences in the march of science in a magical world as anybody, I'm just curious if there's somewhere to start so I know what is and is not available in this world. Thanks in advance, any help is much appreciated.

The tech level of Glorantha is about 300 BCE Mediterranean and China with its pike phalanxes, triremes, crossbows, water mills etc. Ie. centuries later than bronze age Earth. But the objects which would have been made from iron are made from bronze.

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1 hour ago, Brootse said:

Fonrit has millers (Guide p. 43) and there are water mills in Peloria: The Empire works like a good waterwheel, which goes on day and night whether the miller is there or not. (Guide p. 307). And there's also a hamlet in Colymar called Greenbrass, though the name might not be from the mill's brass anymore.

I think vertical windmills make a kind of sense - they're vastly simpler than Dutch windmills. And Old Wind canonically has sacred windmills, I think?

Historic Iranian windmills are still functional nowadays -  TheCivilEngineer.org

Edited by Akhôrahil
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On 1/23/2021 at 12:39 AM, egyptian said:

First off, thanks for all the answers. I didn't quite expect so many responses to what I thought was a pretty innocent question!

 

re: The Greatsword Thing-from my admittedly limited research it seems like we don't see evidence of bronze swords of more than about 100cm, and most are 60-70. The one one bronzeworker who I heard comments from said that the 'leaf swords' which we find in abundance were near the limits of bronze's mechanical strength. I'm sure magic would let you make more impressive weapons, and in a magic-pervasive world it's certainly reasonable, but it would probably make that base cost we see in the rulebook a couple shades higher.

 

Maybe it's enough to just have some expected technologies missing. No flint and steel obviously, and characters will probably want to keep a firepot so they can carry a glowing coal from one campfire to the next. No book bindings, but scrolls are everywhere and can be flipping massive (look at some of those Torah scrolls!). No horse collars mean that horses are for transportation, and oxen for work. No potatoes means that everyone knows there should be something else in the stewpot, but they don't know what...

 

The thing to remember is that our world runs on physics. Glorantha doesn't, it effectively runs on Mythology. The bronze dug up is actual bones of dead gods, it's not necessarily what we call bronze. The Sun really is a guy in a chariot riding across the Sky (well, depends on who/what you believe). There are rivers that run uphill. You can go to the Sky, descend into Hell, and meet gods. This changes a lot of the way things work and perceptions.

It's not this Earth, but it has internal consistency (well until somebody changes the rules under you...)

 

Edited by d(sqrt(-1))
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My default assumption, in re two-handed swords and other such things, is that Gloranthan bronze behaves an awful lot like iron, and Gloranthan iron is basically a magic supermetal.

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On 1/22/2021 at 10:46 AM, David Scott said:

Then generally speaking use the real world cut off date of the fall of 1st century BCE

Although 1st century BCE will cover such remarkable artefacts as the Antikythera mechanism:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

It's an ancient Greek hand-powered orrery, described by some (well Wikipedia) as the first analogue computer.

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16 minutes ago, Stephen L said:

Well, it's depicted as a windmill on my map of Dragon Pass (the board game).   Whether than makes it canonical is quite another matter!

The art of Old Wind that's used as recently as the Sourcebook has it as windmills. Of course, Old Wind can easily be treated as lost technology from the age of the gods, which we cannot make the like of again, if need be.

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Hero (the aeolipile guy) was working on designs for windmills in first century AD. 

 

All this thinking about Bronze Age technology led me down the rabbit hole, and ended with me spending most of my morning reading about the development of textiles in antiquity. :D

 

 

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14 hours ago, Stephen L said:

Although 1st century BCE will cover such remarkable artefacts as the Antikythera mechanism:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

It's an ancient Greek hand-powered orrery,

We know they are wrong about this as there's a 25 page adventure about it in Pavis GtA. I won't say more to avoid spoiling the adventure for those who may not have played it.

14 hours ago, Stephen L said:

described by some (well Wikipedia) as the first analogue computer.

Good wikipedia articles have references to which the info is sourced from, in this case the source leads to an excellent article (link)

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16 hours ago, d(sqrt(-1)) said:

The thing to remember is that our world runs on physics. Glorantha doesn't, it effectively runs on Mythology.

However, an amount of consistency is still required. If bronze has very different material properties in one context than in another, things start to get weird, and players may feel that becomes disconnected from a feeling of reality. It doesn't seem reasonable that Gloranthan bronze would be better than medieval weapons-grade steel, for instance, and if it is, that opens up a huge can of worms.

Further, once bronze starts to not behave like bronze, or perhaps a slightly better Gloranthan bronze, what can we even tell about it any longer? Meanwhile, if bronze is at least mostly bronze, we can apply our real-world ideas to it - it has to be cast, it has to be handled the way real-world bronze weapons are, we can assume it gets hammer-tempered, and so on. If it gets too disconnected, we can only know what the game tells us. At that point, why even call it bronze in the first place, if all it does is mislead?

Edited by Akhôrahil
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8 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

what can we even tell about it any longer?

Me, "Well they look like bronze, but it's really the bones of dead gods"

Player1, "Cool. some weird mythical metal mashup"

Me, "Yes, there are also other metals that look like gold, silver, and copper, they are also the bones of dead gods".

Player2, "does that affect me hitting monsters with it?"

Me, "No, but some of the metals have different hit points, some more, some less, they can take different amounts of damage."

Player2, "Okay, so just different magical metals.

Me, "Yes"

Player3, "Do these magical metals relate to the real world properties of these metals, do you have a chart so I can see how they differ"

Me, "No, I've a section of the rules that tells about them"

Player3, "Whoa, no real world info? This is getting weird, I'm starting to feel a disconnection from reality. I need a metallurgy report.

Me. "Maybe you should go home"

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55 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

However, an amount of consistency is still required. If bronze has very different material properties in one context than in another, things start to get weird, and players may feel that becomes disconnected from a feeling of reality.

To start with, real world bronze has a range of material properties, depending on its composition and how it was treated (e.g. hammered). There can be impurities which influence the behaviour of the metal drastically which you would have some problems to measure with wet chemistry, for instance phosphorous. (Less of a problem with instrumental analytical chemistry, but already wet chemistry is hard to envision in the alchemical workshops of Glorantha...)

Godsbone bronze is a grown laminate that adds properties only high-tech (like molecular printing) could hope to duplicate.

 

 

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Further, once bronze starts to not behave like bronze, or perhaps a slightly better Gloranthan bronze, what can we even tell about it any longer?

Oh my, different qualities of metal... don't we all know that steel is steel?

 

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Meanwhile, if bronze is at least mostly bronze, we can apply our real-world ideas to it - it has to be cast, it has to be handled the way real-world bronze weapons are, we can assume it gets hammer-tempered, and so on.

Agree on cast bronze. Still ends up with a wide range of properties depending on composition and treatment, depending on the nuggets or ingots you use.

 

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At that point, why even call it bronze in the first place, if all it does is mislead?

Bronze is also called brass when it comes from the offspring of Lodril, or the Mostali. (There are Brass Mostali, but no Bronze Mostali...) And real world brass has massively different properties than bronze.

We have the name hu-metal (possibly related to the Mongolian folk-metal band The Hu, but really Humath's metal as that was a name for the Storm god that Bertalor knew). What does that name tell your players?

Edited by Joerg
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I mean, in the real world, pure iron is something of entirely specialist interest, mostly in the laboratory. Steels begin with a 0.002% or higher carbon content, and terms like "wrought iron" exist primarily to distinguish the conscious control of carbon content in later smelting and working technology from the unconscious introduction of carbon. But it's all steel, in chemical terms.

Gloranthan metals only get their special magical properties when they're pure and unalloyed (with the possible exception of bronze/brass... which is far more difficult to enchant than iron.) We're already very far away from the real world and into a symbolic realm where metals are first and foremost signifiers and their purity allows them to point dead-on to what they signify.

Which is to say, if you get someone in your gaming group who wants to know how there's big two-handed swords and polearms when it's bronze they're working with, you can direct them to myself or Joerg or whoever and we will gladly talk their ears off and return them, ears, newfound trauma, and all, to you for further Gloranthan gaming.

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9 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

...things start to get weird, and players may feel that becomes disconnected from a feeling of reality...

I'm the opposite. If Gloranthan metals were identical to Earth metals, then it would weaken the feeling that Glorantha is, to us, a strange and magical place.

Edited by PhilHibbs
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I think personally I would want bronze = bronze. It's heavy, and it's a little soft. One rough fight and you're sword is bent, and you've got to find a couple flat rocks to pound it back into shape. Tempering, pattern welding, shaping and folding...these are alien concepts. Once the bronze cools in the mold it's as strong as it's ever going to be.

Iron and steel are bizarre based on what everyone knows about metal. It takes astonishing amounts of heat to melt, far more than anything you know of can generate. It's hard, and it's strong, and it's strangely flexible. It also rots if you don't care for it, slowly turning orange red and flaking away to nothing. 

 

I think for me the alien-ness that PhilHibbs describes is less about changing the properties of things, and more about shifting how we think about them. It's not easy to slip free of modern perspectives though, so his view may well be the right one for a lot of people.

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If we believe in the QA thread, repeating crossbows are impressively advanced. I always pictured them like the Chinese type, with a top-loaded gravity-feeding magazine that you need to insert bolts into one at a time by hand, but according to Scotty, they are loaded with actual bolt-clips into an internal magazine mechanism, en bloc or even stripper-clip style. If we go by this reasoning, dwarves ought to be more than capable of creating, say, a belt-fed and waterwheel-powered fully automatic crossbow as well (although this would by necessity be a static installation).

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