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Western Hero Wars Status Quo


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9 hours ago, Richard S. said:

...I don't suppose anyone would mind doing a TLDR? I feel like I really like this thread, but I can't say for certain until my brain manages to decode the arcane script y'all are speaking.

The thread really wants you to like it. The thread wants to be whatever you find useful and interesting.

For me that means finding out if we can apply and accelerate the deep developmental process that took Dragon Pass from a board game to something organic and intricate (with its own epic future history) to other regions. As much as I love the achievement the Dragon Pass campaign represents, I won't be satisfied until we see the rest of Glorantha get a chance to participate. After all, a real Hero Wars needs to be "made of everything" as someone once said. 

But it took Dragon Pass 45 years to get here. There were board games, novels, deep background books, ultimately full-fledged Sartar ethnographies and scenario packs. Greg spent years with his players finding out what worked and listening to the dice. So did a whole lot of other people. We know who the Orlanth people are now and where they're going. Squint right and we can even figure out what's really going on from the Lunar side.

Other regions didn't get that. It's just how history goes. But I don't want to wait another 45 years to see how their epics play out. And the thrilling thing is that once we figure out how to open Pandora's box a second time, as it were, we can do it everywhere. Accelerate the long ramp. Do it faster, smarter, even learn from the process. 

The West has a little more going for it than the East or South because Greg spent a lot of time there in the '60s and then again for a few years trying to figure out the Second Age. There was also an abortive RQ2 expansion but it really just turned into Pendragon. So this part of the world is probably the best laboratory environment we have for concocting something comparable to Dragon Pass and compatible with it, without being Pendragon.

So here we are, collecting lab equipment. All are welcome. There are no dumb ideas. (In fact, it might be worth seeding all the dumb ideas we can find so we can cut those experimental lines early on and cut more time out of that 45-year path.) 

I personally have a deep narrative bias against Guilmarn and Theoblanc so will take every opportunity to make fun of them. There might be a few other hidden jokes but they only ever matter if they give you an idea that you want to run with.

The Barbarella stuff is extremely interesting, why not an entire sexual liberation / Antonioni current radiating from the Zorias etc.

9 hours ago, Frp said:

I'd change almost nothing knowing what I know now. Except I'd have whatever godlearner bomb the Loskami drop on their enemies, that makes the living envy the dead, happen in Earth season, 1625. 

One of the biggest and best bombs of the thread, I love this. Now all we need is a way to fill the next 15-20 years before the Lunars invade and then figure that stuff out!
 

Edited by scott-martin
forgot about mortal lords, light smoothing throughout
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Developing relevant JC materials for the terminal Third Age West presents its share of challenges. On one hand, the Guide presents a richer 1621 status quo than we've ever had to work with, confirming

"It is a period of holy war. Arkati Men-of-All, striking from a hidden fortress, have won their first victory against the evil Kingdom of Seshnela. During the battle, Arkati spies managed to steal sec

I got seriously into Malkionism when we were writing How the West was One (written in 1993-4), and that game began when David Hall said "Wouldn't it be fun to turn [Chris Gidlow's theological card-gam

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20 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

The West has a little more going for it than the East or South because Greg spent a lot of time there in the '60s and then again for a few years trying to figure out the Second Age. There was also an abortive RQ2 expansion but it really just turned into Pendragon. So this part of the world is probably the best laboratory environment we have for concocting something comparable to Dragon Pass and compatible with it, without being Pendragon.

A challenge for the West is that it got locked into a view of the Medieval West: king, church and sorcerer-priests, warrior knights, feudal peasants.  Rokari as the new Inquisition.  Wizards drawing upon the pyramid scheme of belief and magic points to overwhelm the opposition.

But starting with the Guide, we've had opportunity to begin to break that down.  Strip away the medievalism.  Think talars, zzaburi, horali, dronar.  Yes, in Seshnela we have castes, but I think as has been suggested, we need to explore more of what this means.  What's been integrated into each?  And where are the opportunities in the relationships between and among these caste structures?  Are these really blandly uniform?  Or have we overlooked opportunities within?

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39 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

"Star Wars is such a depressing setting. An oppressive Galactic Empire extending its grasp everywhere. Who'd want to play games against that background?" 😉

 

"It is a period of holy war. Arkati Men-of-All, striking from a hidden fortress, have won their first victory against the evil Kingdom of Seshnela. During the battle, Arkati spies managed to steal secret plans to the Seshnegi's ultimate weapon, the SHARPER ABIDING BOOK, an armored pamphlet with enough concision to destroy an entire library."

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I'm a huge Star Wars nerd, so apologies if this doesn't make much sense to normal folk, but here's a penny that just dropped for me (which is totes congruent with Scott's pitch):

From the POV of a monolithic, oppressive Western Kingdom, the barbaric frontier regions away from civilisation might as well be the galaxy's Outer Rim. For us, they're places like the crime-dens and cantinas of Safelster, the desert / icy / forest / highland wastes of inland Ralios and Fronela, and the godforsaken Muppet Show extravaganza that is the Holy Country and Dragon Pass, with that ridiculous gaggle of aliens cropping up all over the place.

I will cogitate further on this, but I think it's Important to put down my marker. Once you get away from the fucking Prequel Trilogy, nobody is trying to set exciting adventure stories in Galactic Center -- the action all moves to backward fringe regions (Tatooine, Hoth, Endor, etc.), and rightly so. 

EDITED TO ADD: Just as all of the best Conan stories are set in the wilderness / barbaric fringes between empires. You don't get to learn much about Everyday Life in Aquilonia from the canon, and rightly so. The fringe is where it's at. We should learn from this.

Edited by Nick Brooke
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If we think of the Dragon Pass campaign as being the equivalent of a game set during the transition from Philip to Alexander, then it makes sense to think about what happens when we get past the Hindu Kush and try to cross the Indus. But that's not our starting point.

In the Third Age, our sorcerers have had their God Learning thunder stolen by such innovators as the Lunar Empire, Belintar, and later Argrath and his Sartar Magical Union. Some, particularly Hrestoli and Arkati, feel the tug towards the vortex in Dragon Pass. Others try to halt the slide into uncontrolled war and conflict, by striking now and imposing peace on the world. In Loskalm, the Malkioni now must wrestle with the consequences of their own God Learner experiment, as the Kingdom of War is now upon them, and their philosophical idea degenerates with contact with the greater world - once again, intellect and spirit is becoming trapped in a material prison.

But the war in Dragon Pass touches all of this - the West is not hermetically sealed from this.

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21 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

From the POV of a monolithic, oppressive Western Kingdom, the barbaric frontier regions away from civilisation might as well be the galaxy's Outer Rim. For us, they're places like the crime-dens and cantinas of Safelster, the desert / icy / forest / highland wastes of inland Ralios and Fronela, and the godforsaken Muppet Show extravaganza that is the Holy Country and Dragon Pass, with that ridiculous gaggle of aliens cropping up all over the place.

I think it's a good overlay (and I certainly enjoy the Star Wars themes). 

23 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

nobody is trying to set exciting adventure stories in Galactic Center -- the action all moves to backward fringe regions

Which is what we were saying about the Lunar Heartlands 20 years ago.  And yet, we've got a very nice set of content now on Glamour with a whole myriad set of possible campaigns in the Galactic Center. 🙂

Seshnela has its Great Houses, one of which has just been overrun and cast adrift.  Feels like there is Game of Thrones/Dune opportunity here, as well as Robin Hood.  And what other sinister secrets is Theoblanc keeping to himself (either in fear or with opportunity to exploit)...

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As an aside, Seshnela is not really a Galactic Empire although Guilmarn has pretensions of being a "universal ruler". It is the Kingdom of Tanisor, pretending to be a Neo-Seshnelan Empire, a Gloranthan version of Voltaire's Holy Roman Empire. The Kingdom has a "feudal" system where great talars are given rulership by the Crown in exchange for service, and in return grant lesser domains to lesser talars. The whole thing resembles the Indian feudalism of the Kushans or Guptas, with a dizzying array of aristocratic networks, and closely allied with the zzaburi of the Rokari movement (think Brahmins of Smartism or other orthodox sects). The omens and disasters from Dragon Pass worry the Rokari greatly, and the rumours that Arkat has returned terrifies them.

A quick impression of this Tanisor empire is that it is rich, ponderous, civilised, bureaucratic, and in existential fear of the return of Arkat and the God Learners. 

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4 minutes ago, Jeff said:

As an aside, Seshnela is not really a Galactic Empire although Guilmarn has pretensions of being a "universal ruler".

Definitely not equivalent of the Lunar empire.  Reminds me of the Hittite or Assyrian expansions, but with the feudalism you note.

7 minutes ago, Jeff said:

The omens and disasters from Dragon Pass worry the Rokari greatly, and the rumours that Arkat has returned terrifies them.

Presumably the Dragonrise itself was not in view, but the Three New Stars, the Boat Planet, and the Eleven Lights would all have been very visible signs. 

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1 minute ago, jajagappa said:

Feels like there is Game of Thrones/Dune opportunity here, as well as Robin Hood.

Quoting myself from one of the Other Places:

Quote

Imagine the artwork possibilities; Duke Leto Raus, exiled by the Padishah Emperor to some remote desert frontier, receives an embassy of bald chicks in red and black robes from some esoteric Heartland order; his Humakti swordmaster, Mentat sorcerer and that irritating bard with the Baliset stand in attendance.

But even in Dune, the action is on the fricking desert planet at the arse end of nowhere. Not in the heart of galactic civilisation.

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41 minutes ago, Jeff said:

As an aside, Seshnela is not really a Galactic Empire

My point is that you can play countless awesome adventures and hijinks vs. an Evil Empire that is oppressing the hell out everybody without any of them needing to be set in the downtrodden heartlands of said oppressive Evil Empire. King Guilmarn's faceless Stormtroopers and sinister Adepts can come after you in Safelster, in Ralios, in the Holy Country: why the hell not?

And if your starting point is yellow scroll text saying "King Guilmarn and Pope Theoblanc have eradicated the Arkati Order of Men-and-a-Half, the last guardians of peace and freedom in Glorantha," you would be crazy to think that means your adventurers won't encounter, train as members of and indeed resurrect the Arkati Order. (Or whoever). It just means that you start out on the back foot, rebels and refugees on the run. 

"Where's the fun in that?"

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2 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

My point is that you can play countless awesome adventures and hijinks vs. an Evil Empire that is oppressing the hell out everybody without any of them needing to be set in the downtrodden heartlands of said oppressive Evil Empire. King Guilmarn's faceless Stormtroopers and sinister Adepts can come after you in Safelster, in Ralios, in the Holy Country: why the hell not?

And if your starting point is yellow scroll text saying "King Guilmarn and Pope Theoblanc have eradicated the Arkati Order of Men-and-a-Half, the last guardians of peace and freedom in Glorantha," you would be crazy to think that means your adventurers won't encounter, train as members of and indeed resurrect the Arkati Order. (Or whoever). It just means that you start out on the back foot, rebels and refugees on the run. 

"Where's the fun in that?"

"The Arkati Law has disappeared from the continent. You, my friend, are all that remains of their Stygian tradition." -High Watcher Theoblanc, briefly turning into Peter Cushing from his usual Stan Laurel, before we cut to the protagonists, learning how to recognize Gbaji the Deceiver by wearing blindfolds...

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2 minutes ago, Eff said:

High Watcher Theoblanc, briefly turning into Peter Cushing from his usual Stan Laurel

Christopher Lee, like Stan Laurel, is rather tall; and I believe he was the artist's model for Theo. Just saying.

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2 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

Christopher Lee, like Stan Laurel, is rather tall; and I believe he was the artist's model for Theo. Just saying.

 

5 hours ago, jajagappa said:

 

  • hidden facets under the surface of "rightness", but what are they? Millennial/mystery cults? Vampires at work? Witches in the forests?

🧛‍♂️ 

Of course, that might be the cheap route, making Tanisor have an infestation of Vampire Zzaburi rather than Vampire Kings. But there's plenty of room for Buffy the Vampire Slayer jokes that way!

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Hm. Alright. Forgive me if I'm missing something incredibly obvious, but how exactly is Seshnela an oppressive, evil, unplayable place comparable to the Galactic Empire? I haven't delved too much into it, to be fair, but from what I've read in the guide and heard on Malkioni society in general from Jeff (mostly from the latest impromptu con), it seems to me that it's no worse than, say, the Lunar Empire (and people are more than willing to adventure in and be involved with the politics of that empire's heartlands). I suppose you could read the castes themselves as a form of oppression, yet as I understand it the restrictions aren't really too enforced on the lower classes, especially the Dronars, who are mostly free to go about their business - both material and magical - as long as they give some worship to the Invisible God, supply power to their Zzaburi, and don't overtly do something like wear a lot of yellow around the wizards and nobles. And while Seshnela is looking to stamp out all other forms of Malkionism and conquer the west, I'm going to point again to the Lunar Empire for example of something very similar that everyone seems to be perfectly fine playing with/in. Certainly there's a lot wrong in Seshnela from our own perspective, but I don't see how it's "unplayable".

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14 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

Hm. Alright. Forgive me if I'm missing something incredibly obvious, but how exactly is Seshnela an oppressive, evil, unplayable place comparable to the Galactic Empire? I haven't delved too much into it, to be fair, but from what I've read in the guide and heard on Malkioni society in general from Jeff (mostly from the latest impromptu con), it seems to me that it's no worse than, say, the Lunar Empire (and people are more than willing to adventure in and be involved with the politics of that empire's heartlands). I suppose you could read the castes themselves as a form of oppression, yet as I understand it the restrictions aren't really too enforced on the lower classes, especially the Dronars, who are mostly free to go about their business - both material and magical - as long as they give some worship to the Invisible God, supply power to their Zzaburi, and don't overtly do something like wear a lot of yellow around the wizards and nobles. And while Seshnela is looking to stamp out all other forms of Malkionism and conquer the west, I'm going to point again to the Lunar Empire for example of something very similar that everyone seems to be perfectly fine playing with/in. Certainly there's a lot wrong in Seshnela from our own perspective, but I don't see how it's "unplayable".

I don't find Seshnela unplayable or even particularly "evil." It is oppressive if you want to play free-wheeling sorcerers, running around summoning demons and messing with gods, and all that sort of power-gamer stuff. 🙂

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2 hours ago, jajagappa said:

Definitely not equivalent of the Lunar empire.  Reminds me of the Hittite or Assyrian expansions, but with the feudalism you note.

Presumably the Dragonrise itself was not in view, but the Three New Stars, the Boat Planet, and the Eleven Lights would all have been very visible signs. 

Very possible that some zzaburi witnessed the Dragons. I am pretty sure there are spells that let them see far off things closer, kind of like a really long-range Farsee.

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7 minutes ago, Jeff said:

I am pretty sure there are spells that let them see far off things closer, kind of like a really long-range Farsee.

Yes, I could picture many of them turning their enhanced Farsee type spells upon the rapid rise of Orlanth's Ring/11 Lights, and at the point when the Green Star joins, the image of the immense dragon stretching from the star above to the world below becomes visible.

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26 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

Hm. Alright. Forgive me if I'm missing something incredibly obvious, but how exactly is Seshnela an oppressive, evil, unplayable place comparable to the Galactic Empire? I haven't delved too much into it, to be fair, but from what I've read in the guide and heard on Malkioni society in general from Jeff (mostly from the latest impromptu con), it seems to me that it's no worse than, say, the Lunar Empire (and people are more than willing to adventure in and be involved with the politics of that empire's heartlands). I suppose you could read the castes themselves as a form of oppression, yet as I understand it the restrictions aren't really too enforced on the lower classes, especially the Dronars, who are mostly free to go about their business - both material and magical - as long as they give some worship to the Invisible God, supply power to their Zzaburi, and don't overtly do something like wear a lot of yellow around the wizards and nobles. And while Seshnela is looking to stamp out all other forms of Malkionism and conquer the west, I'm going to point again to the Lunar Empire for example of something very similar that everyone seems to be perfectly fine playing with/in. Certainly there's a lot wrong in Seshnela from our own perspective, but I don't see how it's "unplayable".

The Lunars have been playable since the beginning and have antagonists who can be thrown at them which aren't sympathetic at all. So part of this approach could include developing ways in which Seshnela can be a protagonistic or deuteragonistic presence. 

Of course, on some other levels, the Lunar Empire is small-c chaotic. There's obviously room to be a protagonist in a conventionally heroic narrative there. And at the same time, playing in the core of the Lunar Empire has been difficult because when the Lunars and Tanisorians are running effectively, what need do they have for freewheeling self-interested nascent Heroes outside of the control of Authority? So the other thing here is creating spaces where they need heroes to go do heroic things without having the option of dropping two dozen villages' worth of spare MP on raining down fire from heaven on whatever is causing problems. 

And of course on a third level, the Red Goddess and Lunar Way are appealing and sympathetic things in their own right, and Rokar and Rokarism thus far come across as petty, scared things. So perhaps expanding Rokarism to make it sympathetic and appealing is an option. And on another level, Rokarism feels like a dead end- an attempt to be small and closed-off in a very big lozenge that's getting bigger every year. By comparison, Hrestolism and neo-Arkatism and Henotheism are not so closed off, so they feel protagonistic. But that's me speaking. In my lozenges, traditionalism is always incomplete and can never explain everything, and Heroes are needed to expand the boundaries of the possible. 

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34 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

Forgive me if I'm missing something incredibly obvious, but how exactly is Seshnela an oppressive, evil, unplayable place comparable to the Galactic Empire?

I think there's always been an association of Rokarism with a certain repressive, perhaps inquisitorial religion.  And that is coupled with an aggressive King eager to unite the land under himself and destroy his foes.  For instance, the Hero Wars in Seshnela begin per the Guide p.424 with:

SESHNELA: One God, One King
Supreme Watcher Theoblanc and his wizards work out the ancient rites used to unify the Malkioni in the Second Age. With this spell, King Guilmarn summons the wizards of Malkion to Segurane for a Seventh Malkioni Council. Theoblanc heads the proceedings and chooses one thousand wizards from across the West to question about the teachings of Malkion. Those who hold wrong beliefs are killed by demons. All deviations from Rokarism are declared heretical and the King of Seshnela is proclaimed the One King of the West.
King Guilmarn pledges to unify the West and to purge it of heresy and corruption. He begins by having Duke Mulliam of Nolos and Duke Porfain of Pasos declared deceivers and enemies of the Truth. With a great army, the king invades in 1622 with the aid of the Brithini and Waertagi. After battles, betrayals, sieges, divine intervention, and even the appearance of Harrek the Berserk and his Wolf Pirates late in 1623, Guilmarn unites Seshnela. Once Seshnela is unified, Guilmarn turns his attention to Ralios and Fronela. The king launches an even greater invasion of Ralios with the goal to exterminate all Arkati.

Or in regards to Theoblanc p.407:  Theoblanc, the Watcher Supreme, is the head of the Rokari school, the final expert on the interpretation of the Malkioni sacred texts. His rulings on Malkioni law are binding on all zzaburi of the Rokari School. A special regiment of horali serves as the Rokari religious police and enforces the Rokari interpretation of Malkioni law and caste restrictions.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Richard S. said:

how exactly is Seshnela an oppressive, evil, unplayable place comparable to the Galactic Empire?

I for one am not saying "unplayable." We can play anything. I'm saying GF is not M out of the box. Happy to be schooled!

Seshnela is noted for its arrogant and ambitious martial ruling class . . . oppressed peasants, and secretive wizards who live in constant fear . . . distinctions restricting diet, dining practices, marriage, occupation, and so on are rigidly upheld . . . a woman’s primary responsibility is as a wife and mother.

The nobles claimed hereditary ownership to all property and enforced rigid caste laws on the peoples within their domains. The zzaburi told all the peasants that rigid adherence to their miserable way of life would achieve them Solace.

Maybe the regional events table provides some relief, let's see. 3 in 6 common events have the king or his agents either celebrating his new "acquisitions" or making people nervous. "Suspicion" is everywhere. 1 in 6 is traders offering beautiful things I can't really afford and another 1 in 6 is the authorities rounding up muscle to teach those foreigners a lesson. Then there's "wizards accompanied by religious police." Outbreaks of spirits, Tapping, lycanthropy. Raids. Peasant revolts. 

Whether this is an "evil" place or not, it is definitely a society under significant stress. I can get all that on cable news. (More later.)

57 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

enhanced Farsee type spells

The bigwigs are Watchers for a reason! EDIT not a buffy joke

Edited by scott-martin
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And of course, in all of this is necessarily a goal of filling in some of the blanks between "Abbott and Costello invade Safelster" and "The Great Talar of the West unites Malkionism for real, and the Mostali too, and then goes off to oppress Arrolia and get sucked into the Void by the Red Emperor wearing the Mask of Phargentes the Younger". 

In other words, no matter what Seshnela's state of playability is or isn't, having a sense of what you're struggling for and against and alongside is good. 

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