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RuneQuest - the standout example of a TTRPG where religion is more than "a bland background noise" (Tor.com article)


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"...Most TTRPGs treated gods as a sort of theological ConEd for wandering clerics. Gods had different names and superficial attributes, but otherwise their cults were much of a muchness, with no actual doctrinal differences. One notable exception was Chaosium’s RuneQuest, particularly those supplements set in Greg Stafford’s gaming world of Glorantha. Glorantha is a Bronze Age world featuring legions of gods and just as many cults."
 
James David Nicholl at Tor.com discusses religion in fantasy, and cites RuneQuest as the standout example of a TTRPG where religion is more than "a bland background noise".
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And LOOK! a noteworthy lack of crusading in Glorantha too!

The Lunar attempt at conquest wasn't so much a crusade [in a Terra Prime 'Outre-Mer' sense] but several campaigns to gain access to the Ocean and culturally dominate the new 'provinces'. Yes, they relied on some underhanded means to defeat resistance, including what I term 'Heroquest warfare', but there weren't pogroms or the literal 'streets running red with blood' that happened several times during Earth's Crusades Era.

When comparing the DnD milieux equivalent wars of religion, RQ's mythic struggles really stand out both as a story to be told and an adventure to be had.

Edited by svensson
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I actually think that religion is too strong in Glorantha, especially with RQG.  In a typical Lunar / Sartar / Prax / Esrolia campaign, there are no atheists or, for the most part, even doubters, who think "geez, I made a really bad decision when I initiated into XXX at the wise old age of 16".  Playing such a character would come with too many massive disadvantages to be much fun (for most players).

But it sure beats the generic "I worship the Chaotic Neutral God of Thieves named, er, what's his name again?" of so many other RPGs.

Edited by Rodney Dangerduck
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1 hour ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

I actually think that religion is too strong in Glorantha, especially with RQG.  In a typical Lunar / Sartar / Prax / Esrolia campaign, there are no atheists or, for the most part, even doubters, who think "geez, I made a really bad decision when I initiated into XXX at the wise old age of 16".  Playing such a character would come with too many massive disadvantages to be much fun (for most players).

...

And I think in a cultural environment modelled basically after the Bronze Age this is absolutely correct. I'm pretty sure atheists or even doubters were very rare in ancient Egypt, Greek, Persia or Rome ...

Edited by Oracle
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1 hour ago, Oracle said:

And I think in a cultural environment modelled basically after the Bronze Age this is absolutely correct. I'm pretty sure atheists or even doubters were very rare in ancient Egypt, Greek, Persia or Rome ...

Evidence?  (I'm not a Bronze Age expert, so, an honest question)

My one non-scholarly Sunday School frame of reference is that even after all of Moses' miracles, the Hebrews still doubted Yahweh, and chose to worship a fatted calf instead.

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It's difficult to be an atheist when the gods themselves can come and whup your ass upside a tree. Not believing in the gods would be kind of akin to not believing in that tree. 

What Glorantha does admit is different perspectives on how the whole thing works, so what one perspective views as a god, another may view as something else. But the thing being viewed is no less real in either. 

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51 minutes ago, 21stCenturyMoose said:

It's difficult to be an atheist when the gods themselves can come and whup your ass upside a tree. Not believing in the gods would be kind of akin to not believing in that tree. 

 

Or being a flat-earther 

 

51 minutes ago, 21stCenturyMoose said:

What Glorantha does admit is different perspectives on how the whole thing works, so what one perspective views as a god, another may view as something else. But the thing being viewed is no less real in either. 

On the marble that would be akin to Ghengis Khan. He received religious delegations from India, Rome, Mecca and Constantinople as well as shamans from the steppes. In his case I believe it to have been less tolerance and more opportunism on his part. 

Yep, the atheist would be a lonely individual on the Lozenge. 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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1 hour ago, Bill the barbarian said:

Yep, the atheist would be a lonely individual on the Lozenge. 

An agnostic wouldn't last too long either... All it should take is a manifestation (or, given how many there are in Glorantha, an infestation of manifestations) of various god(s) to convert the agnostic to something else (I won't say "gnostic" as that has some hidden baggage of its own)

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Just now, Bill the barbarian said:

Or being a flat-earther 

 

On the marble that would be akin to Ghengis Khan. He received religious delegations from India, Rome, Mecca and Constantinople as well as shamans from the steps. In his case I believe it to have been less tolerance and more opportunism on his part. 

Yep, the atheist would be a lonely individual on the Lozenge. 

There are atheists - the Brithini and Vadeli believe the world is nothing but matter, energy, and intellect, and that the gods themselves are merely more powerful sorcerers like themselves who trapped themselves into self-delusion and hubris, and now are devoid of free will. But they don't deny the existence of those powerful beings.

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22 hours ago, Jeff said:

There are atheists - the Brithini and Vadeli believe the world is nothing but matter, energy, and intellect, and that the gods themselves are merely more powerful sorcerers like themselves who trapped themselves into self-delusion and hubris, and now are devoid of free will. But they don't deny the existence of those powerful beings.

Interestingly, that still goes nicely with my point. We can call them atheists, they may call themselves atheists but can they be atheists if they believe in a thing? An atheist to me does not deny the divinity of a deity, they deny the existence of deities themselves and the Oxford English Dictionary is in agreement.

Quote

atheist | ˈeɪθɪɪst | noun a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods: he is a committed atheist.

from the OED

 

23 hours ago, Baron Wulfraed said:

An agnostic wouldn't last too long either... All it should take is a manifestation (or, given how many there are in Glorantha, an infestation of manifestations) of various god(s) to convert the agnostic to something else (I won't say "gnostic" as that has some hidden baggage of its own)

Yep.

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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34 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

Interestingly, that still goes nicely with my point. We can call them atheists, they may call themselves atheists but can they be atheists if they believe in a thing? An atheist to me does not deny the sanctity of a deity, they deny the existence of deities themselves and the Oxford English Dictionary is in agreement.

from the OED

 

Yep.

I think the point here is the brithini deny the divine essence of (any god name)

Do they believe that Zzabur is less powerfull than Ehilm ? I don't think so.

Do they believe that Zzabur is a "god" aka not a brithini ? I don't think so.

they can conclude that gods don't exist ( = atheist)  even if they believe that Ehilm exists.

"God" is just a no sense word for low people (aka non brithini) who worship powerfull people .

From my idea of brithini perspective:

Worship is just a type of management : you can be the  leader of your band, you can be the king of your people, you can be the master of your slaves, you can be the god of your sect or you can be the talar of good brithini.

In some way, I would say that gods are bad zzaburi who had the ambition to be talar too. Not the good way (but the god way)

 

 

 

Edited by French Desperate WindChild
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2 hours ago, Bill the barbarian said:

Well, if you wish to change the meaning of the English word, sure.

i don't. I just make a difference between these sentences :

A) "I exist"

B) "I am a god"

Do you believe B) ? (I hope you don't)

If you don't, does that mean you believe I do not exist ? I hope you don't wish my no existence 🙂

Atheism is just about B) (of course not with only me, just with all the gods ), not about A)

 

Edited by French Desperate WindChild
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31 minutes ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

i don't. I just make a difference between these sentences :

A) "I exist"

B) "I am a god"

Do you believe B) ? (I hope you don't)

If you don't, does that mean you believe I do not exist ? I hope you don't wish my no existence 🙂

Atheism is just about B) (of course not with only me, just with all the gods ), not about A)

 

Thing is, there's also (C) "I have enormous power which I can grant to people who worship me" - and that's something that's not in dispute, because it can't be in dispute, because it actually happens. The real question is whether or not those worshippers understand the nature of what they're doing. Some say yes, some say no, but neither denies the fact that (C) does happen. 

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16 minutes ago, 21stCenturyMoose said:

Thing is, there's also (C) "I have enormous power which I can grant to people who worship me" - and that's something that's not in dispute, because it can't be in dispute, because it actually happens. The real question is whether or not those worshippers understand the nature of what they're doing. Some say yes, some say no, but neither denies the fact that (C) does happen. 

I fully agree, that was my previous point :

Worship is just a type of management

 

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14 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

I actually think that religion is too strong in Glorantha, especially with RQG.  In a typical Lunar / Sartar / Prax / Esrolia campaign, there are no atheists...

As others have said, atheism is a tough one, the closest that Glorantha has are "Those entities that people call gods are not what they think they are, they are merely manifestations of X Y Z, and worshipping them is a bad idea".

Quote

or, for the most part, even doubters, who think "geez, I made a really bad decision when I initiated into XXX at the wise old age of 16".  Playing such a character would come with too many massive disadvantages to be much fun (for most players).

Now that is a fair point. If you initiate into a cult and lapse, you're pretty screwed unless you're illuminated and not everyone wants to go down that path. That big investment of POW in rune points that you can't get back is a huge loss.

Edited by PhilHibbs
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14 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

I actually think that religion is too strong in Glorantha, especially with RQG.  In a typical Lunar / Sartar / Prax / Esrolia campaign, there are no atheists or, for the most part, even doubters, who think "geez, I made a really bad decision when I initiated into XXX at the wise old age of 16".  Playing such a character would come with too many massive disadvantages to be much fun (for most players).

Isn't that the equivalent to "I wish I had not entered the assassin character class at adulthood, I should never have become anything but a necromancer?"

RQG doesn't really let you have interesting character backgrounds like that unless the GM cooperates with the player. "I trained as a scribe in the Lhankor Mhy temple until age 20, but then left and joined Storm Bull" might be possible to some extent, but what skill set would you give a character like that? Scribe, and the cult minimum for Storm Bull?

A number of Sartarites will be stranded after the Dragonrise with rune points from the Seven Mothers. Some may have another cult they may have initiated to before following the Lunar conversion, and some may have been dual initiates to that other cult and the 7Moms.

 

The philosophy of RQG appears to be to play rather youthful yet somewhat accomplished player characters, and to provide only a rather streamlined possible personal backstory, and to make all the big decisions other than the choice of cult and (possibly) occupation in game.

Character creation in RQG is already a rather lengthy game.

Story-wise, I think it might be more fun to start a post 1625 game with a character who was exiled in 1613 or even earlier, or who removed themselves from most of the regional action. A lot like the returning daughter of Dronlan, the Thane of Apple Lane who died at the hands of some of the worst Lunar oppressors. Or like a certain youth from the Orlmarth who ended up as a slave in Genert's Wastes.

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17 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

Evidence?  (I'm not a Bronze Age expert, so, an honest question)

My one non-scholarly Sunday School frame of reference is that even after all of Moses' miracles, the Hebrews still doubted Yahweh, and chose to worship a fatted calf instead.

Your example just tells you, that people went from one cult to another. A doubter - as I understood the term in this context - is someone, who does question the existence of gods at all.

But to tell the truth, I'm not a real Bronze Age specialist myself, but I think the art (in pottery and pictures and public places) tells you a lot about, how much the believe in gods influenced the culture and even the behaviour of most of the people. Certainly there would be people, who wouldn't care, but I would expect, that the cultural environment would be heavily influenced by the believe in the respective gods. So you would meet them all over the place, which is quite similar to what happens in Glorantha.

Edited by Oracle
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20 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

I actually think that religion is too strong in Glorantha, especially with RQG.  In a typical Lunar / Sartar / Prax / Esrolia campaign, there are no atheists or, for the most part, even doubters, who think "geez, I made a really bad decision when I initiated into XXX at the wise old age of 16".  Playing such a character would come with too many massive disadvantages to be much fun (for most players).

But it sure beats the generic "I worship the Chaotic Neutral God of Thieves named, er, what's his name again?" of so many other RPGs.

Beg pardon, but there ARE 'atheists'. There is nothing at all that says you can't be an atheist philosopher, for example, or a lay healer. And that's not counting the Illuminates out there.

And let's be honest here... divine magic works in Glorantha. Prayers have a demonstrable effect in daily life, from Cloud Call to Earthquake spells. This tends to militate towards belief in the Gods rather than a Terra Prime's 'prayer circle'.

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There is nothing at all that says you can't be an atheist philosopher,

Except one would be denying the basic facts of the world that Gods exist. Even Godlearners did not deny that.  

Gloranthan atheists are agnostics who do not wish to tie themselves down to a particular set of beliefs. IMO, they would use Spirit magic mostly

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Our modern dictionary definitions don't match with RW ancient definitions.  Christians, for example, were classed as atheists by the Romans, since they didn't recognise the divinity of the gods of Rome.

The Bible contains evidence of widespread atheism - Psalm 14 opens with   Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God"  (NRSV).  

I don't think they would raise the topic were it not a living issue.

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5 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

The Bible contains evidence of widespread atheism - Psalm 14 opens with   Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God"  (NRSV).  

I don't know what is the exact original text, but in your version, there is a capital G to God, meaning 'Our God, the one we worship'. There would be no capital G if the meaning were to be that no divinity existed.

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