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Secret identity in Glorantha: How?


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Hello fellow Gloranthphiles

I like once in a while to adapt book, tv-series or movie subplots or elements to include in my RPG sessions. 

I find it hard to adapt some elements i would LOVE to gloranthaise, especially situations in which one person seem to be one thing, but is in secret totally different. 

For instance:
The Padme Amidala and her servant Sabé. They swap roles, so that Sabé pretends to be Queen Amidala, and Padme pretends to be the servant, to "spy around". 

Gloranthan set up: 
An esrolian Ernaldan noble women and her Babeester Gor servant. It is easy to imagine them switching places for a short term in the way Padme and Sabé did, but in longer time periods their cover would blew very fast. 
Same premise: A rich Issaries trader and his Humkati body guard. Also their cover would blew very fast. 

Their bodies are decorated with runes, which are obvious very different from the runes of their counterpart. 
They have different moral codexes, which could cause problems: The humakti might not be able to keep of the cover, if the has to lie, or if he has to act unhonourly to keep it up. 


Another thing is inflitration: 
What about a Sartarite spy in Lunar ranks. Not minor foot soldier, but a Sartarite which does everything to get promoted and climb in the ranks (and trust) of his Lunar superiors. Only to run off with the informations he has gotten in his high ranking position, OR using his high ranking status to get near a Lunar dignitary to kill him off. 

Same the other way around: A Lunar soldier (officer) which tries to infiltrate the Sartar rebels. Or an Irrippi Ontor trying to infiltrate a Lankhor Mhy temple. 


How would YOU handle such a situation?

P.S.: My main inspiration why i was wondering about this topic wasn´t Padme and Sabé but the indian movie "RRR", but since i don´t assume that many of you (if anyone) has seen it, i used the Star Wars swap instead. 

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35 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

An esrolian Ernaldan noble women and her Babeester Gor servant.

An esrolian Ernaldan noble women and her Ernaldan servent

36 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

A rich Issaries trader and his Humkati body guard

A rich Issaries trader and his Issaries assistant

You gone for very extreme swaps here, keep the cults the same.

40 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

What about a Sartarite spy in Lunar ranks

Likewise difficult due to the cults. I'd go for non-military cults that specialise is hiding in plain sight, so musicians, actors, etc. Humakti and Yanafals would never work du to their truth aspects. Personally I think this could be very difficult.

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1 minute ago, David Scott said:

An esrolian Ernaldan noble women and her Ernaldan servent

A rich Issaries trader and his Issaries assistant

You gone for very extreme swaps here, keep the cults the same.

Likewise difficult due to the cults. I'd go for non-military cults that specialise is hiding in plain sight, so musicians, actors, etc. Humakti and Yanafals would never work du to their truth aspects. Personally I think this could be very difficult.

The classic is the Esrolian Ernaldan nobles woman and her Donandar servant. 

The Orlanthi Wind Lord and his Eurmali companion.

You are looking for the Illusion Rune in action here.

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1 hour ago, AndreJarosch said:

How would YOU handle such a situation?

I would be tempted to play it for laughs.

The Ernaldan servant bossing her mistress around, because she can.

The Humakti trying his best to do a good job and asking questions in a very careful and stilted way, while making an Act roll.

I apply Fairy Tale Logic to situations like this, as it works much better.

 

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

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1 hour ago, David Scott said:

Likewise difficult due to the cults. I'd go for non-military cults that specialise is hiding in plain sight, so musicians, actors, etc. Humakti and Yanafals would never work du to their truth aspects. Personally I think this could be very difficult.

What if the plot (the one i want to steal/copy from another setting) demands that both are warriors?

I can´t describe it properly without giving spoilers about the movie RRR. 
Someone here that has seen it, and has an idea how to handle that idea in Glorantha?

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2 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

I find it hard to adapt some elements i would LOVE to gloranthaise, especially situations in which one person seem to be one thing, but is in secret totally different. 

I guess the most famous duo might be Zorro and Batman. These should be ripe for lunar occupied territories or borderlands near the glow line.

 

Edited by Bill the barbarian

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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1 minute ago, Bill the barbarian said:

I guess the most famous duo might be Zorro and Batman. These should be ripe for lunar occupied territories or borderlands

 

The same person as a peaceful "normal" being and a fighting "avenging" being as secret identity is easy. 

A sartarite noble Orlanth Thunderous worshipper, who in secret is an Orlanthi Windlord. 
Not that problematic IMHO. 


What i am looking for is something like: 
A Humakt warrior (Rune Lord or not far from it in abilities) that joins the Lunar Army, with the plan to climb in ranks so high, that the Lunar general trusts him so much, that he gets inner secrets (or access to otherwise top secret equipment), which plans to steal and bring back to the people his true loyalties are with. 

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remember that ogre are able to play role, so first, it is possible 🙂

my first idea was similar than Jeff's one, with one difference, you don't need to have one illusion "master" (donandar, eurmali, ...) to be the servant / master, you need a illusion "master" able to put on your servant and your master some illusion with enough extension, allowing them to "swap".

another option would be to "swap" tatoos with temporary ones, or body paint, or anything in the same way.

 

But a noble should have access to an illusion master with few difficulty, I think. The big issue is to trust the illusionist (Eurmal ? you said Eurmal ? ...)

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2 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

How would YOU handle such a situation?

It gets a lot easier if you start with a pair of identical twins as a foundation.

In terms of magic and abilities that would help maintain such a deception, gods like Trickster or Lanbril can use their magic to supplement a disguise skill.  Lanbril's Divination Block spell is especially useful, as the main threat of detection has to be from Divination.  It is also possible that a chaotic entity needs only to consume someone's likeness as in the CoC spell of the same name, if you want to get properly creepy. 

Sorcery is especially good at long lasting illusions that could be good at maintaining a different face and persona.  Given that you can potentially create a simple facial illusion that lasts weeks, seasons or years, Sorcerers have a large edge in this game imo.

Another possibility, but one without much rules foundation could be someone who developed a dissociative personality disorder as a result of being Mindblasted or Lune-struck by lunars.

One of the main problems with these sorts of ploys in Glorantha is that most people have initiation tattoos that mark their affiliations on their bodies.  These are hard to change or hide for extended periods of time.  This means that civilizations that don't use such methods are likely to have people who have non-tattooed bodies, and that will prove an advantage.  Technically, someone who failed their initiation and never received their tattoos might become useful as an infiltrator for that reason too.  Affiliation tattoos are very much like a modern ID, and you actually need a lot of knowledge and skill to falsify them.

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Orlanth is dead specifically says at the height of the Sartar occupation Orlanthi lands are full of spies - likely lay member low level informants, returned child hostages, maybe the occasional illuminated infiltrator.

But it would surely be difficult to return the favour. Lunars make heavy use of mind link, and would likely coerce anyone they suspect into doing something chaotic, like casting an Etyries traded chaos gift spell, to prove they were not a lightbringer.

An illuminate could get away with it - but their Orlanthi handler would at least suspect they were illuminated, so would have trouble trusting their own spy.

Maybe Argrath had a handful of deep cover spies. And we know he had a least one chaotic informant, the not a man who pleaded with him to save the world

Edited by EricW
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As mentioned by EricW, illumination is your friend for those swaps. That would allow a Humakti in Yanafal, or an Irripi Ontor scholar lie his way into Lhankor Mhy. It would not help a Humakti to roleplay an Issaries trader, however. Some Eurmali can be trusted somewhat, but it should be short term. Just pick someone with a very strong passion, either Loyalty or Hate.

Illumination is how all those Arkati secret societies keep going secret. If necessary it would allow you to use an abomination, like a White Healer Sword of Humakt. Or Argrath's loving companion infiltrating the Lunar camp and keeping Jar Eel busy during the battle of Dwernapple.

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1 hour ago, JRE said:

As mentioned by EricW, illumination is your friend for those swaps. That would allow a Humakti in Yanafal, or an Irripi Ontor scholar lie his way into Lhankor Mhy. It would not help a Humakti to roleplay an Issaries trader, however. Some Eurmali can be trusted somewhat, but it should be short term. Just pick someone with a very strong passion, either Loyalty or Hate.

Illumination is how all those Arkati secret societies keep going secret. If necessary it would allow you to use an abomination, like a White Healer Sword of Humakt. Or Argrath's loving companion infiltrating the Lunar camp and keeping Jar Eel busy during the battle of Dwernapple.

I love the example in Lords of Terror of K'Rana, Scorpion Queen Sword of Humakt. Her illumination which she picked up while working as a caravan guard for Lunars enabled her to retain her sanity when she was reborn as a Scorpion, and helped her reconcile her life as head of a chaos tribe with her faith to Humakt. Now she's trying to help her tribe improve their lot by training her more advanced hatchlings in the ways of Humakt. 

I think given that example, an illuminate can pretty much impersonate anything they want. The question is, would Orlanthi rebels who badly need intelligence on Lunar activity tolerate and trust an illuminated spy? My guess is most wouldn't - which puts them at a significant strategic disadvantage to the Lunars, who have no problem messing with cult strictures in the name of the empire.

Edited by EricW
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6 hours ago, Darius West said:

It gets a lot easier if you start with a pair of identical twins as a foundation.

That gets us into The Prince and the Pauper situation 😲

6 hours ago, Darius West said:

One of the main problems with these sorts of ploys in Glorantha is that most people have initiation tattoos that mark their affiliations on their bodies.  These are hard to change or hide for extended periods of time.  This means that civilizations that don't use such methods are likely to have people who have non-tattooed bodies, and that will prove an advantage.  Technically, someone who failed their initiation and never received their tattoos might become useful as an infiltrator for that reason too.  Affiliation tattoos are very much like a modern ID, and you actually need a lot of knowledge and skill to falsify them.

Also such things as spell foci -- trading "jewelry" may not be effective if it means giving up the foci for spells one knows and receiving foci for unknown spells. Or weapons -- if the other person is not skilled with the weapons exchanged.

It might almost be better to play the "long game" by having one develop two manners of dressing (so tattoos and other bodily markings are not all exposed at once), develop skills in differing weapons -- keeping the weapon sets segregated by persona/dress -- etc. IE: the "Zorro" example (Batman is too extreme*). No "swap with another", just duck into a private room with hidden exit, change clothing/weapons, and slip out the back.

 

* Now... 50's Plastic Man might make for a Eurmali mode -- considering the story lines that had him tasked with apprehending his other identity (before getting the elastic abilities and turning "hero", he was some petty crook).

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7 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

What if the plot (the one i want to steal/copy from another setting) demands that both are warriors?

There are Warrior-cults that don't have that pesky Truth rune!

 

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18 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

A Humakt warrior (Rune Lord or not far from it in abilities) that joins the Lunar Army, with the plan to climb in ranks so high, that the Lunar general trusts him so much, that he gets inner secrets (or access to otherwise top secret equipment), which plans to steal and bring back to the people his true loyalties are with. 

There are Humakti in the Lunar Empire.  The Lunar Empire is not an either/or situation in regards to Humakt vs. YT.  Yanafal Tarnils cult is regimentally-based - you only find it explicitly in the Lunar army.  But you can have Humakti join Lunar regiments - the issue is mostly that they will have to swear oaths of Loyalty to his unit, and we all know how challenging those are for Humakt (until the point when he must sever such bonds).  Illumination can of course help.

 

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4 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

There are Humakti in the Lunar Empire.  The Lunar Empire is not an either/or situation in regards to Humakt vs. YT.  Yanafal Tarnils cult is regimentally-based - you only find it explicitly in the Lunar army.  But you can have Humakti join Lunar regiments - the issue is mostly that they will have to swear oaths of Loyalty to his unit, and we all know how challenging those are for Humakt (until the point when he must sever such bonds).  Illumination can of course help.

 

I thought of Humakti and/or Yanafal Tarnils as well. 
It seems that an illuminated lunar Humakti might be able to spy in the Sartaite Army ranks of fellow Humakti. 

It seems to be not possible that a non-illuminated sartarite Humakti will be able to spy in the lunar ranks. 

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1 minute ago, AndreJarosch said:

It seems to be not possible that a non-illuminated sartarite Humakti will be able to spy in the lunar ranks. 

What you want is the Trusted Humakti Bodyguard of the Lunar general.  Their challenge is that to reach this status they may have to commit deeds and swear oaths that challenge old loyalties.

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It's a shame that there's no secret god of thieves who infiltrates other gods' myths through impersonating side-characters. Their followers would be super helpful for this sort of thing, if it were worth their while.

Edited by JonL
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Well, the editor is acting up so i can't seen to quote you.

Keep in mind that despite playing in glorantha since the late 90s i'm not very versed in it and i bullshit my way through, so all this is in MY glorantha.

A Baby Gor wouldnt be a servant, but a bodyguard. I mean, they could be a servant, but thats more like a personal oaths thing.

Also the baabester wears death runes and is covered in ritual scars, etc. (again, in my glorantha). So you pretty much stuck with ilussion magic, which neither cult can use. To add insult to injury, the Gor is probably lacking social finesse... To be honest you are better off just grabbing a randon lay member (or initiate if you are rune level).

A sartarite spy may or may not work. It depends on how sartarite they look. A sartarite born and raised in sartar can maybe play double agent, i imagine they would easily be spotted otherwise.

Of course a sartarite eurmali or donandari that spent a few decades in some lunar lands and dominates the language to perfection is a different beast! 1st and 2nd volume of Manfredi's Alexandros has some espionage in ancient times. Its also a really good trilogy and super good RQ inspiration!!!

As for the sartarite climbing the ranks... I guess they prove their loyalty by doing so; this would be extremely problematic for most cults tbh!

Edited by icebrand

"It seems I'm destined not to move ahead in time faster than my usual rate of one second per second"

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15 hours ago, JonL said:

It's a shame that there's no secret god of thieves who infiltrates other gods' myths through impersonating side-characters. Their followers would be super helpful for this sort of thing, if it were worth their while.

Cacodemon, Thanatar, Gbaji, take your pick 😉. Ralzakark might offer advice if you ask, and offer him an especially interesting magical artefact as payment.

Edited by EricW
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Of such things are Eurmal cultists made!

With all the Illusion spells available to them, Eurmal and Lanbril cultists are a natural for short- and medium-term infiltration. And with enough points of Extension, you can make the illusion last YEARS. Of course, you're still gonna have to make some pretty serious Culture rolls and that assumes you've mastered the language of your cover identity.

In truth, Lunar culture will be easier to infiltrate because of their 'We are all Us' social mores. Sartarite culture is more difficult because of it's clannish 'everybody is somebody's cousin' nature. It's not hard to travel from one end of Sartar to another to check up on someone's cover legend. The Lunar Empire covers a lot more ground and a profession of conversion and a couple of 7M Cult Lore successes can cover an awful lot.

In other editions, there has been some discussions about cult tattoos magically changing if someone becomes apostate and so on, but as far as I know that hasn't been much discussed in RQG. That probably lies in the 'YGMV' side.

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1 hour ago, EricW said:

Cacodemon, Thanatar, Gbaji, take your pick 😉. Ralzakark might offer advice if you ask, and offer him an especially interesting magical artefact as payment.

(The first rule of Lanbril is that you don't talk about Lanbril.)

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1 hour ago, svensson said:

Of such things are Eurmal cultists made!

With all the Illusion spells available to them, Eurmal and Lanbril cultists are a natural for short- and medium-term infiltration. And with enough points of Extension, you can make the illusion last YEARS. Of course, you're still gonna have to make some pretty serious Culture rolls and that assumes you've mastered the language of your cover identity.

In truth, Lunar culture will be easier to infiltrate because of their 'We are all Us' social mores. Sartarite culture is more difficult because of it's clannish 'everybody is somebody's cousin' nature. It's not hard to travel from one end of Sartar to another to check up on someone's cover legend. The Lunar Empire covers a lot more ground and a profession of conversion and a couple of 7M Cult Lore successes can cover an awful lot.

In other editions, there has been some discussions about cult tattoos magically changing if someone becomes apostate and so on, but as far as I know that hasn't been much discussed in RQG. That probably lies in the 'YGMV' side.

Infiltration seems way to organised for Eurmal, kind of like Jim Carrey's character in "The Mask" trying to use his sneak skill. 

Lanbril might do it, but Lanbril has no especial loyalty to Orlanth, huge risk of being sold out?

The following is an example of Trickster attempting to infiltrate Lunar headquarters.
 

 

Edited by EricW
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In a game I ran æ the players, Varmandi all, had to infiltrate the Orlevings. They did this by seeking the aid of the Hiording trickster, who had tried to trick them into taking a stickpicker, whom she had transformed into a beautiful maiden, as wife when they were trying to het the Elmali married. The trickster could transform them, but couldnt mask their spiritual presence.

To this end they Sought the help of the sadly alcoholic balazaring shaman that had aided the varmandi nobleman son who murdered his brother. The shaman knew many spirits good at hiding things and put a crow spirit to mask their aura.

Dunno if that gives ya any ideas. Not very helpful if you are looking for nonmagical solutions

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