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Thanatar and Krarsht in the Lunar Empire?


EricW

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How much of a problem is Thanatar and Krarsht in the Lunar Empire?

I’ve seen references Lunars find it difficult to contain hidden chaos, because of their tolerance and lack of cults with sense chaos ability.

How do any difficulties manifest? Does it pay to wear an iron collar if walking the streets of Glamour? Do the basement levels of fashionably decadent entertainment venues all have basements and doors which lead to lower levels?

Or does the empire keep a strict rein on such manifestation?

Thoughts?

Edited by EricW
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Krarsht certainly would be present in the Empire but I have serious doubts about Thanatar.  Some people have suggested Atyar as a corrupt belief within the cult of the Knowledge God which would work but the actual taking of heads in the Empire is kinda farfetched IMO. 

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17 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Krarsht certainly would be present in the Empire but I have serious doubts about Thanatar.  Some people have suggested Atyar as a corrupt belief within the cult of the Knowledge God which would work but the actual taking of heads in the Empire is kinda farfetched IMO. 

If the Crimson Bat has a place, I don't see why Thanatar is that big an issue, tbh.

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The Bat is basically relegated to questionable areas at the edge of the Empire, where it can feed on foreign barbarians and unnecessary locals.

That said, I absolutely think Thanatar would be present in the Empire. Thanatar provides magic for people to gain occult power and knowledge without fulfilling necessary initiatory requirements -- a kind of envy I suspect is very present in such a High Magic area with a huge amount of varied beliefs. They would definitely operate under a similar cloud to how they operate in Sartar and other regions, very much suppressed when discovered. In fact, I believe it's mentioned in CoT that the discovery of a Thanatar group is one of very few things that will unite Lunar and Sartarite forces in order to destroy it.

Edited by AlHazred
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46 minutes ago, EricW said:

How much of a problem is Thanatar and Krarsht in the Lunar Empire?

 

I would imagine the Empire's corrupt folk and those seeking to control corrupt folk (anyone in power who would do anything to maintain said power) would use the cult Thanatar and its adherents to their own selfish advantages. Even more so with the secretive and power seeking Krarsht cultists, but here one is playing with fire...

 

21 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

If the Crimson Bat has a place, I don't see why Thanatar is that big an issue, tbh.

The crimson bat does not seek to take over the empire, just eat it!

Now as Peter says, the bat can be controlled. I assume the two cult who originate this topic would be more dangerous to try to control but if controlled (the local elements of the cults, not the whole) could be of great benefit to those holding the reins. Of course the fools who do not try control those cults but simply attempt to utilize powers they might gain from worship could end up finding themselves being controlled instead. (an oldie but goldie as far as tropes go, and one tool that should be in any devious GM's toolkit).

 

18 minutes ago, AlHazred said:

The Bat is basically relegated to questionable areas at the edge of the Empire, where it can feed on foreign barbarians and unnecessary locals.

 

And there is that as well... 

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then let them get their own corrupt cults, these ones are ours 😉

Can't say I see the point of that response RD, the OP asks about the lunar empire not Sartar, Esrolia, Prax and Tarsh (well Lunar Tarsh, maybe).

 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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So, I'm looking at some of my real-world experiences along with some apocryphal evidence in previous editions for my opinions here. Your Mileage and Glorantha May Vary.

1. In several sources and multiple editions, Gim-Gim the Grim is obliquely referred to as a secret Krarshti. It wasn't out-and-out said, but what is definite is that he has reliable connections with the cult.

2. In Sun County, the 'Rabbit Hat Farm' scenario talks about the Krarshti Polybius as being 'a Lunar from the Heartland'.

3. In Shadows on the Borderlands, Thanatari High Priest Drueke's biography has him originating in Carmania and going to another temple in Peloria before landing in Dyskund Caverns.

4. In my real-world experiences, I'm aware of several instances in Central and South America where police, military officers, elected officials and bureaucrats were members in good standing of terrorist groups, narco cartels, and revolutionary movements... and did their duties to BOTH their masters diligently and well.

All this leads me to believe that the Lunar Empire is infiltrated to a fare-thee-well by both Krarsht and Thanatar. Krarsht seems to have a very comfortable arrangement with the Lunar intelligence services, especially the Spoken Word, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that there is some Illuminated Thanatari in the Lunar College of Magic that has access to more heads than even Drueke does.

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A quick note to all. Some of those modules mentioned will end up costing their purchasers a small fortune if bought in an auction or on-line. Please protect such investments with spoilers... I know there is one here who will mock me and I will happily start posting their scenarios secrets and ruin the value of their products if they wish, but just imagine if you had spent a small fortune for a RQ3 module and have your players through no fault of their own stumble upon a posted secret that is the central part of a multi-game scenario. 

Cheers and thanks all for your forbearance!

Edited by Bill the barbarian

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

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2 hours ago, EricW said:

How much of a problem is Thanatar and Krarsht in the Lunar Empire?

How much of a problem do you want them to be in your game?  

I'd be inclined to say that Krarsht has "eaten" her way into the Lunar bureaucracy.  She's useful, got good connections, is very secretive, etc.  Great for Dart Wars and other intrigue.  While she has some abilities that could aid in assassination, I don't see that as her primary focus.

As for Thanatar, I think rarer.  As in the reminiscences of Paulis Longvale, I can see some playing the role of hired assassins.  They take out your foe, you don't question what they do with the heads.  Maybe you need to go through your Krarsht-worshipping bureaucrats to find the Thanatari?

2 hours ago, EricW said:

How do any difficulties manifest? Does it pay to wear an iron collar if walking the streets of Glamour? Do the basement levels of fashionably decadent entertainment venues all have basements and doors which lead to lower levels?

The Empire toys with Chaos, so I don't see any of this as out-of-question.  They aren't everywhere, but likely there is some network of such worshippers.  

24 minutes ago, svensson said:

All this leads me to believe that the Lunar Empire is infiltrated to a fare-thee-well by both Krarsht and Thanatar.

That's my feeling as well.  

 

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42 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

A quick note to all. Some of those modules mentioned will end up costing their purchasers a small fortune if bought in an auction or on-line. Please protect such investments with spoilers... I know there is one here who will mock me and I will happily start posting their scenarios secrets and ruin the value of their products if they wish, but just imagine if you had spent a small fortune for a RQ3 module and have your players through no fault of their own stumble upon a posted secret that is the central part of a multi-game scenario. 

Cheers and thanks all for your forbearance!

These modules are long out of print, from an earlier rules edition that doesn't always mesh well with the current one, and are not likely to be played as-is by current RQG refs.

Secondly, nothing ever written in gaming has ever survived contact with a referee, much less player characters.

Thirdly, all you have to do is 'flip the script' and make the origin of the antagonists Kralorela or the Vulture Country.

Lastly, IF Gim-Gim has been compromised [and nothing says outright that he is, it's just rumors], just exactly what are PC's gonna do about it? Trying to out him would bring down the wrath of the entire Lunar power structure in Prax on them, both overt and covert. They'd spend the rest of their lives dodging Spoken Word and Lanbril agents. And it's entirely up to the referee whether it's true or not anyway.

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2 hours ago, EricW said:

How much of a problem is … Krarsht in the Lunar Empire?

I like this from the original CoT write-up (p.85):

Quote

Is Krarsht not merely a surviving chaos god, but the chaotic parallel to Arachne Solara herself? And will Krarsht’s web of nothingness be shown to bind all Glorantha in some unimaginable way at the end of Time? Stories are told of tunnels which open the ways to Hell, and other tunnels which open to strange places without gods. More is said, but it is fanciful.

In Lovecraftian fashion, we can imagine the aims and understanding of the Krarsht cult have very little to do with whatever-the-hell Krarsht herself is up to — she is not a god bound by the Compromise and shaped by her worshippers’ needs, she is an independent thing from the Outside with her own unknowable agenda. Well, unknowable except for the fact that she probably wants to eat you, but you are OK with that, right? Wonderful!

As a chaos god who balances opposites, parallels Arachne Solara (i.e. she is possibly the greatest of all Chaos entities), and with Death vs. RG’s Life, shouldn’t we expect Krarsht to pop up in a very different context somewhere deep in Lunar religion? If she parallels AS, she also has something of Kajabor about her: so far Arachne Solara has eaten Chaos/the Devil/overreaching sorcerers/cocky gods; perhaps Time ends when Arachne Solara/Glorantha is eaten by Chaos/Krarsht. Ending all cycles, or just taking us back to the beginning again? Whatever the truth, there should be secretive, half-mad Lunar theologians worrying about the possibilities. Including the possibility that we have all been very bad at counting legs.

Spoiler

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3 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

I am running them

Fair enough.

So flip the script and make the threat's origin the Tunnelled Hills or Kralorela rather than the Lunar Empire. Simple. There's nothing saying that the threat isn't coming from anywhere... Pamaltela, Jrustela, Esrolia... it would be funny as Hell to make the threat origin be the vendref caste of the Grazelanders! THAT'D show those uppity sun-pony SOBs! 😅

And again, the penetration of Chaos cults in the Empire, if any, is only as deep as YOU choose to portray it. How many of the handouts for River of Cradles, Sun County, and Shadows on the Borderlands are true information and how many are false flags?

Edited by svensson
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Can't you just put in spoilers, It would be much easier than me doing a rewrite... I have no idea why you refuse to do something so simple... As is you could destroy my campaign. In what way does that benefit you?

 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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I have used the Thanatari as infiltrators, softening up a target area for invasion by Lunar military forces.  Losing your established and loved (?) leaders to a cult who leave only decapitated bodies behind is bad enough.  Having their powerful (perhaps even of hero level) magics at the invader's disposal thereafter can be terrible indeed.

Therefore I see them as an active part of the Empire's foreign policy.

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Krarsht has an easy time of infiltrating societies that have sewerage systems.  They get in everywhere, like rats.

Thanatar is more difficult and more interesting therefore

As to Thanatar, pretty much nobody can tolerate them, not even the Lunars.  This means that they have a difficult time setting up anything approaching a shrine, let alone a temple at the best of times.  There are chaos cults that can tolerate Thanatar, but they would likely be uncomfortable in dealing with them in the longer term.  It is reasonable to assume that the major chaos hotspots have some sort of Thanatar presence i.e. Dorastor, Stone Woods, Snakepipe Hollow, and of course Than Ulbar, which is the cult's "capital".  

If we assume that Thanatar is always going to be on the small size, that means they will need the following:

Site: 1 member.   Shrine:  75 members   Minor Temple: 125.  Major Temple: 400.  Great Temple 750.

Now moving into established areas, even if done with great discretion is going to attract attention.  If you buy land and rock up in a province with a party of settlers anywhere in the Lunar Empire, you are going to attract attention from local authorities and neighbors.  You will need to be paying tax to someone, and the more quite and irrelevant you make yourselves the better.  It could be a very good idea to set up on the fringe of the empire, but the best option is always to set up in a ruin or cave complex with some pattern of past settlement.  Ruins are great because they likely have water supplies, allow you to cannibalize previous dwellings for building materials.  The problem is that you need to deal with any "residents".  This can mean that simply creating a small innocuous settlement in the hinterlands can be perfect, even if you lack for certain supplies. 

There's a problem with this "folk horror" approach to Thanatar.  Let's face facts...  Nobody joins Thanatar because they want to become a farmer in a tiny isolated village.  They will end up slaughtering each other out of sheer boredom.

So there is a better approach... Namely, "hijacking".  And by hijacking I mean infiltrating existing settlements through patronage.

The great appeal of Thanatar is that it provides a marvelous means of getting a lot of power quickly by stealing heads and devouring minds and books.  The Lunar empire is also replete with opportunists, wealthy people, illuminates, as well as corruptible and mad folk.  You just need the right one, and the list is likely to be long.  As such, Thanatari agents need to maneuver themselves into contact with a corruptible person of influence and offer them services such as "murder for hire", as well as potential membership in the most forbidden cult of all, which they will never show up as a member of due to illumination.  It helps if the agent already has some means of blackmail to hold over the individual they are approaching. 

Having reached an amicable arrangement with the owner to fast track their initiation into Thanatar, the agent establishes themselves in one of their new patron' plantations, and gradually filters in their cult members, while putting fear into the slave population.  The slave trade has umpteen benefits for the Thanatari, as you will see.  All the slaves get replaced over the course of a year or two under claims of "financial restructuring" or some-such, if anyone cares to even ask.  Thus the plantation becomes a place where most of the slaves work the land and live in terror but will know nothing about the proclivities of their owners.  The settlement becomes a slave trading and breeding hub.  Expert slaves are brought in.  Some of these experts are retained to train slaves to improve their value for sale, but others get sacrificed to the cult, and records most likely show the missing slaves having died and been cremated (thanks Lodril customs).  When the cult operates committing murders, it does so as far afield as it can, and as discretely as it can.  It might even be that the Thanatari run a "gladiator ludi" as cover for training their agents.  Slaves with excavation and masonry skills are put to work creating a subterranean temple complex.  As Thanatar requires the sacrifice of a Humakti, a Stormbull, a Yelmalio and the burning alive of a Lhankor Mhy, the slave trade allows them to basically buy what they need in the slave markets without raising any eyebrows.  All this requires is a veneer of Lunar worship as cover. 

Of course succession poses problems.  Once your pet madman dies, what becomes of the plantation?  Who inherits?  You know that this sort of intrigue will be very interesting to play.

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7 hours ago, svensson said:

These modules are long out of print, from an earlier rules edition that doesn't always mesh well with the current one, and are not likely to be played as-is by current RQG refs.

Secondly, nothing ever written in gaming has ever survived contact with a referee, much less player characters.

Thirdly, all you have to do is 'flip the script' and make the origin of the antagonists Kralorela or the Vulture Country.

Lastly, IF Gim-Gim has been compromised [and nothing says outright that he is, it's just rumors], just exactly what are PC's gonna do about it? Trying to out him would bring down the wrath of the entire Lunar power structure in Prax on them, both overt and covert. They'd spend the rest of their lives dodging Spoken Word and Lanbril agents. And it's entirely up to the referee whether it's true or not anyway.

I use Gim-gim as the "littlefinger" of Pavis, a truly sneaky bas.t.rd and a source of pain with script inmunity until Argrath catch him. 

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3 minutes ago, Jose said:

I use Gim-gim as the "littlefinger" of Pavis, a truly sneaky bas.t.rd and a source of pain with script inmunity until Argrath catch him. 

And Argrath never does actually catch him, though he does do Gim-Gim in, metaphorically speaking.

 

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I would say that ir depends on how you wish to present the Lunar Empire.

If you take a positive spin, there is some corruption in the usual places (Spoken Word, criminal gangs in large cities) but most of the empire is unaware of that and the main powers are aware of them and work to suppress those two nasty cults.

If you take the chaos empire way, there will be, as proposed above, Thanatari infiltrators as part of the special forces, with Imperial powers; sponsored Krarsht labyrinths below most of the Empire cities, and strong links between administrators and the cults. However, even if it is unlikely we will live so long, I would reserve that for the monster empire in the 1640s, as I would expect the current empire is better than that, if riddled with a weak emperor, a runaway bureaucracy and the loss of most of the army, so suppressed enemies of the empire are no longer suppressed, and that goes for both Aggar stormy hillmen and monsters in the sewers. It will be a hard and long decade in the Empire till Phargentes becomes Emperor.

MGF, however, would have me rooting for epic skirmishes between sewerbroos and krarshtkids below Glamour, which means plenty krarshtkid-broo hybrids, and that quickly becomes a mix of WH40K Genestealers and classic Aliens horror. 

The real secret weapon of the empire against most chaos cults is illumination and tolerance. Why live as a secret assassin, paranoid about all your fellow cultists when you can join the Lunar College and get to play with foreign magics and foreigners' heads? Infiltration with illuminates loyal to the idea of the Empire can break any chaos cult except Krarsht. So I expect it will be suppressed when found, and outright destroyed when possible.

 

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I get the impression that Thanatar is a cult with a lot to offer, and is kept in check mostly by attempts at policing it from the LM cult. In the Lunar Empire, it's hard to see who would do that kind of holding it back, and if powergaming players drool over the opportunity to be an Illuminated Thanatar cultist, then... This doesn't mean you're allowed to decapitate freely.

According to Lords of Terror, "The Imperial Bureau of Taxation in the Lunar Provinces is infiltrated by Krarshti. ... The Krarshti siphon cash from tax revenues into Krarsht coffers, which are in turn secretly recycled as personal loans to public figures in power. Once caught in debt and blackmailed, these public figures become subtle tools of Krarshti policy."     

Lords of Terror also states that the version of Thanatar in Shadows on the Borderlands is native to Carmania. 

Edited by Akhôrahil
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5 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

Lords of Terror also states that the version of Thanatar in Shadows on the Borderlands is native to Carmania. 

I have a lot of doubt over a cult of Thanatar active in Carmania and find the idea that Thanatari can keep themselves clean by being illuminated to be absurd - nobody suggests it for worshippers of other chaotic cults.  

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26 minutes ago, metcalph said:

I have a lot of doubt over a cult of Thanatar active in Carmania and find the idea that Thanatari can keep themselves clean by being illuminated to be absurd - nobody suggests it for worshippers of other chaotic cults.  

Isn't this kind of liberation the point of Lunar Illumination? Chaotics can still choose to be bad (indeed, I would assume most do), but Illumination makes it voluntary instead of a compulsion? Ralzakark isn't horrible because he's a Broo, he's horrible because he chooses to be?

We know that Illuminated Broo are capable of maintaining Humakt and even Chalana Arroy cult rules.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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The basic social anxieties of the Krarsht (that corruption and crime is done with malevolent intent to undermine society) and Thanatar (that there are evil forces out there that want to steal knowledge that is held secret and take it for themselves) cults as laid out in existing Gloranthan media mean that these cults would exist in the Lunar Empire, but I don't see why they would be especially strong- I think Thanatar probably would be somewhat weakened because there's more emphasis on the syncretic sharing of knowledge and less on the closely-guarded secrets of cults or guilds, but maybe Thanatar is instead strengthened because the knowledge of enlightenment is policed and controlled. 

Now, maybe these are stronger because the Lunars love crime and think that information wants to be free, or because the Lunars being tolerant of Chaos means that they're neutral on Chaotic cults regardless of what they represent, but I'm not sure that these are all that compelling. 

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