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KOS required reading for gaming Glorantha?


Oldskolgmr

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As someone more interested in Gaming in non-canonical Glorantha (My GM's GWV), I had a question that arose from reading another Topic:

With the Glorantha Sourcebook, The Guide, and Mythology out now is reading the King Of Sartar (KOS) still very important to understanding Glorantha (as a setting for games)?

Opinions appreciated please (and as always Mods please let me know if this is a Not Okay topic).

 

(P.S. I do love Greg Stafford's writings, but KOS is his one work that I find almost impenetrable.)

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  • Oldskolgmr changed the title to KOS required reading for gaming Glorantha?

For playing a games set in Glorantha, it's never been required reading.

If you are interested in the history, lore and some of the future twists, maybe. You can easily get by without reading it.

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16 minutes ago, Oldskolgmr said:

is reading the King Of Sartar (KOS) still very important to understanding Glorantha (as a setting for games)?

No.

17 minutes ago, Oldskolgmr said:

I do love Greg Stafford's writings, but KOS is his one work that I find almost impenetrable.

You have to look at it as one or more authors coming many centuries later upon a series of tales, stories, lists, etc. and trying to sort it out.

Consider the different takes on the Arthurian legends: truth or not? And which parts? And what sources got intertwined and when? 

Or consider the collection of contradictory materials dumped into the Old Testament: where did those get gathered from, and when, and how do they relate? (Particularly if you also threw in the Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh or Babylonian works? Which Flood account fits? What did it actually represent?)

That's KoS.

As a GM, yes, I find it very useful. I can take bits and pieces and move earlier if it suits my game's purpose. I can use it as sources of rumor. Parts, like the Composite History of Dragon Pass, can give me slightly alternate takes on the period 1600-1625 vs. what is in the Glorantha Sourcebook or the Guide.

And I enjoy reading it, particularly Argrath's Saga.

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49 minutes ago, Oldskolgmr said:

With the Glorantha Sourcebook, The Guide, and Mythology out now is reading the King Of Sartar (KOS) still very important to understanding Glorantha (as a setting for games)?

It's important, but I personally would not recommend it because much of the material is better presented for newcomers in other books, and there are spoilers for the future history.

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41 minutes ago, Oldskolgmr said:

With the Glorantha Sourcebook, The Guide, and Mythology out now is reading the King Of Sartar (KOS) still very important to understanding Glorantha (as a setting for games)?

Yes.

All those other sources (Mythology maybe a little less so) present Glorantha as a fixed world, at least up until a specific date. Geography and history are broadly fixed, although not everything is explained. This provides a base from which you can understand other Gloranthan material, and run a game that you can be reasonably confident will be compatible with future Chaosium material.

King of Sartar has some of that as well: the Composite History of Dragon Pass, information on Sartarite customs, the Grazelanders etc. Some of that is available elsewhere in more coherent form, and some of it is probably now superseded, or will be when the RQG Sartar homeland book appears, and later the Grazelands homeland book (fingers crossed).

But KoS is still, I think, the best source where the game world's creator presented it as deliberately incoherent, with a range of competing or unreliable narratives which cannot all be true. Obviously, Your Glorantha Will Vary. But Chaosium's canonical Glorantha does not, and we've been given the impression that the post-1625 timeline presented in forthcoming books will at least start out as a pre-determined series of events, even if the choices made in your game alter that somewhat.

Until that Chaosium campaign appears, KoS is the original source for future history, and for a significant rag-bag of odds-and-ends that can be plundered as you will. The key part of that future history appears in The Guide to Glorantha, so if you have that plus the Glorantha Sourcebook, you won't gain many new facts just from KoS. But I much prefer the seemingly random presentation in KoS, because it pushes against the whole idea that Glorantha is coherent and knowable.

Tl;dr: There are better sources for facts. But KoS is the book that tries hardest not to pin the butterfly's wings.

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The Voralans presents Glorantha's magical mushroom humanoids, the black elves. "Absolutely phenomenal" - Austin C. "Seriously weird-ass shit" - John D. "A great piece of work" - Leon K. The Electrum best-selling The Children of Hykim documents Glorantha's shape-changing totemic animal people, the Hsunchen. "Magisterial ... highly recommended" - Nick Brooke. "Lovingly detailed and scholarly, and fun to read" - John H. "Absolutely wonderful!" - Morgan C.

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58 minutes ago, Oldskolgmr said:

... With the Glorantha Sourcebook, The Guide, and Mythology out now is reading the King Of Sartar (KOS) still very important to understanding Glorantha (as a setting for games)? ...

No... not just "no" but  hell no !
 

As you point out, the GS/Guide/Mythology (to which add the Prosopaedia!) all cover their respective bits MUCH better (for an RPG table's use) than KOS does (as you wrote "My GM's GWV" I answered from the player-POV).

Some GM's might find the alternate POV's and presentations to be interesting, or inspirational, so I cannot give quite so emphatic a "no" from the GM's perspective, though I'd still not (ever) consider it to be anything close to "required reading."

 

Now, KOS still has lots of value ... to the lorehounds, the deep divers, and those seeking very-unpinned butterflies in Greg Stafford's own words!  So far as I know, it's a unique item in all of RPG'dom... but none of this wanders anywhere close to "required reading" territory; most particularly not for players in the world.

 

 

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no and probably, until you are familiar with the world, the lore, etc.. KOS may lose you in all its "options". Well... it lost me 🙂

however it is very interesting to read to get more flavors, colors, etc.. Once you know the canon (not all of course, but enough to let you say "ok, now I am confident with Glorantha"), it will (or may ? I can't guarantee anything 😛 provide your a big thickness of the world

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2 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

no and probably, until you are familiar with the world, the lore, etc.. KOS may lose you in all its "options". Well... it lost me 🙂

however it is very interesting to read to get more flavors, colors, etc.. Once you know the canon (not all of course, but enough to let you say "ok, now I am confident with Glorantha"), it will (or may ? I can't guarantee anything 😛 provide your a big thickness of the world

I find this an odd view. Think back to 1992 when this came out. How much information was available at that time to the RQ-buying public regarding Dragon Pass, the Grazelands, Sartar, Orlanthi culture and mythology, the Colymar clan? Almost nothing. And yet KoS set it all out, alongside a detailed history, a proper account of the Lightbringers Quest. There was nothing else that covered Orlanthi customs and cultures in detail until 2009, seventeen years later (Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes), and with that out-of-print, there remains nothing until next year's Sartar Homeland book.

And no, back in 1992, we absolutely did not need to have read all the lore and material you can get today to find this book both valuable and illuminating.

To be fair, I am being a little contrary, but I seriously don't believe you need to bury yourself in facts before you grok KoS.

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The Voralans presents Glorantha's magical mushroom humanoids, the black elves. "Absolutely phenomenal" - Austin C. "Seriously weird-ass shit" - John D. "A great piece of work" - Leon K. The Electrum best-selling The Children of Hykim documents Glorantha's shape-changing totemic animal people, the Hsunchen. "Magisterial ... highly recommended" - Nick Brooke. "Lovingly detailed and scholarly, and fun to read" - John H. "Absolutely wonderful!" - Morgan C.

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King of Sartar, like the foreword to White Bear & Red Moon, the Hero Wars appendix to the Guide, and its source, the cacophony of overlapping Hero Wars Events in the old Orange Box, presents Glorantha as a world fizzing with potential and alternate takes. Dull timelines and plodding recitation of canonical dates and events do the reverse. I know which I prefer.

Edited by Nick Brooke
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1 hour ago, Brian Duguid said:

I find this an odd view. Think back to 1992 when this came out. How much information was available at that time to the RQ-buying public regarding Dragon Pass, the Grazelands, Sartar, Orlanthi culture and mythology, the Colymar clan? Almost nothing. And yet KoS set it all out, alongside a detailed history, a proper account of the Lightbringers Quest. There was nothing else that covered Orlanthi customs and cultures in detail until 2009, seventeen years later (Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes), and with that out-of-print, there remains nothing until next year's Sartar Homeland book.

And no, back in 1992, we absolutely did not need to have read all the lore and material you can get today to find this book both valuable and illuminating.

To be fair, I am being a little contrary, but I seriously don't believe you need to bury yourself in facts before you grok KoS.

I just shared what I felt. And as I wrote "KOS may lose you" and "Well... it lost me". I m not saying anyone will have the same experience I had.

1 hour ago, Brian Duguid said:

To be fair, I am being a little contrary

not a problem, and thanks to say it 🙂

1 hour ago, Brian Duguid said:

but I seriously don't believe you need to bury yourself in facts before you grok KoS

humanity is not monolithic (well I assume we are both human 😛 ) and yes  I "need" facts before anything else. But I understand others run differently.

In fact, if I had something spliting what happened really (not the myths, the "unique truth") and how people, cults, cultures believed what happened (so the myths)with their differences, I would be totally confortable. But this "unique truth" is (or seems to me) incompatible with Glorantha. God learners tried, but somewhere, they failed.

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On 12/8/2023 at 4:22 PM, Oldskolgmr said:

As someone more interested in Gaming in non-canonical Glorantha (My GM's GWV), I had a question that arose from reading another Topic:

With the Glorantha Sourcebook, The Guide, and Mythology out now is reading the King Of Sartar (KOS) still very important to understanding Glorantha (as a setting for games)?

A lot of King of Sartar has been included in newer works, so it is not essential.

However, it is still very useful and has everything in one place, so I would recommend it as a good read with a huge amount of Gloranthan content. Much/most of it has now been replicated, though, so you might feel cheated if you have the newer supplements.

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14 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

Until we get the HeroWars campaign(s), it's the number one source for the official future of Central Genertela in the late Third Age.

Whether this is relevant to you depends on your campaign.

Personally, I'd suggest the number one source is the Guide's 37 The Hero Wars Begin boxes and Appendix J: The Hero Wars (21 pages).

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King of Sartar is a lot more than just Argraths Saga etc. The report on the Orlanthi is still one of the better sources for many things about Orlanthi society - I hope this will change soon, but it remains the case. So it’s well worth reading for almost everyone interested in running an Orlanthi based game. And similarly regarding the Grazers, except there are fewer updated sources, making it probably still the best we have. 
 

As for the history, and the future legends too - I agree with @Nick Brooke, it’s marvellously full of ambiguity and potential. Don’t treat the ambiguity as a puzzle that must be solved for you to ‘understand’ KOS, embrace it as a smorgasbord of inspirational possibilities and ideas. 

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4 hours ago, davecake said:

As for the history, and the future legends too - I agree with @Nick Brooke, it’s marvellously full of ambiguity and potential. Don’t treat the ambiguity as a puzzle that must be solved for you to ‘understand’ KOS, embrace it as a smorgasbord of inspirational possibilities and ideas. 

This goes for past historical records, too - i.e. don't trust any declaration that the God Learners went extinct, or what marvels there were to be had in Dorastor prior to Arkat cursing Dokat and other such Feldichi places. Possibly "again" after a prior curse (or genocide) leading to the extinction of the Feldichi (really?) was not enough.

Switching into a near future in the early 1630ies:

How did the Fazzurites excise Phargentes from the Sartarite records of the campaigns against Lunar Tarsh? Is this a literary (rather than physical, Mularik "helped" there) assassination of the very existence of that ingrate?

 

Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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On 12/9/2023 at 3:22 AM, Oldskolgmr said:

(P.S. I do love Greg Stafford's writings, but KOS is his one work that I find almost impenetrable.)

This response surprised me Oldskolgmr, but I'm not going to dismiss your opinion at all.  Instead I am going to explain why I like KoS, and how I read it and even enjoy it ( I really enjoyed it btw).

I have a background in history, so I quickly cottoned on to the fact that GS was presenting us not with the story of Argrath, but with Primary Source Documents and such sources as might be considered relevant if we were going to the original documents, having obtained reliable and deep translations of them.  They are not going to tell us what to think, they are telling us what people at the time thought about Argrath, and what supporting evidence from the time exists to explain what he did and how he lived.

Think of it a bit like investigating the life and times of Alaric the First, King of the Visigoths.  We have a few Roman sources, but there are few if any quotes from Alaric's own mouth, only accounts of his life and activities, largely written by Romans, culminating with his sack of Rome in 410AD.  So how do we reconstruct Alaric from these sources?  What can we learn?  Well, in combination with other literature from the period, we can begin to put together a picture of the man, but we aren't being spoon-fed, we're doing history. 

That is the KoS experience for me. It is also filled with a variety of little facts and insights into Glorantha that clarify things that are only mentioned in passing elsewhere.  I think the document makes a really interesting jumping off point for writing a Glorantha version of Pendragon's "The Boy King" Campaign.

So when we are reading KoS, we are scholars in the distant future looking at documents gathered during the reign of King Harshax (Belintar?), who is trying to reconstruct lost history after the death of Literacy (Lhankor Mhy bit the dust during the failed Arachne Solara's Web ritual).  These fragments from hundreds of years past are all but a state secret, and in an age where literacy is barely re-emerging, this knowledge has immense importance.  It feels like we are in a freeform Glorantha RPG just reading it, to me.  Then again, I can stomach the Silmarillion, so perhaps I am just a mutant grognard with weird esoteric tastes ?🤔

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