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David Scott

"Ecology" in the Wastes

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@Joerg's post Termites in the Wastes http://basicroleplaying.org/topic/4425-termites-in-the-wastes/ reminded me of the critter section for the upcoming Prax book. Initially I was a bit daunted that I would have to populate the Wastelands with creatures to possibly emulate a real ecology, so I ignored it for three years and came back to it. My realisation is that the Wastes don't have a rich "ecology". It has a limited damaged one maintained by a magical pact with the gods. I don't have to fill it. The main cycle is Earth -> Plant -> Herd beast -> humans/predators -> Earth. Any waste returns directly to the Earth to be reused. Fertility is finite, what was Genert's Garden has lost its fertility. There isn't much plant waste at all, most is eaten at some point. There are other creatures in the wastes, but not many. The encounter table sums it up in Pavis GtA, some birds not many species, perhaps only 6 or 7, predators 4 or 5, other small herbivores 4 or 5. Insects - some, flies, mosquitos on the coast, 1 species of ant, a beetle or two, but not the rich ecology of a chaparral. The richest places will be those adjacent to water. Oasis will have 1 or 2 other animal types. Rivers have fish etc. Plant wise, the Wastes probably only have 20 types including trees. It's not rich or varied by any means. Once Genert's fertility is restored, things will be different.

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What about healing herbs and the such? I agree that the Wastes has little in the way of plants, but for me at any rate twenty types over such a large area is a bit small.

I'd love to see the species of animals list.

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I was working with the idea that there were 2-3 plants associated with each type of Herd beast. Given there were 21 original herd types, there were 50-60 plants at the Dawn. As the Herd types diminished so did the plants. Healing herbs are rare, and are mentioned in the Guide. A few oases, and Eyebrow. I'd limit all healing plants to the sacred area and the Eiritha Hills. Bear in mind that there are other plants by water, in the zola fell valley etc. The High priestess of Aldrya at the paps always encourages heroquests to establish plants, she clearly works with the elves of the Garden in the Rubble to this end.

Haven't yet got an animal list other than what's in Pavis GtA.

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Didn't Waha's Trails and Ronance's Tracks both contain all kinds of nutritious and magical plants? Probably not all in clumps, but spread out thinly along the pathways.

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I am a little concerned about an absence of parasites in Prax and the wastes, such as ticks, fleas, lice, bluebottle flies, horse flies (I would bet they have a different name in Prax, or possibly retain that name for its negative connotations?), and all the other critters that make living with herds so miserable and ask for great stoicism. Nomad life isn't the same when the beast shit doesn't attract lots of nasty buzzing darkness entities.

Likewise, there ought to be scorpions, nasty spiders, centipedes, moths etc. to disturb them in their camps.

There ought to be weeds that cause trouble for the herd beasts, like common ragwort.

Transsubstantiation ought to be a major magic, but I have the impression that you regard the formation of plant life from soil as this step. However, I feel that the kind of corrosion that you postulate - direct soil formation from whatever organic refuse lying about, without intercession of the "living soil" (as earthworms, wood lice, soil fungi...). Composting is a function of Darkness organisms in Glorantha, and a necessary step in the normal cycle of life.

Direkt transformation of living matter into dead soil (like the Copper Sands) was a major magic of Genert.

If herd beast shit simply turns to dust, what do the Praxians use for fuel for their campfires? What about dung beetles and all the other Darkness beasts usually taking care of what the nomads don't gather?

 

@soltakss I regard effects like Ronance's tracks as similar to the Hidden Greens, a temporal effect that brings back aspects of Golden Age Genert's Garden.

 

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In some ways it seems like Prax's flora and fauna are a patchwork, with fragments of the Green Age being drawn together by Eiritha and Waha's magic to unite survivors. Perhaps these fragments are in fact the Heard Mothers; not just animals, but also parts of the land like their mother. While the Herds themselves are the children of the Herd Mothers, they also bring plants and other animals with them.

7 minutes ago, Joerg said:

I am a little concerned about an absence of parasites in Prax and the wastes, such as ticks, fleas, lice, bluebottle flies, horse flies (I would bet they have a different name in Prax, or possibly retain that name for its negative connotations?), and all the other critters that make living with herds so miserable and ask for great stoicism. Nomad life isn't the same when the beast shit doesn't attract lots of nasty buzzing darkness entities.

@soltakss I regard effects like Ronance's tracks as similar to the Hidden Greens, a temporal effect that brings back aspects of Golden Age Genert's Garden.

Parasites are mentioned in the guide, coming from the Maw of Mallia, along the Bleak Shore. I imagine Mallia may even be viewed as a monstrous perversion of a Herd Mother; bringing not fertile life, but parasitic and disease filled swarms, and noxious plants.

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I'm not sure how useful this will be but, in any ecological system, species exploit the niches and opportunities there. In a steppe or blighted region, each of the ecological layers of the system will have little diversity and mass to support many species above it (see rhs of diagram).

The plants will literally be living in the cracks and gullies caused by the topology and the natural water run-offs from the occasional flash flooding. They will have adapted to conserving water and will most likely be thorny and have other natural defences against herbivores and bugs. Few plants will have developed symbiotic relationships with animals, so flowering plants will be minimal. There will be few animals in the regions and so parasites that live off them will be minimal too. All the animals will be kept in check by survival and adaptability. Natural predation will stop any species from becoming too dominant, so giant roaming herds of buffalo won't exist without man's (or magical) intervention.

Nature may be winning the battle and slowly reversing the effects of desertification or may be losing. If a non druid/shamansistic society is there, then they will most likely be contributing to the desertification through the continued favouring of certain species and exploitation of the scarce resources.

Ecological systems.png

Edited by Jae
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I may be going off at a bit of a tangent here, but given the big differences between our own planet, with its laws of physics, and Glorantha, with its magic, does the concept of evolution apply at all in Glorantha? Or is there no such thing due to the lack of  the huge timespans necessary?

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@Steve There is at least one source that mentions evolution. Trollpak had a chart showing how the many forms of troll evolved from the original Mistress Race.

Of course, many cultures will be more likely to talk about things in terms of devolution. Of how animals and plants have become speciated through losing their connection to their ancient progenitors and becoming imperfect in different ways.

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Good point about the trolls, thanks. I wonder if that "evolution" was in a different way to which we would understand it on our own planet, though. Perhaps more of a magical evolution? I realise that trolls are an Elder Race, but they wouldn't have enough time to have undergone a physical evolution, would they?

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When games, TV shows, Movies etc break physics or their own rules (of Magic), I get taken out of the immersion and lose respect for the property and creators. For example, I never liked the way that dragons in World of Warcraft could take humanoid form. Where did all the mass go? The humanoid forms clearly aren't illusions, so how does that work? The easy (lazy imho) answer is that its Magic. Which as an answer I can accept if its credible.

When a property bends physics and establishes their rules of "magic" and sticks to it, then I find I can relax, suspend disbelief and accept. FTL spaceships, the force (in Star Wars), mystical creatures in fantasy games and the flying heroes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are examples that I am totally on board with. Because, they bend the rules of physics, but remain largely consistent to themselves to the rules of "magic" they have created (excepting the midi-chlorians which just btsoom).

Glorantha is a fantastic example of world building, but it does come close to breaking its own rules at times. I suspect its one of the reasons that some people can't get into it. BRPers also tend to want a bit more reality in their game, possibly due to being a simulation rpg and the general mature approaches to rules and settings. Thus, we have to work harder to maintain credibility. We worry about npc motivations, dungeon ecology and evolution.. Its one of the reason why I love BRP games so much.
 

Quote

Good point about the trolls, thanks. I wonder if that "evolution" was in a different way to which we would understand it on our own planet, though. Perhaps more of a magical evolution? I realise that trolls are an Elder Race, but they wouldn't have enough time to have undergone a physical evolution, would they?

 

I think you have hit on the head. Evolution on Glorantha will probably have followed a similar pattern to Earth's but will have diverged slightly due to Magic's influences.

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Mythology explains Gloranthan reality far better than poorly applied terrestrial physics. Glorantha is a cube of earth floating in a limitless river, with the Sky Dome above it and the Underworld beneath. The Sun really does travel across the sky and descends each dusk into the Gates of Dusk and then traverses the Underworld only to remerge from the Gates of Dawn. That's Gloranthan reality.

Gloranthan physics are the results of the events of the God Time - especially the Gods War. If you reason from that point, things make sense. Magic is simply the communication between the eternal God Time (which is endlessly present and eternally there) and our world of Time. The God Time is not subject to the Laws of Thermodynamics and when a magician manages to draw some manifestation of the eternal into the world of Time, that event is not subject to the same. 

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I had always presumed that, after the Curse & later after Cragspider's work, the new Trollish varieties appeared in the very next generation...  I'm looking forward to the KS'ed "Trollpack" so I can look at the chart mentioned above!

Presuming my "spring full-grown the following generation" idea is wrong, then, I STILL probably would argue against the Trolls' example of "evolution".  It might be better to consider it as a (magically-directed & magically-accelerated) form of "controlled breeding."  Consider how a dog-breeder (for example) can create a new "breed" of dog in just a few generations.  If there were a God-driven curse on the pushing end of that, it could surely happen even faster...

Edited by g33k
expanded a point, fixed a typo
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 I think having a few plants and animals that dominate the majority of the waste is OK.

 But then you could also have a  rare  plants and animals that  have limited range. A Blood red flower that only grows at Tourney alter or a Herb that only grows at the Well Of Eriniala . Or a beetle that nest only on the tops of Condors Crag. And of course these rare plants and animals are the ones you really, really need for making magic potions and the like. This would both fit in real life ecology and for a magical world  setting

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14 hours ago, g33k said:

I had always presumed that, after the Curse & later after Cragspider's work, the new Trollish varieties appeared in the very next generation...  I'm looking forward to the KS'ed "Trollpack" so I can look at the chart mentioned above!

Presuming my "spring full-grown the following generation" idea is wrong, then, I STILL probably would argue against the Trolls' example of "evolution".  It might be better to consider it as a (magically-directed & magically-accelerated) form of "controlled breeding."  Consider how a dog-breeder (for example) can create a new "breed" of dog in just a few generations.  If there were a God-driven curse on the pushing end of that, it could surely happen even faster...

Your  "spring full-grown the following generation" theory is probably right. Trollkin appeared straight after the Curse of Kin. Great Trolls appeared as soon as the HeroQuestors finished their pregnancies.

Dark Trolls are a bit different, but they only appear after the trolls left Wonderhome.

I would agree that trolls are not the product of evolution but of magical events. Dark Trolls are the result of leaving Wonderhome, Sea Trolls were caused by Pocharngo mutating trolls, Cave Trolls are also Pocharngo's work, I think, Trollkin are the result of the Curse of Kin and Great Trolls are the result of Cragspider's attempts to break the Curse of Kin. Hot Trolls are slightly different and might be the work of evolution, but I cannot remember if Lodril, or his mirror in Pamaltela, had a part to play. Midget Slashers are also troll-related but it isn't clear where they came from.

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I agree wi

15 hours ago, TRose said:

 I think having a few plants and animals that dominate the majority of the waste is OK.

 But then you could also have a  rare  plants and animals that  have limited range. A Blood red flower that only grows at Tourney alter or a Herb that only grows at the Well Of Eriniala . Or a beetle that nest only on the tops of Condors Crag. And of course these rare plants and animals are the ones you really, really need for making magic potions and the like. This would both fit in real life ecology and for a magical world  setting

I like this, especially the blood red flower at tourney altar ( used to stop bleeding?) and certainly agree with each oasis having it's own micro ecology going on. We can see this at the Bigglestone with their mushrooms and beetles for example.

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15 hours ago, g33k said:

I had always presumed that, after the Curse & later after Cragspider's work, the new Trollish varieties appeared in the very next generation...  

That's certainly the case, and those new developments like the Curse of Kin are rather comparable to the way Zika-virus causes microcephaly in pregnancies. The Curse of Kin (or the Muri loss of Cold) is like a viral infection that is transferred to the offspring, the Great Troll variant is like a one-shot infection/possession through the agency of darkness spirits.

The evolution chart of trolls matters more for the fringe species or (mostly) extinct species of trolls like horned trolls, stone eaters, or the Pamaltelan variants that "lost their man rune" such as Midget Slashers. (These latter ones get their best treatment in RQ3 Gloranthan Bestiary.)

 

 

1 hour ago, soltakss said:

I would agree that trolls are not the product of evolution but of magical events. Dark Trolls are the result of leaving Wonderhome, Sea Trolls were caused by Pocharngo mutating trolls, Cave Trolls are also Pocharngo's work, I think, Trollkin are the result of the Curse of Kin and Great Trolls are the result of Cragspider's attempts to break the Curse of Kin. Hot Trolls are slightly different and might be the work of evolution, but I cannot remember if Lodril, or his mirror in Pamaltela, had a part to play. Midget Slashers are also troll-related but it isn't clear where they came from.

Most troll variants are the result of some battle attrition. The dumbing down and regenerative abilities of cave and sea trolls is blamed on Chaos. Yet, the sea troll mutation doesn't look like a random Chaos thing, but rather like an entire specialist troll race losing to Chaos.

The Uzhim are an interesting case - devolved from mistress trolls, but apparently different from Dark Trolls. Allegedly immune to the Curse of Kin, too.

There are two more troll races that don't appear in the genealogical chart, the bat-winged trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau. One is an ancient tribe that has bat wings instead of arms, the other is of more recent (magical) origin that added bat-like or rather Balrog-like wings to a basic dark troll chassis. From playing one of these races in a convention game run by Greg, both were subject to the Curse of Kin.

A body modification as extreme as bat wings instead of arms (for those ancient Blue Moon bat trolls) or gills and webbed feet (for sea trolls) aren't really such a great deal. Uz are darkness creatures, able to fuse into a communal entity (like the Black Eater), and may not necessarily retain all of their shape in absolute darkness, either. It is quite possible for a dark troll tribe devoted to Qatanara (or however the Blue Moon trolls call their Bat goddess) to undergo a shapeshift to that form during the Lesser Darkness.

 

To bring this back at least a little bit on topic, I do believe that insect/grub life might be an exception to the general rule of "hardly any life left in the former Garden" - they were invaders to the place, possibly after the Gods' Last Stand. Coming from the Underworld, they wouldn't really notice the scarcity of life.

Unlike @David Scott I don't think that the Beast Rider herds are the only pinpoint for surviving ecological niches in the Wastes. I don't think that e.g. Cacti are related to any beast herds.

We know of successful invader species unrelated to Waha's covenant like tigers and lions (exterminated by Tada, who had been missing from the Gods' Last Stand rescuing Eiritha, slaying and skinning Basmol), and those sort of emulating the Covenant like unicorns and war zebras (who are based on the still extant plains zebras, IIRC).

The Praxian soil can support Kerofinelan agriculture given enough water and agricultural magic, at least within reach of the Zola Fel river. The same seems to be true about Teshnan methods (starting with the 1250 settlement of the Feroda environments in their quest for the sword of Tolat - it seems that the last survivors had trickled into Sun County by the 15th century, or possibly been absorbed by fisherfolk or oasis folk, when their colony finally failed). My guess is that they overstayed the welcome their magical support for the Battle of Alavan Argay had bought them with the Beast RIders rather than a general failure of their crops.

 

 

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15 hours ago, TRose said:

 I think having a few plants and animals that dominate the majority of the waste is OK.

 But then you could also have a  rare  plants and animals that  have limited range. A Blood red flower that only grows at Tourney alter or a Herb that only grows at the Well Of Eriniala . Or a beetle that nest only on the tops of Condors Crag. And of course these rare plants and animals are the ones you really, really need for making magic potions and the like. This would both fit in real life ecology and for a magical world  setting

Don't underestimate traders introducing new types of plant. Biturian did so when his (then still slave) future wife gifted Narmeed Whirlwishbane's bison clan with the flowers that later became their name-giving feature.

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3 hours ago, Joerg said:

Don't underestimate traders introducing new types of plant. Biturian did so when his (then still slave) future wife gifted Narmeed Whirlwishbane's bison clan with the flowers that later became their name-giving feature.

 While traders and other could bring and introduce new plants to Prax and  almost certainly have, Certain rare  plants might require special Magical conditions not understood by Mortals.

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5 hours ago, Joerg said:

Unlike @David Scott I don't think that the Beast Rider herds are the only pinpoint for surviving ecological niches in the Wastes. I don't think that e.g. Cacti are related to any beast herds.

Given that prickly pear cactus is used as cattle fodder in the Southwest (and is a major food source for many large herbivores), I suspect that cacti are used by many beast herds.

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1 hour ago, Jeff said:

Given that prickly pear cactus is used as cattle fodder in the Southwest (and is a major food source for many large herbivores), I suspect that cacti are used by many beast herds.

 Both  the fruit and the pads of the Prickly pear Cactus are sold in stores around here as Human food.  The pads are a staple food in some areas of Mexico

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It's my intention to portray the Wastelands as a very nearly destroyed god's garden that has barely survived into time. I'm not intending to model it using ecology (hence my "Ecology" in the title) or real world evolution. I've studied enough of both evolution and ecology at uni, to know what to avoid. So 

On 31 March 2016 at 5:38 PM, Jeff said:

Mythology explains Gloranthan reality far better than poorly applied terrestrial physics.

This is my starting point, erase from your minds, the real world of animals, ecological niches, etc. I fully understand that your Glorantha will vary, but that can come later.

So lets head back to the Great Darkness. Genert's garden is destroyed, it's fertility lost, Genert is dead. Eiritha's been buried to avoid death and there are pockets of survivors being barely sustained by those who will later become Waha's friends and part of the Praxian tradition. Waha gets everyone together and realises that the fertility is so badly damaged that without magical intervention, it's not going to be sustainable. Waha also ties the Wastelands back together, the damage is so bad that parts float away and are lost. Only that which Waha ties together is saved.

At the Dawn Ernalda does not return to the Wastelands, she can exist only at the Paps and then only really through her daughter Eiritha. Aldrya only exists at the paps, along with a few other fertility related gods. The only fertile spot is the Eiritha Hills and the sacred ground around the Paps. There is no land god or goddess present in the Wastelands. Any other fertility or plant can be brought into the Wastes, but has to fight to remain. Other sources of fertility are clearly the Zola Fel, a few other rivers and the Oases.

At the Dawn there are the tribes of the covenant, the independents and a few animal that survived the Great Darkness for their own reasons. The Basmoli are clearly the source of the lions. Tigers I'm unsure about - but there is clearly a cool myth called Waha and the Tigers.

If we drew a fertility map of the Wastes, it would be more fertile at the edges, around water, the Eiritha hills. Fertility like Ronance is ephemeral and localised. 

22 hours ago, TRose said:

But then you could also have a  rare  plants and animals that  have limited range. A Blood red flower that only grows at Tourney alter or a Herb that only grows at the Well Of Eriniala . Or a beetle that nest only on the tops of Condors Crag. And of course these rare plants and animals are the ones you really, really need for making magic potions and the like. 

This is exactly how it works.

6 hours ago, Joerg said:

and those sort of emulating the Covenant like unicorns and war zebras (who are based on the still extant plains zebras, IIRC).

Unicorns returned due to a Green Age heroquest, War Zebras were bred magically by expert Pure Horse People breeders fulfilling a Paps prophesy to return the Zebras. There was also a Green Age Heroquest involved - just think who the Zebra founder really is.

Plants brought in by invaders need fertility magic to stay - the sun domers did it, Dorosar's settlers did it, Pavis did it. Ernalda and Aldrya at the Paps are clearly involved in this, as are the 48 old ones for some of the crops that are now successfully grown.

The broken fertility needs something big to change it, this comes with the Hero Wars, but not without a price.

 

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On 30 March 2016 at 10:14 PM, Joerg said:

I am a little concerned about an absence of parasites in Prax and the wastes, such as ticks, fleas, lice, bluebottle flies, horse flies (I would bet they have a different name in Prax, or possibly retain that name for its negative connotations?), and all the other critters that make living with herds so miserable and ask for great stoicism. Nomad life isn't the same when the beast shit doesn't attract lots of nasty buzzing darkness entities.

This is Mallia's role in the Wastelands, as the Paps seeks to return fertility, Malia seeks to pervert it with disease.

On 30 March 2016 at 10:14 PM, Joerg said:

Likewise, there ought to be scorpions, nasty spiders, centipedes, moths etc. to disturb them in their camps.

This is the work of Gorakiki, seeking to reestablish her children in the Wastelands.

There are spiders in the Wastes as the children of the spider tribe, the offspring of Spider Grandmother.

On 30 March 2016 at 10:14 PM, Joerg said:

There ought to be weeds that cause trouble for the herd beasts, like common ragwort.

Isn't it hard enough with the lack of fertility.

On 30 March 2016 at 10:14 PM, Joerg said:

If herd beast shit simply turns to dust, what do the Praxians use for fuel for their campfires? What about dung beetles and all the other Darkness beasts usually taking care of what the nomads don't gather?

It's not instant, takes a while. Of course they use chips for fires. Maybe Gorakiki has got Dung beetles there. Theses are great hooks for troll adventures. What are the trolls doing at Bigglestone. Don't forget the Gorakiki shrine in the mosquito marsh.

 

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On 31 March 2016 at 5:26 PM, Jae said:

Evolution on Glorantha will probably have followed a similar pattern to Earth's but will have diverged slightly due to Magic's influences.

- a slight rewrite:

Evolution doesn't exist in Glorantha and so doesn't follow similar pattern to Earth. It is solely driven by Magic and Mythology. But your Glorantha may vary.

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Any evolution which does occur (such as those seen in trolls) is going to be saltation, rather than the gradualism described in modern evolutionary biology.

Any changes are going to be immediate and large. For example, the Horned Trolls would just suddenly be born with their impressive horns, and you wouldn't find populations of Mistress Race Trolls developing larger and larger horns until they're a recognisably different species. A sudden change, like with punctuated equilibrium.

Edit: Also of course, there's Lamarckian Evolution, as we see in the tale of Hippogriff.

Edited by Tindalos

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