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Almost all mermen breathe only air. Why?

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8 hours ago, Pentallion said:

I think they mean sea creatures they can ride as mounts, not sea mountains.  But I may be the one who is mistaken.

By seamount we are talking about underwater mountains that rise from the seabed but do not reach the surface.

 

8 hours ago, Pentallion said:

As for Mermen sleeping.  So I have a group of fresh faced PC mermen.  We adventure.  At some point, the mermen must sleep.  Unlike humans, where this can be skipped to "the next day....", or "who's on watch?" we have an issue here.  HOW is it exactly that they sleep?  My brand new mermen PCs either don't HAVE any magic to help them sleep, or there's a spirit magic as common as Peaceful Cut that every merman has.  Except then, how do the children sleep?

So just waving a hand and saying Glorantha is magical doesn't cut it.  Having established that sleeping is a very social issue for mermen, then I think it needs addressing on a societal level.  Something that would make sense in their mythology, in their spells, in the way they get played and rolled up.

Because they have nowhere safe to sleep.  the water around them will kill them.  When landlubbers sleep, the earth doesn't rise up and bury them and if it did, you can bet it would result in a huge part of their social structure being developed to deal with it.

 

How to whales or dolphins sleep? Even young/baby whales and dolphins sleep without a problem. Air-Breathing Merfolk could sleep the same way. When in their cities they would have air available when sleeping and might have some kind of harness keeping their bodies below water and their mouths above water.

 

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44 minutes ago, soltakss said:

By seamount we are talking about underwater mountains that rise from the seabed but do not reach the surface.

Perhaps I should have said guyot for less ambiguity and more precision.  Apparently "seamount" also technically includes the likes of Mauna Kea -- a 10k-high mountain, comfortably the largest on the entire planet...  just happens that the base, like the old Irish joke about Carrauntoohil, "'tis in a bit of a hollow."  (i.e. the Pacific Ocean, in this case.  But I didn't mean whale- and turtle-mounted settlements...  not that that's not also an interesting idea.  Apologies for the confusion.

As in Glorantha 10k-high mountains are ten-a-penny, sticking a seamount in any part of the oceans that aren't actually bottomless in that exact spot seems pretty low-end sort of speculation.  (Do we have data on a typical depth of the Homeward Ocean, aside from the "infinitely" bit right in the middle?)

It's a fair point that these will be more common nearer the continents, and in particular in various sunken lands.  Nor are they necessarily just former human cities with merfolk squatters, as the best spots will likely be those that were formerly rather remote and inaccessible to surface-dwellers.  But I'd still like to put in a good word for at least a couple of deep-ocean cities, as first, it'd be cool, and second, it better corresponds to the reported distribution of most of the kindreds.  (I'm referring in the first instance to the Bestiary's maps, as I happen to have that readily to hand, which I realize officially it would be over-charitable to regard as B-Canon, but I'm sure people will put me right if there's been an explicit material change on this.)

44 minutes ago, soltakss said:

How to whales or dolphins sleep? Even young/baby whales and dolphins sleep without a problem. Air-Breathing Merfolk could sleep the same way. When in their cities they would have air available when sleeping and might have some kind of harness keeping their bodies below water and their mouths above water.

Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep, and other such stupid mammal brain tricks!

I think, on this pattern, it's not plausibility-stretching to suppose that merfolk might only need relatively short and relatively shallow periods of sleep.  Doubtless several such periods, though.  (Human polyphasic sleep fiends claim to be able to operate indefinitely on 3-5 periods of anything between 30m and 2h a go.)  Conversely, if they can go for an hour between breaths during normal waking activity, they can likely do so for longer while their metabolic rate is reduced during sleep.  Certainly two hours doesn't seem like a big stretch, maybe four at a push.  That's getting toward the range of the normal human sleep cycle, which isn't so much 8h as it is 2*4h, optionally but not necessarily banged together.

I'm not a big fan of such a high dependence on magic that they essentially can' survive or have even a rudimentary culture without it.  Sure there are beings like that in Glorantha, but I don't see the typical merperson as being in that category:  they're one (really, several) one of the "basic major races"...  just a rather under-reported one.  Rather than being comparable to Peaceful Cut, this might be more akin to needing to have the local wizard cast a "Chew" spell on the entire village prior to each meal.

OTOH, each kindred could vary significantly.  In particular, I rather like the idea of the Zabdamar as surface-sleepers.  Or rather in their case, above-the-surface sleepers.  Imagine sailing warily through the outer fringes of the Kahar Sea, and through the fog faintly glimpsing a manatee-like silhouette, and then the garish shamanic tattoos and outlandish jewellery...   as he snores his head off, floating in mid-air.

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1 hour ago, Alex said:

Imagine sailing warily through the outer fringes of the Kahar Sea, and through the fog faintly glimpsing a manatee-like silhouette, and then the garish shamanic tattoos and outlandish jewellery...   as he snores his head off, floating in mid-air.

Now that sounds like a perfect scenario starter in a Vormaino or Kralorelan campaign for a ship lost in Kahar's Sea!

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1 hour ago, jajagappa said:

Now that sounds like a perfect scenario starter in a Vormaino or Kralorelan campaign for a ship lost in Kahar's Sea!

Thank you, thank you, don't applaud, just throw money!  Or "likes".  I feel nervous at being stuck in "neutral"...

"Ugly naked floating merguy's alive! He's a-live!"
"And yet, we're still poking him."

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3 hours ago, Alex said:

As in Glorantha 10k-high mountains are ten-a-penny, sticking a seamount in any part of the oceans that aren't actually bottomless in that exact spot seems pretty low-end sort of speculation.  (Do we have data on a typical depth of the Homeward Ocean, aside from the "infinitely" bit right in the middle?)

The Guide to Glorantha doesn't say, but I would guess that most, if not all, of the Homeward Ocean is in the Abyssal Plain, deep, dark and dangerous.

 

3 hours ago, Alex said:

It's a fair point that these will be more common nearer the continents, and in particular in various sunken lands.  Nor are they necessarily just former human cities with merfolk squatters, as the best spots will likely be those that were formerly rather remote and inaccessible to surface-dwellers.  But I'd still like to put in a good word for at least a couple of deep-ocean cities, as first, it'd be cool, and second, it better corresponds to the reported distribution of most of the kindreds.  (I'm referring in the first instance to the Bestiary's maps, as I happen to have that readily to hand, which I realize officially it would be over-charitable to regard as B-Canon, but I'm sure people will put me right if there's been an explicit material change on this.)

 

The Gnydron live in the abyssal depths, so deep ocean cities are certainly reasonable.

 

3 hours ago, Alex said:

I think, on this pattern, it's not plausibility-stretching to suppose that merfolk might only need relatively short and relatively shallow periods of sleep.  Doubtless several such periods, though.  (Human polyphasic sleep fiends claim to be able to operate indefinitely on 3-5 periods of anything between 30m and 2h a go.)  Conversely, if they can go for an hour between breaths during normal waking activity, they can likely do so for longer while their metabolic rate is reduced during sleep.  Certainly two hours doesn't seem like a big stretch, maybe four at a push.  That's getting toward the range of the normal human sleep cycle, which isn't so much 8h as it is 2*4h, optionally but not necessarily banged together.

I'm not a big fan of such a high dependence on magic that they essentially can' survive or have even a rudimentary culture without it.  Sure there are beings like that in Glorantha, but I don't see the typical merperson as being in that category:  they're one (really, several) one of the "basic major races"...  just a rather under-reported one.  Rather than being comparable to Peaceful Cut, this might be more akin to needing to have the local wizard cast a "Chew" spell on the entire village prior to each meal.

 

That sounds reasonable to me. I am also not keen on having to use magic for day to day activities.

 

3 hours ago, Alex said:

OTOH, each kindred could vary significantly.  In particular, I rather like the idea of the Zabdamar as surface-sleepers.  Or rather in their case, above-the-surface sleepers.  Imagine sailing warily through the outer fringes of the Kahar Sea, and through the fog faintly glimpsing a manatee-like silhouette, and then the garish shamanic tattoos and outlandish jewellery...   as he snores his head off, floating in mid-air.

 

Now, there's a sight that I am going to have to steal for my current River Voice campaign.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, soltakss said:

The Guide to Glorantha doesn't say, but I would guess that most, if not all, of the Homeward Ocean is in the Abyssal Plain, deep, dark and dangerous.

I guess this pretty much depends on your definition what exactly is the Homeward Ocean. The map on p.461/462 defines it as the central area between the three doom current oceans, and these doom current oceans are bottomless only above their respective rifts. Then there are two known islands jutting from the Homeward Ocean into Magasta's Pool, indicating that there are at least two seamounts grounded somehow in the sea bottom next to the whirlpool. (Probably projecting sideways...)

11 minutes ago, soltakss said:

The Gnydron live in the abyssal depths, so deep ocean cities are certainly reasonable.

Provided the Gnydron (and other deep sea entities) are social creatures cohabitating with equals.

A collection of reef palace/fortresses inhabited by individual Gnydron and their servitors is as likely (and probably as wondrous).

11 minutes ago, soltakss said:

That sounds reasonable to me. I am also not keen on having to use magic for day to day activities.

My main objection is: if they have such magic reliably at their flukes, why mention the one hour limit at all?

 

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53 minutes ago, soltakss said:

The Guide to Glorantha doesn't say, but I would guess that most, if not all, of the Homeward Ocean is in the Abyssal Plain, deep, dark and dangerous.

Once upon a time, or a myth, the Earth was a great cube floating upon the waters/underworld.  Mountains were raised, etc. but coming down from the Spike there were vast plains stretching in all directions.

And then the Seas invaded.  They began to eat away at corners and then proceeded inland (perhaps pushing the Earth cube down as more waters came ashore).  The Seas clearly cut great rifts into the earth with the great Currents and formed some of the Abyssal Plains around the Spike until they were driven back by the Storm Gods and many lands were reclaimed.  The Shattering of the Spike and Zzabur's great spells clearly broke more of the Earth, and the Seas filled those voids.

But aside from the Void of the Homeward Ocean, I think the great Currents still rush across Deep Earth lands.  And it is quite possible that great magical struggles still occur between Earth Goddesses and their stony and fiery minions against the deep Sea Gods.  Perhaps in places it's even akin to Kimos where mighty magics rage back and forth:  sea mounts and ranges raised by the Earth, only to be torn away by great Doom Currents.  All far from the eyes of Mortal Men.

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8 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Once upon a time, or a myth, the Earth was a great cube floating upon the waters/underworld.  Mountains were raised, etc. but coming down from the Spike there were vast plains stretching in all directions.

And then the Seas invaded.  They began to eat away at corners and then proceeded inland (perhaps pushing the Earth cube down as more waters came ashore).  The Seas clearly cut great rifts into the earth with the great Currents and formed some of the Abyssal Plains around the Spike until they were driven back by the Storm Gods and many lands were reclaimed.  The Shattering of the Spike and Zzabur's great spells clearly broke more of the Earth, and the Seas filled those voids.

The Mythic Age maps in the Guide don't indicate any such wash-outs - we get Faralinthor's Sea and the dead sea south of Neliomi where Worcha's Rage used to do some of the worst of the sea damage to the lands.

The map on p.694 offers the bottomless trenches which provide the oceans of the Inner World as the result of the Breaking. The Grey Age map shows Sunken Lands for most of the area north of the Whirlpool.

8 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

But aside from the Void of the Homeward Ocean, I think the great Currents still rush across Deep Earth lands.  And it is quite possible that great magical struggles still occur between Earth Goddesses and their stony and fiery minions against the deep Sea Gods.  Perhaps in places it's even akin to Kimos where mighty magics rage back and forth:  sea mounts and ranges raised by the Earth, only to be torn away by great Doom Currents.  All far from the eyes of Mortal Men.

Nice idea. The sea deities and monsters like it when earth spews forth food.

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Ooo, this topic has gone "hot", that's new.  (To this forum noob, that is.)  Weather warning: extreme tropical conditions, with intermittent Firebergs?

34 minutes ago, Joerg said:

I guess this pretty much depends on your definition what exactly is the Homeward Ocean. The map on p.461/462 defines it as the central area between the three doom current oceans, and these doom current oceans are bottomless only above their respective rifts.

Hrm, that's a new wrinkle, and one that the Guide doesn't seem to gloss at all.  What're we calling the "inner Ocean cluster" as a whole these days, then?  (I meant the latter, in any case.)  Is it just "the Ocean(s)", with the outer "bottomless because no Gloranthan earth surface at all" region being not "ocean", but instead "Sramak's River"?

34 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Then there are two known islands jutting from the Homeward Ocean into Magasta's Pool, indicating that there are at least two seamounts grounded somehow in the sea bottom next to the whirlpool. (Probably projecting sideways...)

The geometry of that would make your head hurt.  The Pool is 200k across, and clearly many k's deep -- likely deeper than the average Oceanic depth, if you want the whirlpool to have that characteristic 'plughole' shape, rather than ending up looking more like a big circular weir.

After a certain point, one has to stop worrying about even the normal modest-enough niceties of Gloranthan physics, and throw up one's hands and say "HeroPlane!"  I'd say these islands are located at pretty much precisely that point.

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

I guess this pretty much depends on your definition what exactly is the Homeward Ocean. The map on p.461/462 defines it as the central area between the three doom current oceans, and these doom current oceans are bottomless only above their respective rifts.

8 minutes ago, Alex said:

Hrm, that's a new wrinkle, and one that the Guide doesn't seem to gloss at all.  What're we calling the "inner Ocean cluster" as a whole these days, then?  (I meant the latter, in any case.)  Is it just "the Ocean(s)", with the outer "bottomless because no Gloranthan earth surface at all" region being not "ocean", but instead "Sramak's River"?

Anything with only Darkness at the bottom qualifies as Ocean, Sramak's River included. Oceans usually include adjacent areas which have a seabottom on the Earth as long as the same body of water is concerned.

8 minutes ago, Alex said:
Quote

Then there are two known islands jutting from the Homeward Ocean into Magasta's Pool, indicating that there are at least two seamounts grounded somehow in the sea bottom next to the whirlpool. (Probably projecting sideways...)

The geometry of that would make your head hurt.  The Pool is 200k across, and clearly many k's deep -- likely deeper than the average Oceanic depth, if you want the whirlpool to have that characteristic 'plughole' shape, rather than ending up looking more like a big circular weir.

The Whirlpool itself probably connects directly to the Void, or the Chaosium, as did the bottom of the Spike. The Waters of the World deviate before reaching this void, spreading outward and up towards Sramak's River.

8 minutes ago, Alex said:

After a certain point, one has to stop worrying about even the normal modest-enough niceties of Gloranthan physics, and throw up one's hands and say "HeroPlane!"  I'd say these islands are located at pretty much precisely that point.

These two islands are on the border to the Underworld, which grants those stranded on them deathlessness, so I wouldn't say these two islands are above sea level.

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17 hours ago, Joerg said:

My main objection is: if they have such magic reliably at their flukes, why mention the one hour limit at all?

Reliably, is the problem. I don't think magic has failsafe reliability. It can be manipulated by enemies, neutralised, and doesn't always work. Move the analogy to surface dwellers - this walk on water spell is great until it runs out - you can swim can't you? 

I do think everyday magic exists - firelighting is one example, but also everyone knows how to light a fire don't they. 

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I love this discussion. I strongly agree that mermen should be able to sleep without magical assistance. They may, of course, use magical assistance to make it more comfortable or practical in some cultures.

In the guide, the description of the Malasp talks a lot about bubble nests, which seem to be formed of some biological secretions, and recreated annually, so that would appear to address the question of where Malasp live for the most part. How they get air into their bubble nests I don't know. 

It's also worth noting that besides mermen, cetaceans exist, and some, quite possibly many, are sentient. At least some dolphins are sentient, possibly some species of whale. 

Pond of the reasons Ludoch hate the Malasp is the Ludoch think of cetaceans as cousins, often living with dolphins as domesticated animals, and revere the sentient whales. The Malasp, by contrast, regard cetaceans as hateable air-breathing things that are also delicious, and a useful source of raw materials. Of course, Malasp feel the same way about Ludoch, so it's not as if they needed extra reasons to hate them. 

 

 

 

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35 minutes ago, davecake said:

How they get air into their bubble nests I don't know.

Perhaps seasonal or annual quests to raid and capture winds, sylphs, and other air beings with magic spells or enchanted kelp ropes to bind them.  Some winds etc. may be better than others such as those formed in the Doldrums that pass over annually and are calm and placid, whereas the wild waterspout winds are dangerous to take on.

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Who are all the hsunchen merfolk?  I mean, the beastie boys?  I know there are some shark folk.  but who else?

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12 minutes ago, Pentallion said:

Who are all the hsunchen merfolk?  I mean, the beastie boys?  I know there are some shark folk.  but who else?

The most numerous seagoing Hsunchen probably are the Sofali, who once occupied all the four corners of the Homeward Ocean and still persist in the Northeast and the Southeast.

Rakuti Shark Hsunchen plague the westernmost East Isles.

The Kralori use Orca Hsunchen as marines (the Guide presents this as "the cult of the Orca" as revealed by Thrunhin Da to fight the "evil Zabdamar").

As a rule, the sea beings have Triolina magic that allows them to alter their shape, so the Hsunchen shape-changing magic may be less of a big deal in the oceans.

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7 hours ago, Joerg said:

The most numerous seagoing Hsunchen probably are the Sofali, who once occupied all the four corners of the Homeward Ocean and still persist in the Northeast and the Southeast.

Rakuti Shark Hsunchen plague the westernmost East Isles.

The Kralori use Orca Hsunchen as marines (the Guide presents this as "the cult of the Orca" as revealed by Thrunhin Da to fight the "evil Zabdamar").

As a rule, the sea beings have Triolina magic that allows them to alter their shape, so the Hsunchen shape-changing magic may be less of a big deal in the oceans.

 

These are humans who become sea-creatures, I think.

Are there any Merfolk Hsunchen, in other words merfolk who can naturally turn into sea creatures or who claim descent from/kinship with sea creatures? 

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1 minute ago, soltakss said:

These are humans who become sea-creatures, I think.

As a rule, the Hsunchen are humans.

1 minute ago, soltakss said:

Are there any Merfolk Hsunchen, in other words merfolk who can naturally turn into sea creatures or who claim descent from/kinship with sea creatures? 

All merfolk claim kinship with most of the life in the seas, through their ancestress Triolina (who gave birth to the ancestors of watery animals and plants). Triolina is also the source of the shapechanging magic that allows her worshippers to take the shape of any being (IIRC any being they have eaten).

Given the air god ancestry of the mermen and the much older origin of the Hsunchen/Hykimi/Fiwan of Glorantha, I doubt that there was a mortal man rune merfolk race available when the Hsunchen beasts adopted man rune shape.

 

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Why for the Lozenge's sake would any thing queue up to 'get' a 'rune'?

To the OP: you've got an exciting premise; Make Your Glorantha Vary to suit it. Personally, I've long been fascinated by Coralinthor Bay, but never have caused/been in a party of adventurers who got to go there. You can definitely do better than me :)

Lots of fun ideas posted here, lots published here and there -- but in the end, we're facing our fellow players and not internet squibble.

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

These are humans who become sea-creatures, I think.

Are there any Merfolk Hsunchen, in other words merfolk who can naturally turn into sea creatures or who claim descent from/kinship with sea creatures? 

I say why not.

In fact, have the bones of a myth:

Quote

Tholaina is the mother of all beasts beneath the sea; with the darkness she bore molluscs, with the fire she bore birds who flew above the nourishing waters, etc. Most of these were fertile, and spread throughout the waters.

Unknown to most; Tholaina also swam with her Brother Phargon, just as her sisters Mirintha and Murthdrya did (giving rise to the Tritons and Sea Elves respectively.)

The beings she bore were as fluid as the waters themselves, constantly changing between their father's form (humanoid torso, but with a fish-like tail) and that of uncountable sea creatures.
At first they found joy in their eternal changing; but when Chaos came, the children of Tholaina and Phargon could not find a shape which would allow them to oppose it. Begging their parents for aid, they were told they must become somewhat fixed. They were paired with Phargon's other descendants, the Merfolk. Each would swim with one of the Merfolk kindreds, and each would choose one of Tholaina's beasts. These were to be their natures, and in this way, they would survive.

These shifting Merfolk are found as groupings amongst other Merfolk, often understood as analogous to clans or tribes. The most well known to modern Glorantha are the Kelpies of the Rozgali sea (including Mirrorsea Bay); they take the shape of the Hippocampus, itself a creature stuck between two natures (horse and fish). The Kelpies see the Hippocampi as their kin, as much their family as the Ludoch; and will often be found with herds of the wild horses of the sea.

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There is no reason not to have sea going hsunchen - the sofali are a well known example, the ratuki either hsunchen or something similar, and there is no reason why there shouldn't be others, such as selkies. 

I don't think hsunchen have a role in Triolini culture though - they would be spirit beings in a primarily theist culture, for example, and we already know that theist worship is more or less incompatible with sustained theist worship. Sea-going hsunchen are hsunchen, not Triolini. 

But that doesn't mean shapeshifters don't exist - there are many shapechangers in Triolini culture, and normally they gain this power via theist worship of Triolina. But its more of an individual thing - according to Gods of Glorantha (which may well be outdated, but its still the best current source) it essentially requires the ritual sacrifice (the body disappears, the soul goes to its afterlife) of an individual living being. 

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1 hour ago, davecake said:

I don't think hsunchen have a role in Triolini culture though - they would be spirit beings in a primarily theist culture, for example, and we already know that theist worship is more or less incompatible with sustained theist worship. Sea-going hsunchen are hsunchen, not Triolini. 

I don't think this kind of reasoning is valid anymore (for example the Kolati get along just fine with most of the Orlanthi worshipping Gods).  If what's being argued about is whether the merfolk have a tradition of shapeshifting to sea-beast form then the best parallel is Gorakiki whose worship among the trolls is analogous to Hsunchen shapeshifting.  I don't see why this would be impossible among the merfolk.

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I don't think incompatibility of spirit and theist traditions is at all a rule any more - the Koalti are just one example (Odaylans, Uroxi, etc). 

But I do think it is a specific issue for hsunchen. If you abandon hsunchen ways you aren't hsunchen any more, and that means only animism. 

I do agree that Gorakiki would be a good analogy for non-Hsunchen shape shifting traditions. Though possibly Gorakiki could be considered a Hsunchen shamanic entity accessed via non-Hsunchen (which is permitted, and in some places common - non-Hsunchen just have to work harder because they aren't kin). Still animist traditions, though. 

But the source of shape shifting magic for sea creatures seems to be Triolina, who is worshipped by theist methods (as all Triolini deities are) and (presuming that the cult is somewhat as it was in Gods of Glorantha, which isn't necessarily true but seems a good working assumption) they have their own, quite different, method of shape changing magic. 

But you are right, there could be an entire shape hanging tradition related to Tholaina and Golod, it just seems unlikely with a whole different shape shifting tradition in the deity next door. Or they could be non-Triolini. 

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4 hours ago, davecake said:

I do agree that Gorakiki would be a good analogy for non-Hsunchen shape shifting traditions. Though possibly Gorakiki could be considered a Hsunchen shamanic entity accessed via non-Hsunchen (which is permitted, and in some places common - non-Hsunchen just have to work harder because they aren't kin). Still animist traditions, though. 

When I start seeing phrases like "non-Hsunchan shape shifting traditions" or a "Hsunchen shamanic entity accessed via non-Hsunchen", I reach for my  fear we are embracing overly precise definitions without light.  The subject at hand was shape-shifting merfolk.  You don't need to make statements about the Hsuncheness or Non-Hsuncheness of specific shapeshfting traditions.    What you should be doing is describing how a shape-shifting tradition might work among the merfolk (is it a warrior tradition like the Seshnelan Warrior Societies or the one geared to controlling beasts for the benefit of society like the Jaskali or the Gorakiki?).  That would be a more productive approach than reasoning on the basis of whether or not they use spirits.

 

4 hours ago, davecake said:

But the source of shape shifting magic for sea creatures seems to be Triolina, who is worshipped by theist methods (as all Triolini deities are) and (presuming that the cult is somewhat as it was in Gods of Glorantha, which isn't necessarily true but seems a good working assumption) they have their own, quite different, method of shape changing magic. 

Triolina is not a useful goddess here as she's *all* *life* rather than a specific shape (kinda like the difference betwen Uleria and Ernalda among the Heortlings so to speak).  Gods of Glorantha is over 30 years old and the statement that all Triolini deities are worshipped by theistic methods is incorrect.  Missing Lands describes a three-fold cosmology among the Merfolk - the Deities who are wisdom and spirit, the children of Daliath and Framanthe, the Watery Ancestors who are wisdom and waters, the children of Daliath and Sramake.  So there's ample opportunity for the Merfolk to use whatever magics they see fit (even sorcery as they had contact with the Waertagi)

I'm not saying that a merfolk shapeshfting tradition must use spirits.  It can use spirits, it can use feats from the Gods, it can use spells to make enchanted cloaks etc.  Just flatly ruling stuff out  is a rather poor way given that we don't have much material on merfolk and we don't have much material on how shapeshifting would work among the Hsunchen spirit-users (we do have ample material on the Telmori but Gbaji has made it too easy).

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20 hours ago, davecake said:

I don't think incompatibility of spirit and theist traditions is at all a rule any more - the Koalti are just one example (Odaylans, Uroxi, etc). 

and

15 hours ago, metcalph said:

When I start seeing phrases like "non-Hsunchan shape shifting traditions" or a "Hsunchen shamanic entity accessed via non-Hsunchen", I reach for my  fear we are embracing overly precise definitions without light.

Peter's right about this. My take is that shapeshifting is possible using the three magic systems and that we should look at the culture of the shape changers being discussed before deciding how they do it.

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I'm not really trying to rule out the possibility of shamanic shape-changing among the merfolk - rather saying they already have a native shapechanging tradition we know about that is interesting and different, which surely would be our starting point. I have no idea why Peter thinks that its not useful, simply because it is more flexible!

Why ignore the interesting established thing that is already there, in favour of a less interesting and more derivative alternative? Triolina is so central to merman culture that they are literally all named after her. And much of her best magic is shapechanging magic. Why assume that the Triolini ignore the shapechanging magic of Triolina because its 'not useful' according to Peter? Yes, she is a broad ranging goddess that covers a really wide ranging group of different sea life - just as Aldrya is a broad ranging goddess that covers a really wide ranging group of different plant life. And shapechanging is one of her core magics (just as it is for many Water deities). 

Also I do think it is important to keep in mind that Hsunchen are not simply just another shamanic culture, but have unique aspects. We shouldn't simply assume that the differences between Hsunchen and other shamanic shape-changers is unimportant and ignorable. The differences between Hsunchen and other shamanic shapeshifting traditions are trivial - I am, in fact, trying to make the exact same point as you are, David, that we need to look at the culture first. So lets not dismiss what we do know in favour of speculate things we've not really ever heard about. 

FWIW looking at the Guide, I agree it is no longer true that merman are theist only. The Guide includes a spirit tradition as part of the Sea pantheon, Veredth the father of waves. But that is an entirely different thing - ancestral water spirits. 

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