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Kim

Against Runocriticism

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This is a post about why I've chosen to shun Heroquest: Glorantha, and pretty much everything that's come out of official orifices and its para-valves recently.

I've been rubbing up against Glorantha for over thirty years now, though only randomly and spottily following its development, and even more erratically being a gamer. So, I'm not really for real, when I talk about it, rest assured. Though I feel inappropriately attached to the idea of the thing.

Back in the '80s, when it was either Runequest or Delenda-Est, I tried to take Glorantha seriously as an imaginary world, or as a 'subcreation' if you want to get all Tolkienian and pious about it. Back then, despite the Rune in Runequest, runes really didn't seem to matter much. In game terms, in setting terms, whatever; they were at best mysterious and I never got a sense Gloranthan people spent much time thinking about them, on average. I gathered that they were packaging chrome. And I liked Runequest and I liked what I could then understand about Glorantha, just fine.

Later, I learned more about the Godlearners, and learned a lot more Gloranthan mythology and got peeks behind the emerald curtain; and I guess I conflated the two: Godlearners are those who break the fourth wall; runes are that which the Godlearners use to make their hammers from. (Sentence-final postpositions? That is which up with I shall put your bottom!) As a nerd and fan, the Godlearners and all their investigations were really valuable, in order to get a grasp of Glorantha. As a player (including GMs), of course they should be shunned and ignored and must be treated as if they don't exist. Eugghhhh!

I missed the HeroWars era per se, but caught up a bit when the first tranche of Heroquest came out; and I really liked it. A lot. I use a kind of HeroQuest rules for my mangled Traveller-2300AD/Blue Planet/Peter Watts/Trotskyist campaign, and my 40-year-old Tekumel-titrated-through-Glorantha campaign, and in other one-offs and mini-campaigns. I really liked it! I liked the HeroQuest Mk.I system. I liked the presentation of Glorantha that came out around then. Sure, there were runes marked out in a systematic, or systematic-seeming way; but I never dreamed then that we were supposed to take it seriously as a world-building thing. It was obviously an aid to gamers/Godlearners; not a description of Glorantha as characters experienced it.

Then, after another gap of involvement and information, I came across Heroquest 2, a refinement of a beautifully curt system, which managed to spend page after page laboring over game mechanics while constantly back-patting itself for being very very clever and not "gamey". You know what's even worse than RPGs that try to convince players they're emulating gritty reality down to the molecular level? RPGs that try to emulate the experience of consuming fictional representations about those experiences. It's just taking more steps away from the shit that goes through our heads; an added layer of simulation with no sane audience wanting it. Who the hell decides with some friends to narrativate around for some fun, and recognize HQ2 as the way to go about it?

Seriously; I like Heroquest for practical purposes, but all the reasons I'm supposed to be impressed? No. Really, no. Never. All that stuff's sad and embarrassing. Someone I knew -- who, for the record, was too mean a bastard to keep in touch with -- called Heroquest 2 an outlet for the people who always dreamed of writing for fanfiction.net but never could work up to that level of confidence or expertise. Heroquest can be a!w!e!s!o!m!e!, but only despite itself.

Actually, in HQ2, I did like some of the rules mechanics it published, and I've adopted or adapted some. They certainly weren't worth the money spent on the book, let alone the time needed to pry them out of the self-contratulatory glossorheia. But, in the big picture at that point in time, what skin off my nose? I'd got a grasp of a great system from HW/HQ1 and a grasp of a great world already. No worries. After that, what future is there, but fine gravy?

Later, Heroquest: Glorantha came out, and a bit later, I bought it. And then I saw that world I'd followed turned upside down. Only then I realized, oh: runes were totally literal, and real, and intrinsic both to the game system and to the setting, to Glorantha; in a conscious and knowing way. In fact, an adult Gloranthan person needs to be made up of, defined by runes. Gods and spirits and principles are all exponents, to greater or lesser degrees, of their runes. They're all Pokemons, down past their divinity and primordiality, down to the turtle, and then past the turtle, all the way down to you, dear gamer. All the legendarium I'd previously read that used runes to summarize and condense an entire universe's mythologies, and which was thus supposed to be the (emically) hated and obscene and worldbreaking fiction of unnatural nerd-horrors; well, no, in fact, it's totally accurate and correct. What I -- and every fellow-Glorantha-traveller I'd ever met in real life -- had thought was a metafictional device for world-building is now gurning literalism.

I haven't been following recent news on the Runequest side of the mechanics, but what I randomly hear makes me think that this same line is being followed: Everyone of us gamers, everyone in Glorantha, is a damned Godlearner now.

I love Glorantha. I love its fans. I hate the collapse to low-budget & half-assed metatextuality that (it seems to me) is the order of the day now.

K

 

 

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Sassy! The turtle is my favorite pokemon. 

For me the key is that the Gloranthan "emic" (gloremic) is itself informed by centuries of in-setting intellectual efforts toward a true (gloretic) theory of religion and tragic rejections of those artificial abstractions. Right now (hobby year 1620-ish, publishing year 2016) the POV characters tend to be defensively and even a little stridently "traditionalist" while unwittingly revealing the latent structures of repressed innovation at every turn. It happens. 

I suspect that as the Hero Wars roll in and the timeline advances the in-setting magicians will have to wrestle with or reject the overdetermined nature of their theoretical understanding. Civilizations under extreme pressure get hot. Any better?  

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36 minutes ago, Kim said:

I love Glorantha. I love its fans. I hate the collapse to low-budget & half-assed metatextuality that (it seems to me) is the order of the day now.

K

What do you mean by Metatextuality in this sense? Because the only metatextuality I can see in HeroQuest is the Beowulf Pass/Fail system section in HeroQuest 2, and things like it. And looking at fiction in the sense of game mechanics is an age old RPG tradition.

In some senses, we wouldn't even have RPGs if it weren't for people looking at fantasy literature and wondering how to simulate it.

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So she's saying that runes are going to kill all the turtles?  Turtles can't go extinct!  Howsoever shall I complete a lightbringer quest if Sofal is dead?  No, I won't stand for it.  Not metatextually, not metaphysically and not meta...meta...metaturd...metaturdal..metaturtlely.

 

The runes like ducks right?  Cuz we need more ducks no matter what anybody says.  If there being runes means the ducks have to die, then that's where I draw the line.  Best thing the God Learners ever did, ducks.

Edited by Pentallion
It's funnier

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You can play HQ2/HQG just about by-the-book without saying that runes are universally recognized by people in the setting.  It's not hard to think of them like STR, DEX and CON and give them culturally particular skins.  If anything forces it, I'd say it's the art where everybody has the same boring rune tattoos.

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Kim, welcome to BRP Central! You can get an idea of what's happening in the development of the new RuneQuest by checking out the design notes series posted at the Chaosium website.

Gloranthan inhabitants have been knowingly painting the Runes they identify with on their armor, shields, bodies etc ever since the cover of RQ1, but your YGMV.

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At the end of the day, every roleplaying game source book I have ever read says if the rules get in the way: dispense with them for greater gaming and story-telling and greater fun. I think serious mythology, world-building and theurgy can mesh just fine with fun, playable fiction. In fact what else is it? Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings as a love letter to his own linguistic genius and to Norse sagas. Pratchett wrote Discworld as a way to satire just about everything that humans have ever said or thought. (Alright, Discworld is much less serious and lofty anyway, but later it took on real, tangible history and myths)

I think any long-term world-background eventually becomes very very substantial and weighty, Gloranthan is one of the weightiest but it is still fun. Do things like runic affinity and other HeroQuest mechanics break the game? No. HeroQuesting is essentially a way for heroes to learn more about the myths and the gods (so to be . . . god learners) and to accelerate their own mythological standing through comprehension of  the hard science mechanic of the universes physical laws. 

Something can be mythic and magic and esoteric and still have hard physical laws. This happens in all fantasy because eventually something is either: comprehensible at a finite scale and therefore can be given rules values and percentages, allowing prospective heroes to do HeroQuests and gain abilities that work in the rules or totally wild and incomprehensible deliberately, and mythic in a vision-questy, dreamscape manner that is great for story but cannot be used in any gameplay based manner to give bonuses, abilities, and weight to the character. 

It depends on what you want. Do you want your players to be able to become heroes and have these high-level, superheroic characters that through rules can do great things (done via runic affinities and the importance overall of runes and magic, because how else would you work superheroic level abilities in RuneQuest?) or do you want to just tell a story together, forgoing HeroQuesting rules and just system rules for characters in general. Everything they do becomes an experience and part of a story and is much more mythic and much less nailed down but it also takes away that satisfaction of rolling to use an awesome ability and it takes away the random factor of rolling and having something totally unexpected happen. You can make up unexpected and I am quite good at it, but I guarantee you it is never as good as something you rolled randomly on a table or because of the intrinsic weirdness of game mechanics on a nitty-gritty level. When you really get down to it, you have to have those dice and those abilities written down in black and white or you jut aren't roleplaying, you're camp fire story telling. (Which is great but not the same)

I think you are bemoaning not the incorrect progress of a game world, but the fact it progressed at all. I have not read a huge amount of the new rules but it seems to me the only way they could have taken it without being like everyone else. You have games like D&D who do mythic by giving you 800 feats and special talents in your three to four prestige classes. You have on the totally opposite end, Fate which allows you to be mythic by having barely stamped down Aspects and Stunts, and allowing you to blag your way around the game if you can A: pay a point for it an B: convince the ref. it makes sense to his story. Somewhere in between that is RuneQuest where you don't need 800 abilities or classes but still need a few, made to make sense through runes and their long standing importance to RUNE quest but at the same time you can use the open ended nature of runes to be a little like Fate. If my Orlanth Thunderous hero has affinity to the right runes can I blag with the ref to call down a thunderstorm that emboldens the Orlanthi troops AND terrifies and attacks my enemies? If the ref agrees, I make the necessary rolls and it can be described. In D&D I have to have Thunderstorm at Caster Level 8 which I can only get by being a level 20 Orlanthi Hero, but I also have to prestige into Thunderous and have the spells Shout, Clap, Thunderclap and Storm first. Or some such fucking nonsense. It all gets very tedious. Whereas in Fate it is all insanely open ended and essentially a story, not a game. You cast in your chip, which is a bit like holding the speaking stick and just ad-lib crap. As I say, RuneQuest now seems somewhere comfortably between. 

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On 5/12/2016 at 5:55 AM, Scott A said:

Well, that's certainly a grievance. What's your remedy?

Amortized, it's a trivial grievance. Any remedy I feel is needed, I think it was in the first sentence of my post.

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On 5/12/2016 at 5:39 AM, scott-martin said:

For me the key is that the Gloranthan "emic" (gloremic) is itself informed by centuries of in-setting intellectual efforts toward a true (gloretic) theory of religion and tragic rejections of those artificial abstractions. Right now (hobby year 1620-ish, publishing year 2016) the POV characters tend to be defensively and even a little stridently "traditionalist" while unwittingly revealing the latent structures of repressed innovation at every turn.

Hey... whoa. I kinda like that idea. Still has a disgusting whiff of Godlernism about it, it seems to me, with its implied rejection of the objectively truths of all the incompossible Gloranthan cultures, but I'm thinking it makes for good play.

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On 5/12/2016 at 2:43 PM, Pentallion said:

 

It was all a dream. Glorantha, the Heroes' War, the God Age, the Spike, all dreams. Little ducklings dreamed them once. No ducks, no Glorantha.

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On 5/13/2016 at 0:35 AM, MOB said:

Gloranthan inhabitants have been knowingly painting the Runes they identify with on their armor, shields, bodies etc ever since the cover of RQ1, but your YGMV.

But back around RQ1 times, wasn't "Glorantha" basically a massively under-described proto-Orlanthi setting, and no more? (Outside of Greg Stafford's immediate circle, I mean.) I feel like 'runes' may have started off as a integrated part of a very narrow fantasy mythology/ethnology; then got repurposed into an integrating mythology for a multicutlural, mutliontological world with a lot more scope, in the guise of "godlearnerism"'; then recently got turned into the operative feature in an RPG. I like the first stage the most.

If some Dragon-Pass crusher painted a rune on himself in 1979, that means all of him was all right about the cosmos all along?

MOB, I've loved your work in Glorantha for decades, and I'm sort of disgusted at myself if I cross you here. But I do think that the extension of 'runes' into the literal and mechanical gamespace of Glorantha was awful.

 

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1 hour ago, Kim said:

But I do think that the extension of 'runes' into the literal and mechanical gamespace of Glorantha was awful.

Hmm, the Runes are both the underlying reality of Glorantha (which can be ignored in-game as much as the quantum world underlying our world can be ignored) and a set of symbols. As symbols they are a shorthand for certain characteristics and attributes, much as in our history alchemical symbolism was at one point understood as representing not only the nature of the world and the basis of personality. In some ways, as recorded in our language (phlegmatic, melancholic etc.) they still are... As such Runes are a bit more useful in sketching out personality and nature, than, say, AD&D Alignment, but in HQ and RQ the variety of Runes and the fact they are more influences, not hardwired rules governing behavior doesn't make them totally literal and mechanical. So far as I am aware, no system makes them so definitive?

I wouldn't be entirely surprised if the Runes model the ancient Four temperaments to a degree, given how Glorantha is a cosmos where the ancient beliefs are literally true, such as the Near Eastern flat Earth under a sky dome.

Melancholic Earth serious, introverted, cautious, suspicious 
Phlegmatic Water thoughtful, reasonable, calm, patient, caring, tolerant
Sanguine Air  lively, sociable, carefree, talkative, pleasure-seeking
Choleric Fire  excitable, impulsive, restless

Edited by M Helsdon

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11 hours ago, Kim said:

Hey... whoa. I kinda like that idea. Still has a disgusting whiff of Godlernism about it, it seems to me, with its implied rejection of the objectively truths of all the incompossible Gloranthan cultures, but I'm thinking it makes for good play.

Let's do it. The scary thing? I think it's actually what's happening within the setting development. Weird things happening around trickster, illumination, spirits of reprisal, all those game artifacts only players used to take seriously.

In terms of tattooed savages, I was just seeing that come up in the first pages of Cults of Prax. So it's always been with us, apparently.

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13 hours ago, Kim said:

But back around RQ1 times, wasn't "Glorantha" basically a massively under-described proto-Orlanthi setting, and no more? (Outside of Greg Stafford's immediate circle, I mean.)

Greg had, at that time, been working on Glorantha for well over a decade; without a doubt he knew more about it than was published, and those who gamed with him doubtless also did!  HOWEVER... the first game in Glorantha was "White Bear Red Moon" the board-based wargame (not "Runequest" the RPG!).  So the whole Lunar-vs-Sartar thing -- with their respective pantheons -- plus Dragonewts, Praxian Nomads, and more (based on the counters & their respective rules)... all there from the beginning!  A great many early Runequest players got into RQ specifically because they HAD BEEN players of WBRM!

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1 hour ago, g33k said:

A great many early Runequest players got into RQ specifically because they HAD BEEN players of WBRM!

Yep, I was one of those players.  Don't remember any turtles in the boardgame, but there were ducks...ducks...and more ducks.  And there were runes on the mapboard even.

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On 5/17/2016 at 1:22 PM, Kim said:

But back around RQ1 times, wasn't "Glorantha" basically a massively under-described proto-Orlanthi setting, and no more? (Outside of Greg Stafford's immediate circle, I mean.) I feel like 'runes' may have started off as a integrated part of a very narrow fantasy mythology/ethnology; then got repurposed into an integrating mythology for a multicutlural, mutliontological world with a lot more scope, in the guise of "godlearnerism"'; then recently got turned into the operative feature in an RPG. I like the first stage the most.

If some Dragon-Pass crusher painted a rune on himself in 1979, that means all of him was all right about the cosmos all along?

MOB, I've loved your work in Glorantha for decades, and I'm sort of disgusted at myself if I cross you here. But I do think that the extension of 'runes' into the literal and mechanical gamespace of Glorantha was awful.

 

.What is so narrow about it? All cultures in our world had runic, symbolic language that they would daub onto themselves and build into their jewelerry and weapons. The languages varied far more for us because none of them were demonstrably true. Yes you have a unified rune system in RQ, but given the fact that everything in the mythos is literally real, that makes sense. Runes are the language with which the deities speak. Or, at least the language with which Gloranthans understand and interpret them. If all gods interact and all are real then that language would have to be pretty much the same. In our world, symbology differs widely because of a human tendency to go: no, you cannot prove that, you are wrong and this is the symbology I believe in. You can't do that in a world which factually represents proveable beings. There isn't room for 'my religion is the One and yours isn't' and therefore the language of runes would have to be pretty consistent. There is room for depicting runes a little differently and many interpret it that way. Runes shown in the books are the basic form. 

 

Also, the God-Learners did just that, they learned of the secrets of the universe and the way it works and again, runes are the language via which to understand the gods. What is a HeroQuest? It is delving into myth and learning the secrets and stories of earlier ages and the gods. OF course there is an element of God-Learnerism to it all, that makes PERFECT sense because that is what HeroQuesting is. The only actual differences are A: being allowed to do it as opposed to sneaking the secrets. B: Doing it the proper way as opposed to cheating and C: Intent once one learns the secrets. 

 

The gods hated the God-Learners not for trying to learn their secrets but for doing it without permission and outside of the proper ritual way. So yes the new runic mechanics are God-Learnerish. Heroes are God-Learners with permission.

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On 5/18/2016 at 6:34 AM, Viktor said:

.What is so narrow about it? All cultures in our world had runic, symbolic language that they

[snippage]

The gods hated the God-Learners not for trying to learn their secrets but for doing it without permission and outside of the proper ritual way. So yes the new runic mechanics are God-Learnerish. Heroes are God-Learners with permission.

I hate heroes.

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On 5/17/2016 at 6:50 AM, M Helsdon said:

[Good stuff redacted for space]

Sure, whatev.  The literalism of myth in Glorantha is great stuff, sure; my issues are that only very specific myths (by which I mean, very specific cultures) get treated as Myth with a capital 'M'. It seems to me that 90% of Glorantha as it stands now was created as a playground for Dragon Pass.

IMG, runes are an abstraction created by a certain intellectual tradition, very geographically and ethnically limited, which is now thankfully mostly extinct (so parochial and boring!) outside of a bunch of dedicated a**holes, i.e. the Orlanthi cultural zone.

Still calling our Pacific Northwest Gloranthing mess "Runequest" most of the time, regardless of the inaccuracy.

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From RQ2: "The Runes are symbols which have power inherent in them. They serve as aids in manipulating the universe. However, merely looking at a Rune is not suf cient to use its power. A character must know how to use it as a symbol to gain any bene t from it. "

"To the practical minded character, interested mostly in the uses of power, it doesn’t matter. The Runes are there, and they work. "

Runes have been clearly described as fundamental to how ordinary Glorathans view the world and work their magic from day one. The God Learners didn't invent the runes, they systematised magical symbols already endemic to every culture in  Glorantha. That's one of the first things we knew about them. Dragon Pass the game was plastered with runes. We have a Rune Priests of Rune Cults casting Rune Magic. It's purely a historical accident that RuneQuest the game system pretty much already existed before it was mated to Glorantha and Greg didn't know much about RPG design back then. At last we have game systems that match the way the setting has been described all along.

Simon Hibbs

Edited by simonh
Clarification
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On ‎5‎/‎23‎/‎2016 at 5:02 AM, Kim said:

Sure, whatev.  The literalism of myth in Glorantha is great stuff, sure; my issues are that only very specific myths (by which I mean, very specific cultures) get treated as Myth with a capital 'M'. It seems to me that 90% of Glorantha as it stands now was created as a playground for Dragon Pass.

IMG, runes are an abstraction created by a certain intellectual tradition, very geographically and ethnically limited, which is now thankfully mostly extinct (so parochial and boring!) outside of a bunch of dedicated a**holes, i.e. the Orlanthi cultural zone.

Still calling our Pacific Northwest Gloranthing mess "Runequest" most of the time, regardless of the inaccuracy.

'Glorantha' started far from Dragon Pass, but Dragon Pass subsequently became knitted into Glorantha and overtook the original focus of what is now Fronela.

Runes are utterly universal to every culture of Glorantha: the basic building blocks of the very different mythic traditions.

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Although it's far from my heart to try and move anything away from the world-intent (any implication that I'm trying to do that will be wholly due to a lack of self-expressive ability on my own part), I am wondering whether the key point here might be to what extent a deeper and more structured insertion of runes into the gaming mechanism will change the world's sense of otherness and mystery. For example, I balked at the concept of "integrating runes" which cropped up post-RQ2 and which seemed to me to place needless mechanical boundaries on what could or could not be achieved.

Reading this thread, I am put in mind of some criticisms friends of mine (with whom I think I concur, but whose depth of subject knowledge I cannot match) have levelled at developments in the Cthulhu mythos post-Lovecraft; especially in the writings of Messrs Derleth and Lumley. As I understand them, those criticisms are against a tendency to systematise what was once numinously amorphous; for example equating Lovecraft's creatures with elementals or seeking to synthesise disparate elements of his work into a single consistent worldbase as opposed to them being to some extent individual stories not necessarily fully consistent with one another.

Thus: if the development of runes in the game mechanic (or their "retrofitting" into a mechanic to better reflect the original intent) serves freedom of expression in-play and the development of those interesting places of uncertainty which make the game so rich; and simultaneously avoids 'reducing' what was quite a mystical set of ideas into a mechanistically-consistent fully-explained rule-constricted set of possibilities (which is what I take "Godlearnerism" deployed as a negative to imply); I'll be all for them. If the reverse is true, I'll be sticking with RQ2's world-concepts but with reverence to runic consistency as a principle of play. I await developments and the new system with considerable interest; not to mention an equivocal blend of excitement and trepidation; but, for me, the design blog's Rune Points outline does look interesting...in a very positive way.

In short: we all have an idea what the runes mean, we all have differing reception of how they act in-play, and one beauty of this Gloranthan world is its sheer intangibility. For me, if the new concept serves such an atmosphere, we're all winning.

Incidentally, the other thing I've noticed here is the sheer shared depth of love we have for this Gloranthan world. Ohh, you wonderful people. My long hiatus is over.

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I have some agreement, and some disagreement. 

For the most part, I take the direct incorporation of runes into the rules as a good thing. But thats because I don't see them as a statement about the direct truth of Glorantha, more nods to a bigger truth about it. The runes we show in the game are an abstraction, like all rules. We represent a persons entire physical body by 5 attributes (plus a few skills maybe) in RQ, and an arbitrary number (but probably less than 5) in HQ, and we know that in both games, these are abstractions that represent a very simplified version of the amazing variety of physical capacity that real people have. Every so often, we realise that these abstractions are inadequate to represent the range of things we know happen in reality, and we need to add something to them (eg we realise that, say, a specific injury like losing an eye or some toes, matters but can't be summarised with an attribute loss, or that it would be nice to have a way to distinguish between someone whose SIZ comes from being fat and bulky vs skinny and tall), and we all kind of understand that this is just the limits of abstraction and there are pros and cons to how we represent things in the game, and understand that trying to read big truths about how Glorantha works from physical stats is wrong. 

I think the incorporation of runes into the game as a different kind of player attribute is a nod to a big truth about Glorantha - that everyones 'magical body' is different, and complex, and there are a whole bunch of things about your drives and world view and deep nature and connections to the magical currents of the world in there. This is a change from RQ1, but I think represents an evolution not a break. That you are limited to three runes in HQ (or that your magical nature is expressed in that particular rune system) is not so much a statement about Gloranthan reality, but a statement about how we might best represent that complexity to suit the needs of HQ. The new RuneQuest will represent the same thing in broadly similar, but more detailed, ways to suit the needs of THAT game system. 13th Age In Glorantha will do it differently again. A non-Gloranthan magical game might use different runes, but similar ideas (look at Nephilim for an example). 

I do think, however, that sometimes the Runic representation within the game system is taken as being significant, and that's problem. I dislike the Waha writeup in HQ:G a lot for this reason - it takes the lack of a Spirit Rune as being very significant, but I think that the lack of a Spirit Rune is a game abstraction that might disappear or appear very differently in another game system that operates at another level of abstraction. 

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1 hour ago, davecake said:

I do think, however, that sometimes the Runic representation within the game system is taken as being significant, and that's problem. I dislike the Waha writeup in HQ:G a lot for this reason - it takes the lack of a Spirit Rune as being very significant, but I think that the lack of a Spirit Rune is a game abstraction that might disappear or appear very differently in another game system that operates at another level of abstraction. 

That's because of the system using that Rune to indicate something in setting.

Praxians have a culture that involves the spirits deeply. Most Praxians can see and talk to them as if the spirits were material beings. This is in HeroQuest: Glorantha terms, the Spirit Rune.

Those unfortunate Praxians who cannot see or communicate with spirits are called the Empty, and in HQ:G, don't have the Spirit Rune.

Naturally other systems would interpret this differently. If you were to run a Glorantha game in GURPS, you might have a Praxian template including the Medium advantage. To the characters in game, there's no difference, Praxians can see and hear spirits.

HeroQuest: Glorantha uses the Spirit Rune to mark such characters because, well, it can. It doesn't have to represent other worlds, so the fact that many cultures use the same or a similar rune to mean Spirit, means that the system can use that Rune to represent a link with them.

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Tindalos, this is exactly the sort of thing that bugs me so intensely about it. So, because the Spirit rune has been decided to be important, almost all Praxians now have a magical ability that is rare for other Gloranthans to have? And that somehow has not been mentioned in any of the many, many, discussions about Prax in the last 40 years? And actually, kind of contradicts things we've already been told about how shamanism works in Prax (such as Storm Bulls being able to interact with spirits without using the Spirit Rune, or the Axis Mundi spell of Daka Fal allowing anyone to interact with the ancestors). And changes how spirit interaction has always worked before (because before its always been the case that either spirits themselves or shamans have been able to facilitate the interaction of normal people with spirits quite easily). 

Not to mention it is a revelation about the structure of the Waha cult that has never been even hinted at in any previous material. 

It is making huge changes to the world that seem to derive from ideas based on game mechanics. Yechh. 

I like the idea of Praxians having a life that regularly involves interaction with spirits. I deeply dislike the idea that the idea of somehow having or not having the Spirit Rune has turned into this idea that it is normal in Praxian life to be effectively an apprentice shaman, and the Waha cult discriminates against people who aren't. Even weirder, that the entire religion is based around the idea that almost everyone can see spirits, BUT parts of the best Waha magic is only ever used by people who people who can't! 

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