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By definition, the Lanbril cult covers its traces and defies divination so a skeptical reading of the texts may be the surest approach to its inner mysteries and role in the larger cosmos. Officially, he's the thief god of the Heortlings -- the personification of a specific violation of the norms of Orlanthite society -- and his network largely extends across the southern barbarian belt, congregating in the towns and occasional city.

Where do these people come from? How do they fall into this criminal way of life? In moments of social upheaval, the answers are obvious: pragmatism and the logic of survival push individuals to break the rules. Those who survive the spirits of reprisal become the seed of a persistent criminal counterculture, raising their children in the family business and initiating ambitious outsiders -- don't push, they'll get in touch with you -- within the framework of mainstream religious culture. When the upheaval ends, some thief cults may find their devotees in privileged positions in the new social order. Others remain in the shadows or die out.

Obviously in Lunar Pavis the crime cults are in play. Official Orlanth degenerates under the occupation while Adventurous takes over, and then when all aspects of Orlanth die adherents are forced to convert or go underground, finding day-to-day support in the closest cognates they can find. Gods of Glorantha finesses the complications here: sure, Lanbril is the dominant crime cult in settled Orlanthite times but in times of stress we remember that "many accepted gods have thieving abilities. Orlanthi thieves follow the tradition of their god." In other words, when Orlanth is outlawed only outlaws will remain Orlanthites.

Lanbril almost certainly forms part of the framework around Argrath's religious mosaic. It may even be an archaic native school of Heortling heroquest technique -- after all, anyone whose esoteric myth revolves around stealing the gods' practical magic (foreign and domestic gods, it seems to make no difference) knows a little something about getting around the wards, defeating reprisal and taking a little something secret back at the end of the caper. Theft is a marker of many successful "heroquest gods" -- marriage and trade are others -- and the RQ2 cult write-up is adorned with traits that probably originally belonged to other cults. Divination Block turns out to actually be the signature spell of the antinomian Selarnists of Afadjann. The controversies around Lanbrilite alchemy can be resolved by noting that mastery of this body of knowledge doesn't assist cult promotion: alchemy travels within the Lanbril complex but remains something a little separate. Lanbrilite alchemy, in other words, came from somewhere at a specific point within time. Religious authorities would say "it was stolen." Practitioners may say something else. They may even lie under interrogation.

That said, esoteric Lanbril revolves around the pursuit of personal immortality and the ambition to compete with the gods. It's one of the few explicitly euhemerist cults we have outside the Lunar orbit. He was just a man, born before the onset of Death and resentful of his doom. Feign Death is actually recognized as a skill deserving of cult promotion, so there's a yogic, maybe even a tantric component to the cult's mysteries. It's probably no coincidence that Black Fang had access to Lanbril secrets before he became a very minor god within time. Argrath's relationship to Death is a little more obscure, but we know for a fact he becomes a god too. Maybe these secrets are stolen. If so, they're stolen from somebody.

Lanbril also incorporates engineering processes that a casual observer would associate with the dwarves or, a little more hypothetically, the East. The dwarves are infamous immortals. If I were a cult dabbling in the defiance of Death I would want to pilfer as many of their secrets as I can, so maybe the fruits of that pilfering go into the criminal gizmos of Pavis. After all, the Rubble is full of abandoned dwarf gear ripe for the reverse engineering. The alchemy may also come from there or from misunderstood contacts with the esoteric alchemy of the mysterious East: if it wasn't immediately practical, Lanbril despised it as no use. 

The cult itself may have originated in the barbarian belt and evolved over the centuries. (Remember, "the gods don't change" but it's transparently obvious that cults within time DO.) Lanbril acquired spells and skills from foreign contacts or innovated internally, which within Glorantha is generally a similar dynamic. The Pavis circles in particular may retain archaic knowledge practically extinct elsewhere: perhaps a Sartarite alchemy (itself arising out of its own mosaic of dwarf and other foreign contacts), perhaps older things rediscovered in the Rubble or traveling in secret from even more exotic eras. Some deprecated sources hint that Lanbril was useful to the Middle Sea Empire, so there may yet be hidden "God Learner interactions" in play. In any case, that stuff, to use the vernacular, is tricky to fence. And so it accumulates, largely unused, dormant but not quite dead. At this point, Lanbril is whatever each criminal magician wants it to be. It's a moveable feast.

What we know is that Lanbril is not quite Adventurous and not quite Eurmal. They either evolved separately and came together or diverged at various points within History. Cult dogma hints at a moment in the God Time when Lanbril "permeated the world," so this may simply be a vestige of an entire civilization that lost before time got started. This Lanbril moment may be in the background when Orlanth and Eurmal met. If so, he may be another of the buried gods of Slontos or the beast empire, but who knows. The farther west you go, the harder time they have keeping all these entities straight.

Everything depends on the roots of Thieves' Argot. Either it's a lost theyalan dialect (perhaps a sister of what becomes Tradetalk), something that modern Teshnans would almost recognize or something else. 
 

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6 hours ago, scott-martin said:

Where do these people come from? How do they fall into this criminal way of life?

One source would be those made outlaw.

King of Sartar: Outlaws are those people who have been cast out of society, either because they have behaved without justice or honor, or have chosen to depart. Although sanctioned by the blessing of Orlanth, outlawry is a lonely, dismal, and often fatal way of life. An outlaw has been stripped of his obligatory connections to kin, chief, and tribe. He is utterly free, but has no social system to draw support from. If he is an outlaw, and hunted by enemies, he is usually doomed.

Given that many of the Pol-Joni are either outlaws or the descendants of outlaws, outlawry isn't an automatic death sentence or exclusion from any other social group. It isn't hard to imagine outlaws forming their own 'criminal families' in urban centers, and Lanbril's cult provides a template for this.

Edited by M Helsdon
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8 hours ago, scott-martin said:

Officially, he's the thief god of the Heortlings

Which is confusing in itself, since the Heortlings are more of a rural civilization, compared to many of their neighbours.

What mention of his Gods Age activities I can find are these:

"Lanbril: The Thief, stole from his kinsmen and so was outlawed by Orlanth." (BoHM, pg 168),

"Orlanthi pantheon — king of thieves Lanbril was a near-human resident of the Spike during Godtime. He was scorned by more ancient and powerful gods who had vastly superior magic. In revenge Lanbril secretly robbed and inconvenienced the gods who had spurned him." (Prosopaedia - here)

"Lanbril was a son of Grandfather Mortal." "Through his mastery, he stole Rune spells belonging to the other gods, but despised some powerful spells as no use to him. (It is speculated that the higher magics were too powerful for one who was practically a normal human.)" "Some devout cultists go so far as to state that [Lanbril's] influence inspired Eurmal to help Orlanth in stealing Death from Humakt." (Pavis, Threshold to Danger, pg 28)

Given this, my guess is he's actually more centred around Esrolia and the Holy Country, rather than the rest of the Barbarian Belt. Certainly a "godlike mortal" rather than a demigod. If anything, given his cult's association with alchemy (which is often linked to sorcery) his "divinity" may have originally been more like a circle of mortals who sought to become like the gods by using soulless magic, and it's merely just one who is remembered by name.

 

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On 12/4/2016 at 4:16 AM, scott-martin said:

Officially, he's the thief god of the Heortlings

To which Tindalos fairly says...

On 12/4/2016 at 0:38 PM, Tindalos said:

Which is confusing in itself, since the Heortlings are more of a rural civilization, compared to many of their neighbors.

The separation here is that Heortling clans raid and steal from other Heortling clans.  A thief in this context is someone who steals from their in-group i.e. from members of their own clan.  This sort of practice isn't very sensible in a small close-knit rural style of society where everyone knows everyone else's business, hence the outlawry clause. Of course it is a trusim to say that  population is key, and the more transactions that are performed, the better the chance for a thief that their activities will go undetected.

It is worth pointing out that the Heortlings are among the most populous and urbanized Orlanthi societies, and it was a short distance to travel to Esrolia with its large cities.  There is only 1 entry for Lanbril in the Guide and that is page 241, featuring the mention of powerful Lanbril gangs operating in large Esrolian cities.

Where Lanbril is different to Orlanth and Trickster, (or Gagarth, Tunoral, and Finovan, ) is the spirit of professionalism in his larceny.  This is not simply a one-off trick or adventure, nor a raid, but a dedicated pattern of parasitism on urban social order as a lifestyle choice, and with the same dedication and organization as one would find in a professional organization like a guild.  This notion goes back to Cervantes' novel "Riconete y Cortadillo", set in Seville, where criminals undergo the same system of professional advancement as any other guild in the city.  While there is no overt evidence to suggest any historicity to the idea, such ideas must come from somewhere...

On 12/4/2016 at 4:16 AM, scott-martin said:

Lanbril also incorporates engineering processes that a casual observer would associate with the dwarves or, a little more hypothetically, the East. The dwarves are infamous immortals. If I were a cult dabbling in the defiance of Death I would want to pilfer as many of their secrets as I can, so maybe the fruits of that pilfering go into the criminal gizmos of Pavis. After all, the Rubble is full of abandoned dwarf gear ripe for the reverse engineering. The alchemy may also come from there or from misunderstood contacts with the esoteric alchemy of the mysterious East: if it wasn't immediately practical, Lanbril despised it as being of no use.

There are quite a few possibilities here.  We really don't know how technical the Esrolian Lanbril cult gets, so it is possible that all the interesing gizmos are entirely a Pavic thing.  On the other hand, I imagine that they could have their origins with the God Learners if not the Mostali, as I can think of few places more conducive to a deity like Lanbril than God Forgot with its Casino Town.  Lanbril despises and steals from other Gods, so why not hide out in a place that other deities don't even remember? Does that sound like a use of Divination Block on a grand scale to you?  I mean obviously it is probably a byproduct of the destruction of Zistor or the weird local Brithini, but it would also be immensely convenient.  And remember, if you master Luck, you can let some other sucker master Death, just stay lucky and don't let him catch you.

Edited by Darius West
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23 hours ago, Darius West said:

Where Lanbril is different to Orlanth and Trickster, (or Gagarth, Tunoral, and Finovan, ) is the spirit of professionalism in his larceny.  This is not simply a one-off trick or adventure, nor a raid, but a dedicated pattern of parasitism on urban social order as a lifestyle choice, and with the same dedication and organization as one would find in a professional organization like a guild.  This notion goes back to Cervantes' novel "Riconete y Cortadillo", set in Seville, where criminals undergo the same system of professional advancement as any other guild in the city.  While there is no overt evidence to suggest any historicity to the idea, such ideas must come from somewhere...

I envisioned something a little more like the Mafia, with Lanbril as capo di tutti capi, as in Stephen Brust's Jhereg series, not so much professional advancement as based on personal loyalty and ability.

Edited by Yelm's Light

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The "feel" of Lanbril is IMHO more about personal relations and honor, less about the "business" of thievery; so I'd go more with a "Mafia" / "Yakuza" (or similar) model that adopted stole some "Guild" structures, rather than a merchant/craftsman whose normal line of business naturally evolved toward a "Guild".

YGMV

 

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Lanbril in Pavis explicitly blurs the line between family organization and professional criminal gang -- the Pavis players were probably dreaming of Lankhmar but Greg would have thought of the benevolent Tongs -- so all of this is probably right. Follow-up question there is which (if any) gods in our modern understanding of Glorantha sponsor "guild" structures. 

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32 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

... which (if any) gods in our modern understanding of Glorantha sponsor "guild" structures. 

Isn't the Issaries Cult almost precisely a "merchant guild," with a gloss of religion?

 

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Just jumping in because I have been doing a lot of thinking about the economic function of Gloranthan temples for the new RuneQuest rules. Here's a short excerpt:

Temples

Temples often own land (sometimes vast amounts of land), which is used to support temple activities and officials. In addition, the temple gets a tithe of 10% of the income of its initiates. In many Gloranthan communities, temple resources are actually what pay for any “public good”.

The temple hierarchies typically are the leaders of the local community. For example, an Orlanthi chieftain is the Chief Priest of Orlanth for his clan and a tribal king is the High Priest of Orlanth Rex for the tribe. As a result, much of the temple revenues get siphoned off to pay for the household and activities of the rulers and their households.

Often, the temple provides a priest with income from land or herds, which then need to be managed by the priest (but the actual work is done by tenants).

For example, 20% of the harvest of an Orlanthi clan goes to the Ernalda and Orlanth temples. The clan chief and the Ernalda Chief Priestess serve as the Chief Priests of their respective temples. This wealth goes to defending the community, maintaining the leaders of the clan in their office, and so forth.

Storing Treasure

Temples serve as storage centers for grain, livestock, precious metals, and other valuables.  Most cults do not charge their initiates (or those of associated gods) to store goods with the temple; Lay Members typically pay 5% of the value of the goods.

Important temples serve as local centers of economic activity. Some temples make loans, charging an annual interest of 3D6+6%. Failure to repay a loan often results in a visit from the cult’s Spirit of Retribution or worse.

Most temples do not recognize deposits made with other temples, even of the same cult. A deposit made to the major temple of Ernalda in Clearwine cannot be redeemed at the great temple of Ernalda in Nochet. A notable exception is the Issaries cult. Deposits made at an Issaries temple are recorded with a sealed letter of credit that can be redeemed at another Issaries temple, thereby facilitating long-distance trade.

Taxes

The basic “tax” in most Gloratha societies is the temple tithe, most notably the 20% of the harvest that goes to the local temples of Ernalda and her husband. Within the Lunar Empire, there is an additional 10% tax to the Red Emperor or a corvee of forced labor for those who cannot pay it. Many communities impose a poll tax on foreigners.

In the Lunar Provinces, the provincial kings need to pay annual tribute to the Provincial Overseer. To pay this tribute, the provincial kings often impose forced collections, such as an extra 10% of the harvest, or a 5% tax on land, herds, and other moveables.

Cities often impose taxes on the import and export of goods; on land, buildings, and property; or poll taxes on individuals. Normally these taxes are low (perhaps no more than 1 to 3%), but in times of war and crisis, they go up.

Finally, the wealthy are often expected by their temple or ruler to pay for “public goods” out of their own pocket - such as meeting any shortfall in temple or city revenues, building a new shrine, paying for festivals or sacrifices, feeding the poor, building or maintaining, a stretch of road, a raising a company of mercenaries, a new trireme, etc. Not a lot that a character can do when the King of Pavis informs them that they will be paying for new bronze cuirasses for all the Zebra Guard!

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And here is an excerpt on guilds:

Guilds

Gloranthan guilds are quasi-kinship societies organized around a craft or occupation. In most cases, a member is “adopted” into a guild. Guilds also serve as cults to their patron spirit or founder, and offer regular sacrifices and feasts. In most cities, one must belong to a guild to have the right to practice a trade, but the guild has some sort of collective liability to outsiders.

Each guild tends to be independent; belonging to the Redsmith Guild in New Pavis does not make you a member of the Redsmith Guild in Boldhome! In large cities, there may be more than one guild for the same occupation — Nochet is notorious for street fights between rival guilds.

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So Issaries sounds less-similar, in that most Gloranthan Guilds are per-locale, like Cults usually have per-Temple Tithes and storage.  Issaries is relatively unique in allowing value placed at one temple to be recovered from another.

So then:  if both local Cult actions & people are under the High Priest/ess of a given Temple, and the same is true for each Guild within a town... those look pretty similar!  It appears the primary difference is a sort of mirror/reverse structure:  the "religious" element (including any ) leading to guild-like organization, vs the "craft/trade" element, leading to Cultic worship of a patron; it's not clear to me how much of a "difference" that is, in-play.  Note that in a Cult, we presume there are higher ecclesiarchs above the chief priest of the local Temple, whereas that probably isn't much of a thing in most Guilds; so THAT is a difference too.

Note that historically, guildmasters tended to form the ruling "town council" for most cities as the medieval power-structures weakened.  From what Jeff provides above, it looks like the Cult Leaders tend to be the political rulers of Glorantha (which rather makes sense!), which probably caps the power of the Guild structure...

 

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On 12/4/2016 at 11:38 AM, Tindalos said:

Which is confusing in itself, since the Heortlings are more of a rural civilization, compared to many of their neighbours..

Although Orlanthi may be less urban-centric than Lunars or Malkioni etc, I don't think they are not urban in nature.

Earlier Gloranthan products hinted at an urbanised Sartarite culture, and more recent products support this. I feel the Orlanthi are now presented as a heroic age culture, very much with ancient Thracian and Mycenaean influences. There is a big focus on family lines and a network of homesteads and villages, but where major tribes interface they have formed tribal confederations and co-residence, resulting in some pretty big urban populations.

So I think it is better to think in terms of population size rather than cultural level. Villages are very rural, whereas the large cities like Boldhome, Jonstown, Notchet etc would be quite urbanised.

I think it is the influence from the RQ3 char gen (and continued in the MRQ/RQ6 line) that prompt one to think of all Orlanthi as being barbarians in a cultural context. However, in the previous edition, RQ2, you just rolled social class, not cultural level. A roll of 'Barbarian' could certainly refer to Orlanthi outlanders, but it would more likely pertain to characters with backgrounds like Praxians or Balazorings.

In RQ2 I think most of the Orlanthi in the steads and villages could have been created with the Peasant background, whereas those from cities like Jonstown or Boldhome could use the Townsman background. So you could have a Orlanthi Townsman, and a Lunar Townsman, and although they would be very different people in terms of values and trappings, they could both be urban in background.

I think the line between urban and rural was quite fine in ancient times, so it would also blur in a bronze age world like Glorantha. I just tend to think the Orlanthi are a rudimentary or practical culture, rather than a barbaric one.

The larger Orlanthi cities are definitely urbanised enough to have thieves and street urchins, so I can imagine that the Lanbril cult would have opportunities for followers in these areas

Edited by Mankcam
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To add on this...

 

We gamers think all too easily Orlanthi = Sartar. Which is quite backward, loosely populated, un-urbanized, as you'd expect from a mountain area.

But Sartarites look to Esrolia and Heortland, when they look for "civilized" culture. Most resettlers come indeed from Hendrikiland, and unsurprisingly, their rebel Queen, Kallyr, turns to Whitewall for hope. Worth noting Broyan is a Vingkotling, hence ranking higher, but also that High Kings have reigned over Volsaxiland for ages. And these are urbanized regions with Karse, Smithstone, Bullford, etc.

Not to mention Tarsh/Southern Peloria, which used to be an important (and rich) Orlanthi centre.

 

Btw, even though it isn't the best analogy: the Gauls was as densely populated and urbanized as Roman Italy, before the conquest by Cesar.

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Sartar is actually quite urbanized. 20% of Sartar's population lives in cities of 1000 or more people, which is actually about the same as North Esrolia. Somewhat less than half the urban population of Sartar lives in Boldhome. Boldhome is a LARGE city that commands the main trade route between Peloria and Kethaela - and between those lands and Prax. And Boldhome is famed for the architectural skill of its stonemasons.

Yes, Sartar is clan and tribal in basis. But then again, so was the urbane Abbasid Caliphate. What the Sartarite cities are NOT are medieval cities, that largely exist outside of the ideological framework of knight, cleric, and peasant. The Sartarite cities are tribal and cult centers, and Boldhome is the city of the sacred priest-king called the Prince of Sartar. During the 23 years of Lunar Occupation, the cities seemed like foreign territory to many Orlanthi, but after 1625, they return to being the center of cult and trade.

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2 hours ago, Jeff said:

Sartar is actually quite urbanized. 20% of Sartar's population lives in cities of 1000 or more people, which is actually about the same as North Esrolia. Somewhat less than half the urban population of Sartar lives in Boldhome. Boldhome is a LARGE city that commands the main trade route between Peloria and Kethaela - and between those lands and Prax. And Boldhome is famed for the architectural skill of its stonemasons.

Yes, Sartar is clan and tribal in basis. But then again, so was the urbane Abbasid Caliphate. What the Sartarite cities are NOT are medieval cities, that largely exist outside of the ideological framework of knight, cleric, and peasant. The Sartarite cities are tribal and cult centers, and Boldhome is the city of the sacred priest-king called the Prince of Sartar. During the 23 years of Lunar Occupation, the cities seemed like foreign territory to many Orlanthi, but after 1625, they return to being the center of cult and trade.

Sartar was a City-Builder after all. He created the City Rings to entice the rural Orlanthi into the cities and organised things so they weren't continually tearing each other's throats out.

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On 12/9/2016 at 10:54 PM, Yelm's Light said:

I envisioned something a little more like the Mafia, with Lanbril as capo di tutti capi, as in Stephen Brust's Jhereg series, not so much professional advancement as based on personal loyalty and ability.

Without question I think you can have both a guild structure and one based on personal loyalty and ability.  The two things are far from mutually exclusive, especially when the organizations tend to be small.  Who is the criminal boss likely to promote in this "black market merchant guild" if not someone of high personal loyalty and ability?  The notion of a guild structure is to organize a trade so that it is able to exert political influence, and for an illegal activity, this is a matter of life and death.  Guards need to be paid off, palms need to be greased and favors traded, information needs to be bought and contraband needs to be shifted.  Now whether you call your immediate boss an oyabun, a made man, or a master thief, matters little.  What is important is that the organization has a hierarchy.  For example, I doubt that the Lanbril cult issues you with your "journeyman papers" in a robed ceremony at the guild hall.  It is more likely to be "hey kid, good work back there, buy me a drink after this and you just made journeyman."

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Great catch. So if, as he says there, this is a vestige of Veskerele or some other transplant cult with a different kind of "underworld connections," the modern belief that this is the religion of outlaw Heortlings becomes a little more complex. MGF here to contemplate a patchwork of suppressed Sairdite cults -- maybe including one or two from, yeah, around Vanch -- forced south during any of the upheavals we've seen Since Time. Some undoubtedly die out or are subsumed into more mainstream cults. Some at least briefly set up realms of their own like what becomes Tarsh. Others, perhaps like the Lanbrilites, persist somewhere in the middle, never quite losing but never quite establishing a status quo either. Specialist cults. "Guild" cults.

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