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Glorantha-style Heroquesting in Modern Earth


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The idea here is to transplant the concept of Heroquesting from Glorantha into the world we see outside our windows, or at least one superficially similar to it. A loose parallel would be drawn between the 18th & 19th Centuries & the Storm Age - as the powers of the Enlightenment & Industrial Revolution lead to revolutions & upheaval, but also to unchecked imperial colonialism, while the World Wars present a rough analog to the Great Darkness.

The era of Time parallel begins in 1973. That's the end of the era of the post-war boom and the beginning of the world as we know it. 1973 in particular has the end of the Vietnam war, Nixon's collapse, the first world-wide TV broadcast (Elvis in Hawaii!), the first cell phone and VoIP calls are placed, Secretariat's Triple Crown win, the birth of TCP/IP & Ethernet networks, the OPEC oil embargo, The Miami Dolphins' perfect season, The UK & Ireland join the EEC, the US Supreme Court rules on Roe vs Wade, the first space station (Skylab), Lexis-Nexis comes online, women become commercial airline pilots and are admitted to the London Stock Exchange, the personal computer (Xerox Alto), Led Zeppelin carries out their great world tour that gets filmed for The Song Remains the Same, the US & USSR sign the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, inflation & the decoupling of productivity gains from workers' income growth begin the long unmaking of the Middle-Class, Special Education mandates begin, conservative think-tanks like The Heritage Foundation begin their long counter-attack against the progress of the late 1960's & early 70's, Hank Arron finishes the season one-run short of Babe Ruth's home run record and expresses fear of assassination over Winter break, the first battered women's shelters open, motor vehicle databases are first used by law enforcement to hunt for (then unidentified) serial killer Ted Bundy (he was caught otherwise before the computer assisted investigators got to him, but his name was on their list), the tide of Cultural Revolution begins to recede in China as the 10th Party Congress brings Deng Xioping and Zhou Enlai back into influence, Pink Floyd releases Dark Side of the Moon, DDT is banned and the Endangered Species Act is passed, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match,Gravity's Rainbowby Thomas Pynchon is published, Bruce Lee dies (or does he?) & Enter the Dragonis released six days later, CAT scans & MRI deployed, laser bar code readers appear in grocery stores, fiber optic cable is invented, genetic engineering via recombinant DNA is invented, Dick Clark begins the year with his first New Year's Rockin Eve, and Google's founders are both born. Really, while many of the seeds that were planted that year took many years to bear full fruits, our current world began then.  Something about the increasing interconnectedness of the world coupled with major cultural milestones and increasing societal self awareness around the globe brought about a metaphysical shift.

The idea then is that people in this modern epoch can under the right circumstances walk in the footsteps of prophets, inventors, rebels, conquerors, saviors, explorers, lover, scientists, and other such Heroes of bygone eras. It might be in light form in the sense of carrying out deeds in the regular world that parallel the acts of a a bygone hero in a mythic sense, such as when the crowds in Kinshasa helped their Hero Muhammad Ali channel Daud to defeat the infidel giant George Foreman. At other times, a quester might go so far as to cross over to the Other Side and walk in the footsteps of John Brown, Joan of Arc, Moses, Julius Reuter, Annie Oakley, Han Xin, d'Artagnan, Beowulf, Kibwebanduka, Jesus, Sitting Bull, Paul Revere, Grace O'Malley, John Henry, the Buddha, Davey Crockett, or whomever; and return with some sort of been for themselves or their supporting community. As with Gloranthan theism, identification with the hero you're emulating is key. More recent figures from your own culture group are easier to identify with than foreign ones in the distant past. The key though is what's in your heart, whatever differences there may be between the quester and the figure emulated are challenges to overcome, but not insurmountable ones for the right quester.

Churches, fraternal orders, unions, think tanks, advocacy groups, criminal organizations, underground music scenes, and so on posses secrets & lore that aid in Heroquesting, and provide support for their questers just as cults in Glorantha do. Joseph Campbell may still be alive, and his works are beginning to spawn something of a God Learner movement among certain groups of scholars and counter-culture mystics. Campbell adherents regard Joseph Smith's achievements with a combination of curiosity, suspicion, fear, and admiration, especially WRT rumors of Mormon questers being able to reach the Garden of Eden via crossing over at Independence, Missouri. Attempts at such (Arkatic?) mytho-historical hacking as the Latter Day Saints movement accomplished have proved unfruitful since '73. Jim Jones's People's Temple likely represents a failed attempt, and the results of the PRC's attempt to seize control of the Dalai Lama/Panchen Lama cycle have yet to play out.

This is a world of magic & miracles, but mostly personal & subtle rather than huge & flashy. That's not to say that huge & flashy never happen, but such things are rare. A guitar can kill Fascists, though not necessarily immediately or with laser beams.

In place of the Runes, we have opposing sets of principles: Dominion/Liberation, Compassion/Acquisition, Change/Tradition, Collectivism/Individualism, Glory/Serenity, Perseverance/Defiance, Work/Play, Perception/Expression, perhaps others. Most people can only embody one side of a pair, though a sufficiently enlightened individual could transcend the duality. Perhaps Stalin embodied Collectivism, Dominion, and Perseverance, while Gandhi embodied Collectivism, Liberation, and Perseverance&Defiance-as-one.

How would you frame adventures in this environment, and when would you set them? Where would you go? Whom would you meet? What would you find?


(cross-posted to RPG.net forum)

Edited by JonL
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Glorantha reflects a vast human history of religion and symbolism.  This sounds like a  "Unknown Armies" campaign to me,   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_Armies 

(with a degree of rule tweaking involved).  What I see being described  by you JonL is a magical realist take on the modern world, and that has the makings, ultimately, of a "conspiracy campaign".

You can see hero questing in all religions.  In fact, in ancient Greece, the "hero quest" was used by the cultural elite to indoctrinate soldiers for war.  The idea being that the "lay member" would be inducted into the "mystery cult" wherein the hero "Theseus" infiltrates a maze and kills the "Minotaur"... then you arm them up and chuck the youngsters in a boat to invade Minoan Crete. This was so successful in the case of the "Hercules" myth that they re-used the character and the core group of fighters 12 times.  All too often "hero quests" were a way of lending social cache to a deeply dangerous and unpleasant activity... for example, police work is just awful, and presents a totally demoralizing perspective on human nature that few serving officers ever really escape from, and so we mythologize the profession with TV shows so young idiots who think they're tough will want to do it. The same goes for espionage, medicine, military service, space travel; you get the picture.  One might similarly suggest that forms of talking therapies in mental health can be a form of hero quest where the aim is to venerate and heal the "deity implicit in the patient"; a pleasantly Hindu perspective on psychotherapy.  I discovered that in Hinduism there are sects that turn great Cricketers into deities, as they become avatars of divinity through their excellence at the game, which is strangely relevant to what you seem to be talking about JonL.  The crucial thing is, what is the purpose of the myth?  When you embody the hero, society now owns a piece of your successes and your failures, and so in a way what it really does is "plant the limelight" on the newly minted initiate, for good or ill.  I use the term initiate here to indicate someone who has been initiated into the mystery that the "hero quest" ritual invokes.

As to hero questing, every religion does it to some degree, and always have.  Claude Levi-Strauss the Structuralist Anthropologist


provides valuable insights into how to read a myth within its cultural setting that could be valuable in systematizing myths in any society.  The true God Learners are not scientists or religious people, but Anthropologists. Religion requires a viewing the world through a system of mythic references.  Science works whether people believe in it or not.  Anthropology however teaches how to hack world views from the perspective of an outsider.  Compare the work of Wade Davis "The Serpent and the Rainbow"


wherein, as an ethnobotanist Davis infiltrated Voudon to uncover the secrets of how to make a zombie, leading to the discovery of tetrodotoxin's use as a new general anaesthetic,  leading to pharmaceutical corporations plundering of indigenous plant lore across the globe using similar methods.  Classic God Learnerism in the modern era.  One might even say that the field researcher in an exotic location is almost its own mythic trope these days.



Edited by Darius West
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