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David Scott

Guide to Glorantha Group Read Week 5 - Mostali

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David Scott    1,312

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Joerg    861

p.83 box Dwarf Subtypes

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Rock Dwarves have no skill or inclination to interact with inferior mortal races.

Yet the most significant interaction with and teaching of Theyalan humans appears to be tied to architecture and masonry, whether Flintnail’s support for Pavis or Saronil learning fortification and tower building feats from the dwarves in his youth.

same box:

The Silver Dwarf is carrying an Iron Energy Prison just like the one loaned to Vadel (and copied by Zzabur).

 

Iron Mostali are usually called dwarves. “It is unknown whether there were once (or still are) True Mostali in this (and the Diamond) category.”

These were created by cooperation of all eight types of True Mostali. It isn’t clear whether iron was known to Mostal the Maker, and even if it had been, it would have been inferior to Adamant made from True, living Stone.

 

p.83

Is it Diamon-dwarves or Diamond-warves? A case similar to Drago-newt or Dragon-ewt?

 

Mostali castes have Brass rather than Bronze - they don't like or accept the Fifth Element as a separate part of their precious world machine. I used to wonder why.

It might be my personal pet theory, but there are two sources of copper-sky metal alloys, storm gods and volcano deities.

Lodril dove down from the sky and deep into the earth, where he spread Heat without (significant) light, and mixed his essence with either the squirming thing he fought (adopting a note of Disorder, if not Chaos) and of course the surrounding Earth. The result expressed as a metal is brass, rather than bronze. If you look at Peloria, you get the Brass Mountains raised by Turos or ViSaruDaran in Pelanda.

The Mostali alloyist pick up on the materialist view of this admixture of sky and heat to earth as a metal. Since Lodril's descent occurs in the Golden Age, it may have been accepted by the True Mostali witnessing the event as Mostal's plan.

 

Given that the dwarf armies consist of iron wielding Iron Mostali (or dwarves), there will be few if any brass weapons. Instead, the brass mostali will cast and smith precision instruments, tools for themselves and the other castes. It is possible that the rock dwarves respect the dead stone too much to apply iron to it, even though the brass or hardened brass chisels will go dull more easily than iron ones.

 

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Akhôrahil    65

Random comments:

I love dwarves – they're just so appallingly awful. Lovecraft liked describing some of his alien beings as having a fascistic socialist political system, and that sums up dwarves just perfectly. I imagine dwarves get good press in a lot of older Gloranthan publications, as both the dwarves of Dwarf Mine and (especially) the dwarves of Pavis are completely unrepresentative in their (comparative) niceness. The god-awful dwarves of Slon are far more representative.

I absolutely love the Hero Wars sidebars, and the dwarf one (just like the Aldryami before it) doesn't fail to impress. Pulling subcontinents together using cables (and dinosaurs) is wonderfully bonkers!

Dwarves approve of the Red Moon. Glad to see some non-Lunars do. Really makes you question the line of argument we see in most Sartar publications, as well as this week's Prince of Sartar. Dwarves – among those who would be most troubled about compromise breakage and chaotic intrusion – seem very calm about the whole thing.

The images making clear that these aren't Tolkien dwarves is great. Many of them are so weird. Massively approve.

Glorantha sense of wonder moment: Not only did the dwarves invent (not discover, not refine, not be the first to craft - invent) Iron, they could also have invented it to be poisonous to humans as well, had they known at the time what a mess we will make.

Wait, why are cannon much more rare than muskets? It's the same technology, only much easier! In our world, cannon predated handguns significantly. Should we imagine that it's not just about the physical properties – which really are the same only simpler for cannon – but about more difficult magic to keep them working.

I'll also repost what I wrote in the Bronze Age thread:

I don't particularly like the description of Dwarven earthsense: 'Dwarves have a sense, unique to them, called “earthsense”. It is like long-distance touch, and permits them to sense heat, air pressure, and air currents with remarkable accuracy', or the way Troll Darksense is described as sonar. I would much rather see that Dwarves have an Earthsense because they're connected to the Earth rather than because of quirk of their biology, and that trolls can see in the dark because of course they can - it's seeing in the light that's tricky for them! We don't need any God-Learner explanations for how it works! (I'm reminded of the awesome suggestion that Troll Vampires can't stand the darkness, and have to dwell forever in the light.)

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Oracle    94

Another enhanced version of a text previously available in the Elder Races Book from the RuneQuest III box Elder Secrets of Glorantha.

Reading this text definitely breaks any association with dwarves from other role playing games. Especially the illustrations underline the weirdness of this race. It seems difficult to make them part of a campaign, as they are so reclusive. One possible story hook could be view, that possession of firearms by non-Dwarves is outright dangerous. So a Mostali could be the employer for a player group (possible never visible, but staying in the dark) for retrieving this kind of dangerous weapons. Will the player characters understand these weapons? Will they hand over these weapons after retrieved from wherever they were?

Another way to get dwarf in a regular play are the Dwarf Heresies of Individualism and/or Openhandism. If you want to have a dwarf in your player’s group, then this most probably will be a apostate/”broken” dwarf, mortal and otherwise very different from normal dwarves.

Isidilian the Wise is a Quicksilver dwarf? That was new for me.

The Capstan of Curustus illustration: a Project Mangement Meeting? So I’m living in a Mostali world without realizing it? (Really, the illustration is great!)

The Alchemical Transformer: the illustration and even more the description text piqued my curiosity. Do we know more about this?

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Akhôrahil    65
37 minutes ago, Oracle said:

So a Mostali could be the employer for a player group (possible never visible, but staying in the dark) for retrieving this kind of dangerous weapons. Will the player characters understand these weapons? Will they hand over these weapons after retrieved from wherever they were?

Strictly speaking, this is in itself heretical, the notion that non-dwarves are good for anything and can be bargained with.

39 minutes ago, Oracle said:

Another way to get dwarf in a regular play are the Dwarf Heresies of Individualism and/or Openhandism. If you want to have a dwarf in your player’s group, then this most probably will be a apostate/”broken” dwarf, mortal and otherwise very different from normal dwarves.

Yes, playing a "proper" dwarf should be almost as impossible as playing a "proper" dragonewt.

40 minutes ago, Oracle said:

Isidilian the Wise is a Quicksilver dwarf? That was new for me.

Well, Quicksilver True Mostali. Technically, The Dwarf is in fact not a dwarf...

I always thought the alchemy bit was a dead giveaway. :-)

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jajagappa    766
47 minutes ago, Oracle said:

Another enhanced version of a text previously available in the Elder Races Book from the RuneQuest III box Elder Secrets of Glorantha.

And the even older set of articles in White Dwarf #24 where the strangeness of the Mostali was first revealed.

The artwork here is great though, both sketch of the five types and the color illustration.  A gold dwarf held up on a perch by an iron dwarf? Great!  A flying dwarf with steam? powered 'jet' pack?  Love it.  My biggest problem with the color picture is trying to determine which is the Silver Dwarf and which the Quicksilver Dwarf.  Based on the text, you might interpret the Silver Dwarf as flying and the Quicksilver sitting by the power box.  But comparing to the sketch where the Quicksilver Dwarf has the mask, and the Silver Dwarf squats with the soul prison, you'd reverse them and it makes the text seem a bit strange.  I end up inclined to think the Quicksilver Dwarf flies using a pack powered by assorted alchemical compounds and the silver dwarf is doing something to facilitate the magical flow through the 'power box'.

The sketch really gets across the vast differences between dwarf sub-types.  I would have liked to have had sketches of all 9!  (And these really make the MRQ Dwarf book pictures look pitiful in comparison.)  My favorite?  The Quicksilver Dwarf, though the take on the Iron Dwarf with 'tusks', spikes, etc. is wonderful.

Favorite new bit:  the Raising of Tharkarn and Somalz.  Just use a great cable to pull the parts of the Earth together and raise their ancient cube mountain/land again! 

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jajagappa    766
1 hour ago, Oracle said:

If you want to have a dwarf in your player’s group, then this most probably will be a apostate/”broken” dwarf, mortal and otherwise very different from normal dwarves.

One of my favorite events in my RQ Imther Campaign from years ago was the appearance of a "broken" dwarf near the city of Hortugarth - an escapee from the Imther Mountains.  All the rival factions were in a race to get the dwarf for their own benefit.  On the other hand, the dwarf was seeking humans (a clear sign of being broken) to aid him in proving that Chaos had entered the World Machine and was in fact being propagated by one (or more) of the latest dwarf inventions.  Naturally, the dwarf was correct, the "Motion Projector" when cranked at a high enough speed did in fact produce distorted images which turned into broo.

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jajagappa    766
1 hour ago, Oracle said:

So I’m living in a Mostali world without realizing it?

Of course.  And the pointy haired boss is a Gold Dwarf.

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metcalph    227

p81 - the feather on the cap indicates that the Dwarf is probably from Dalamdring.

p87 - list of heresies.  Weeps bitter tears that Closedhandists never made it into Canon.

p90 - Bit of a confusion here.  The Nidan Decamony is run by the Council of Nine?

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jrutila    27

The dwarf vs Mostali thing was new to me. I have used them interchangeably but there really is a clear difference.

Dwarves work (pun intended) really well in the Glorantha setting. The whole World Machine building gives them their own weird reason to exist. I really liked to read the couple of dwarf-based scenarios from Sartar books. In those scenarios (and the Pavis book) the dwarves were illustrated to look quite "normal".

And the dinosaurs are here again. Maybe they are the perfect match as a dwarven working horse.

The Hero Wars begin story is great.

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Joerg    861
1 hour ago, jrutila said:

The dwarf vs Mostali thing was new to me. I have used them interchangeably but there really is a clear difference.

Sort of. Most mostali you are going to encounter nowadays are clay mostali (of the 8 original castes) or iron mostali.

True Mostali don't appear to participate in the replication duties. However, there is Flintnail, a highly unusual entity. From his professed speciality (masonry and architecture), you would expect him to be a rock mostali, but apparently he found a way to use a mostly human unit as incubation unit for the proto-dwarf-modules that populated the structure beneath Old Pavis. Flintnail was rumored to be offspring (or product) of the Dwarf of Dwarf Mine, possibly purpose-made for the Pavis project. But then that was a continuation of the species-defying experiment that was Pavis.

1 hour ago, jrutila said:

Dwarves work (pun intended) really well in the Glorantha setting. The whole World Machine building gives them their own weird reason to exist. I really liked to read the couple of dwarf-based scenarios from Sartar books. In those scenarios (and the Pavis book) the dwarves were illustrated to look quite "normal".

I am not sure whether the minions would look out of place in an underground city. Possibly a batch of clay mostali gone bad through contamination with banana?

We didn't get to see the heavily prosthetic versions of dwarfs operating in high risk environments. While I don't know whether voluntary body modification ("punk") could be one of the hobbies mentioned for dwarves to do in their downtime, a dwarf having lost a few appendages can still continue to function with fine, tin-dwarf-made prosthetics. Anything is better than going to the replication pits.

Speaking of which, I wonder how the dwarfs overseeing the replication process of clay mostali are going to be affected in their orthodoxy. Raising proto-dwarf modules to be fit for their duty appears to require a very mixed task force - gold dwarves for programming, silver mostali for magic endowment, quicksilver for metabolic processes of all kind, and caste instructors for copying the basic skill set and preparation for the future task. Tin mostali for instilling discipline?

 

Maybe this could be a playable mostali game: a ship gets sent way off course carrying a batch of improved reproduction units to the Capstan workers and crew crashed on an uninhabited but promising island, and their individualist gold boss declares this a good spot for a critical repair project that lagged somewhat behind schedule because of lack of a good base of operation. The game sessions consist of staff meetings discussing the progress since last meeting. Some retroactive dice rolling involved...

 

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Akhôrahil    65

The Pavis dwarves are so ridiculously heretical that even other heretical dwarves would think it's excessive. I imagine the Pavis dwarves keep very silent about themselves to the others.

Edited by Akhôrahil

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davecake    203

Just noticed the mention of clockwork. I thought Mostali created creatures were magically animated stone and metal, not clockwork. Hmmmm. 

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Joerg    861

Tin mostali create magically animated stone and metal entities, while brass mostali may create clockwork creatures whose power may still result from magically overcharging the pendulum or spring. Hybrids of clockwork and magically animated creatures probably save resources and converge production capabilities to better efficiency. The text didn't suggest that jolanti are made from either metal or clockwork, btw.

Clockwork-powered tools or prostheses would be useful, too, and could be powered in the downtime work periods without any loss in efficiency. I am all for high-strung dwarves or at least their applications waiting to release their stored force. 

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davecake    203

I guess a concern is that real clockwork takes them WAY out of Iron Age etc. it's always been a bit vague quite what tech they have, but clockwork mastery seems like a big advance. 

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Joerg    861
43 minutes ago, davecake said:

I guess a concern is that real clockwork takes them WAY out of Iron Age etc. it's always been a bit vague quite what tech they have, but clockwork mastery seems like a big advance. 

The entire concept of the World Machine, of cogs and gears inside it, is one or two steps ahead of the Antikythera mechanism. It is what their "deity" Mostal is about, a distant ideal.

The concepts of e.g. Crystal Spheres interlocking shows an imagination of apparati a few steps ahead of what artisans could produce. This means that the myths of artisans like e.g. Dian Cecht and Creidhe devising Nuada's silver arm, or Daedalos with his inventions, create such a mythical reality already back in our Iron Age, if not earlier. Since Glorantha is a place where myths define reality, such a presence is almost mandatory.

I will yield to you that clockwork homunculi were the Unobtainium of 19th century writers of speculative fiction, like E.T.A. Hoffmann. The idea of clockwork-powered apparati matters only to people who have regular contact with clockwork devices, which in Glorantha is restricted to the mostali.

Non-mostali Gloranthans will marvel at metallic creatures, and strange interior details will be part of that marvel. But then fireworks and black powder weaponry are at least as far distant from Bronze Age technology.

 

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davecake    203

Joerg, you've hit on my worries precisely. The Antikthyra mechanism seems appropriate, but clockwork creatures seems more 19th century fiction, getting into exactly the kind of thing many of us thought was inappropriate in Mongooses version of Zistorites. And it seems inconsistent with previous descriptions of Mostali creatures in Anaxials Roster. 

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Dogboy    75
4 minutes ago, davecake said:

Joerg, you've hit on my worries precisely. The Antikthyra mechanism seems appropriate, but clockwork creatures seems more 19th century fiction, getting into exactly the kind of thing many of us thought was inappropriate in Mongooses version of Zistorites. And it seems inconsistent with previous descriptions of Mostali creatures in Anaxials Roster. 

I do see what you mean, but I'm not sure I agree. You are seeing technology that you feel is anachronistic, but ignoring the fact that they also have technology that makes golems. You are looking at it wrong, in my opinion.

Much as I feel we can never, really, understand Aldrymai (they are wood, we are meat), we can't really understand Mostali. Everything written about them is from the outside looking in. It is an interpretation. When we say they have clockwork, we think "oh, how did they develop that?". They didn't. It was always there. Mostali don't "invent" like we do, generally because there is no reason to. Either there is a mechanism, or there isn't. They make Nuadas arm in silver, because it is longer lasting than flesh.

Could Mostali make a Difference Engine? Of course they could, but they don't because there are Gold Mostali to do any calculation. Mostali have no imagination.

Mostali "believe" in the Artificer, and that is the lens through which they see the world. The world is mechanistic, and everything within it is a mechanism, part of the larger engine. They see very little difference between the Antikythera mechanism and a man, because there is none. Both should work perfectly, but one is the construction of a derailed system, and follows broken programming. Likewise they see no difference between a Mostali and a clock; both are mere constructs. Both are tools.

But even that isn't correct. Most Mostali don't "believe" anything, they just operate. The issue is that things are broken, so Mostali have created a system of quarantines, to distance themselves from infection. What we see as "heresy" is actually just divergence from norm. Any "heretic" knows they are divergent, and that they can't interact with "normal" Mostali, for fear of infecting them. "Heretics" know they are part of the Machine, and that they have a role, but that role is to deal with things that "orthodox" Mostali can't risk. Mostali know they have to deal with the world, they just can't risk the infection. So they send out "Openhandists" to deal with the outside, and "Octamonists" to disinfect and shore up and breaches.


NB: It has to be pointed out that all of the Mostali depicted in this chapter are "heretics". Every. Single. One.

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scott-martin    107
5 minutes ago, Dogboy said:

NB: It has to be pointed out that all of the Mostali depicted in this chapter are "heretics". Every. Single. One.

(Out of likes.) For me this is always the horror and the comfort of their civilization. At the end of the day, a whole bunch of dwarves -- maybe a majority, maybe leadership in one or more colonies, maybe everyone -- may turn out to be harboring some secret heresy in their fluid exchange units, hidden from the others. Would love to run a dwarf game some day on a Paranoia model. Everyone starts with a hobby, a heresy and for all I know a mutant power that they can never reveal for fear of extreme correction.

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Dogboy    75

I did start working on a Mostali freeform based on Star Trek, but got bogged down with infection mechanics.

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Steve    372
1 hour ago, scott-martin said:

Would love to run a dwarf game some day on a Paranoia model. Everyone starts with a hobby, a heresy and for all I know a mutant power that they can never reveal for fear of extreme correction.

This is genius.

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soltakss    1,020

I remember reading somewhere that Clasical Greece had clockwork and steam engines, but they were only used for novelty toys to entertain rich children. 

Sure, that is later than Bronze/Iron Age, but not too distant. It is a small jump for Mostali to use something similar.

Also, Mostali use magic to power a lot of their machines.

Jolanti are effectively stone golems, so don't need clockwork. Nilmergs might be clockworky, but are limited. True Mostali themselves are not clockwork, as they are brough out of the vats. Clay Mostali are also not clockwork. Iron Mostali might be, but I doubt it. We had an Iron Mostali NPC who was clockwork but covered in an outer skin, he had red glowing eyes and spoke with an Austrian accent ...

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Dogboy    75
27 minutes ago, soltakss said:

We had an Iron Mostali NPC who was clockwork but covered in an outer skin, he had red glowing eyes and spoke with an Austrian accent ...

Ah'll be behk!!!

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Joerg    861

Apparently, a convention scenario written in 1993 saw a limited distribution at auctions:

http://glorantha.temppeli.org/digest/gd7/2000.02/3127.html

While this is an opportunity for MGF and silliness, it doesn't quite do justice to the Mostali in Gloranthan myth.

8 hours ago, Dogboy said:

Much as I feel we can never, really, understand Aldrymai (they are wood, we are meat), we can't really understand Mostali. Everything written about them is from the outside looking in. It is an interpretation.

The same is true for some of the human cultures as well. Do we really get into the Fonritian mindset, or the Dara Happan one? Orlanthi with their rebellious nature are probably easier, and still their clan structure is something we only begin to understand. Ian's Red Cow books are the first where the women's outsider origin has been tracked and used, for instance.

Quote

When we say they have clockwork, we think "oh, how did they develop that?". They didn't. It was always there. Mostali don't "invent" like we do, generally because there is no reason to. Either there is a mechanism, or there isn't. They make Nuadas arm in silver, because it is longer lasting than flesh.

And you probably better bet that there is (or used to be) a mechanism doing things.

Quote

Could Mostali make a Difference Engine? Of course they could, but they don't because there are Gold Mostali to do any calculation. Mostali have no imagination.

While I agree that non-defective clay mostali have no imagination, I think that True Mostali might be somewhat different in that regard.

Mostali certainly have observed the minions of Grower, and came up with their own, improved copies of those. The mineral monsters in Anaxial's Roster are such creations.

Isidilian's Cannon Cult and Alchemical Transformer are part of his Openhandist Individualist leanings. Isidilian is something like a counterpart of Leonardo the Scientist, able to eperiment and to utilize the unpredictable humans.

Describing him as friendly might be missing the point. I am convinced that he masterminded the appearance of the dwarf army after the collapse of the Clanking City defenders through his agent. It may have been his influence that allowed the leak of mostali techniques and technologies to the Sartar dynasty.

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Mostali "believe" in the Artificer, and that is the lens through which they see the world. The world is mechanistic, and everything within it is a mechanism, part of the larger engine. They see very little difference between the Antikythera mechanism and a man, because there is none. Both should work perfectly, but one is the construction of a derailed system, and follows broken programming. Likewise they see no difference between a Mostali and a clock; both are mere constructs. Both are tools.

In all fairness, there are certain human philosophies which aren't that far removed from this world-view. None of them very pleasant or humane. Maoism, for instance, combining an already quite mechanical vision of Confucianism with Marxism and other de-humanizing tendencies in 19th and 20th century philosophy. "Intellectual national socialism", worship of Ayn Rand, various doomsday sectarian stuff (apparently including some of the current people in the White House). And basically any movement that puts dogma over the individual.

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But even that isn't correct. Most Mostali don't "believe" anything, they just operate.

Facio, ergo sum - I work, therefore I am.

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The issue is that things are broken, so Mostali have created a system of quarantines, to distance themselves from infection. What we see as "heresy" is actually just divergence from norm. Any "heretic" knows they are divergent, and that they can't interact with "normal" Mostali, for fear of infecting them. "Heretics" know they are part of the Machine, and that they have a role, but that role is to deal with things that "orthodox" Mostali can't risk. Mostali know they have to deal with the world, they just can't risk the infection. So they send out "Openhandists" to deal with the outside, and "Octamonists" to disinfect and shore up and breaches.

There is no outside in Glorantha, all (except blatant Chaos) is part of the World Machine. There are out-of-control minions of Grower, one of the first features of the World Machine producing uncontrollable chain reactions.

Quote

NB: It has to be pointed out that all of the Mostali depicted in this chapter are "heretics". Every. Single. One.

Are there non-heretical mostali at all? I am convinced that even the most orthodox diamond mostali is painfully over-aware of its shortcomings. Some embrace these shortcomings, joining one of the popular heresies like Individualism and Openhandism, while others self-censor rigidly and attempt to be more of a good little gear in the machine than is demanded from them in order to function properly.

True Mostal probably carry a lot less of this self-defeating distrust in their own rightness.

 

Hasta la Vista, mortals...

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