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David Scott

Guide to Glorantha Group Read Week 5 - Merfolk

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This is one chapter where I wished for more, including the art.  The three art pieces were from Elder Secrets, IIRC, and the Gnydron comes across as rather pixelated.  I would have loved to have seen a merfolk picture equal to those of the dragonewts, Mostali, or uz such as some interaction between the ludoch and malasp.

There are tantalizing tidbits here, though much seen before (again Elder Secrets).  I've always thought that there was opportunity here for something really unique and different to develop with the merfolk, but too many other directions to explore first.

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7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

The three art pieces were from Elder Secrets, IIRC, and the Gnydron comes across as rather pixelated.  I would have loved to have seen a merfolk picture equal to those of the dragonewts, Mostali, or uz such as some interaction between the ludoch and malasp.

None of these are from Elder Secrets. The 2 Ramos pics are from the AH Gloranthan Bestiary, and the last is from a Tales issue. That said, I agree, it is a pity no new art was commissioned for the merfolk.

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I am always a bit puzzled how the merfolk earn the moniker "Elder Race". Ok, their niiadic ancestors have been around for longer than the Earth Cube, but the bastard children of the Vadrudi aren't older than the westerners directly descended from Warera, and younger than e.g. Murharzarm's Dara Happans.

I also find it a bit hypocritical that the Vadrudi host did a "wife-taking" and did not perform a rape (or in the case of the Gnydron storm ancestor turned ancestress, suffer one). It's almost as if the chaos stems from Thed actually invoking Orlanthi justice and making that fail was worse than the act of forcing a sexual act itself.

The illustrations from RQ3 Gloranthan Bestiary were great in their original size.

 

The merfolk are still an unexplored territory as player characters, as far as I know. Apart from use as naval encounters, little has been done with them.

I wonder whether "Piscoi" is a good moniker. While these merfok have vertical flukes, the Malasp and Ysabbau at least are more like Ichtyosaurians with their need to breathe. I would expect their bones to be as calciferous as Ichtyosaurians, too.

For those traveling to Eternal Convention via Frankfurt am Main, I encourage you to make a 2 hours stop at the Senkenberg museum for some relevant fossils, before the convention. (They are closed on the bank holiday monday.)

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

I am always a bit puzzled how the merfolk earn the moniker "Elder Race".

I am puzzled how Merfolk has their own section in the book (next to such major influences as Uz, Mostali, Aldryami, Dragonewts and Dragons). I haven't much heard or seen much about Merfolk and they could have been in Lesser Elder Races.

I have always envisioned Merfolk as mermaid type trope, but luckily Glorantha again differs from the usual suspects (except female Zabdamar, they are mermaids, correct?). I see Merfolk more as monsters when compared to trolls and dwarves.

The Hero Wars box talks about Uz plan to break Valind's Glacier. Looking through the Uz section didn't give anything to support this. Did I miss something?

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2 hours ago, jrutila said:

I am puzzled how Merfolk has their own section in the book (next to such major influences as Uz, Mostali, Aldryami, Dragonewts and Dragons). I haven't much heard or seen much about Merfolk and they could have been in Lesser Elder Races.

Having played a character with a Pelaskite background (and a distant Waertagi ancestor), I beg to differ. All coastal populations with Ludoch in their waters are friendly with these merfolk - those who didn't either retreated far inland, or starved miserably. All coastal folk unlucky enough to have Malasp before their coasts pay tribute, or fight a constant war as bad as the people of Onlaks fight with the yellow elves of their hinterland.

Both Ludoch and Zabdamar females would be regarded as following the mermaid stereotype. Ludoch are likely follow the Wareran racial type of humans even in the East Isles or Maslo populations, given their close kinship with Warera (although it might have been argued that the Wartain mertribe of Triolini are ancestors of the Ouori). Cetoi are mammalian in nature, so boobs or teats are fair play. Zabdamar are the result of a Storm God undergoing Stillness meditation with Nenduren in order to woo the link between Sea Gods and Vithelan High Gods, Harantara, who is worshiped by the Kralori as the Dragon of the Deep. Zabdamar females epitomize the eastern ideal of womanhood in their human upper bodies.

Sailor cultures often are polyamorous. While pregnancy and child-raising usually is done on land, I think that most sailor cultures are surprisingly open to including female crew, so there may be a lot less of the sex-starved male crew stereotype going on than in the ports of our history of sailing ships, and thereby less projection of female bodies on unsuspecting shapeless manatee or dugongs.

 Still, the Ludoch aren't called the Dolphin people for nothing - dolphins are about as bad as bonobos or our own species when it comes to using sex in social interactions, and their respect for species boundaries might be rather low when it comes to having a fun time. Those ludoch-human lifetime friendship might well include some inter-species private time, regardless of gender. I couldn't say whether sex/gender is a life-long property of merfolk or rather a property of their current phase of life, either - there are few sea deities with well-defined sexual roles.


 

2 hours ago, jrutila said:

I have always envisioned Merfolk as mermaid type trope, but luckily Glorantha again differs from the usual suspects (except female Zabdamar, they are mermaids, correct?). I see Merfolk more as monsters when compared to trolls and dwarves.

All Triolini (all named merfolk except the Zabdamar) are descended from the demigod niiads, the lesser children of the Tritons, who make up the mertribes of the middle deep. Niiads (including Warera) are a lot less human in appearance than even Malasps or Ludoch. Still, their appearance (or perhaps the appearance they chose to show) enticed the Vadrudi (who were a boob-starved, all male biker gang to take "wives". As such, taking a one-dive-stand from some air breathers has something of a mythical precedence for all Triolini merfolk in a female role/body.

2 hours ago, jrutila said:

The Hero Wars box talks about Uz plan to break Valind's Glacier. Looking through the Uz section didn't give anything to support this. Did I miss something?

Nope. This re-appears in the Fronela section, p.232, with proper credit to the darkmen, but no mention of merfolk participation or reaction.

 

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7 hours ago, Dogboy said:

None of these are from Elder Secrets. The 2 Ramos pics are from the AH Gloranthan Bestiary, and the last is from a Tales issue. That said, I agree, it is a pity no new art was commissioned for the merfolk.

Only a Marginal Victory then on my Glorantha Lore roll. ;-)

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11 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Only a Marginal Victory then on my Glorantha Lore roll. ;-)

No, you just don't want to remember the real art of Elder Secrets ;)

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45 minutes ago, Dogboy said:

No, you just don't want to remember the real art of Elder Secrets ;)

Original, please. Long live revisionism!

Simon Hibbs

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I've always loved the notion that there's a vast unpublished epic around mer interactions with the West in particular, maybe tutelary relationships broadly similar to what other nascent human cultures achieved early on with the children of wood, stone and dark. Cosmology notwithstanding, that might be why they get "elder" status here. (And why Malkion is sometimes a wet god.) 

In that light, one thing that's interesting is that each of the major surviving kindreds has a specific set of coastal cultures it could have tutored in its specific spin on the Way of the Sea. The ouori, for example, range from the Brown Sea up the Banthe and then northwest into the Neliomi, so these are the people the ancient Brithini would have met on their shores -- the ludoch prefer warmer waters and at least in modern times the malasp are limited to the region south of the Banthe. Ludoch contacts would have influenced cultures across southern Genertela (including Teshnos), the islands (including Vith and Teleos) and around as far as the lands around the Loral Sea. Only the zabdamar thrive in the Kahar so that's the way the archaic Kralorelans negotiated their initial sea influences . . . and even the God Learners conceded that the zabdamar are weird.

In general the multiplication of aquatic races in RPG of this vintage seems due to the popularity of the Aquaman comic around that time, where every trench seemed to have its own mutant Atlantean successor civilization -- domed, open, helmeted, water-breathing, advanced, primitive to meet the needs of the unfolding story. By the time it gets to Steve Marsh who invented the locathah and the malasp-esque sahuagin in D&D to vary the standard merman/maid, for example, it's already assumed that you're going to need to fill a monster manual with aquatic versions of goblins, trolls, elves, everything. What's kind of surprising there is that Steve says he didn't invent the murthoi, who are otherwise really just a void in Gloranthan lore except for that bit in RM. Blue elves and sea trolls may be a Sandy thing, I've never asked.

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12 hours ago, Joerg said:

 Still, the Ludoch aren't called the Dolphin people for nothing - dolphins are about as bad as bonobos or our own species when it comes to using sex in social interactions, and their respect for species boundaries might be rather low when it comes to having a fun time. Those ludoch-human lifetime friendship might well include some inter-species private time, regardless of gender. I couldn't say whether sex/gender is a life-long property of merfolk or rather a property of their current phase of life, either - there are few sea deities with well-defined sexual roles.

 

 

Given how Heler is both male and female through it's Water Rune connection, the issue of being the 'wrong' sex for 'some inter-species (or intra-spacies) private time',  may not be a problem within Merfolk societies.

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I have tended to assume that the Merfolk were almost exclusively theist - but this chapter, and elsewhere in the Guide, makes it clear that many are animist (and fairly potent ones, I assume). While the merfolk per se aren't sorcery users as far as I know, that's because the role of sorcerous Water culture is filled by the Waertagi. 

 

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I agree with Scott that there is a lot we don't know about sea mythology. I'd particularly expect the Ludoch to feature more in Genertelan and East Isles myth. And I'm also interested in how they relate to Pre-Dawn seagoing cultures like the Helerings. 

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I posted my speculations on why the Ludoch are restricted to the regions mentioned by Dave and Harald over in the Deep Discussion thread. Basically, they had to immigrate after Sky River Titan/Engizi/Lorion led the rivers to join Magasta filling the Void left by the implosion of the Spike, since there were no seas left between Genert's Wastes, Seshnela and Pamaltela west of Kimos. Same for the Malasp and the deeper Piscoi, whereas the Ouori were lucky that the Neliomi west of Genertela didn't freeze over completely.

Ludoch and Malasp probably were among the army of Magasta when the Void in the middle of the world was contained.

On the Genertelan shores, at the Dawn 300 are reported living in Deeper, on the exit of Choralinthor Bay - I expect as many again in the neighborhood of Erenplose, and maybe some near Threestep. They ally with the Waertagi (who established dry docks in Nochet and Sog's Ruins some time after Worcha's Rage, probably after Faralinthor's demise) and accept subservient alliance of coastal humans ("Diroti"). They don't seem to trouble the God Learners of Slontos and God Forgot (but may have been troubled by them - see frex the Iron Fort in the Rightarm Isles), or the Wolf Pirates, and they are friendly to the Dormal cult.

@scott-martin

I don't know when the concept was discovered, but the Seven Great Kindred of the Triolini and the different Mer-Tribes appear to have been around at the time of Charlie Krank's take on the Neleomi Sea and the Wartain mertribe. Never having seen a single Aquaman comic, I cannot say whether that branch of DC Comics had any influence on the hobby. I know that my own deep sea fancies included pinniped creatures and propellered ones very early on in the seventies, and at least the pinniped stories still are around for an entirely non-Gloranthan project of mine.

Bad creatures from the waters abound in European mythology. Take for instance Grendel, the Neckr, and various stuff that made the transitions into Monster Manuals. Mermaids are a disneyfied version of Selkies, courtesy of Hans Christian Andersen.

Edited by Joerg
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So far I’m only aware of Merfolk descriptions in the Gloranthan Bestiary published for RuneQuest III. And the Ludoch description in the Elder Races Book from the RuneQuest III box Elder Secrets of Glorantha. This chapter is a clear extension of this information, but nevertheless it is the most incomplete section so far – especially if compared to other sections: No population table and no distribution map, no reports from Lhankor Mhy sages, etc. So the information about the Merfolk is still very incomplete.

At several places it is explained, that Merfolk is the name humans use for the Triolini – but not here. In the Hero Wars box Tritons are mentioned – but it is nowhere (in this section) explained who they are.

The Merfolk has its own section in the Elder Races chapter – but in the Elder Races Book from the RuneQuest III box Elder Secrets of Glorantha the Ludoch are listed as Lesser Elder Races. So obviously something has changed here, but @scott-martin's explanation from above may be the reason.

Also interesting: in the Gloranthan Bestiary the Zabdamar are Piscoi, now they are neither Cetoi nor Piscoi.

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On 28.7.2017 at 4:06 PM, Joerg said:

...

I don't know when the concept was discovered, but the Seven Great Kindred of the Triolini and the different Mer-Tribes appear to have been around at the time of Charlie Krank's take on the Neleomi Sea and the Wartain mertribe.

...

Seven Great Kindreds of the Triolini? This section lists the Ludoch and the Malasp each as one of the two Great Kindreds. Do I miss something here?

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2 hours ago, Oracle said:

Seven Great Kindreds of the Triolini? This section lists the Ludoch and the Malasp each as one of the two Great Kindreds. Do I miss something here?

I think it's the Seven Kindreds but the Two Great Kindreds.

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1 hour ago, jajagappa said:

Ludoch & Ouori; Malasp, Ysabbau; Zabdamar; Gnydron; not sure about seven.

The seventh could be Sea Trolls, Blue Elves, Waertagi or Dwerulans.  

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All these are good options for debate. Technically the extinct hreekeen (whale people) occupy an ambivalent position in post-HW canon much like the puma people. The waertagi may well have taken a leading role in their slaughter and then taken the conveniently open place.

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Seven kindred of Triolini, which is descendants of Triolina, Phargon and Mirintha. That means there is at least one kindred that hasn't been named anywhere, unless the niiads (the demigod merfolk of the deep) are meant. Zabdamar, dwerulan, sea trolls, sea elves all don't fit this criterion. The gilled Waertagi might, but they are little more than a bastard race.

Personally I would be interested in exploring the chasms where the earth cube was split, That enormous vertical reef could have a weird mix of underground races exposed to the seas and merfolk, weakly illuminated by glowing lava or luminescent microbial lifeforms.

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Humans who live on the shore don't understand the merfolk as anything but an Elder Race. Like the other Elder Races, they are closer to their element than humans can ever be.

 

 

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