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Glorantha Quickstart: Bronze Age / Not really Bronze Age

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OK, this stuff is great.

My next question. Glorantha, and RuneQuest specifically have always been known as a "Bronze Age" setting/game. As Greg Stafford says in the foreword to the Guide: 

"Glorantha is the epic cross between the Iliad, Gilgamesh, and the Bhagavad Gita with the sword and sorcery of Robery E. Howard and the fantasy of Lord Dunsany.

Unlike most fantasy settings, Glorantha draws its inspiration for the ancient world. It has far more to do with Babylon, Classical Greece, Ancient China, Hybrid and Lankhmar that does with medieval Europe, Le Mort d'Arthur. pr the Hundred Years Wars. Its heroes are Achilles, Conan, Gilgamesh and Rostum, not Galahad, Lancelot or Roland."

(Greg also goes on to say "Glorantha is the technicolor cure for bland pseudo-medieval generic fantasy." I suspect that this comes from the fusion of the Bronze Age stuff, and the stuff that isn't.)

So what do you find satisfying Bronze Age about Glorantha?

What bits of Gloratha aren't? Does it matter?

 

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14 minutes ago, MOB said:

OK, this stuff is great.

My next question. Glorantha, and specifically have always been known as a "Bronze Age" setting/game. As Greg Stafford says in the foreword to the Guide: 

"Glorantha is its inspiration for the ancient world. It has far more to do with Babylon, Classical Greece, Ancient China, Hybrid and Lankhmar that does with medieval Europe, Le Mort d'Arthur. pr the Hundred Years Wars. Its heroes are Achilles, Conan, Gilgamesh and Rostum, not Galahad, Lancelot or Roland."

(Greg also goes on to say "Glorantha is the technicolor cure for bland pseudo-medieval generic fantasy." I suspect that this comes from the fusion of the Bronze Age stuff, and the stuff that isn't.)

So what do you find satisfying Bronze Age about Glorantha?

What bits of Gloratha aren't? Does it matter?

 

As Greg said, the inspiration is from Earth's Bronze Age myths and legends. Glorantha is satisfying because we can explore a strange and weird mythological world with Greg's brief Bronze Age Earth outline acting as a springboard. The Bronze Age of Glorantha is its own world and requires no detailed knowledge any period of Earth's history. The myths and legends that are written, or ones that you create for your Glorantha, are all part of its Bronze Age.

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I've never seen Glorantha as particularly similar to Lankhmar.  Gods are at most peripheral to the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser books except in Fafhrd's origin story...you could even call Mouse the first atheist hero.  Leiber's books focus on the personal where Glorantha is more involved with the sweep of history and the clash of war.  Leiber's heroes aren't great leaders, in fact they're just about the exact opposite, and they don't change the world so much as loot it. :) Magic is prevalent in both worlds, but its respective rationales are completely different. 

Glorantha is more along the lines of the plucky city-states of the Three Hundred resisting the waves of Persians (cf. Lunars vs. Orlanthi) and the Odyssey.

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Glorantha is Bronze Age because the major metal used is Bronze. Iron and other metals are magical and used for Rune Lords or elemental cults.

Dara Happa uses something similar to New Stone Age or Bronze Age Mesopotamia, with ziggurats and God-Emperors. The Lunar Empire is based on Assyrian principles, with a Moon Goddess leading a pantheon and having similar ideas to Dara Happa, but with Moon instead of Sun.

Nothing else really is, in my opinion.

Nomads are nomads and don't really have an "Age". The real world had bronze-using nomads and iron-using nomads, with very little cultural differences between them. Similarly, Pentians and Praxians are interesting for their cultures, beliefs and mounts, rather than the metal they use.

Non-humans generally use their cultural metals, so Aldryami use copper, Uz use lead, Angels use gold,Wind Children use tin and water folk use aluminium. Mostali use iron, but they are odd anyway.

Glorantha, in my opinion is Mythic rather than Bronze Age. It has multiple pantheons of competing deities, myths you can relate to and intercat with, HeroQuesting to change the world or, at high levels, change the world of myth.

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I think that the Bronze Age comparison can be quite misleading, because it seems to me that if you take the whole of Glorantha (as opposed to just, say, Orlanthi in Dragon Pass) then there's more that isn't Bronze Age than is. I think it was a great tag for the game in the RQ2 timeframe, but as time has gone on and Glorantha has become a fully living, breathing world, it's (dare I say) outlived its usefulness.

 

Edited by Steve

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Many good comments were made in this thread:

Personally, I would wish to separate this Bronze Age business from the usual suspects.

The Iliad is an Iron Age epos told about the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. The Vedas are likewise epics of the closing Bronze Age of those cultures.

Glorantha is technologically and culturally closer to a point in our prehistory where Bronze Age material cultures like the Urnfield or Hallstatt culture coexists with the early Iron Age cultures like the Etruscans, Hittites or Phoenicians. The Gilgamesh Epic has its twin which is located in the Gloranthan Storm Age (Gartemirus and Ekus). The Argonaut epic is both a thing of the past (Free Men of the Seas, various Storm Age sailing cultures) and an epic of the Hero Wars. Dormal's Journey is the Vita of St. Brennan or his old Irish model more than the Odyssey. The Tuatha de Danann are a thing of the past, even Finn and the Fiana are a Storm Age myth more than Silver Age reality, while Chu Chulainn is the stuff of the Hero Wars.

Megalith structures are used by the equivalents of druids or Germanic sacrificers without any clue of their original function. Four pyramids overlook Gizeh while the Persian dynasty builds their grave tunnels into the rock. David and Solomon are Silver or Dawn Age kings rather than current heroes. Maccabean resistance against the Seleucids bears quite a lot similarity to the Orlanthi rebellion, if you can forget about their monotheism. Josiah's condemnation of Ashera worship fits with the Silver Empire of Seshnela.

Thales, Pythagoras and the Orphists fit into Gloranthan history as well into Malkioni prehistory. Buddha isn't quite a thing of the Gloranthan east, even though those sages over there pursue a similar form of liberation.

Belief in reincarnation is fairly universal, even Hrestoli sects adhere to this concept.

 

I wonder how useful tossing about these mythical concepts are when addressing a millenial readership. Pop culture references might be better for a quickstart than assuming a somewhat humanist education (a concept dying out here in Germany, even my own quite good school education over three decades ago only brushed against that, whereas the people who studied for a high school teacher career when I pursued chemistry mostly were lost cases already in terms of humanist education).

 

There are human cultures in Glorantha which are neolithic or even mesolithic in their outlook. However, there are also cultures with high distribution of literacy and open philosophical debate (Jrusteli of the past, Lunars) which far outpace anything Linear B ever supported.

 

Bronze Age as applied to metallurgy is vastly misleading as well. Glorantha knows no steel (and there wasn't ever a time when iron wasn't hardened under formation of cementite). Bronze or brass as an alloy is the common metal for tools. Elemental tin and lead are traded. Whoever is able to produce metallic tin has all the tools to produce iron in our prehistory. Not so in Glorantha, where the metals corresponding to tin, lead and aluminium are molten from their ores with the same ease that copper is refined in our prehistory.

Gloranthan godbones come as natural laminates and allow tensile strengths that far surpass historical bronze. Redsmithing is the art of creating poured bronze implements. Bonesmithing is about preserving the laminate in the shaping process, viewed from a materialist point of view.

There might be heroquest side benefits able to transform cast bronze bones into godbones for the purpose of laminating.

Note that I'd like to forward the idea that brass is magically different from bronze while being sort of indistinguishable when created from mixing the ores (though not for quickstart purposes). A brass godbone bears the signature of volcanic deities or brass mostali, a bronze godbone of Storm Gods. Other metals than these main metals exist, barely recognizable as metal, e.g. dragonbone or various darkness-related variants which may very well be alloys if melted down. Copper godbone items are superior to cast bronze items in metallurgic terms, too, in addition to being eligible for Rune Metal properties.

 

I guess we are saddled with the Bronze Age label. I think it bears quite a lot explanation for not that much added value. More people will know about Greek mythology from Hollywood products like Percy Jackson or Clash of the Titans than will have read modern language adaptations of the Ilias or Odyssey, let alone translations of the originals into a modern language verse form. How elitarian do we choose to be? Our suggested reading lists are great, and could inspire future scientists of anthropology, archaeology or mythology/comparative theology, but playing in Glorantha shouldn't require a degree. It didn't in the past, although obscure expertise always has helped, and was promoted in the tribe.

 

Given our target audience - US American roleplayers and anglophone international roleplayers - I would suggest looking for context relatable for customers in that market segment. This includes quite a lot of Old Testament references, eastern philosophical concepts as conveyed by popular manga or anime with some seriousness, concepts from US comic culture, where somewhat well distributed in translation French comic culture as well. Hollywood with all its mutilations of myths still provides easy references to the myths, and some comment on Glorantha in relation to popular or generic fantasy would be helpful, too.

A list of topics for Wikipedia research or public domain editions of myths as research and inspirational reading shouldn't miss from the quickstarter. There's nothing wrong with making Glorantha an entry drug into research into something resembling a humanist education, rather the contrary. However, that's not a marketing strategy we should point at our customers, but rather at their parents or teachers.

 

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Instead of Glorantha is "a Bronze Age World", I'd rather say "inspired by the [early] Ancient World" -correct my English if required- for all the reasons developped above.

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OK you stand a chance of letting loose a hobby horse here :)

First whats good about the bronze age/ancient world setting is it makes the world immediately different from the Generic Fantasy medievil / Tolkienesh mishmash that D&D popularised.  That difference gives it an immediate sense of 'other' and distinction.  It also draws the eye to world and not the system, and i've always thought RQ's strength was Glorantha. 

On the hobby horse front, I struggle with respecting the current party line of 'RQ2 was completely bronze age' and RQ3/Hero Wars undermined that by bringing Celtic/Saxon/Viking influences in to define the Orlanthi, and that recent changes are purely a revision to RQ2 standards, if i'm being polite id call it spin, being direct i'd call it horse shit.

 RQ2 had a good few elements within the rules that were clearly hadn't made the break fully away from a generic fantasy/medi evil setting - 

  • Weapons & Armour Lists - Great Swords, Pole Axes, Crossbows as described, Rapiers as described, Chainmail,  all mainly medievil weapons
  • Guilds - a Medievil Social structure.
  • Class of Townsmen - could be argued either way but had a very medievil feel in its presentation.
  • Artwork for people within the Pavis/Big Rubble books often had a medievil even Renaissance feel.

Did it matter? Not really, RQ2 was far better than anything else I saw or gamed with at the time in terms of culture, world and definition. Its only matters if you start to claim that RQ2 was the halcyon days on undlituted Bronze age Glorantha, and anything we've changed recently is a return to RQ2 .

In the RQ3 Renaissance( particularly strangers in Prax, Dorastor and King of Satar), Kind of Dragon Pass and HW, the definition of the Orlanthi with strong Celtic/Saxon/Viking influences added massively to both definition of Glorantha, its sense of otherness, and defined the Orlanthi in a way that brought strong distinction between them and the surrounding cultures. even though they were more iron/dark age than bronze age influences.

The recent aversion to this description and a move to a more Mediterranean pure bronze age theme for the Orlanthi,to my mind removes much of richness from Glorantha, reduces usable Orlanthi materials, makes the Gloranthan cultures significanlty less distinct from each other.

It also makes the games much less accessible, if you say the Orlanthi are similar to the Hallstatt people and the Lunars as Similar to Assyrian empire, most people will not have a clue what you mean. To my mind is self indulgent of the design team.

I would consider myself as a moderately well educated man, with a passing interest in British and European history, I had never heard of the Halstatt people before debates on here. The Assyrians I knew more about because id studied the Old testament, but I think  am in a minority position here. Real world parallels need to be rooted in real world cultures which a target market know something about and can identify with or else they are meaningless.

Edited by Jon Hunter
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2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

OK you stand a chance of letting loose a hobby horse here :)

First whats good about the bronze age/ancient world setting is it makes the world immediately different from the Generic Fantasy medievil / Tolkienesh mishmash that D&D popularised.  

In all fairness, D&D was rather late in providing a consistent setting. It started as a dungeon exploration game, a kind of tabletop Nethack. It did spawn a generic fantasy mishmash. The fantasy literature available in the mid-seventies and early eighties were the input to D&D.

I was a voracious reader of fantasy literature in the early eighties, before I discovered roleplaying games. There were lots of different settings and styles around at the time, too much to deal with in this thread.

If you look at Deities and Demigods, you find unabashed stats for just about any pantheon the authors had heard of. Nothing indicates a setting here. And while some of the D&D equipment weirdness seems to have sprung out of the Bayeux Tapestry (like clerics wielding maces and hammers), I don't get the feeling that the D&D games had anything to do with the middle ages.

There was a fad of Arthurian-style fantasy about in those years. Some of it acceptable, other offerings meh. Coupling those with humanoid races like in Middle Earth and a magic system allegedly used by Jack Vance in a series of fantasy novels I have never had the chance to read resulted in the strange settings spawned by D&D.

A few such settings did this kind of synthesis well - I am very partial towards Midkemia. Not the least for their quality roleplaying supplements, but also for the first dozen or so of novels by Feist.

Non-medieval (and non-Arthurian) fantasy abounded then, and was used in the collages rather than syntheses that went for settings then.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

That difference gives it an immediate sense of 'other' and distinction.  It also draws the eye to world and not the system, and i've always thought RQ's strength was Glorantha. 

Sure. Cults of Prax is everything Deities and Demigods never was - a set of consistent pantheons represented by a few major cults, in conflicts with one another.

Pavis and the Big Rubble is a well-thought out combination of urban adventuring and venturing into dungeons - not intricate leveled mega-traps, but way more plausible episodic locations.

Troll Pak sold the history of Glorantha from an unexpected angle, while Cults of Terror gave a glimpse at the myths of Glorantha in context.

Too bad I entered RQ only with RQ3, in the Games Workshop edition, and my old fascination of the Vikings. Given this approach, I have two rather different mind-realms for RQ and for Glorantha.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

On the hobby horse front, I struggle with respecting the current party line of 'RQ2 was completely bronze age' and RQ3/Hero Wars undermined that by bringing Celtic/Saxon/Viking influences in to define the Orlanthi, and that recent changes are purely a revision to RQ2 standards, if i'm being polite id call it spin, being direct i'd call it horse shit.

I thought that the Celtic/Germanic spin on the Orlanthi was implied already in the Dragon Pass boardgame. They never were Vikings, sorry. Vikings have ships rather than cattle herds in the mountains.

King of Sartar was what hauled me into Glorantha research. It had thanes. That meant pre-christianisation Anglo-Saxons to me - already land-bound.

Argrath was Arminius and Alexander. The Red Emperor was Xerxes and Nero.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:


 RQ2 had a good few elements within the rules that were clearly hadn't made the break fully away from a generic fantasy/medi evil setting - 

  • Weapons & Armour Lists - Great Swords, Pole Axes, Crossbows as described, Rapiers as described, Chainmail,  all mainly medievil weapons

Guilty as charged - the RQ combat experience was the SCA experience translated to paper and pencils.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:
  • Guilds - a Medievil Social structure.

This has been discussed before. Guilds are an urban mixture of cults and clans/tribes along professions.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:
  • Class of Townsmen - could be argued either way but had a very medievil feel in its presentation.

Rome or Athens, Asia Minor.

We got which cities from RQ2? Pavis, Elkoi, Trilus and Dykene. None of these medival, or medi-evil.

And we got the place names of the Dragon Pass cities, and units with names which would lead our imagination astray. Sir Ethilrist, Sir Narib, Baron Sanuel. But also the Snake Pipe Dancers, the Free Philosophers, Tosti Runefriend, the Egg Lords. Goldgotti the Merchant Prince. City Militias - unheard of in the middle ages, common in Greek and Phoenician warfare. Phalanxes, but also dragoons. The Imperial College of Magic.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:
  • Artwork for people within the Pavis/Big Rubble books often had a medievil even Renaissance feel.

Renaissance of course was aping the Classical Athens through the Hollywood-like distortion of Roman observers.

 

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

Did it matter? Not really, RQ2 was far better than anything else I saw or gamed with at the time in terms of culture, world and definition. Its only matters if you start to claim that RQ2 was the halcyon days on undlituted Bronze age Glorantha, and anything we've changed recently is a return to RQ2 .

RQ2 has this claim that Glorantha is a Bronze Age world, though. Right in its four page description or so of Glorantha.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

In the RQ3 Renaissance( particularly strangers in Prax, Dorastor and King of Satar), Kind of Dragon Pass and HW, the definition of the Orlanthi with strong Celtic/Saxon/Viking influences added massively to both definition of Glorantha, its sense of otherness, and defined the Orlanthi in a way that brought strong distinction between them and the surrounding cultures. even though they were more iron/dark age than bronze age influences.

Having been in the middle of the discovery of Glorantha through those publications, I can say that Iron/Dark Age really was what drove those representations. And a good thing, too.

Apart from the name of the metal and the methods producing the metal, Gloranthan material culture and warfare is Iron Age. With stirrups.

Fun fact: farmers lived almost under the same material circumstances in the Neolithicum and in the Iron Age. The tools changed their source material, that's all.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

The recent aversion to this description and a move to a more Mediterranean pure bronze age theme for the Orlanthi,to my mind removes much of richness from Glorantha, reduces usable Orlanthi materials, makes the Gloranthan cultures significanlty less distinct from each other.

I am strongly against the mediterranean (and hence naval) influences, for the same reason I don't see Vikings as a valid source except for the wergeld usage. (That's where the Old Irish come in handily with written near-contemporary records, too.)

I am fine with using the Philistines for a parallel. Best-known of the Sea Peoples (though not as such) through the old testament stories about David. I'm fine with the Makkabeans as a parallel, even though only an apocryphal biblical text, and against an opponent not really named. (Seleucids? What's that?)

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

It also makes the games much less accessible, if you say the Orlanthi are similar to the Hallstatt people and the Lunars as Similar to Assyrian empire, most people will not have a clue what you mean. To my mind is self indulgent of the design team.

This is not limited to the design team, but common to the Gloranthan Tribe which formed via the Digests in the early nineties, held conventions all over the English-speaking world and produced fanzines dedicated to Glorantha and RuneQuest. I won't say that you had to be there to see why these designations turned out to be the least prejudice-loaded ones. (I disagree about the Assyrians, btw - lots of other Mesopotamians to choose from.)

So, the design team speaks for a much broader group of people who supported Glorantha in much more difficult times. This spirit was what carried the acquisition of Chaosium, too.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

I would consider myself as a moderately well educated man, with a passing interest in British and European history, I had never heard of the Halstatt people before debates on here.

I will readily admit that the cross-pollination of the early nineties got me reading up on cultures I had hardly heard of before. Creating this kind of thirst for knowledge is one of the strengths of the setting for me.

With that background, what do you associate with the term "Bronze Age"?

 

For me, that's Nebra Disk, the Henge in Stonehenge, and the salt mine of Hallstatt. Seriously. But then I was reading books about archaeology of central Europe since years before I read Caesar (in Latin, at school). Triggered by a cousin who belongs to the Schliemann family and my fascination with Vikings.

 

I could get started about the neolithic køkkenmødding culture (might possibly rather be mesolithic), and I would understand if I encountered head-scratches and question marks in the glances. Those guys lived within walking distance of my old school, though.

 

When I say Celts, the Hallstatt people are my first association, followed by the La Tene conquerors of Rome under Brennus, and the Dying Galatans from Asia Minor.

The Gauls of Asterix come later.

The Welsh range about in the same region.

Irish come a lot later to my mind, and get mixed up with Picts and Caledonians. The Tuatha de Danann are more prominent to me than Finn and the Fiana or Cu Chullain.

But then, my grandfather immigrated to Germany from around Hallstatt. Family history for the win.

2 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

The Assyrians I knew more about because id studied the Old testament, but I think  am in a minority position here. Real world parallels need to be rooted in real world cultures which a target market know something about and can identify with or else they are meaningless.

I agree here. Given the influence of the Christian education, parallels from the Old Testament might be more accessible. Unfortunately, that means dealing with a culture presented as monotheistic.

 

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I think "ancient world" would be a better description; there's just too many post-Bonze age developments in Glorantha for Bronze Age to to be accurate.

On a related note, I've always wondered why Roland was excluded as a Glorantha-style hero. He seems to fit right in to me.

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7 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

On the hobby horse front, I struggle with respecting the current party line of 'RQ2 was completely bronze age' and RQ3/Hero Wars undermined that by bringing Celtic/Saxon/Viking influences in to define the Orlanthi, and that recent changes are purely a revision to RQ2 standards, if i'm being polite id call it spin, being direct i'd call it horse shit.

RQ2 was written with the intent of providing an RPG system to fit the board game Dragon Pass, which is decidedly Ancient World, and to reflect the transitional period between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, with the proviso that unlike our world where bronze is difficult to forge because you need a source of tin and copper and iron is (once you master the techniques required) common (iron deposits all over the place), in Glorantha the bronze equivalent is common and iron is rare.

This was reflected in the artwork of the RQ2 rulebook, featuring hoplites and other recognizable Bronze/Iron Age aspects. RQ3 doesn't really count because of the Fantasy Earth basic setting, and I'll not say what I think of the Hero Wars supplements...

So the default Gloranthan setting is very roughly analogous to an Iron Age setting but with bronze in wide use instead of iron - but pre Republican Rome. The Lunar Empire, with its sultanates/satrapies is more like the Achaemenid Empire, but with many Hellenistic aspects. And of course, there were celts in Galatia from the 3rd century BC, so it isn't hard to view the Sartarites as a mixture of Thracian/Galatian.

7 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:
  • Weapons & Armour Lists - Great Swords, Pole Axes, Crossbows as described, Rapiers as described, Chainmail,  all mainly medievil weapons
  • Guilds - a Medievil Social structure.
  • Class of Townsmen - could be argued either way but had a very medievil feel in its presentation.
  • Artwork for people within the Pavis/Big Rubble books often had a medievil even Renaissance feel.

Many of the weapons were there to be used by bigger, stronger races, whilst crossbows date way back to the 6th century BC in China, and the 5th century BC in Greece. There were Bronze Age rapiers - or at least they are called than because of their long thin blades. Chainmail goes way back - it is said to have been invented by the continental Celts, and there are Etruscan examples dating to the 4th century BC.

Guilds have been common throughout history, with equivalents in Rome, and similar organizations in ancient Greece and Babylonia.

Townsmen - urbanization goes way back.

Artwork - down to the artists not having a feel for the game setting, perhaps.

7 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

In the RQ3 Renaissance( particularly strangers in Prax, Dorastor and King of Satar), Kind of Dragon Pass and HW, the definition of the Orlanthi with strong Celtic/Saxon/Viking influences added massively to both definition of Glorantha, its sense of otherness, and defined the Orlanthi in a way that brought strong distinction between them and the surrounding cultures. even though they were more iron/dark age than bronze age influences.

Ignoring HW, the RQ3 supplements were still Ancient World, and in reality there's not a huge difference in culture at the sort of level used by RPG between 'Celtic/Saxon/Viking' and the older tribal societies of central Europe - Thracians, Dacians, Homeric era Greeks. 'Celtic/Saxon/Viking' is an easy shorthand for cultures most players might have a passing familiarity with, but when you dig down into Sartarite culture and history, the similarities are superficial, and augmented by a use of Saxon terminology - again because more people might be familiar with the period. The influence of Greece, the Hittites etc. has always been there.

7 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

The recent aversion to this description and a move to a more Mediterranean pure bronze age theme for the Orlanthi,to my mind removes much of richness from Glorantha, reduces usable Orlanthi materials, makes the Gloranthan cultures significanlty less distinct from each other.

'Celtic/Saxon/Viking' is a very common meme in game and fantasy settings, and Bronze/Early Iron Age societies are as distinct as any later.

7 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

It also makes the games much less accessible, if you say the Orlanthi are similar to the Hallstatt people and the Lunars as Similar to Assyrian empire, most people will not have a clue what you mean. To my mind is self indulgent of the design team.

The Hallstatt culture is early 'Celtic'. Whilst some Lunar armour might look a bit Assyrian, the Lunars aren't Assyrians, as like the ancient Mexica, the Assyrian Empire wasn't really an empire, but the region over which the Assyrians claimed control and the right to exact tribute - it was never a controlled administrative empire, like, say, the Achaemenid Empire, or the even more controlled Roman Empire. The idea of the Lunar Empire being (very) roughly equivalent to the Roman, and the Orlanthi are vaguely Gauls was in RQ2 from the start, if you don't look into the details. And the Gauls were a complex tribal society, with some major urban centers - which is why it was worth Julius Caesar's while to go on a massive plundering expedition to fund his political ambitions. If the Gauls had been left alone, they'd have probably evolved along the lines of city states.

7 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

I would consider myself as a moderately well educated man, with a passing interest in British and European history, I had never heard of the Halstatt people before debates on here. The Assyrians I knew more about because id studied the Old testament, but I think  am in a minority position here. Real world parallels need to be rooted in real world cultures which a target market know something about and can identify with or else they are meaningless.

As a gateway, you can use Romans and Gauls, but despite the superficial similarities, it's only an entry point.

I suspect that some of the roots of Glorantha as an RPG setting are rooted in ancient wargaming (much as D&D was related to medieval wargaming) with a dash SCA re-enactors.

Edited by M Helsdon
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I doubt I'm the average run of RQ player, as I suspect many of the posters here aren't.  From a very young age I was fascinated with mythology, and my father having been an archaeologist, I'd already absorbed a lot of the terms and cultures of the ancient world.  (Interesting that Joerg is related to Schliemann, btw.)  He had a storeroom piled with those shallow fruit-crates filled with old sci fi periodicals, so my interest in fantasy/sci fi developed at roughly the same time.  Hence 'getting' the idea of RQ was natural to me, and without a lot of guidance other than what was in the rule/sourcebooks, I was able to apply my own definitions to the main cultures of Prax/Dragon Pass, though generally a bit more recent than Bronze Age...unless you're talking about the near end.

As it happens, I was also a member of the SCA at the time I came across RQ2, so everything dovetailed pretty well.  It was the perfect game system for me.  I guess I'd put my games and view of RQ as in the 'sort of, but not really Bronze Age' category.  Nor did I have any background whatsoever in ancient miniatures.

Edited by Yelm's Light

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I'm going to turn this around and say that I'd love to hear more from Chaosium about what technologies are and aren't in use.  For example amphoras vs barrels (as mentioned in this recent post).

The most I remember seeing is in this other recent post, which was more about politics and culture than technology.  There are also general statements such as "The most technologically advanced human cultures are comparable to our Bronze Age or Early Iron Age" but I don't really know what that means.  I'm not an expert on ancient material culture and there's a lot of confusion about those terms anyway.

For bonus points, describe any interesting technological changes that have occurred over the ages (cf. "medieval stasis" (tvtropes)).

I also think there's something to be said for not canonizing every detail, like whether or not there are barrels, or where.  It's just that I don't have much of a starting point, particularly when you get into distinctions like "bronze age, but not iron age, except maybe early iron age".

Edited by Roko Joko

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On 12/08/2017 at 1:41 PM, MOB said:

So what do you find satisfying Bronze Age about Glorantha?

Avidly reading through the RQ1 book and reading that weapons were bronze as it's a bronze age setting - as a young teenager I had no idea what that really meant. Things got even more exciting when it was discovered that it wasn't really bronze at all but something similar and that really that this metal substance was the bones of dead gods! Runequest got even cooler with that. Why bother with D&D - it didn't even matter what god clerics worshipped, but with Runequest we were using parts of them to adventure with.

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Stating that Glorantha is Bronze Age is important to help people visualise the setting. If you don't state that up front, people will automatically visualize and imagine it with people wearing iron armour and weapons. It also clues people in to expect more ancient world elements than they are used to. So the details of exactly how accurate and precise it is as a term is incidental to me, its main value is setting a very distinct starting point of reference for newcomers to the setting.

When you read about battles in Roman times it's all about generals, strategy, manoeuvre, supply lines and numbers. That's history for you. But when we read the older sources such as a Homer or the Bible, it's all about kings and heroes charging into battle. Achilles versus Hector, David versus Goliath, Pharaoh smiling his enemies. It's up close and personal, just like Glorantha.

Simon Hibbs

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1 hour ago, simonh said:

Stating that Glorantha is Bronze Age is important to help people visualise the setting.

You should make sure to say which Bronze Age you are talking about. There are different ones in archaeology, philosophy, myth etc.

So, let's name a few Bronze Age cultures - the Tuatha de Danann/Daoin Sidhe, the Atlanteans (might be Golden or Silver Age), the Hallatatt proto-Celts, the Inca, the Sea People, the Aun-Jetitz (Unetice) folk who made the Nebra disk, the Hittites (who are famous for being early adapters of Iron), the Babylonians (first empire, not the Nebucadnezar one), the Stonehenge builders, the Egyptians at least up to Khadesh.. All the participants in the Iliad (and epecially the Trojans had lots of exotic allies), the Swedish boat buiilders whose rock carvings look like the Hjortspring boat, Harappa, the Vediic peoples.

1 hour ago, simonh said:

If you don't state that up front, people will automatically visualize and imagine it with people wearing iron armour and weapons.

People will do that regardless. Kull of Atlantis or Conan the Cimmerian are conceptually Bronze Age heroes.

When you name Myceneans, people will envision the Spartans from 300 if you are lucky, and Athenian full hauberks if you're unlucky. Iron weapons, armor, and shields. Still, this is how we picture the Pelorian phalanxes or the Sun Domers.

(This is similar to Arthurian knights in 16th century chrome plated armor... the worst Sean Connery flick ever.)

1 hour ago, simonh said:

It also clues people in to expect more ancient world elements than they are used to. So the details of exactly how accurate and precise it is as a term is incidental to me, its main value is setting a very distinct starting point of reference for newcomers to the setting.

 

So, what is wrong with Anglo-Saxons or continental Celts, Etruscans or Hannibal's host?

When it comes to weapons and armor, especially the RuneQuest folk are stuck in the "put on full body armor if you want to keep your limbs" mindset that makes them think of flexible armor like chainmail and disdain stuff like linothorax.

1 hour ago, simonh said:

When you read about battles in Roman times it's all about generals, strategy, manoeuvre, supply lines and numbers. That's history for you.

Is that how Caligula reported the battles he participated in? Constantine the Great?

1 hour ago, simonh said:

But when we read the older sources such as a Homer or the Bible, it's all about kings and heroes charging into battle.

That's myth or propaganda for you. Really. Roman Emperors have been depicted similarly.

Older battles are like the battle at Tollense valley.

1 hour ago, simonh said:

Achilles versus Hector, David versus Goliath, Pharaoh smiling his enemies. It's up close and personal, just like Glorantha.

I suppose you were autocorrected away from "Pharaoh smiting his enemies"...

You get the very same reports from the middle ages and the second crusade. Friedrich Barbarossa, the German emperor who died on the overland journey, is remembered in a German poem with the highly politically incorrect verses:

"Zur Rechten sah man, wie zur Linken,

'Nen halben Türken runtersinken."

(To the right, as to the left,

half a Turk fell,  deftly cleft.

Not a direct translation, but in the spirit of the rhyme).

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

You should make sure to say which Bronze Age you are talking about.

When introducing Glorantha as bronze age to newcomers, not one person in 40 odd years has ever said which one. The rough delineation of stone / bronze / iron age has been good enough.

5 hours ago, simonh said:

So the details of exactly how accurate and precise it is as a term is incidental to me, its main value is setting a very distinct starting point of reference for newcomers to the setting.

I totally agree with this.

1 hour ago, Joerg said:

So, let's name a few Bronze Age cultures - the Tuatha de Danann/Daoin Sidhe, the Atlanteans (might be Golden or Silver Age), the Hallatatt proto-Celts, the Inca, the Sea People, the Aun-Jetitz (Unetice) folk who made the Nebra disk, the Hittites (who are famous for being early adapters of Iron), the Babylonians (first empire, not the Nebucadnezar one), the Stonehenge builders, the Egyptians at least up to Khadesh.. All the participants in the Iliad (and epecially the Trojans had lots of exotic allies), the Swedish boat buiilders whose rock carvings look like the Hjortspring boat, Harappa, the Vediic peoples.

Yes they will all do, although few in my group would care for such details.

When introducing new players to the Praxians, i say stone age nomads mounted on unusual animals who get bronze stuff from nearby bronze age cultures. Likewise no-one has ever said which stone age culture.

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Martin far to much for me to go back on piece by piece, but can i comment on this.

Quote

 

Many of the weapons were there to be used by bigger, stronger races, whilst crossbows date way back to the 6th century BC in China, and the 5th century BC in Greece. There were Bronze Age rapiers - or at least they are called than because of their long thin blades. Chainmail goes way back - it is said to have been invented by the continental Celts, and there are Etruscan examples dating to the 4th century BC.

Guilds have been common throughout history, with equivalents in Rome, and similar organizations in ancient Greece and Babylonia.

Townsmen - urbanization goes way back.

Artwork - down to the artists not having a feel for the game setting, perhaps.

 

My irk is that there is this desire to preserve the RQ2 rules as being correct and almost perfect, rather than light years ahead of its time, but still somewhat primitive and incomplete in separating RQ2 from the generic fantasy mush/collage which was being widely published at the time.

In my theology I encounter people who  are absolutely desperate to believe the kind James Bible is world for word infallible in english, even as a conservative (in theological terms) scholar i know its not even a remotely plausible position. But i see people trying to retro fit very bizarre arguments and explanations in to Justify this position.

I kind of see parts of the community trying to do that with RQ2, trying to make it more than it was.

It was great, it is how I fell in love with Glorantha, but I see it as young and a little naive, it was at times incomplete and imprecise. It set a stunning trajectory, but didn't always fulfil it.

Therefore to justify every element and say its was consistent and correct just isn't needed. 

  • The weapons were a list which just hadn't been completely thought through and contained stuff that shouldn't have been common. The crossbows described included abralests not 5th century BC Chinese variants. Polearms were designed to take on platemail which doesn't exists in the world, Chainmail is iron age/late antiquity but popular and common in the dark ages on-wards (send art work to Jeff with chainmail on it and see how bronze age he thinks it is ), and if you think that the writers at the time meant that rapiers were the of the ancient Greek variety I think you are engaging in an act of revisionism that would make a Christian fundementalist blush.
  • What we know of roman and earlier guild structures is very very thin, remember RQ2 guilds included the 'thieves guild', the foresters and horse masters guild, and all were presented as secular organisations at that point.  The roman religious guild thing is a good retrofit, but that is what it is its a retrofit to explain an inconsistency.
  • Agreed about that but, townsmen without explanation gives a middles ages feel, i think it could have meant that but was never explained in that way.
  • The artwork was a mixed bag some was ancient world and some was more generic fantasy (thinking inside of pavis books especially)

However the individual answers are not the point i'm trying to make. The point i'm trying to make is that RQ2 was almost 40 years ago now, just cause it was awesome for then doesn't mean we have to pretend it was things it wasn't.  It was flawed it was imprecise and inconsistent. It set a bronze age trajectory and agenda, but to my eyes didn't fulfil it consistently, but that's OK because its only a game.

 

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1 hour ago, Jon Hunter said:

My irk is that there is this desire to preserve the RQ2 rules as being correct and almost perfect, rather than light years ahead of its time, but still somewhat primitive and incomplete in separating RQ2 from the generic fantasy mush/collage which was being widely published at the time.

Um, no.

When I played and GMed RQ2, back in the day, having little to no access to material beyond a few boxed sets, CoP and CoT, I ran it very roughly as Romans versus Gauls.

Would I do that now?

No, because I can see more clearly the setting as a Bronze Age/Iron Age transitional period now, very roughly analogous to, say, 200BC, (way after the historical transitional period) but a world where the availability of Bronze and Iron are reversed, so Iron hasn't supplanted Bronze to the same degree. But then, Alexander the Great, was in some regards roleplaying the Bronze Age hero Achilles... (Who may or may not have been based, loosely, on a Bronze Age warlord, as the other Greek heroes seem to balk at his often savage behavior, but then Homer wasn't presenting an attempt at history, so it is hard to say what is and isn't historical, though the Catalogue of Ships seems to preserve an actual document. There was no ten year long siege at Troy. But there was a great deal of warfare in western Anatolia, and Troy seems to have been an ally of the Hittites - a major power the Bible mysteriously almost entirely ignores - the Biblical Hethites seem to be a distorted version of the Neo Hittites long after the empire had fallen in the widespread Bronze Age collapse).

I was fortunate to miss most of the HW era (the boxed set killed my gaming group, as we wanted to play in Glorantha but couldn't make head or tails of the rules, and in our last session instead played Stormbringer straight out of the box), so the whole Northern European Saxon/Viking thing never entered my view of Glorantha, despite RQ2 using Saxon terminology such as sheriff in its introductory scenario.

RQ2 was certainly better and distinctive from the other games - for one, being virtually complete in one book. It had flaws - the shaman and poison/potion rules never seemed to quite fit, and we ignored the potion rules entirely.

So please don't take my comment as presenting RQ2 as perfect. I was pointing out where I disagreed with you...

8-)

Edited by M Helsdon

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I absolutely agree with @Jon Hunter

Describing Glorantha as a Bronze Age world is a useful shorthand evoking pluralistic pantheons, politically and culturally diverse factions, and an age of heroes whose allegiances are personal and specific rather than to "The State". It distances Glorantha from a "Dark Age" / medieval milieu with the trappings of feudalism and a monolithic church.

I would respectfully suggest that to argue about whether Glorantha is "truly" a Bronze Age setting is to engage in a kind of pedantry which does us nothing but discredit. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to introduce people to Glorantha, only to be told "Yeah, I've heard of that. It seemed like a cool setting, but I couldn't stand the people who play it."

Edited by kaydet
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I have come to prefer "Ancient World" (sometimes expanding to "Bronze-Age-Centric, but with substantial Neolithic and a touch of Iron-Age"), "and ubiquitous magic!" to describe the world in technological terms.

I have come to prefer to use cultures rather than technologies as my reference points, such as "Praxians are a sort of a mixture of Bedouins, Mongols, Amerind tribes, and Neolithic post-apocalyptic survivalists... with a side-order of Gloranthan wierdness, such as riding different beasts per-tribe (including bisons and ostriches and theropod(ish) dinosaurs)... but NONE that are horses!"

 

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I prefer Heroic Age to Viking/Saxon/Celt/Mycenean as all the cultures were broadly similar - Privileged warrior elite, drinking halls, clan based, tribes of deities.

As to which Bronze Age, well, all of them mashed together.

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23 hours ago, David Scott said:

Avidly reading through the RQ1 book and reading that weapons were bronze as it's a bronze age setting - as a young teenager I had no idea what that really meant.

This. I imagine that a lot of newcomers to Glorantha who read references to the "Bronze Age" setting don't really understand what that means exactly, apart from bronze being in use so weapons looking "funny" compared to what they might imagine. I too would have though that more emphasis on the "ancient world" would be more meaningful, since it would distinguish Glorantha from the more common medieval settings used in fantasy RPGs.

 

16 hours ago, Joerg said:

So, let's name a few Bronze Age cultures ... the Stonehenge builders

Stonehenge was mainly a Neolithic creation, with only the very start of the Bronze Age being a time of construction there. The main Bronze Age activity at Stonehenge was the building of barrows nearby, as well as (presumably) use of the monument itself. Sure, there were some rearrangements of the stones during the Bronze Age, but the main "building" was Neolithic.

Edited by Steve
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