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Spoiler warning: In the incredibly unlikely event that you are going to be playing in one of my games at u-con in November, please don't read this thread.

First time poster here.  I'm running a Gloranthan murder mystery using the Cortex + system at a convention in November and I have a question.

The setup is that during the time of the Imperial occupation a Heortling stick-picker has found the bones of a murdered Imperial citizen lodged amongst the mud in the banks of the Stream near Duck Point.  The PCs are going to be a motley association of Lunar-penumbra characters who get pulled in by the provincial overseer of Duck Point to help investigate with the threat of heavy-handed action from the Imperial Army hanging over them if they don't move quickly.

Ideally, I want to be able to reveal that the victim was involved in some extremely unsavory practices -- something that would be shocking, even for cynical, world-weary Lunars.  The obvious Gloranthan taboo is consorting with Chaos, but given the Empire's permissive attitude towards Chaos I'm not sure that makes sense...?

Any thoughts on what would make for a good reveal?  I'd like to stay away from the standard icky-boos like rape and child abuse because 1) they're hackneyed and  2) I want to keep it PG-13 as I don't know what kind of audience I'll get at the con.

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worship of Vivamort or stuff to do with vampires in the Upland Marsh

 

or duck vampires :)

Edited by Martin
added Count Duckula goodness
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7 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

The obvious Gloranthan taboo is consorting with Chaos, but given the Empire's permissive attitude towards Chaos I'm not sure that makes sense...?

It makes complete sense. The vast majority of Lunars are of course aware of their goddess’s connect with chaos, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t fear it or participate in its use. A common stricture for all lunar initiates is (from Pavis GTA & HeroQuest Glorantha}:

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Never use the Moon Rune as the Chaos Rune

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The  Lunar Way in no way condones the worship of chaos entities which follow the ways of Gbaji and fall into moral depravity. The religion and state do not forbid it, either, as required by their philosophy. The rulers are adroit at manipulating the results if people do fall into the way of the Chaos gods. Lunar history contains lessons of generals and priests gone bad, and point them out as bad examples.

Lunar initiates can at any time swap their moon rune for the chaos rune! It’s normall permanent and they normally get at minimum a chaos taint. The occasional initiate turning into a chaos monster will certainly keep them in line. Most will be killed out of hand for safety and as an example to obey your strictures.

There’s more info on this in the aforementioned books (HeroQuest Glorantha is the more recent).

Edited by David Scott

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Having heard enough Lunar commanders defending unpleasant dietary or cultural requirements by parts of their troops, I doubt that even anthropophagy or rape would cause an outrageous outrage among the Lunar forces.

Way more likely to cause outrage would be diversion of magic for personal rather than army purposes by people not entitled to do so. (I.e. this perfectly acceptable praxis for Yelmic nobility would be outrageous for non-Lunar, non-Yelmic Pelorians.) Think "caste crime", which only Lunars are exempted from in the Empire.

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Remember that accepting Chaos as part of the cosmos doesn't mean that they accept it in their everyday life any more than accepting the existence of Darkness would automatically mean putting up with Trolls. A Thanatari cultist is not going to be any more tolerated by Lunars any more than by anyone else.

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Thanks for the responses, folks.

After giving the matter some thought, I think I am going to go with Chaos worship after all.  It's the classical Gloranthan original sin.  It's thematic.  It avoids lots of silliness with regard to Ducks (even though I am pro-Durulz and intend to weave them into a longer campaign if I ever get it off the ground, that's not what I'm going for here).  The Vivamort/Upland Marsh stuff is cool too, but zombies are just so over-done that I think Chaos plays better to the strengths of the Gloranthan setting.

So that brings me to a follow-up question: What does Chaos want?  I mean, I know what Cthulhu cultists want.  And I know what Chaos cultists in Warhammer's Old World want, but I'm a little vague what Gloranthan Chaos worshippers actually do.  Do they just use the power of Chaos to fuel other magics?  Do they open portals/gateways to realms of Chaos?  Mutate existing beings?  Make sacrifices to and worship the Old Ones^H^H^H Unholy Trio?  Um ... other stuff?

And what's the deal with "turning into a chaos monster" -- is it all Nurgle's rot and then you turn into Sidney Crumb from Captain Britain (now there's an obscure reference for you) or is it something different?

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2 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

So that brings me to a follow-up question: What does Chaos want? 

Chaos wants to destroy, defile, murder, corrupt, mutate and all of the other 'negatives' that you can think of.

They do it because they are chaotic, not because of any personal choice, but because it is in their nature. They are born that way. It is who/what they are. Chaos is the antithesis of everything that is 'natural/normal' within Glorantha. This is why normal folks are sh*t-scared of Chaos as it messes with their minds and their 'world-view'.

Uroxi/Storm Bull worshippers, with all of their anti-social behavior problems are tolerated within Orlanthi society, because they are amongst the few who can reliably stand against them.

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Chaos is nihilist, basically. Chaotic beings do awful things for two reasons 1) they gain power or pleasure or other perceived advantage to themselves by doing so and/or 2) why not?

Chaos rejects all law and morality. It is, itself, not just a rejection of law and morality as we know it, but natural law. Chaos says, in a world steeped in and sustained by magic, magic that depends on, and is controlled by, subjective understanding, every law and moral principle we know may be meaningless. Of course, many chaotic beings don't understand it at that intellectual level. Most of them just know that something is wrong inside and they hate everything. 

An Illuminated chaotic being knows that they aren't wrong, just different, and they may not hate everything. But they still have a somewhat nihilist core worldview, or at least, know (at a deep, innate level) that there are no objective laws and morals. Some over come this by finding a moral centre based in a subjective, usually carefully reasoned, understanding of the universe , and only commit atrocities if if is considered absolutely necessary (most Arkati or Darudists, etc), some do not and find no reason not to commit atrocities if there is some perceived value in it to them. Sometimes they never find any sort of centre and basically go mad. Which exact category the Lunars, or any given illuminate for that matter, falls into is a matter of debate. 

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2 minutes ago, davecake said:

Chaos is nihilist, basically. Chaotic beings do awful things for two reasons 1) they gain power or pleasure or other perceived advantage to themselves by doing so and/or 2) why not?

Chaos rejects all law and morality. It is, itself, not just a rejection of law and morality as we know it, but natural law. Chaos says, in a world steeped in and sustained by magic, magic that depends on, and is controlled by, subjective understanding, every law and moral principle we know may be meaningless. Of course, many chaotic beings don't understand it at that intellectual level. Most of them just know that something is wrong inside and they hate everything. 

Chaos is all that, but the Devil was more - it was evil for evil's sake. It isn't clear whether Chaos would have ultimately entered the world and fragmented it, but the description of the Unholy Trio clearly states that the Birth of Wakboth added intent to that nihilism.

I will grant the Lunars that they mostly refrain from that added evil intent (but then the Dara Happans are all too happy to provide it for their imperial policy).

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10 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

So that brings me to a follow-up question: What does Chaos want?  I mean, I know what Cthulhu cultists want.  And I know what Chaos cultists in Warhammer's Old World want, but I'm a little vague what Gloranthan Chaos worshippers actually do.  Do they just use the power of Chaos to fuel other magics?  Do they open portals/gateways to realms of Chaos?  Mutate existing beings?  Make sacrifices to and worship the Old Ones^H^H^H Unholy Trio?  Um ... other stuff?

If you have access to Cults of Terror, that's an excellent starting point. It depends on what the chaos is. If it's not sentient, it likely doesn't want anything. It just does what it does to live and multiply. So at the very basic level chaos ooze is the chaos that entered the world, all it does is ooze and taint stuff with chaos. Sentient beings who realise they are chaotic will join a cult to channel their needs and abilities. I don't think chaos itself has an agenda for evil - that only comes with cunning then intelligence. Have a look at the reason for continued existence for the chaos cults. Chaos is then a tool for getting your beliefs into the world for example:

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Mallia - Some glory in the worship of such pervasiveness [of disease], as the entire race of broos dedicate themselves to her worship.

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Bagog - The worship of Bagog provides the minimum culture needed [for scorpionmen] to survive among the hardships of the wilderness.

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Thed - The great majority of Thed’s worshippers are broos and other such vile creatures. They worship her as their mother and the source of their existence. It is because of her that Chaos came into the world.

So I would say that chaos itself wants nothing, it's the chaos cults that are the vehicles of chaos, giving worshippers a purpose in life. It's what the cults do that is important, they  give purpose and direction to chaos worshippers. 

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Chaos includes both moral evil (Wakboth) and the intrinsic brokenness of the universe (Kajabor). The former is a result of nihilism, the latter shows nihilism is justified because we live in a world without moral law. But it's circular. Without the chaos cults, and the moral wickedness of eg the Unholy Trio, the non-sentient forms of chaos like gorp etc might have stayed outside the world. The Void or the Pre-Dark are scary but part of the metaphysics of creation - it's when Chaos intrudes into creation, sentient or not, that it becomes dangerous, and that may not be something that happens without magic that makes it so. Without Pocharngo, would there be gorp at all?

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17 hours ago, davecake said:

Chaos includes both moral evil (Wakboth) and the intrinsic brokenness of the universe (Kajabor)

Wakboth got squashed by the Block and Kajabor was eaten by Arachne Solara to become time. They aren't an expression of chaos in Glorantha anymore - no worshippers, just concepts.

http://www.glorantha.com/docs/kajabor/

 

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On 10/30/2017 at 5:29 AM, David Scott said:

If you have access to Cults of Terror, that's an excellent starting point. It depends on what the chaos is. If it's not sentient, it likely doesn't want anything. It just does what it does to live and multiply. So at the very basic level chaos ooze is the chaos that entered the world, all it does is ooze and taint stuff with chaos. Sentient beings who realise they are chaotic will join a cult to channel their needs and abilities. I don't think chaos itself has an agenda for evil - that only comes with cunning then intelligence. Have a look at the reason for continued existence for the chaos cults. Chaos is then a tool for getting your beliefs into the world for example:

So I would say that chaos itself wants nothing, it's the chaos cults that are the vehicles of chaos, giving worshippers a purpose in life. It's what the cults do that is important, they  give purpose and direction to chaos worshippers. 

Malia began as a sweet person who was misunderstood.  She found a form of life and tried to nurture it.  If everyone joined with Malia and were granted immunity to her diseases, then her diseases wouldn't be harmful and could flourish.  But she couldn't get anyone else outside of Subere to understand that.  So the "chaos is nihilist" meme doesn't work here.  There's more to it.

Thed was raped and wants justice.  In her bitterness, she sought revenge by bringing in Wakboth - probably by being manipulated by the insane Ragnaglar, her abuser.  Her broo are twisted so they always have to rape as a part of her seeking the justice which was denied her by Orlanth.  So again, the "chaos is nihilist" meme also doesn't work here.  There's more to it.

Ragnaglar was insane.  He was driven insane when the Old Gods treacherously lured him into the Sex Pit. He's gone now so his motivations no longer apply, but "chaos is nihilist" also doesn't apply here.

Wakboth, however, was one evil SOB.

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Chaos itself is inherently Nihilistic - it is, after all anti-being. People (of Gods), however, are drawn to it for many different reasons. I think the Unholy Trio represent the three most common of those reasons - Survival, Revenge, and Madness. Primal Chaos, on the other hand, is nothing and wants nothing - it is just pure power that can be tapped by anyone desperate, angry, or insane enough to make use of it.

So for the purposes of your scenario, what did the villain want badly enough to resort to chaos? and what is the horrible twist that chaos introduced to their plan to turn it all wrong and evil?

You could have a village of ducks that hid themselves from lunar bounty hunters by summoning monsters, that now infect the ducks' eggs to reproduce themselves.
You could have a Lunar Tax Collector who made themselves visible only by moonlight to escape rebels, but is now so horrible to look at they cannot bear to be seen at all.
Or a bereaved mother who secretly "resurrected" her stillborn child (as an ogre, ghoul or vampire) with obvious downsides as the child matures.

and so on...

Edited by boztakang

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On 11/2/2017 at 8:15 PM, boztakang said:

So for the purposes of your scenario, what did the villain want badly enough to resort to chaos? and what is the horrible twist that chaos introduced to their plan to turn it all wrong and evil?

This is (mostly) what I was looking for: the template or lens for framing the conflict and the motivations.  This is extremely useful to me.

Here's what I know:

  • My murder victim was a Devotee of Teelo Norri but she was also an Illuminated initiate of the Red Moon and had replaced her Moon Rune with the Chaos Rune
  • Per HQ:G, an Illuminate has the ability to conceal their Runes from those around them so that the precise status of their Runes cannot be divined
  • Although seemingly on the surface to be a charitable do-gooder, she was secretly involved in some chaotic activity ...
  • ... the upshot of which caused her death
  • I am kind of excited about including Scorpion Men (and Women) in this scenario.  I think they're cool.  Moreover, one of the pregen PCs is a Centaur Trader from Beast Valley who's invested in the state of relations between the folk of newly Lunarized Duck Point and the Beast Folk.  My take is that although your or I might not see much difference between half-man-half-horse and half-man-half-scorpion, Gloranthans, and particularly Beast Folk  see a world of difference.  And perhaps the fact that others don't see it so clearly causes Beast Folk to be extra sensitive/emotional about the issue.
  • I have pretty good plot hooks for up to 5 PCs now as pertaining to the murder, the deceased and their (conflicting) desires to investigate, cover it up, learn the deceased's secrets, keep the peace and/or achieve justice.

This thread has been most helpful.  Thank you and feel free to keep it comin'.

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6 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:

a Devotee of Teelo Norri

Teelo Norri is the essence of Innocence about the world for the Lunars.  Illumination is the ultimate in Understanding of that world.  What happens when the Innocent is Illuminated?  Is this the revelation that anything is possible and acceptable (and a descent into complete amorality)?  Or is this the revelation that all existence (and Life) comes from the void of chaos, so anything is worth nurturing (so even keeping chaotic life from harm)?  Or something else.

 

6 hours ago, Scorpio Rising said:
  • Although seemingly on the surface to be a charitable do-gooder, she was secretly involved in some chaotic activity ...
  • ... the upshot of which caused her death
  •  

What happens when she finds the nest of scorpionman eggs?  Aren't these creatures too?  Don't they deserve Life?  Isn't it her obligation to find them food so that they may grow and live and accomplish their life purpose?  Of course, such children inevitably turn on their foster mother.... 

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On 11/4/2017 at 5:59 AM, jajagappa said:

What happens when she finds the nest of scorpionman eggs?  Aren't these creatures too?  Don't they deserve Life?  Isn't it her obligation to find them food so that they may grow and live and accomplish their life purpose?  Of course, such children inevitably turn on their foster mother.... 

Shortly after discovery, the corpse of our poor Teelo Norri victim goes missing. After all, any newly hatched nest needs a queen...

This way, she doesn't even have to have turned to chaos before she was murdered, and might even have been murdered for some unrelated reason, or even accidentally killed by an otherwise upstanding person, who has attempted to hide their role in the killing out of personal shame and embarrassment (completely unaware of the scorpion nest complications). Illumination comes with her resurrection, and she now seeks revenge for her own murder, and protection for her chaotic sibling/minions.

Now you have a "mundane" murder mystery, where just as the PCs are about to bring the secret killer to justice, they suddenly have to face the wrath of the "victim" all amped up on chaotic scorpion awesomeness.

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On 03/11/2017 at 4:35 AM, Pentallion said:

Malia began as a sweet person who was misunderstood.  She found a form of life and tried to nurture it.  If everyone joined with Malia and were granted immunity to her diseases, then her diseases wouldn't be harmful and could flourish.  But she couldn't get anyone else outside of Subere to understand that.  So the "chaos is nihilist" meme doesn't work here.  There's more to it.

Even if you are granted immunity, you are a carrier. It's kind like saying a Ponzi scheme isn't bad, because it works for those inside the scheme. Or waging aggressive continual war on your neighbors isn't bad, as long as you treat them nicely if they surrender. Pretty nihilist, really.

but hey, maybe you are right. There are certainly people in Glorantha who claim you can interact with Malia in non-Chaotic ways. Some of them might even be right. But the majority of her worshippers (especially broo) accept immunity in the spirit of  'I'm alright, so who cares if you die hideously?'

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38 minutes ago, davecake said:

 

On 31/10/2017 at 2:00 PM, davecake said:

Chaos includes both moral evil (Wakboth) and the intrinsic brokenness of the universe (Kajabor)

Wakboth got squashed by the Block and Kajabor was eaten by Arachne Solara to become time. They aren't an expression of chaos in Glorantha anymore - no worshippers, just concepts.

http://www.glorantha.com/docs/kajabor/

 

 

I think of Kajabor as a Western concept, and when they say he was eaten and became time, they are on the one hand saying Kajabor was destroyed as a separate Independent Eranschula, but on the other hand in that process became confirmed as an intrinsic part of the universe. Now the universe is always broken. When Kajabor was alive, he could be fought, but now he is halted, but ever present. Everything is a bit wrong (entropy and division) and there are cracks where the brokenness can't be ignored (Chaos). Kajabor is the reluctant, despairing acceptance that the Fifth Action made our world. 

And of course he is just a concept. Personalising a concept to be a being is an Error, even more than it would be for a benign concept like Storm. 

Wakboth is a bit more complex. Wakboth as the great God of Chaos is the ultimate foe is a theist concept probably. But the Brithini understood moral evil and entropy as the same power manifesting in different ways (it's all just the manifestation of Error, which became the Devil). So didn't even think of Kajabor of having separate existence, and yet the God Learners synthesized this with Theyalan myth to treat them as two beings. I think most Westerners not corrupted by God Learnerism, probably most non-Theyalans, think the idea that moral evil was defeated by a bovine squashing it with a big rock to be a laughably confused typical bit of theist nonsense, displaying the level of sophisticated understanding you would expect of... well, cattle. 

Land of course they are expressed in Glorantha. By Malkions sacrifice etc they were smashed as independent, rebellious, Eranschula. And thus the world was saved. But they still exist as principles which exist in the world, and sorcerers who are wicked enough to directly access the Chaos rune (or even indirectly, as Vadeli are assumed to do essentially by their every magical act) can access that power.

(FWIW, for Chaotic sorcery, rather than demonology per se (which can just be literally demonized paganism), I generally go to the idea of the qlippoth applied to the Runes - the broken inverted reverse of the runes. )

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