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David Scott

Glorantha technology and Glorantha material technology

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11 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

On the human scale, the Gloranthan cosmos seems to work much as our Bronze Age/early Iron Age ancestors believed their world worked. They knew the rule of thumb rules for building structures that wouldn't fall down (and some Mesopotamian law codes had pretty dire penalties for a builder whose work fell down and injured or killed someone) but also knew it was necessary to make sacrifices and bury figurines of the gods to supplement the purely physical construction. So a Gloranthan human will use both sets of 'rules', the 'physical' and the 'magical', though even in Third Age Glorantha the distinction between the two is blurred, because everything has a spirit - even a mud brick.

I do wonder whether this is true down to the mud brick, unless "spirit" is also a description of latent magical potential. While the source of the clay certainly has its collective entity and had better be asked nicely (or commanded firmly, if you are of a sorcerous persuasion) to give you the material, I would think that a man-made object isn't immediately imbued with an anima, although there will be of course some latent essence, or space for it. A greater construction made of these bricks probably will be imbued with an identifiable spirit through the dedication rites, drawing on the spirit potential of the bricks (and other component parts).

If each brick had an anima with an individual idea of purpose, it could be harder to form a collective out of that. But then the main purpose of a brick is to join with others into a collective, so maybe brick, tile or plank spirits are primed for giving up identity to a greater whole.

I talked about purpose before - this is an idea what a construction made from many parts should do, a projection of object identity by the maker. Some of this goes into the making of a brick from clay and other material, and may get sealed by stamping and firing the brick (but then that fire is a component that is required to make the brick what it is).

 

11 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

Sun Dome domes are innately magical because the congregation inside can see the Sun through the solid dome.

In that case, also through cloud cover? Probably should - the golden cupola moves the interior of the building close to the sky.

Is the visibility open to all visitors of the interior (even intruding raiders of hostile deities), or is congregation membership required?

11 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

And the domes aren't indestructible, as the many ruined domes at Mirin's Cross demonstrate.

I doubt there are many dragon-proof edifices in Glorantha...

 

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

I do wonder whether this is true down to the mud brick, unless "spirit" is also a description of latent magical potential. While the source of the clay certainly has its collective entity and had better be asked nicely (or commanded firmly, if you are of a sorcerous persuasion) to give you the material, I would think that a man-made object isn't immediately imbued with an anima, although there will be of course some latent essence, or space for it. A greater construction made of these bricks probably will be imbued with an identifiable spirit through the dedication rites, drawing on the spirit potential of the bricks (and other component parts).

Given that animists believe that everything has a spirit, including man-made items, this is almost certainly true. However having a spirit doesn’t mean that you would want to contact it. For animists intent is everything. I use anima and spirit interchangeably here.

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

If each brick had an anima with an individual idea of purpose, it could be harder to form a collective out of that. But then the main purpose of a brick is to join with others into a collective, so maybe brick, tile or plank spirits are primed for giving up identity to a greater whole.

Just as everything has a spirit, that doesn’t give it an individual sense of purpose or identity.

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

I talked about purpose before - this is an idea what a construction made from many parts should do, a projection of object identity by the maker. Some of this goes into the making of a brick from clay and other material, and may get sealed by stamping and firing the brick (but then that fire is a component that is required to make the brick what it is).

The larger object will have a spirit, animists don’t tend to look at the small parts unless there is a need to. The spirit/anima of a temple is likely to be subsumed into guardians for example.

As for the fire being a component of brick, it could just be the transmuter, not adding any of itself but just changing the clay from one form into another. Looking at this from a terrestrial point of view, clay and brick are allotropes of the Earth rune. For me this gets round the whole added complexity of mixing runes to make other substances. 

 

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Is the visibility open to all visitors of the interior (even intruding raiders of hostile deities), or is congregation membership required?

Without adding unneeded complexity, it’s a magical effect visible to only initiates and above. The sky doesn’t get nearer, it’s looking into the otherworld. However, so it looks cool, cloud clear is cast (I can’t remember if Yelmalio has this) outside first. 

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1 minute ago, David Scott said:

Given that animists believe that everything has a spirit, including man-made items, this is almost certainly true. However having a spirit doesn’t mean that you would want to contact it. For animists intent is everything. I use anima and spirit interchangeably here.

So basically, every material object has a shadow existence on the spirit plane, independent from the density of a material but dependent of the strength of the spirit bits inside them. Is it "everything has spirit", as an alchemist or a tapper would say, or is it "everything has a spirit"?

With my alchemist (materialist) way of approaching the amounts of spirit in objects and observations of spontaneous or induced manifestation of identity, are there ways (like Tapping) that could render objects spirit-dead? Would such items or material be shunned, could they be healed or re-awakened?

 

The "Stabilize <material>" divine Mostal spells appear to imbue matter with magical energy. Tapping basically draws magic from its targets, so acts as the opposite way. As a rule, western sorcerers appear to frown upon frivolously enslaving energy to be the servant of matter, but when it comes to sorcerous architecture, they appear to use similar techniques, like e.g. for the Tower of Xud in Kustria.

1 minute ago, David Scott said:

Just as everything has a spirit, that doesn’t give it an individual sense of purpose or identity.

Basically I argue that made things are made for a purpose. Which might using an item for a different purpose than intended by the maker a bit harder than usage according to that purpose, at least if the maker clearly communicated that purpose in the making.

1 minute ago, David Scott said:

The larger object will have a spirit, animists don’t tend to look at the small parts unless there is a need to. The spirit/anima of a temple is likely to be subsumed into guardians for example.

So "spirit" does not exactly describe entities, or big spirits are collective entities of smaller spirits? And can those partial/contributing spirits be extracted (by sorcerers or shamans) from a captured spirit entity? Like, selectively tapped, or excised/exorcised?

(trying to keep this discussion material...)

1 minute ago, David Scott said:

As for the fire being a component of brick, it could just be the transmuter, not adding any of itself but just changing the clay from one form into another. Looking at this from a terrestrial point of view, clay and brick are allotropes of the Earth rune. For me this gets round the whole added complexity of mixing runes to make other substances. 

I would agree that for any kind of ceramics the fire can be regarded by Gloranthans as just the final agent to draw out the water. Master ceramicists (whether brickmaker or potters) probably know better. Also there will be buildings like ziggurats to celestial deities where the fire aspect will be celebrated rather than ignored.

Brick is fairly simple because once you draw the water out, all the rest is just mud and possibly more organic soil (like cow dung, or dinosaur dung for more monumental architecture - possibly more quake-proof, too).

But mixing runes to describe substances is what alchemy is about. You could reduce the runes to simple aggregate states and define that everything tangible enough to stop a finger is solid (earth), that which isn't but will collect in a vessel is liquid (water), and so on for air an fire. Darkness is a bit of a difficulty for this classification, though, and moon is just temporary pretention of existence.

The dwarf food recipe in Elder Secrets ("I think it is too brainy, containing too much gold") does seem to work on the basis of a balance of elements. 

1 minute ago, David Scott said:

Without adding unneeded complexity, it’s a magical effect visible to only initiates and above. The sky doesn’t get nearer, it’s looking into the otherworld. However, so it looks cool, cloud clear is cast (I can’t remember if Yelmalio has this) outside first. 

I was thinking of ritual perception, but basically that is covered by your reply, too.

So, no, the dome doesn't become transparent, but the sun becomes visible inside it.

As far as I remember, the spell was introduced with Yelmalio, so yes, definitely there.

(Cloud Clear and Cloud Call used to be led ad absurdum by the RQ3 POW economy, and their presence as standard spell for a shrine still makes me want to give up on the cult of Orlanth. As instantly retrievable spell during such a rite it doesn't lead to gross weakening of the initiates, so might be possible.)

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5 hours ago, Joerg said:

I do wonder whether this is true down to the mud brick, unless "spirit" is also a description of latent magical potential.

As the entire Earth in Glorantha is composed of Gata and other goddesses, a single piece of earth might hold a very very tiny and weak spirit, with little magical power, no intellect or consciousness, but with magical potential.

5 hours ago, Joerg said:

In that case, also through cloud cover? Probably should - the golden cupola moves the interior of the building close to the sky.

No, through the roof of the dome during services (see Sun County page 25). If you are not an initiate and are inside with the congregation, whether you can see the Sun or not is the least of your problems.

The domes of Domanand were shattered, not melted, so the mechanism of their destruction is unclear.

Edited by M Helsdon

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I think intention has a lot to do with this, and the difference between a good and a poor brick. 

When the crafter makes a brick (for example) he combines water and earth and the intention imbues spirit into the brick. Like wise when many materials are brought together to raise a house,  the intention creates a spirit - possibly drawing energies from the individual pieces. So a well built temple is one built from quality materials, too much poor or ill intentioned materials will lead to a weak structure and a weak spirit.

This assumes that the spirit of a building comes into existence during construction with would involve regular prayer and ritual. The alternative is that the spirit already exists and is somehow bound to the building... 

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6 minutes ago, Psullie said:

I think intention has a lot to do with this, and the difference between a good and a poor brick. 

Craftsmanship still should play a major role. Nobody without a good idea of what is needed and how to do it will be able to shape a perfect brick just from wanting to shape the perfect brick. Inferior qualities in some of the requirements might be caught up with heavier use of magic, but applying the same amount of magic to good qualities will create a masterpiece beyond that. A brick to inspire an entire wall, so to say...

 

6 minutes ago, Psullie said:

When the crafter makes a brick (for example) he combines water and earth and the intention imbues spirit into the brick. Like wise when many materials are brought together to raise a house,  the intention creates a spirit - possibly drawing energies from the individual pieces. So a well built temple is one built from quality materials, too much poor or ill intentioned materials will lead to a weak structure and a weak spirit.

This assumes that the spirit of a building comes into existence during construction with would involve regular prayer and ritual. The alternative is that the spirit already exists and is somehow bound to the building... 

I hinted at a similar possible problem in a text that ended up as a sidebar box in Men of the Seas, when replacement parts from foreign lands tied to alien magics would have to be integrated into the composite unity of your vessel.

 

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

So basically, every material object has a shadow existence on the spirit plane, independent from the density of a material but dependent of the strength of the spirit bits inside them.

I’d avoid the term shadow for various reasons and say everything has an existence to some degree on the spirit plane. That includes living things as well.

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Is it "everything has spirit", as an alchemist or a tapper would say, or is it "everything has a spirit"?

The former use of everything has spirit is very vague and non-specific. In our world it’s used as a general term by many for the “other”. Everything has a spirit is exactly how it is and leave no room for what has and what hasn’t.

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

With my alchemist (materialist) way of approaching the amounts of spirit in objects and observations of spontaneous or induced manifestation of identity, are there ways (like Tapping) that could render objects spirit-dead? Would such items or material be shunned, could they be healed or re-awakened?

Something tapped of it’s spirit would likely crumble into its base form. A living object would likely die as loosing your spirit whether it be separated or destroyed is how you die. Expert tappers would alway leave a minute piece to keep the thing alive. Humans and animals can have their spirit returned so items can as well, although it might be easier to make another one. 

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Basically I argue that made things are made for a purpose. Which might using an item for a different purpose than intended by the maker a bit harder than usage according to that purpose, at least if the maker clearly communicated that purpose in the making.

Only if you believe that the intention of creation shapes the spirit of an object. If it’s a reborn spirit as is likely with most things, I’m not so sure. I believe that this is independent and the creators intent on the form does not shape its spirit (but it can shape the form).

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

So "spirit" does not exactly describe entities, or big spirits are collective entities of smaller spirits?

It has a much broader range yes. Big spirits can be collectives but no one cares as it’s the big spirit that’s important. 

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

And can those partial/contributing spirits be extracted (by sorcerers or shamans) from a captured spirit entity? Like, selectively tapped, or excised/exorcised?

No. Not unless you are able to break the object. A house has a house spirit, but when the roof blows off, you might need to help the broken roof spirit. Once back on, it’s whole again. BTW things inside of the house may be considered separate, but only if they need to be contacted. 

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30 minutes ago, Joerg said:

I hinted at a similar possible problem in a text that ended up as a sidebar box in Men of the Seas, when replacement parts from foreign lands tied to alien magics would have to be integrated into the composite unity of your vessel.

Traditionally you would bless the new item which clears away any past linkages and makes new ones to the current situation. It’s done all the time. Baptism, ritual ablutions, purification ceremonies and cleansing rites are just a few of the ways of achieving the same thing. I don’t think it needs to be complex.  

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In danger of being overly Platonic here, but I would suggest that the spirit is not imbued by the crafter, but rather due to whatever is the runic influence most significant to the brick's creation.

It might be the Earth that gives rise to the clay, the Darkness that hid the clay from ready sight, the Water that allows the clay to be transformed, the Fire/Sun that bakes it, the Air/Storm that dries it, or the Moon that bids the construction rise into the sky etc, etc.

Spirits are not of human creation, but rather define human relationships with that which the spirit 'inhabits'.

Then again, YGWV! 

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I think this conversation has a lot of issues we need to deal with.

First, its a little hard to retrofit historical dates onto Glorantha. This is because various analogues have been used by writers over time, depending on their familiarity with archeology/anthropology and history. The technology of Runequest had chainmail (about 3rd century BC) for example, and seems to be at least Late Iron Age. Although this was different, slippage began. Because of familiarity, a lot of writers drew on Dark Ages models. Greg used the Anglo-Saxons heavily in various early in-house games as a model for Sartar, (probably influenced by Pendragon) and Charlie Krank had a medieval West. RQ3 Vikings had us all playing Orlanthi as Vikings, coupled with illustrations in the Genertela boxed set. The Dara Happans always seemed to be Babylon, Sumer or even Assyria, but Greg had the Lunar Empire's best analogue as Sassanid Persia for a while: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasanian_Empire and we drift towards the Dark Ages once again.

So the notion that Glorantha is Bronze Age technically, as well as metallurgically, has always been 'more honored in the breach' than the observance.

I think that Hero Wars was actually the first attempt to roll that back.

For example, Thunder Rebels, with a close reading, has many indications of portraying an earlier culture. The burial customs are clearly Urnfield culture ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnfield_culture) and the formal battles with champions, etc. are something out of Homer over the Dark Ages. If you take of your Dark Ages blinkers when reading, then TR is clearly Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age. Since then, the steady embrace of 'Bronze Age' as a defining characteristic of the world, separate from pseudo-medieval fantasy, has grown.

I actually think the diverse Urnfield culturs is a nice model for the Orlanthi, with some Greek and Atlantic Bronze Age thrown in. See this map (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnfield_culture#/media/File:Europe_late_bronze_age.png) That would put the Orlanthi as Late Bronze Age.

Given that is our most detailed culture, I would let that set the standard: late Bronze/early Iron. Urnfield culture is 1300-750BC. I would assume that. With elements of Halstatt C and D in the more advanced areas (800 -475) it's roughly the same period as the Greek Dark Ages, the collapse of Troy, the Sea Peoples etc. Hittite civilization is collapsing but relevant for influence, as well as the last days of the Mycenearns, but I might suggest they are both 'earlier' ages than the Third. It's also the era of the Middle and Neo-Assyrian Empires. 'Homeric' era conflict seems to fit fairly well with Glorantha right now.

One thing Jeff and I looked at again and again when discussing the Orlanthi was that in Genertela distances are not huge. Apart from the period of the Inhuman Occupation, after the cultures of the First Age meet, they are in close proximity, such that it is unlikely one group or another has gained significant technical advantage and held it, so even if we assume the Lunar Empire is more advanced, I can't see it being much further into the Iron Age. Most likely more parts of the Empire have access to Early Iron Age technology.

Of course, there is no printing press, no easy transmission of ideas. So it's reasonable to assert that because this thing exists in this city here, it does not mean it will exist elsewhere. Or that innovation cannot be made, die with those that hold the secrets, be recovered later etc. Advance is not a straight line. The crane may have been invented, lost, re-invented many times. The LM cult obviously tries to work against this, but its acquisition of knowledge may not be coupled to application of knowledge. You can record how to make pullies etc. but someone has to seek the knowledge from the temple that holds it in the first place.

There are anachronisms of course, but I think we use the dwarfs to account for most of them. The dwarfs seem to have Late Iron Age technology, I would put them at the Roman Empire at its height waterproof concrete, glassware etc. Some of that has been traded to people, most famously crossbows. I suspect most chain mail shirts were made by dwarfs and are priceless, whereas the dominant mail otherwise is scale. Other anachronisms such as mid-to-late Iron age sailing vessels could be explained by Dormal etc.

I don't think that magic has the impact some commentators suggest, with a kind of magic powered agricultural revolution possible, outside of the West. Two things stand against this: First, whilst sorcerers try to exploit the divine, elsewhere it is sacred and needs to be used with respect, summoning an water elemental is communing with the divine, not the mechanism to talk power your mill; Second , most magic in Glorantha makes you better at something. So yes. Glorantha has better yields etc. but I don't think that mecho-magical technology exists in widespread form. However, sorcerers are exploiters, so it's possible there is more of this in the west. But outside of the Second Age I would be wary of Zistorite devices, it doesn't feel like its part of the setting.

Things I think we don't have:

  • Glass (except faience)
  • Barrels
  • Lathe
  • Potter's Wheel
  • Spinning Wheel
  • Rotary Quern

But, I think most folks do fine by just playing 'ancient world' thinking 'sword and sandals' epic and not sweating all these details

 

 

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2 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Things I think we don't have:

  • Glass (except faience)
  • Barrels
  • Lathe
  • Potter's Wheel
  • Spinning Wheel
  • Rotary Quern

Potters wheels were found around the third millennium BC. (The Egyptian god Khnum was said to have made the bodies of humans on one) Certainly, the number of amphorae found in Glorantha would suggest potter's wheels are common.

 

Edited by Tindalos
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I really don't worry that much about ancient world analogues in tech levels in Glorantha. I don't have that depth of knowledge. Thus in my Glorantha, the Howling Tower has some stained glass windows which catch the final moments of sunset... I have to say, having stained giant insect window sounds creepier and more organic (HR Giger like).

Things I do emphasise are such details there a few real roads as we know it in modern day earth, its trails and tracks in the main; and what roads exist are magical constructs.

A good source for visualisations for parts of Glorantha is the Atlas Obscura website which has some amazing short articles and photography from across the world- which is a lot weirder than I normally think about.  The book is excellent too- want to know what an underground cave temple might look like? https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/batu-caves gives you an example. The associated book is excellent.

Thoroughly enjoying the much more detailed and well argued points made in this thread

  

 

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2 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Things I think we don't have:

  • Glass (except faience)
  • Barrels
  • Lathe
  • Potter's Wheel
  • Spinning Wheel
  • Rotary Quern

Glass beads and faience date back a very long way, but actual glass vessels are probably out, unless of dwarven manufacture.

Barrels - a moot point, given that I believe some appear in recent illustrations.

A basic lathe dates back to around the 13th century BC in Egypt, with evidence of use in Assyria and Greece.

The slow potters wheel goes back at least to the 45th century BC, and the fast potters wheel to the 30th BC, so it depends upon what you define a potter's wheel to be.

Spinning wheel - concur.

Rotary quern - depends how you define it, but some have been found with La Tène style ornamentation.

2 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

For example, Thunder Rebels, with a close reading, has many indications of portraying an earlier culture. The burial customs are clearly Urnfield culture ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnfield_culture) and the formal battles with champions, etc. are something out of Homer over the Dark Ages. If you take of your Dark Ages blinkers when reading, then TR is clearly Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age. Since then, the steady embrace of 'Bronze Age' as a defining characteristic of the world, separate from pseudo-medieval fantasy, has grown.

I actually think the diverse Urnfield culturs is a nice model for the Orlanthi, with some Greek and Atlantic Bronze Age thrown in. See this map (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnfield_culture#/media/File:Europe_late_bronze_age.png) That would put the Orlanthi as Late Bronze Age.

Yesterday I was writing something on this topic... Purely my personal assumptions (and aspects of the Blood Games are based upon Etruscan funeral 'games')

Funeral Games

In victory, the death of heroes and champions are often marked by funeral games including various contests, and feasting.

A valiant death in battle may be remembered for generations, with their family and community regularly leaving offerings. The site of their burning or burial may even become the focus of a hero cult.

If the body of the fallen warrior was recovered, among the Orlanthi and urban Dara Happans it is burned upon a pyre. Some Orlanthi prefer the ashes to be blown away by the winds, but others, like the Dara Happans, collect the ashes and bones and inter them in funerary urns.

The Dara Happans mark the death of nobles with gladiatorial Blood Games, the slain gladiators burned to accompany and serve the fallen aristocrat in death. Blood Games are often cruel, with blindfolded naked prisoners armed with clubs forced to fight fierce dogs which symbolize Jajagappa the Catcher of Souls.

 

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1 hour ago, Tindalos said:

Potters wheels were found around the third millennium BC. (The Egyptian god Khnum was said to have made the bodies of humans on one) Certainly, the number of amphorae found in Glorantha would suggest potter's wheels are common.

 

You're right, my data on that looks suspect and probably Eurocentric

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3 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Things I think we don't have:

  • Glass (except faience)
  • Barrels
  • Lathe
  • Potter's Wheel
  • Spinning Wheel
  • Rotary Quern

I see this as a regional/cultural table with technology headings saying does have amphora doesn’t have barrels. Like a more graduated traveler tech table from digest groups grand census grand survey. Hand picked rather than automatically assumed. Headings like metallurgy, ceramics, construction, clothing, storage, watercraft, etc. 

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24 minutes ago, Ian Cooper said:

You usually have better sources than me. I was going off this era 300BC: https://www.gaugegroup.com/insights/woodturning

What is astonishing, is that relatively early dynasty Egyptians were making lathe-turned stoneware, dishes and bowls. Those made of alabaster aren't too surprising, it's a very soft stone. But other vessels are made of basalt and granite. The amount of time and effort required is daunting, but I believe workshops have been excavated, and some tomb decorations show the process. To lathe the harder stones, you need a hard stone bit, probably frequently replaced, and sand used to provide an abrasive. Some of the bits, made of quartzite, which is harder than granite, have been excavated. Fortunately, quartzite can be found in usefully shaped pieces, meaning they didn't have to have anything harder to shape it.

I suspect that some Gloranthan cultures have this technology, but not all.

Edited by M Helsdon
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4 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

Barrels - a moot point, given that I believe some appear in recent illustrations.

I am sure the Greydog Clan and Geo's use barrels. They could use amphorae or similar for storing beer, but barrels feel better to me.

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46 minutes ago, soltakss said:

I am sure the Greydog Clan and Geo's use barrels. They could use amphorae or similar for storing beer, but barrels feel better to me.

Your call.

If I want to shift my players back into the ancient world, I find that having the wine arrive in amphorae, and be poured as a resin into a krater, then mixed with water before being drunk, reminds people that they are in a 'swords and sandals' setting. If I just serve them a tankard of ale from a barrel, they might as well be in the Prancing Pony in Bree.

But, as I say. Some of this has happened because older material often pitched Glorantha as a 'Dark Ages' setting despite that use of bronze. Post Hero Wars material shifted it to a much more ancient world setting. So whilst once the Greydog Inn served ale by the barrel, I suspect it now serves wine by the krater. Still YGWV, so whatever you prefer.

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Here's the recent Swenstown picture I was thinking of... Barrels, bales, baskets...

 

merchant-caravan-4.jpg

Edited by M Helsdon

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8 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

I think this conversation has a lot of issues we need to deal with.

First, its a little hard to retrofit historical dates onto Glorantha. This is because various analogues have been used by writers over time, depending on their familiarity with archeology/anthropology and history. The technology of Runequest had chainmail (about 3rd century BC) for example, and seems to be at least Late Iron Age. Although this was different, slippage began. Because of familiarity, a lot of writers drew on Dark Ages models. Greg used the Anglo-Saxons heavily in various early in-house games as a model for Sartar, (probably influenced by Pendragon) and Charlie Krank had a medieval West. RQ3 Vikings had us all playing Orlanthi as Vikings, coupled with illustrations in the Genertela boxed set. The Dara Happans always seemed to be Babylon, Sumer or even Assyria, but Greg had the Lunar Empire's best analogue as Sassanid Persia for a while: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasanian_Empire and we drift towards the Dark Ages once again.

There have been the regular cataclysms in Genertela west of the Shan Shan, which have reset the clock at each turn of the Ages.

I think there is a pattern of catching up towards something of a plateau of civilization, then a spurt aiming to a new magical hype, and then the most advanced cultures collapsing hard.

Kralorela, Vormain and the East Isles appear to be more static, but at least Kralorela saw heavy outsider occupation in both the Second and the Third Age (Shang-Hsa mhNbC and Sheng Seleris - a curse in itself), so there too will have been efforts to make things right again.

 

Terrestrial history isn't much different. Apart from Byzantium, the achievements of the Roman empire were forgotten as Germanic kingdoms inherited the western half of the empire, even though they let themselves be Romanized. Then most of these Germanic kingdoms fell to new invaders, or made it through just barely. The eastern Romans saw their territory gobbled up by the new religion spreading from Arabia, and to the ever-changing populations in the Danubian corridor.

The Renaissance was aptly named such because people started to raise their cultural and material level back to somewhere first century Rome had been, and mostly through the (involuntary) transfer of knowledge from the Crusades. While Alfred of Wessex aimed at a cultivated society at his court, with learning and literacy highly esteemed, his successors had to struggle to keep something of that alive. The Karolingians gave up on curiousness after Charlemagne and destroyed collections of knowledge, then began warring among themselves, bringing the Karolingian upturn down again, splitting their territory between the formerly Roman and the formerly barbarian parts, and a contested or independent belt in between.

So basically, there isn't always an upward development in material or intellectual culture. Achievements of former leading cultures don't get taken over without a break, and often that happened even just with dynastic changes or changes in orthodoxy, like the loss of the Library of Alexandria under the Byzantines. Islam needed about two centuries to discover the Greek literature they had conquered for their own high culture.

 

 

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So the notion that Glorantha is Bronze Age technically, as well as metallurgically, has always been 'more honored in the breach' than the observance.

I think that this is more of a declaration despite all the facts. Glorantha was a Bronze Age world, but not measured by the change in technology or metallurgy in Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean, but in e.g. the eastern Baltic Sea, or even the Inkas. Major Bronze Age cultures, in contact with more advanced technology, that's how I see Glorantha. And Ian's summary is similar.

And Glorantha has no inland seas. The Middle Sea Empire sort of projected an inland sea environment, but that was just under three centuries and under high sea conditions, not two millennia like in the eastern Mediterranean. A colonial empire much closer to the Portuguese endeavors than to anything the Phoenicians did, with magic rather than gun powder.

It is hard to find a parallel to the Jrusteli in ancient history. The Thirteen Colonies may be a nod to US history, but that's mainly where the parallels end. The rest of the Jrusteli history is closer to the successors of George Washington liberating Napoleonic England without having had to fight red-frocked Hessians in their colonies.

In the ancient time, Carthage is the one case where a colony outshined its founding cities.

 

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I think that Hero Wars was actually the first attempt to roll that back.

For example, Thunder Rebels, with a close reading, has many indications of portraying an earlier culture. The burial customs are clearly Urnfield culture ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnfield_culture) and the formal battles with champions, etc. are something out of Homer over the Dark Ages.

Homer himself comes from one of those trench periods between high points of cultivation. The heroic age of Homer belongs to myth, not history. We look at the Romans differently because we have historical facts in addition to myths, and then had our myths destroyed by the church.

The Arthurian cycle and the Charlemagne cycle are returns to myth and heroism little different from Homeric stories. The Henriad is too recent, but has more mythic than historical format. On the continent, the Stauffer emperors were made into mythical figures, too, with Barbarossa waiting to return under a magical mountain.

Yes, all of this is mediaeval or late mediaeval stuff. And in many ways it is more primitive than Philipp's Macedonia prior to the conquest of Greece.

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If you take of your Dark Ages blinkers when reading, then TR is clearly Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age. Since then, the steady embrace of 'Bronze Age' as a defining characteristic of the world, separate from pseudo-medieval fantasy, has grown.

Ok. Pseudo-mediaeval more often than not is not mediaeval, either, apart from archaic weaponry and armor, but more at home in the 17th century otherwise. Just like Game of Thrones is post-Renaissance, never mediaeval. And many other concepts in standard fantasy come directly from the Wild West, minus colts.

In both cases, the most archaic of the influences is claimed as the theme of the settings, because the more modern audience will have a hard time to recognize anachronisms.

Prax and Pavis owe their popularity to being a Wild West setting at heart, with a few twists.

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I actually think the diverse Urnfield culturs is a nice model for the Orlanthi, with some Greek and Atlantic Bronze Age thrown in. See this map (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnfield_culture#/media/File:Europe_late_bronze_age.png) That would put the Orlanthi as Late Bronze Age.

I still would go for Hallstatt, disregarding what happened south of the Alps. The Etruscans as a metal-exporting civilization don't have to work in iron with the abundance of bronze or brass that we find in Glorantha, and are otherwise a perfect fit for the material culture of e.g. urban Safelster and Tanisor.

 

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Given that is our most detailed culture, I would let that set the standard: late Bronze/early Iron. Urnfield culture is 1300-750BC. I would assume that. With elements of Halstatt C and D in the more advanced areas (800 -475) it's roughly the same period as the Greek Dark Ages, the collapse of Troy, the Sea Peoples etc. Hittite civilization is collapsing but relevant for influence, as well as the last days of the Mycenearns, but I might suggest they are both 'earlier' ages than the Third. It's also the era of the Middle and Neo-Assyrian Empires. 'Homeric' era conflict seems to fit fairly well with Glorantha right now.

The premise for Dara Happa in the Gray Age is a bit like a faltering (or rather failed Mesopotamia conquered by various horse nomads. Normally we associate that with the Persians. Earth's history has no Alkoth Demon period. (If it had, it wouldn't have produced us...) But this Mesopotamia is set on a reverse-flow Mississippi, climate-wise.

Much of Genertela makes sense as a "what if northern America had had rich access to Bronze since the glaciers went away." There are no ziggurats, there are copies of Toltec pyramids. And things build up from there.

 

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One thing Jeff and I looked at again and again when discussing the Orlanthi was that in Genertela distances are not huge.

As the wind flies, distances may be short. River travel along the Oslir will create short distances, but for traffic from Darjiin to neighboring Doblian the riverine route through Erinflarth, Oslir, Poralistor and Esel might be faster than travel through or around the Yolp chain overland. Moonboats are about as common in the Empire as Zeppelins were in the thirties of last century.

Outside of the Empire, traffic would suffer from the same multitude of territorial borders (i.e. clan and tribal borders) as did the inside of the Holy Roman empire. Instituting central authorities in the Quivin region and in the Grazelands was what opened Dragon Pass for trade volume after the collapse of the Twin Dynasty , and while Old Tarsh may have kept Dragon Pass passable, the conquests in Saird and Tarsh resisting that made traffic from Tarsh to the expanding Lunar Empire highly hazardous, and then Sheng created turmoil.

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Apart from the period of the Inhuman Occupation, after the cultures of the First Age meet, they are in close proximity, such that it is unlikely one group or another has gained significant technical advantage and held it, so even if we assume the Lunar Empire is more advanced, I can't see it being much further into the Iron Age. Most likely more parts of the Empire have access to Early Iron Age technology.

I don't see Peloria as technologically advanced, at least not outside of their core competences like everything to do with irrigation. There is one famous and fabulous road in the Empire, or rather in its provinces - the Daughter's Road. A processional, cutting off a slight bend in the Oslir, thus providing no actual trade advantage, but a definite troop deployment advantage. The main access to Glamour is the canal to the Oslir River.

I think that most Pelorian rivers have lost their souls and their deities, and are mainly sources for irrigation and water retention. I think the last major river magician was Lokamayadon's wife Erilindia.

Pelanda used to be a source of technology and innovation - in the Golden and Storm Age. The Turos expression of the volcanic maker is probably the most civilized of the deep fire cultures (in their own right, under their own administration). With the adoption of Dara Happan bureaucracy (a side effect of irrigation mastery), they got better organized, but their innovation was stifled.

The Carmanians, at least under the Lion Shahs, brought a new impulse from pre-God Learner Fronela by replacing the Dara Happan bureaucracy with their own. A bit comparable with the Caliphate of Cordoba, and the Bull Shahs doing to that culture what the Almohads did to Spanish enlightenment, a destruction from the change of management.

There is of course a more ancient parallel which works as well for Carmania - the Zoroastrian reforms. While not exactly Bronze Age, they brought an ideological change, and unlike Akhenaten's attempt, this one lasted. But then, the "western" origin of Syranthir's folk makes their culture a bit like the Hellenistic succcessor states in Asia, only lacking the previous Alexandrine empire.

 

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Of course, there is no printing press, no easy transmission of ideas.

I wonder how effective the cuneiform literature and literacy was for Mesopotamia and adjacent territories. The sheer volume of literature that survived thanks to this less perishable medium looks like it promoted a rather quick dissemination of ideas, or at least ideas the elite wanted to distribute. The most standard mantras could be mass-produced through rolling seals, a technology suggested as origin of the Gods Wall. So, if an idea is concise enough to fit onto a rolling seal, its dissemination would be fairly easy.

 

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So it's reasonable to assert that because this thing exists in this city here, it does not mean it will exist elsewhere. Or that innovation cannot be made, die with those that hold the secrets, be recovered later etc. Advance is not a straight line.

True. And then there is the classic trope of the mutilated or chained genius. Leonardo the Scientist is probably the only such genius who enjoys free movement. Wayland's drama of crippling or Daidalos incarceration are the reason why technological advances are limited to a small elite.

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The crane may have been invented, lost, re-invented many times. The LM cult obviously tries to work against this, but its acquisition of knowledge may not be coupled to application of knowledge. You can record how to make pullies etc. but someone has to seek the knowledge from the temple that holds it in the first place.

The Lhankor Mhy cult is a cult of learning, not a cult of teaching. Yes, their temples will gather knowledge, and share it with the powers that are sufficiently strong to make the sages give that knowledge away. There are branches of Lhankor Mhy that put knowledge to practical uses, like perfumers, alchemists, jewellers, glass-makers.

 

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There are anachronisms of course, but I think we use the dwarfs to account for most of them. The dwarfs seem to have Late Iron Age technology, I would put them at the Roman Empire at its height waterproof concrete, glassware etc.

The only canonical use of concrete by dwarves are their floating castles. When they have stationary rock to work with, they shun this poured pseudo-stone, and create places like the Boldhome pockets or the Boldhome Royal Palace.

I tend to blame the invention of concrete on the Kadeniti, and the dwarf use of this is a rare instance of technology transfer from humans to dwarves.

Glass (in the sense of glass-blowing) is attested for Syran, a place as far away from dwarven influence as you can get in Genertela. Yes, the lead caste of mostali does pipes and glass (or glazing), so they may have access to this technology, too. But terrestrial glass technology starts in the early Bronze Age. Glass blowing is a lot more recent, but Roman glasswork had everything that its successors could do until the industrial revolution. Ironically, the archaeological evidence for glassware is fairly small because (like bronze) glass is recyclable, unlike pottery.

 

There appears to be something of a consensus that dwarf technology is no steampunk, and possibly only very limited clockwork-punk.

I am fairly disappointed with "Mostali just use water elementals to keep their underground dwellings dry," however. For their greatest strongholds, they probably don't need to lift the water. It would be sufficient to open ways for it to disappear below, as there are always deeper underworlds capable of taking up the downflow.

I do see a big opportunity to give the dwarves Roman style or Georg Agricola style waterworks, only underground. And possibly replacing wood construction with masonry or metal.

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Some of that has been traded to people, most famously crossbows.

The crossbow is one of the other few cases of a technology transfer to the Mostali, either from the Sky cultures or from the elves, and then adapted and improved with a vengeance. The original concept of the bow is alien to the Mostali. Its warfare use against them made them adopt and improve it, starting with adding the cross-piece, then adding leverage and in the end magazines for repeater crossbows.

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I suspect most chain mail shirts were made by dwarfs and are priceless, whereas the dominant mail otherwise is scale.

I wonder about chains as technology, whether to lock access to harbors or rivers (as documented for Nochet), as filigrane jewelry (another technology that sees lots of recycling, but fortunately gets preserved for archaeologists as grave goods), or even as translator for motion. Also about bucket chains that don't require any looped metal bits but can work with rope technology.

 

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Other anachronisms such as mid-to-late Iron age sailing vessels could be explained by Dormal etc.

Dormal's achievement was to re-discover technologies and then put them together in a novel way that the Imperial Age sailors failed to do in order to sidestep the Closing. The technological discoveries for high sea sailing other than the furthest East Isles and Waertagi traditions were made by the Free Men of the Seas who had an almost 50 year advantage over the other coastal populations noticing the sudden absence of the Waertagi interdict.

It is my working theory that the Free Men of the Seas somehow managed to translate Godswar cloudship designs (Helerings, Artmali) to vessels crafted by more conventional means. The Umathelan colonies (planted with the aid of the Waertagi) IMO provided the ancient clues, and the Olodo storm worshippers who make up the Umathelan "Orlanthi" probably are of Helering/Helerite origin, having some of the myths that enabled the Free Men of the Seas to parse those Godswar events.

But that's deep "Jörg's theories" territory, even though more than twenty years old.

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I don't think that magic has the impact some commentators suggest, with a kind of magic powered agricultural revolution possible, outside of the West. Two things stand against this: First, whilst sorcerers try to exploit the divine, elsewhere it is sacred and needs to be used with respect, summoning an water elemental is communing with the divine, not the mechanism to talk power your mill; Second , most magic in Glorantha makes you better at something. So yes. Glorantha has better yields etc. but I don't think that mecho-magical technology exists in widespread form. However, sorcerers are exploiters, so it's possible there is more of this in the west. But outside of the Second Age I would be wary of Zistorite devices, it doesn't feel like its part of the setting.

To be honest, I fail to see the big difference between Yelmic bureaucrats ordering Lodril magics to be performed by the Lodrili priesthood possibly against the preferences of those deities (creating an accumulation of displeasure which then erupts in the Lodrili rebellions) and sorcerers commanding Lodril magics to be performed by godlings without interaction of a priesthood, taking the rebellion into account in the magical effort.

 

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Things I think we don't have:

  • Glass (except faience)

Clear glass will be high technology. Primitive glass blowers pipes might even be made by potters, and glass bottles would be luxury items.

Like I said above, the Syran glass workers are canon.

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  • Barrels

No barrels with metal hoops, but metal hoops aren't necessary, and any culture that fits planks to boats will fit planks to containers. In all likelihood, the containers birthed the boats.

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  • Lathe
  • Potter's Wheel
  • Spinning Wheel
  • Rotary Quern

It is a wonder that you didn't add axles and wheels to this list.

A culture that has fire drills, possibly driven with a bow-like actuator, has access to rotation for manufacture of various kinds. This makes me think of these technologies as the signature Golden Age technologies, e.g. for improving spear shafts and arrows.

 

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But, I think most folks do fine by just playing 'ancient world' thinking 'sword and sandals' epic and not sweating all these details

I prefer "swords and barefoot" epic, or Ötzi- (Ice-mummy) style hay-bolstered soft leather foot wrappings for winter. Sandals as in "military boots" may be quite high technology. Sandal-like footwear is attested for Yelm the Golden Age, however.

I see a majority of the hillfolk inhabiting neolithic-style longhouses. Which remained in use (with slight additions of innovations) until early in the 20th century, and which were developed independently by native Americans when faced with similar climate, or by Papuans despite quite different climate (but the same problem of keeping the rain away).

Visitors to Jutland should take a tour through the Hjemsted Iron Age center on the road to Römö. They have Roman Iron Age pre-Anglo-Saxon migration longhouse reconstructions, but also a neolithic longhouse reconstruction. The main difference is the length of the house and the amount of livestock kept inside.

So, when your senses are tickled "this looks so Viking", that's because Viking architecture followed an absolutely archaic model. The houses in the oppidum of Manching were the same basic layout, but used standardized building material so that beams could be re-used when a house that was too worn was dismantled. Anglo-Saxon and Viking housing was much more primitive in this respect.

10 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Advance is not a straight line.

And that is true for terrestrial history just as well, and makes the difference between beaker culture farmsteads, urnfield farmsteads and Anglo-Saxon farmsteads negligible.

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8 hours ago, David Scott said:

I see this as a regional/cultural table with technology headings saying does have amphora doesn’t have barrels. Like a more graduated traveler tech table from digest groups grand census grand survey. Hand picked rather than automatically assumed. Headings like metallurgy, ceramics, construction, clothing, storage, watercraft, etc. 

Basically, it is a question of climate and resources. Where it is too cold for wood and bast to rot away quickly, wooden vessels rule - basically anywhere with a decent winter. So no barrels in Teshnos (despite easy access to highest quality wood, but not durable bast), and limited use of them where potters using imported charcoal don't use up valuable timber that is required for housing. It takes barbarians in the woods to waste timber for highways through wetlands, roof cover, or containers.

 

8 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

What is astonishing, is that relatively early dynasty Egyptians were making lathe-turned stoneware, dishes and bowls. Those made of alabaster aren't too surprising, it's a very soft stone. But other vessels are made of basalt and granite. The amount of time and effort required is daunting, but I believe workshops have been excavated, and some tomb decorations show the process. To lathe the harder stones, you need a hard stone bit, probably frequently replaced, and sand used to provide an abrasive. Some of the bits, made of quartzite, which is harder than granite, have been excavated. Fortunately, quartzite can be found in usefully shaped pieces, meaning they didn't have to have anything harder to shape it.

Like gem-cutters do for diamond, you can grind down these hard materials with these hard materials - autogenous milling. It does take lots of patience and persistence to do it to the artistic degree shown in Egyptian statuary. To stirr this stuff, you can use shoe-like pieces of wood attached to a handle, which need replacement frequently.

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I suspect that some Gloranthan cultures have this technology, but not all.

I am a bit in two minds whether Mostali should have this technology. On one hand, it could be used to make Stone into tools that would use icky grown matter among surface dwellers. On the other hand, I think that Mostali stone cutting or shaping techniques might be so developed that they don't need to lathe anything.

 

One thing I feel Mostali technology should do is to work without the use of wood. Mostali axe handles should be forged. Crossbows traded to humans do use wood, but that's because the bow is a non-Mostali invention adapted by the Mostali. 

Mostali textiles should shun plant or animal fibres (ot skins), too, wherever possible. Use of such stuff might be extravaganza, like the unexplained demand for parrot plumage in Jrustela.

Mostali should really be unable to cure leather, but then what can they use for their bellows and protective gear?

Spinning and weaving should be known to them, possibly using glass or mineral fibre or wire.

 

3 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

If I want to shift my players back into the ancient world, I find that having the wine arrive in amphorae, and be poured as a resin into a krater, then mixed with water before being drunk, reminds people that they are in a 'swords and sandals' setting.

I would hate to have this happen. The wine should arrive in leather skins, and possibly drunk from them. The beer should be served in the cauldron, which may be a huge piece of charred pottery. And the heroes should wear leather-wraps rather than sandals, if they wear shoes at all.

If I wanted to play Greek heroes, I'd play some sort of Mythic Greece, or Mythic Egypt with Greek mercenaries. All of them would be of coastal origin.

 

To me, hill barbarian culture is definitely "transalpine" when viewed from the Ancient world. There is no Mediterranean and even less of an Aegaean anywhere on Glorantha, transalpine hill folk border directly to Mesopotamian irrigation culture. Vaguely Hellenistic influences may be available from Pelanda, but in a purely continental way. The coasts are mainly on the oceans, like the east African coast, with similar conditions.

Coastal cultures from the Ancient World or the Dark Ages always feel wrong for most of Glorantha. I think that coastal Orlanthi are nearly unknown in Kethaela - most of the coastal population outside of cities probably are really Pelaskite in origin, both in Heortland and in Esrolia, although there appear to be (urban) Esvulari dabbling in fishing parts of Choralinthor Bay, as do God Forgotten.

I see a role for Orlanthi crew in whaling and seal hunting, however, following the mythic precedent of the Vadrudi. The Ludoch of the region may have divided feelings about that, since they are the product of those encounters. And merchants go whereever there are profits to be made, which explains Esrolian and Heortland-run merchant vessels. Most of these will still have a good portion of Pelaskite sailors, or even more exotic personnel hired in distant ports.

Edited by Joerg

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8 hours ago, Joerg said:

Mostali should really be unable to cure leather, but then what can they use for their bellows and protective gear?

They could use woven mineral fibre? Possibly treated with tars or, I suppose, magic.

 

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3 hours ago, Lord High Munchkin said:

They could use woven mineral fibre? Possibly treated with tars or, I suppose, magic.

 

Asbestos would be quite sensible for them. That way they can clean the cloth just by putting them into a fire.

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16 hours ago, Joerg said:

Mostali textiles should shun plant or animal fibres (ot skins), too, wherever possible. Use of such stuff might be extravaganza, like the unexplained demand for parrot plumage in Jrustela.

Mostali should really be unable to cure leather, but then what can they use for their bellows and protective gear?

Their leather is unusual. In a macabre flourish, I suspect that recycling dwarf excreta (including expended cadavers) for industrial purposes is universal standard operating procedure within orthodox colonies. This allows a civilization that values efficiency to dispose of unavoidable byproducts without waste, and it's probably a big part of what the quicksilvers actually do all day. The real philosophical challenge here is how captive or free range "slave rune" species can be swapped in to contribute feed stock and not invite Vegetarianism. 

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