Jump to content
Bohemond

Orlanth the Abuser

Recommended Posts

2 hours ago, tedopon said:

I have an anthropology degree. A real one, from an actual university. Not dissing the study of people and all the systems they create.

Just pointing out that many fans of the setting are a little on the self serious side. I definitely fall completely on the other "valid approach" end of the spectrum. Glorantha is my favorite world in which to drink beer and laugh with my friends.

I'm currently working on my degree in social anthropology myself, and Glorantha's impressive width and depth is why I'm drawn to it, so maybe I'm one of those who take it a bit too serious (time will tell, I suppose) However, I do play a bit fast and loose with the old professional cultural relativism, since I'm aware that this is not just a cultural or social context to analyse and attempt to understand, but something people will be dropped into and expected to be very much subjective about, and have subjective opinions over, whether in- or out-of-character.

Since joining this forum, I have had fun both disappearing into cosmological/ontological musings, as well as trying to get down to the individual's perspective and to get a feel of hypothetical "lived realities", based on the background material (which otherwise read a lot like those old interwar-era "omniscient ethnographer" kind of texts that have since been thoroughly deconstructed in RW academic anthropology).

1 hour ago, Pentallion said:

Gloranthan mythology never seemed to shy away from these issues IMO.  Just look at Thed, goddess of Rape.  She was wronged and is really a tragic figure.

These are adult themes and nobody is claiming that the storm gods are "good guys".

While that is true, that's not quite what I meant (aside from that I do believe Greg did work to give women an non-hetero characters more power and leeway than they'd have in the RW equivalent eras), rather what I was trying to point out is that not everyone want to sit down to play a game set in a make-believe world and be met with the same kind of stuff they might have suffered themselves, or the same kind of prejudices they're sick and tired of in real life. A GM who is sensitive to their players' preferences might just want to adjust things a bit so people can get to have the power/freedom fantasy they want, rather than a somewhat arbitrarily defined sense of verisimillitude.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Idk, back in the 80's the six Dragonlance novels were all top 10 bestsellers simultaneously.  A first and only time that's ever happened.  And what was Legends really about?  A codependent relationship between a drug abuser (Raistlin's drug was his magic) and his brother (Caramon wasn't whole until he finally let himself see Raistlin for who he really was).  People into fantasy aren't necessarily trying to escape the issues that plague them in real life, but actually enjoy relating to their heroes.

And role play is fantastic therapy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

I'm currently working on my degree in social anthropology myself, and Glorantha's impressive width and depth is why I'm drawn to it, so maybe I'm one of those who take it a bit too serious (time will tell, I suppose) However, I do play a bit fast and loose with the old professional cultural relativism, since I'm aware that this is not just a cultural or social context to analyse and attempt to understand, but something people will be dropped into and expected to be very much subjective about, and have subjective opinions over, whether in- or out-of-character.

I focused on Archaeometry, specifically diet reconstruction (giant rabbit hole of causality)...but got burnt out in graduate school and became a librarian.

FWIW I'm kind of talking out of both sides of my mouth as I have collected and read a massive percentage of everything ever published for the setting...just no one else I game with is even close to the level of interest I have. So most of my Glorantha gaming boils down to basically D&D in the setting (which is great, no complaints).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Pentallion said:

I'd read it to female players bluntly and with no apologies.  It's a bronze age world.  Women can handle that.  Give them more credit.

I've had NUMEROUS conversations with gamer women about sexism and rape culture in gaming. It's not that women can't handle it. It's that they shouldn't have to handle it unless they explicitly say they want to. Given that rape is an ever-present real-world issue that most women live with (in the form of having to actually plan out how to stay safe at parties and bars and heading home from work, etc), most women I know don't want it to be an issue that comes up in their gaming. 
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

30 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

I've had NUMEROUS conversations with gamer women about sexism and rape culture in gaming. It's not that women can't handle it. It's that they shouldn't have to handle it unless they explicitly say they want to.

A similar case could be made for physical abuse of the characters in situations of (temporary) helplessness. I dare say that at least 85% of all roleplayers will have had such experience in real life, and a portion of them may be triggered when their alter ego is subjected to such an experience.

And there will be game situations where the characters become perps.

Sexuality in tabletop roleplaying games are a minefield anyway. Can homosexual advances on a character  occur in a game? What about magical gender changes and gender dysphoria?

Player characters performing a rape should be a no-go in game situations, but dubious offers of sexual favors with dependents may crop up in certain fantasy societies, and in criminal underworld situations.

Saving folk from violent oppression is an old staple of story-telling, including abusive marriages or complete domination.

The Orlanthi stance on sex with minors reads like it was directly lifted from Tacitus' Germania. Given that that book was written to hold up a "mirror" of the noble savages to his Roman society, can we infer that sex with minors is not a taboo in other societies? The orgies of the Red Emperor have been implied not to have such taboos in the Biturian story about the Lunar slaver offering to buy Morak.

 

Needs table-top roleplaying be restricted to the "clean" fun of hacking off limbs and slaughtering foes?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Needs table-top roleplaying be restricted to the "clean" fun of hacking off limbs and slaughtering foes?

Depends on your group. I have run games where there's also very little violence. RPing doesn't even require that. It needs a good story, little more. Honestly, Glorantha's room for a game I can play with my 8 year old is a good thing. It also has space for games that are rather grim.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Bohemond said:

I've had NUMEROUS conversations with gamer women about sexism and rape culture in gaming. It's not that women can't handle it. It's that they shouldn't have to handle it unless they explicitly say they want to. Given that rape is an ever-present real-world issue that most women live with (in the form of having to actually plan out how to stay safe at parties and bars and heading home from work, etc), most women I know don't want it to be an issue that comes up in their gaming. 
 

Then adapt your game accordingly.  I'm not sure what your point of this thread is in the first place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My guess is that myth is Esrolian in origin, or at least influenced by them.

They are a Heortling culture, and the Book of Heortling People contains myths from a great variety of sources ("The Generations of People, or The Cloud Animals," for instance, shows a Malkioni influence with its talk of Devolution and Law.)

The Esrolians sometimes take a dim view of Orlanth, as seen in the myth of the Second War (Esrolia: The Land of 10,000 goddesses page 28, which may also be a version of this story) it would not surprise me if a story of Orlanth's pride being easily hurt and only soothed by Ernalda projecting meekness was from their point of view.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Pentallion said:

Then adapt your game accordingly.  I'm not sure what your point of this thread is in the first place.

That was basically what I was already saying, at least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally have a pretty good idea of my own group's interests and where they start to be unhappy with theme/tone/content.

Running at a 'Con event, I would either avoid pretty much all problematic material, or put up a warning in the 'Con promo / catalogue.

Forming a new group, I'd probably have a "pre-session-zero" discussion... including in-game preferences and these OOC "problematic content" issues.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/12/2018 at 11:58 PM, Bohemond said:

Am I the only one who finds the Wooing of Ernalda story (Glorantha Sourcebook, p. 115, but also in Heortling Mythology) incredibly creepy? 

Not at all. Orlanth is a rapist. He, and his kin, have a history of abducting women from different tribes and fathering children on them. It is all glossed over, but it is there in black and white.

A friend of mine, who played a Yelmalion Light Son, always wanted to list the Bad HeroQuests of Orlanth and his kin, to show them up as the murdering, lying, stealing rapists that they are.

I get that this is supposed to be a demonstration of how Earth calms Air. But it reads as a mythic justification for men engaging in violence against women. 

Not all myths are justifications, This might be the myth of how Ernalda calmed down the stupid bullying air god. It might be acted out and people laugh at how stupid Orlanth looked courting Ernalda and how much better he is when he has married her and has clamed down a bit. A very few Orlanthi might look at how Orlanth behaves and emulate that, but their wives would play the part of Ernalda and get their own way.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/13/2018 at 6:29 PM, tedopon said:

I have an anthropology degree. A real one, from an actual university. Not dissing the study of people and all the systems they create.

Anthropowanking is done by people without anthropology degrees, generally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/13/2018 at 7:09 PM, Bohemond said:

I'm very familiar with Glorantha (being playing in it since 1980 or so), including the whole 'Orlanth fixes his mistakes' thing and the idea that Ernalda has more control that it seems, and neither of those ideas emerged for me as I read through the myth a good dozen times. If I missed it, I'm pretty sure a whole lot of other people will miss it too. 

I saw the "Orlanth fixes his mistakes" and the "Ernalda wears the trousers" ideas really easily in the myths. It adds a layer to the culture and how people work.

However, other poeple will see the myths in different ways.

Someone with problems might read the myth of Ragnaglar and identify with it for all the wrong reasons, for example. That would be really bad, in my opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Bohemond said:

I've had NUMEROUS conversations with gamer women about sexism and rape culture in gaming. It's not that women can't handle it. It's that they shouldn't have to handle it unless they explicitly say they want to. Given that rape is an ever-present real-world issue that most women live with (in the form of having to actually plan out how to stay safe at parties and bars and heading home from work, etc), most women I know don't want it to be an issue that comes up in their gaming. 

I don't think anyone is saying that is a good thing and that we should always have Rapey Orlanth and his Rapey Kin as a major part of the game. In fact, it could easily be ignored.

So, Orlanth would get the Scarf of Mist, but instead he would be given it as a gift rather than claiming the goddess as a prize. Vadrus would not conquer the Blue Woman. Broos would be disgusting, filthy, murderous carriers of disease.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I've read, basically all of Ernalda's myths can easily be read as essentially being, "Ernalda plays all these dumb, brutish men like fiddles so they do whatever she wants and protect her from any danger." That's almost certainly how they're all interpreted in Esrolia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, I've had an adventure where an NPC Orlanthi had abducted an Orlanthi woman for ransom and instead married her.  

I was met with shock from someone I felt shouldnt need an explanation.  Why would she marry him?  

Orlanthi culture and tradition.  That whole heroquest that goes on about it.

In the real world greeks, romans, vikings, the women many times married their abductors, became free members of society and were treated like clan.

Instead, I was challenged about her agency.  Like the story was about 21st century women in the bronze age.

You would be amazed who you find cant keep cultures separate.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Pentallion said:

FWIW, I've had an adventure where an NPC Orlanthi had abducted an Orlanthi woman for ransom and instead married her.  

I was met with shock from someone I felt shouldnt need an explanation.  Why would she marry him?  

Orlanthi culture and tradition.  That whole heroquest that goes on about it.

In the real world greeks, romans, vikings, the women many times married their abductors, became free members of society and were treated like clan.

Instead, I was challenged about her agency.  Like the story was about 21st century women in the bronze age.

You would be amazed who you find cant keep cultures separate.

One one level, the HeroQuest is an enabler. If you perform Orlanth and the Scarf of Mist, then you get to abduct a Water Nymph, with all the baggage that goes with it. Part of that baggage is that the two are bonded together and can be married, so that might cause the marriage to happen. I can see an Orlanthi performing the HeroQuest to abduct a woman from another tribe/clan, where the woman wants to marry but the clan won't let her, doing it as part of a HeroQuest means that clan has no choice because the HeroQuestor has mythically done the abduction and marriage.

In Real World Myths and Legends , there are many examples of abduction-marriage. Paris and Helen is the most famous, but Genghis Khan's wife was abducted on her wedding night and taken away, to give birth to a son 9 months later, which caused problems down the line.

Even now, in Central Asia, marriage by abduction is a real thing. Once the women are married, there is a real stigma around escaping, as they are married.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The longer I think about this particular myth, I think the issue is that it's not framed very clearly. Most Gloranthan myths establish a cultural norm or value for the people who tell it. Orlanth doing X mythically is a statement that what Orlanth did is proper. He is the lawgiver for the Heortling people, after all. But there's this unusual element to some of Orlanth's myths that involve him screwing up and fixing what he broke--the slaying of Yelm is the obvious example. That serves to establish a cultural norm that men who screw up correct their mistake. For players, the myths help set the cultural values that they're expected to model in the game (although Lord knows players are famous for doing the 'weird' thing that no one else in the game culture would actually do). 

But nothing in this myth as it's written frames Orlanth's actions as a mistake. At no point does he apologize to Ernalda for mistreating her. The last verse of the poem that he speaks continues to accuse her of "tricks" and "deceit". In fact, Ernalda's last words in the myth "I am weak. I need help. I am yours." continue the frame for their interactions that Orlanth establishes at the start. The myth is introduced as simply "an entertaining tale", not as a myth in which Orlanth screws up, learns a lesson, and makes right what he has broken. The only hint that the reader is actually supposed to read the myth from Ernalda's perspective is the line in the last paragraph that Orlanth "accepted his fate", (a frame that has a long history in the real world as signaling a misogynist notion that marriage is a bad thing--think of all those 50s jokes about wives as 'the ball and chain'). There's a statement that he learns his wife's "sweet secrets", but I don't think that that makes clear that he's seen the error of his ways. He doesn't, for example, beg Ernalda's forgiveness the way he apologizes to Yelm in the Underworld.

The idea that Orlanth moves from a stormy, violent, misogynist view of love and marriage to an earthy, calm, feminist view of seeing his wife as his equal is great. And If Greg is trying to offer an alternative model for masculinity here, that's a wonderful thing. But the myth as it's framed for us doesn't give readers many sign-posts that you're supposed to see it as falling into the 'Orlanth screws up and fixes what he broke' category. If you don't already know that that's a key element of Orlanth's mythic arc, I don't think you're going to spot it here (and even if you do know that, I think you may miss it). If you're a teenage/early 20s guy (and let's be honest, a sizable chunk of all gamers fall into that category), I think this myth is going to do the exact opposite--it's going to affirm Orlanth's toxic masculinity as normative for PCs and players. 

The reason I think it's important to discuss this is that gaming (among many other facets of nerd culture) has always had a serious problem with toxic masculinity and undervaluing women's perspectives--think about the harsh pushback during the whole Gamergate incident and the death threats that Anita Sarkesian received for just pointing out the misogyny in video games. One of the things I love about Glorantha is that as it's evolved, it's done a much better job of trying to incorporate women's perspectives than most other gaming systems I know. But I think it still struggles to really present the feminine perspective as a truly viable alternative.To the best of my knowledge, there's never been a published scenario specifically written for an Ernaldan PC and built around the 'other way' of resolving the problem. (Even These Women Need Help is written from the male perspective.) The Ernalda and Uralda quests (and the CA quest, although it's not specifically for women) in KoDP are pretty much the only written-up heroquests that present the feminine perspective as a tool for problem-solving. The Peace-Weaving sequence in Eleven Lights does present the other way, but it's just one piece of a larger scenario. If Sartarites really see women as equal to men, there should be more scenarios to reflect that. (But here I'm getting into a whole different facet of the issue than the topic of this thread--I just wanted to show that I think the problem is wider than just one poorly-written myth.)

So instead of offering a myth that only hints that the Ernaldan perspective is better, why not simply have the myth come right out and say that Orlanth's initial approach was wrong and Ernalda taught him a better way to think about love and sex? Why should the women's perspective be hidden away as a sly wink? 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a passage here in the article about marriage among the Orlanthi-Ernaldani: (http://glorantha.tumblr.com/post/96691133493/can-you-tell-us-about-how-people-love-one-another)

"The love between Orlanth and Ernalda is an important part of the Orlanthi myth cycle. Though Orlanth is the Sky and Ernalda is the Earth, they are inseparable, as are man and woman. They have destroyed those who would keep them apart, even the Bright Emperor Yelm, who became the first god to die at Orlanth’s hands. Every clan remembers in its history the role they played at the wedding of Orlanth and Ernalda, when the Marriage Oath was created."

The Marriage Oath is a key part of changing the dynamic of their marriage and I think finding it will provide the Ernaldan perspective.

It is mentioned in the Clan Questionnaire for HeroQuest as well: "The two of them created the Marriage Oath and thereby established a great harmony in the world through this sacred bonding."

The language of the Marriage Oath is unfortunately missing. I think restoring its phrasing for our stories would be helpful.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

The Marriage Oath is a key part of changing the dynamic of their marriage and I think finding it will provide the Ernaldan perspective.

It is mentioned in the Clan Questionnaire for HeroQuest as well: "The two of them created the Marriage Oath and thereby established a great harmony in the world through this sacred bonding."

The language of the Marriage Oath is unfortunately missing. I think restoring its phrasing for our stories would be helpful.

That's a good point. I agree. Making that sort of detail more explicit would help address the issue, especially if it were included in the myth. 
(As a side note, I said I'm laying the groundwork for a Gloranthan LARP. Having an actual marriage ceremony that PCs could enact at some point is the sort of detail that I would love to see developed.)

Edited by Bohemond
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

That's a good point. I agree. Making that sort of detail more explicit would help address the issue, especially if it were included in the myth. 
(As a side note, I said I'm laying the groundwork for a Gloranthan LARP. Having an actual marriage ceremony that PCs could enact at some point is the sort of detail that I would love to see developed.)

The Garhound Contest adventure would make an excellent structure for a LARP.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a useful fragment from Cults of Prax:

It clearly is the related to the Marriage Oath; maybe it's the ritual response to it from the officiant priest.

"Then Argrath began his part. While the others were busy, he already had cast Cloudcall, and at his command the thunder rumbled and the lightning flashed outside. A wind rose from the south, a lucky wind, and Argrath called upon Orlanth to watch and protect the marriage. He invoked the ancient poem:

Stand together always, two are better than one.

Life is short, time is long. Life flees before us.

Take what you hold, make use of it.

This makes you better than gods.

The Ernalda Initiate invoked her fertility chant, but instead of one voice we heard two. Then the Initiate finished her chant, and the other voice continued with other verses to make it into a spell. At last I found the source, but did not recognize the woman."

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Bohemond said:

The longer I think about this particular myth, I think the issue is that it's not framed very clearly.

I know what you are saying, but that smacks of using Game Mechanics to describe a non-game thing, which I don't like at all.

The Myth is a story, nothing more. Once you put the Myth into a HeroQuest, then Framing becomes important, but a Myth doesn't have to be Framed and, I would suggest, is a poorer Myth for being Framed.

Most Gloranthan myths establish a cultural norm or value for the people who tell it. Orlanth doing X mythically is a statement that what Orlanth did is proper. He is the lawgiver for the Heortling people, after all.

Orlanth as an Example is a well-trodden myth series, whether Orlanth as a Good Example of Orlanth as a Bad Example.

Is he the Lawgiver? Umath gave some laws, Heort game some laws, maybe even Vingkot or Ernalda, but I thought that Orlanthi laws generally didn't come from Orlanth. However, I am probably almost entirely mistaken.

 

But there's this unusual element to some of Orlanth's myths that involve him screwing up and fixing what he broke--the slaying of Yelm is the obvious example. That serves to establish a cultural norm that men who screw up correct their mistake.

Yes and no.

Orlanth very rarely screws up the thing that he is doing at that time. Orlanth slew Yelm to establish himself as the King of the Gods and to break away from the Bad Emperor once and for all. In doing so, he was surprisingly successful. However, it had several side-effects, not least relaly annoying Humakt and throiwing Glorantha into the Lesser Darkness. He had to fix the side-effects, but the original deed was a good one.

 

For players, the myths help set the cultural values that they're expected to model in the game (although Lord knows players are famous for doing the 'weird' thing that no one else in the game culture would actually do). 

Again, yes and no.

Sure, Myths can serve as indications of how the deity, and by example worshipper, behave.

However, I see Myths as powerful stories and only link them to game play after the Myth is written. Myths often make no sense and need to be interpreted. Why? Because that what happened, interpret all you want. Now, I am fully aware that Glorantha is a made up workd, so the myths are made up and hence something only happened because someone has said that it happened, so everything sort-of falls down at that point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't see how this is an issue of Game Mechanics at all. I'm entirely concerned with the myth as it's written and how players are likely to respond to it. Yes, myths are questable and, as I say toward the end of that post, I'd like to see more myths that are questable from the feminine perspective, but I'm not really looking at how we translate the Wooing of Ernalda into the mechanics of a scenario.

What I mean by 'framing' is that the story is not presented to the reader as an example of how Orlanth made a mistake and then later owned up to it (which is what I mean by 'screwing up'). There isn't an obvious moral here that 'Orlanth realized that he was abusing Ernalda and changed his ways'. Rather, the most obvious moral that I think one is likely to extract from this story is 'Yell at the woman you're interested in until she submits to you.' Even if we read it from the Ernaldan perspective, the moral seems to be 'Submit to a man's abuse until he marries you and then you'll have some control.' 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

I don't see how this is an issue of Game Mechanics at all. I'm entirely concerned with the myth as it's written and how players are likely to respond to it. Yes, myths are questable and, as I say toward the end of that post, I'd like to see more myths that are questable from the feminine perspective, but I'm not really looking at how we translate the Wooing of Ernalda into the mechanics of a scenario.

What I mean by 'framing' is that the story is not presented to the reader as an example of how Orlanth made a mistake and then later owned up to it (which is what I mean by 'screwing up'). There isn't an obvious moral here that 'Orlanth realized that he was abusing Ernalda and changed his ways'. Rather, the most obvious moral that I think one is likely to extract from this story is 'Yell at the woman you're interested in until she submits to you.' Even if we read it from the Ernaldan perspective, the moral seems to be 'Submit to a man's abuse until he marries you and then you'll have some control.' 

Ah right, I thought it might have beemn connected to Framing a Contest in HeroQuest. Apologies for any confusion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×