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Orlanth the Abuser

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53 minutes ago, g33k said:

Fair enough.  Apologies for misunderstanding.

I thought it seemed kinda strawman to equate Handmaid's Tale with Orlanth myths; hence the sigh.



To be fair, I haven't watched Handmaid's Tale, but am aware of it's cultural impact/significance to some extent.

I do wonder about the removal of problematic content in games, though. We're supposed to have conflicts and issues to deal with, no? Removing all problems will pretty much remove all content and that confounds me to some extent. Now, your concern about that content being squarely in the center of play, forcing it on the protagonists, is noteworthy, but for the kind of games I like to run and play, it seems to fit (I don't mind having the issues up front and being dealt with in play - our table will address them maturely and not take any glee in exploring them). For example, I think Vampire illustrates this. I think it is problematic in theme to the core - which is why we play it: to explore these issues. I don't think we become desensitized or more ignorant at all to these issues after a campaign, but on the contrary. I don't think sanitizing it (Vampire) is really an option, but I can totally understand and respect that not everyone might want to play that game (or if someone doesn't wan to to play in a game where we kill dozens to hundreds of orcs just because, for that matter). 

Also, some research to the contrary:


Laboratory and correlational studies often find a link between violent video games and minor or benign forms of aggressive behaviors (e.g., exposing an opponent to an unpleasant noise). Based on these studies, the media, lawmakers, and researchers often imply a link between violent video games and violent criminal behavior. Using a similar methodology employed by researchers to examine predictors of severe violent behaviors (Anderson et al., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73: 1213–1223, 1997), 4 time-series analyses investigated the associations among violent crime (homicides and aggravated assaults), video game sales, Internet keyword searches for violent video game guides, and the release dates of popular violent video games (both annually and monthly). Contrary to the claims that violent video games are linked to aggressive assaults and homicides, no evidence was found to suggest that this medium was positively related to real-world violence in the United States. Unexpectedly, many of the results were suggestive of a decrease in violent crime in response to violent video games. Possible explanations for these unforeseen findings are discussed and researchers are cautioned about generalizing the results from laboratory and correlational studies to severe forms of violent behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


And research on the effect of game realism in regards to aggression (sure, a somewhat different topic, but anyway):


Realism is often described as increasing the effects of VVGs. These results contradict this perspective, and instead suggest that realism may not lead to increases in aggression-related variables.


And more discussion on this topic: https://www.businessinsider.com/video-games-and-violence-2018-3?r=US&IR=T#in-the-time-period-that-violent-video-games-have-become-popular-youth-violence-has-declined-6

But yeah, this isn't my field, so I don't want to get too far into it. I am skeptical of video game violence increasing aggression as some kind of straight causality (I do think it may in some cases, where there may already exist predispositions to violence), but am not unable to be convinced otherwise. Not sure if this is the forum for that, though.

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I found this thread time ago, lurking as I usually do. Then I refrained from posting due personal reasons, but seeing that the topic was somewhat necroed, I feel compelled to writte my thoughts on thi

There is a problem with the use of the word "election". Orlanth was "acclaimed" leader of the gods by those gods present. He presented himself, the assembled agreed to make him leader and swore oaths,

While I agree with this, and was about to post something similar, I also understand if a GM or Guide or whatever might feel like adapting things to be a bit more palateable for their players - especia

Am I the only one who disagree with this interpretation?

Orlanth here sure is not treating Ernalda very well but he is just angry because he couldn't recognize the value of her gift, he's hardly raping (a pitfall that for all their faults him and Urox always avoided unlike Ragnalar and the Vadrudi) or even hurting her (a couple of insults in prose after genuinely believing she tricked him hardly qualify) and the point of the story is to show that he is young, naive (especially back then) and that she is wiser than him.

If you squint your eyes just as much then seeing Ernalda as a manipulative woman who seduce men so they can protect her, knowing that they will eventually die for her like good bulls and Orlanth just happened to be strong and lucky enough to survive until the Dawn would be less far-stretched.

I don't think Glorantha has any problems in its lore, if anything is it strongly decrying sexual abuse : Rape is a specific form of cosmos destroying evil (and delaying justice for Thed one of Orlanth's greatest errors), all noteworthy rapist gods die,etc...

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On 9/15/2018 at 9:58 PM, Bohemond said:

That's great if we're all Bronze Age people just living our lives. But we're not. We're 21st century people playing a game. The kind of stories we choose to tell when we game have impacts on us and how we think about our lives and our world. Telling misogynistic stories encourages misogyny. 

Can you compile a list of all the problematic myths   so they can be removed. When you have that done you should compile a list of all real world myths that you find "probematic" and it  send  to publishers like Penguin and demand they be removed from any future publications and have existing stocks burned.

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I think there is an undue amount of focus on the concept of "problematicness" in this thread, at the moment. It looks to me like some people are getting down into well-worn foxholes of the contemporary American Culture Wars and shooting out pre-prepped arguments, and I don't think much good comes from just going through the motions like this.

Rather, I posit this: this is fiction for a game. It's a spare-time activity we do for fun, for amusement, entertainment, and personal edification. My simple proposition is this: does the myth contribute to the entertainment and enjoyment of the people partaking in the RP-session? If it doesn't, then as a DM, I'd just axe it. I have no obligation to "faithfully represent" made-up aspects of a made-up world that acts as a bummer for people joining me in a hobby.

I know some people will argue that it is important as it serves show that Orlanthi values differ from real world values - and I agree, but I'd counter by saying that a) to quite a few people familiar with history or ethnology (including RPG gamers or fantasy readers) this will be obvious already, and b) it's a made up setting, their values can be whatever the GM and players agree them to be.

Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying the story is bad or corrupting or will turn people into women-haters and must be censored or anything of that. All I'm saying is that if you know you have some people onboard who'd be bummed out by having to go just accept stories like these as part of their cultural canon, then ditch it. You're under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of online make-believe geeks like ourselves.

Personally I think the story is interesting, and I personally think it serves an interesting purpose of showing how the Storm Gods can be assholes, and that Heortling culture is no stranger to emphasizing force over other considerations, which also highlights a lot of the other clearly brutalizing practices of the Orlanthi as a whole. But that is me as a literary and world-building fan. Again, I don't think anyone is beholden to go with my impression.

To reiterate: my point isn't whether it's "problematic", but whether it promotes fun and good times for the participants, which I would think, even as an RPG novice, is the most important aspect of it.

1 hour ago, dvdmacatter said:

Can you compile a list of all the problematic myths   so they can be removed. When you have that done you should compile a list of all real world myths that you find "probematic" and it  send  to publishers like Penguin and demand they be removed from any future publications and have existing stocks burned.

Strawmanning isn't very productive or nice. I think we both know the OP did not mean nor intend any of what you just wrote, and I think it's intellectually dishonest to pretend so.

On 9/15/2018 at 6:50 PM, Bohemond said:

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? 

For whatever it's worth: an over-emphasis on masculine narratives and perspectives plagued anthropology and history for decades, and academic researchers spent much of the 80s and 90s trying to work out how to get better at finding female voices (it didn't magically change by getting more female anthropologists, but it's a long story). It's better now, but it's still an area that's difficult to navigate for various social and cultural reasons.

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On 9/17/2018 at 1:26 AM, g33k said:



I have played RQ practically since it started(1978 brown cover), and I have taught a lot of people how to play.  I have never once pointed that myth out to any of them.  And I dont believe I ever had a player read it on their own.  At least nobody ever mentioned it.  There is a huge amount of stuff for this world, newbies are not going to grab more than a fraction of it.  If you dont point it out they are very likely never going to see it.  I am an ubernerd who wants to read it all.  I have never had anyone in a group even sort of that interested.  Almost all players I have met, in any game just want to roll some dice win the fight and gather the loot.  Yes some like to roleplay just as much.  And a few will really get into a world and see how it works.  But every one of those I have gamed with understood a bronze age world is not a nice place.  If you have hd several complain about this specific myth, you must be in an odd place because I just cant find a concentration of people that would go to that much trouble.  I would love to find them.

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On 9/13/2018 at 8:09 PM, Bohemond said:

Yes. But we're 21st century people operating in a 21st century milieu. 21st century players, especially female players, may very well find this myth to be a real problem. Just because rape was a common occurrence in the ancient world doesn't mean it should get a pass in our fictional story-setting. There's nothing in this myth itself that identifies what Orlanth does to Ernalda to be a mistake that he grows past, which means that it's easy to read this myth as essentially championing Orlanth's behavior rather than undermining it. 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. 

As I'm sure we're all aware, table-top gaming has a long history of not being very friendly to female players. Glorantha is, I think, a friendlier game world for women than a lot of the alternatives, but I know a couple of women who find the highly-gendered nature of Glorantha pretty uncomfortable, and a myth like this strikes me as likely to trigger female players who have experienced domestic violence or rape. I'm in the early stages of planning a large-scale Sartar LARP that will probably involve a fair number of female players, so I need to be thinking about how a myth like this is going to read to female players. 


Nobody is forcing anybody to like everything all the time.. Nor would I assume too much before anybody has said anything.

Why shouldn't a female player think like a Gloranthan woman about Orlanth? Either "Well, but he does protect us all from Chaos" or "What an effing jerk! I stick with Barbester Gor!" or something in between.

And then: It is a myth in a GAME! And nobody (as far as I understand even in the game myth) thinks that Orlanth did something moraly outshining. Basically, he was a God-Jerk On Parade. But a god. Our God. Mighty and Strong. And he defends us against Chaos and stuff! Nuff said.

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You know, if we're speaking of marriage myths, Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind has the marriage myth of Elmal to Nyalda (the Hyaloring name for Ernalda), which is pretty good. I wonder if some variation on it is the myth used for Elmali who marry Ernaldans in Esrola (where Orlanth is kind of just one of Ernalda's many husbands) to this day?

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On 9/13/2018 at 8:58 AM, Bohemond said:

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. 

Firstly, Orlanth doesn't attack Ernalda physically, he just gets very angry at her.  Secondly, Orlanth's brothers are correct.  Ernalda is manipulating Orlanth, and he can't see it.  This is a theme throughout the myth cycle.  You might be complaining about Orlanth's toxic masculinity, but take a look at the low character of Ernalda in context.  Note that they are also quite faithless to each other. Two such toxic characters surely deserve each other. If anything, pity their pantheon and their worshipers for the bad example they set.  Do not however assume that Ernalda is an innocent victim. 

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On 9/13/2018 at 7:06 PM, 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".

It does feel like that sometimes, thought. The moving away from slavery in Orlanthi culture (or at least having only 'nice slaves'), the positioning of both Yelmic and Lunar society as evil, Humakt as the 'nice' god of death (the primal god of death at that!), elected kings ( Is there a myth where Orlanth was elected king? I'm sure more knowledgeable people will know.) and others

I definitely don't think we should bowdlerise these myths, but encourage players to see the problems and make their own about themselves.

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5 hours ago, Orlanthatemyhamster said:

( Is there a myth where Orlanth was elected king? I'm sure more knowledgeable people will know.) 

Making of the Storm Tribe contains, if not a formal election, some process of acclamation, I think.

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On 9/12/2018 at 5:58 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? 

No, you are not the only one. It is not a part of the myth I intend to bring up. Eiritha's role in Storm Bull's fight against Wakboth is more my style.

On 9/12/2018 at 9:45 PM, g33k said:

Fucking Up then Fixing It may be the most prevalent & important theme in the Orlanth mythography...

THIS! This is indeed the critical part of the Orlanth myth.

In defense of Glorantha's / Runequest's general treatment of gender equity, I am noting that my most powerful warrior pre-generated character is Oriane, a light infantry Babeester Gor initiate, clocking in at 110% with her battle axe.

Anyone familiar with the game mechanics knows that female characters cannot be taken for granted.

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16 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Making of the Storm Tribe contains, if not a formal election, some process of acclamation, I think.

There is a problem with the use of the word "election". Orlanth was "acclaimed" leader of the gods by those gods present. He presented himself, the assembled agreed to make him leader and swore oaths, made pledges, etc. The Orlanthi do not really have "elections" like modern Western democracies. Orlanth had to fight to maintain his position, as other gods regularly challenged his right to lead the gods.

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I found this thread time ago, lurking as I usually do. Then I refrained from posting due personal reasons, but seeing that the topic was somewhat necroed, I feel compelled to writte my thoughts on this controversy.

Talking about the myth itself, I indeed see a violent Storm God trying to impose his will on the object of his desire, but what I also see is a witty and manipulative goddess playing with this short-sighted and young warrior. They are as flawed as a god can be, and clearly made for each other.

Now, what it compels me to writte this is certain attitudes across the thread that, while healthy in a empathic sense, may as well kill what (in my opinion) is one of the most important part of the "Glorantha experience". To put it clear, most of what I will say comes from personal feelings that may be shared, or not, by other users, and by no means try to determine what makes Glorantha, well, Glorantha.

It is important to remember that the basis of this setting lies on ancient, bronze age/iron ages cultures, and this inspiration is clear in both the political and the religious. The Orlanthi, despite being represented as good guys in several publications, do not escape this fact, and you can trace most of their components back to indo-european cultures, from celts to mycenean greeks. I wonder if the fact that many of them practice slavery, a topic no less concerning than domestic abuse, deserve also be frowned upon in a creative sense, winnings us the right to censure the presence of those elements in the fiction. A situation shared with, for example, human sacrificie among certain cults, including the murder of children for the glory of certain well known earth goddess. At first glance the ideals of liberty may fool us into believing that they are different or less "evil" than the Lunar rivals, but such ideals are also the reason for why you can freely qualify certain clans and tribes as hypocritic. No need to add deep xenophobic attitudes to the list.

I remember my first contact with Glorantha throught King of Dragon Pass. An aspect that really facilitated inmersion was not the fact that the Orlanthi shared some ideals with my culture, but on the contrary, that they seemed to believe things that I consider inmoral and even wickedly evil. They are not modern humans in our mundane setting: They are a bronze age inspired cultural family shaped by different conditions that also lead to different values. Such thing make, sometimes, hard to roleplay as them, but at the same time turns their fictional existence into something credible. The same goes for the Dara Happans and the wicked Fonritians.

What I fear is not players choosing to erase those elements from their games. I would do so if even one player feel concerned or offended by them. What I fear is the idea that problematic elements, or being specific, those capable of hurting our sensibilities as modern humans under the flag of the western culture in the year 2020, do not deserve to be present on the cultures we play as, much less so when there is tons and tons of other problematic elements that are still there but do not raise the same outrage just because we see it as distant problems. I live in a place in wich cases of wicked people doing dark rituals with human bodies is not a matter of fiction, and I wonder if that gives me the right to scream against a writter for the inclusion of human sacrifice and baby-killing on certain cults.

It is healthy to explore different perspectives, even if those perspectives hurt our sensibilites. It is healthy to face worldviews different to our own, even if we only want to condemn them as evil. It is healthy being able to put on the shoes of people different from you, seeing throught their eyes, even if your values remain the same. 

Anyway, like other said, if you dont like something, feel free to erase it from your games. Your players deserve to be comfortable, and you should not impose elements that threathen the enjoyment. This is a game in the end. 

Sorry for any mistake. English is not my native tongue.

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