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Outlaw or Underground Cults in the Lunar Empire

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On 3/2/2019 at 12:39 PM, metcalph said:

I doubt Thanatar is worshipped to any great extent within Peloria.  He's not the type of god that one can worship in secret.

 

Actually, canon has *extensive* Thanatar activity all through Carmania, Dara Happa, and elsewhere.

Specifically, RQ3's 'Shadows on the Borderlands' [a supplement to 'River of Cradles'] has an antagonist Thanatari who came to Prax from a large Thanatar cult complex in Carmania, took over a shrine in Peloria, and moved on to the Vulture Country near the Zola Fel.

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2 hours ago, svensson said:

To my knowledge, only two Gloranthan societies have actively tried to harness Illumination, maybe three... The First Council's Bright God project that birthed Nysalor, the Jrustelan God Learners [an arguable point.. they may not have been Nysalor Riddlers per se, but their actions were Illuminated in practice], and the Lunar Colleges. You see how well each one of those societies prospered for their temerity.

This depends strongly on how you define Illumination.

The Fortunate Succession is full of illuminates rising up for their official recognition, and illuminate thought spread to Spol, Carmania and remained simmering in Dara Happa under various guises before the Red Goddess bundled it all up. The Lives of Sedenya has a list of her previous incarnations that was discussed here. And that's just Nysaloran school illumination, without looking into the Arkati twist of that, and the inheritance that the Malkioneranists took from the Arkati with that weird book that served as their entry path into the Theist world of myths which might have been Arkati, Nysalorean, or straight Gbaji.

Then there are other paths to Enligthenment, like the various draconic approaches (Godunya's, Obduran's (which is also Ingolf's), Immanent Mastery) and the non-draconic eastern ones  such as various Kralori sages preceding Daruda, the Teshnann Chal, the Vormaini inheritance of Imperial Vithela and the East Isles Venfornic, Perfect Stillness as an outgrowth of Nenduren's Stillness, and Mashunasan's Void. And Larn Hasamador? Oh, Nothing.

There appears to be a Blue Moon path to mysticism, too, if you look at the Master of Tides in Maslo, some Melibian stuff, the Ingareens in light of Belintar's dismemberment, and the weird accord between Blue Moon assassins and the Mass Utuma that ended the EWF in 1042.

And if you think that the Agimori escaped such nonsense, they were part of the Blue Moon Empire, and Garangordos' system is probably as tied to mysticism as Sheng Seleris's empire.

Quote

With all that being said, I see Illumination as something kept very secret; something only shared between one believer to another on an individual basis. They may network among themselves, but they don't organize. There are few if any 'Illumination clubhouses'. I would think that most of the smart Illuminates [or at least the cautious ones] operate like King Oddi of the Bilini. Oddi may understand that Order and Chaos are two sides of the same coin, he might understand that neither can exist without the other. But he is also aware of his position and duty as king of his people. If a fellow Illuminate were to contact him, he would judge that Illuminate solely on the effect that person has on his people. And if that means that he personally orders that Illuminate executed, he will without a second thought.

True. Enlightenment blocks tribalism or general altruism, or at least delays it to be executed deliberately rather than instinctively (or as a result of social priming). That makes for bad commando units that basically are an artificial entanglement of the individual's existence with that of his squad members. On the other hand, it makes for excellent snipers or tunnel fighters.

I do wonder whether an Illuminate can use passions (like the Storm Bull Rage) as easily as non-illuminates can. From Oddi's exchange with Paulis, he appears unable to tap into that rage any more. Whether that affects his ability to go berserk via divine magic is yet another question (and I'd think that it doesn't).

On the other hand, Argrath on his path to deeper insights appears to be able to harness passions beyond the normal human measure - perhaps as a consequence of draconic insights. And whatever Sheng and his disciples did appears to thrive on passions, too.

Arkat being a zealot in whichever new cult he joined may be tied to passions, too.

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4 hours ago, svensson said:

Actually, canon has *extensive* Thanatar activity all through Carmania, Dara Happa, and elsewhere.

Shadow on the Borderlands did say such things but a) it is no longer canon and b) more importantly the level of Thanatari worship it suggests in such places is absurd.

 

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28 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Shadow on the Borderlands did say such things but a) it is no longer canon and b) more importantly the level of Thanatari worship it suggests in such places is absurd.

 

I think it fair to say that in a place as varied and magical as Glorantha, the definition of 'absurd' is very subjective.

The ecology of a powerfully magical society is very much open to interpretation.

YGWV.

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4 hours ago, Joerg said:

I do wonder whether an Illuminate can use passions (like the Storm Bull Rage) as easily as non-illuminates can. From Oddi's exchange with Paulis, he appears unable to tap into that rage any more. Whether that affects his ability to go berserk via divine magic is yet another question (and I'd think that it doesn't).

On the other hand, Argrath on his path to deeper insights appears to be able to harness passions beyond the normal human measure - perhaps as a consequence of draconic insights. And whatever Sheng and his disciples did appears to thrive on passions, too.

Arkat being a zealot in whichever new cult he joined may be tied to passions, too.

In re: Passions and Illumination [which really ought to be its own thread, but nvm]

Were it my table as GM, I would allow a very limited number of Passions for an Illuminate character. Like maybe one or two Passions absolutely essential to the character, its beginning concept, and its subsequent play. Arkat was an Illuminate and was able to maintain his drive to kill Gbaji... and the tales tell us that it was not in the cold, calculating manner of Oddi the Keen. When battle became personal, Arkat could get quite enraged [mechanically using his Hate Nysalor Passion].

Illumination by it's very nature is free of Passions [capital and lower-case 'p']. It is the liberation from dogma and prejudice, yes, but it is also releases the boundaries of morals and ethics that allow all societies to function.  Even here on Earth Prime we struggle with the definitions of 'evil' when we have a difficulty defining what is 'murder' and what is 'killing', for just one example. Look at what happens to Illuminates when they realize that there's no consequences to even the most depraved acts.

And speaking of Arkat and Argrath, that brings up another question....

Was Argrath Illuminated?

[ducks]

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2 hours ago, metcalph said:

Shadow on the Borderlands did say such things but a) it is no longer canon and b) more importantly the level of Thanatari worship it suggests in such places is absurd.

 

Since when did any of the RQ3 material become non-canon?

And do we have a list of canon sources?

BTW, I thought the Shadows on the Borderlands was a great supplement. It had my group looking over our shoulders for Thanatari scorpion-ogres for months! ;)

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4 hours ago, svensson said:

 

And speaking of Arkat and Argrath, that brings up another question....

Was Argrath Illuminated?

[ducks]

Yes.

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4 hours ago, svensson said:

And speaking of Arkat and Argrath, that brings up another question....

Was Argrath Illuminated?

I am fairly certain that Argrath was enlightened, but I cannot say whether by Arkati or EWF means, or a conglomerate of these and Nysalorean ones.

4 hours ago, svensson said:

[ducks] 

No idea how enlightened the Durulz are, but Argrath wasn't one of them. Their keet cousins in the east are providing several among the more prestigious mystic masters of the Gods War.

 

Or did you mean [chicken]?

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4 hours ago, svensson said:

Since when did any of the RQ3 material become non-canon?

@metcalph has very strict definitions, reducing canonicity to the publications since the Guide, making some allowance for canonicity of Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, Sartar Companion and Pavis: Gateway to Adventure.

Tossing out the child with the bath water, as far as I am concerned. But I agree that RQ3 era publications may have to be taken with moderate amounts of grains of salt, as do Hero Wars era publications. No comparison to the buckets full of salt that are needed to accompany the MRQ releases or early nineties fan releases, or pun-riddled Freeforms (fun and influential on Fanon as they were).

4 hours ago, svensson said:

And do we have a list of canon sources?

The current Chaosium catalogue, according to the strictest of definitions only the actively supported rpg lines. That means even the paperback edition of King of Sartar is non-canonical when it contains different text from the hardcover edition.

When I administrated the Buserian Glorantha index, I was maintaining something like a gliding scale of canonicity on information depending on the sources. That didn't keep me from including as many of those sources as my time allowed, but there was a rule for authors which sources to trust less than others.

Blatantly contradicting previously published material without better cause than "I feel like this is cooler" was bad style then and did plague a few of the Hero Wars era products (and I am not talking about Greg Stafford admitting that he misunderstood aspects of Glorantha in his revelations about the setting, but other authors producing material for the official line.

 

4 hours ago, svensson said:

BTW, I thought the Shadows on the Borderlands was a great supplement. It had my group looking over our shoulders for Thanatari scorpion-ogres for months! ;)

Sure. Most of the stuff is shock full of great and cool ideas, even when they clash with strict canon.

Having huge membership parasitic cults like Thanatar in limited regions like Carmania may stretch credibility, but then "Carmania" is not restricted to the West Reaches of the Lunar Empire with its four satrapies, but extended into adjacent regions, especially Oronin and Doblian satrapies, but also west of the current border, and north of the Poralistor. Adding in those populations, something the suggested size might become marginally feasible, at least with government involvement on some level.

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

@metcalph has very strict definitions, reducing canonicity to the publications since the Guide, making some allowance for canonicity of Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, Sartar Companion and Pavis: Gateway to Adventure.

It is not my definition but that repeatedly laid down by Jeff no matter how much you persist in whining to me about it.  I have had it up to here with you ascribing everything you don't like as being solely my decision and heartless and cruel to boot.

 

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5 hours ago, svensson said:

Since when did any of the RQ3 material become non-canon?

Under new management.  Here is an early version explaining the attitude to RQ3 material

 

Quote

What about the old Chaosium/Avalon Hill material?

That material is largely (probably 95%) still canonical, although here and there some bits have been supplanted by the Guide to Glorantha. For example, the pseudo-medieval Glorantha West presented in the Genertela boxed set is no longer canonical (ironically, we largely rely on Greg’s older writings on the Gloranthan West). But I still heavily rely on Trollpack, the Prosopaedia, Cults of Prax, and Cults of Terror, as well as on White Bear & Red Moon, and Nomad Gods.

https://www.glorantha.com/docs/canon/

 

5 hours ago, svensson said:

BTW, I thought the Shadows on the Borderlands was a great supplement. It had my group looking over our shoulders for Thanatari scorpion-ogres for months! ;)

Its status as a great supplement is irrelevant as to whether what it says about the nature of Thanatari cults in Carmania or even the concept of becoming an Ogre through cannibalism.

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7 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

I think it fair to say that in a place as varied and magical as Glorantha, the definition of 'absurd' is very subjective.

I'm not interested in debating the nature of abusrdity.  I am simply stating as a blunt fact that the idea of significant Thanatari worship in Carmania and that a Thanatari priest could travel from Carmania to Prax is deranged nonsense considering that Thanatar is one of the few chaotic cults the Lunars would quite happily wipe out.  If the priest had been one of Vivamort, Krarsht or Cacodemon then it would be plausible but not Thanatar.

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Well, it's good to a firm basis for going forward.

I admit that I didn't much like knights in Gothic jousting harness and Ralios covered with codottierri wearing coats of plates and carrying Florentine rapiers all while the Lunar Empire was still wearing linothorax and its 'heavy' infantry was wearing lorica segmentata.

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1 hour ago, metcalph said:

I'm not interested in debating the nature of abusrdity.  I am simply stating as a blunt fact that the idea of significant Thanatari worship in Carmania and that a Thanatari priest could travel from Carmania to Prax is deranged nonsense considering that Thanatar is one of the few chaotic cults the Lunars would quite happily wipe out.  If the priest had been one of Vivamort, Krarsht or Cacodemon then it would be plausible but not Thanatar.

I beg leave to disagree.  Stealing the powers of an enemy by comparison with fostering a cult of bureaucratic corruption?  Krarsht loses every time.

 

In fact, musing about it further, I could easily rationalize a state supported cult of Thanatari assassins.

Edited by Ali the Helering
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1 minute ago, Ali the Helering said:

I beg leave to disagree.  Stealing the powers of an enemy by comparison with fostering a cult of bureaucratic corruption?  Krarsht loses every time.

Seriously?  The Thanatari walk around with heads on their belts.  They stand out in a crowd.  How are they going to escape civilized societies from mustering in troops and magicians to kill them?  It doesn't matter how powerful they are - they have no friends and no means of concealing themselves.  

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1 hour ago, metcalph said:

considering that Thanatar is one of the few chaotic cults the Lunars would quite happily wipe out.

Why is that?

(OK, I see this has been asked before, so:) The Lunar Empire keeps around the Crimson Bat, that Vampire City(?), Yara Aranis and who knows what else. It's not like they cherish the lives of the Imperial subjects. Thanatar worshippers seem comparably calm and also have their uses, for example in extracting knowledge from enemies, so funding a couple of remote monasteries doesn't seem like a big deal. 

Edited by The God Learner
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3 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Seriously?  The Thanatari walk around with heads on their belts.  They stand out in a crowd.  How are they going to escape civilized societies from mustering in troops and magicians to kill them?  It doesn't matter how powerful they are - they have no friends and no means of concealing themselves.  

Yep, seriously.  Consider the chaos monsters and mages the Empire embraces, not least Sedenya herself.

Heads on your belt?  Why should I care unless my cult opposes Chaos or one of the constituent parts of Thanatar?

On the other hand, if you favour Krarsht you are undermining society. If you favour Cacodemon you are promoting cannibalism.  If you favour Vivamort - actually, okay, the empire has a Vampire Legion, so everything is fine, yes?

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16 minutes ago, The God Learner said:

Why is that?

Because they are psychotically evil?

Quote

Because of its Chaotic and disgusting practices, the cult
has been heavily persecuted wherever discovered, with frequent
raids made on its underground hideouts and complexes

[...]

Human regions hold the cult anathema, and persecute and
ritually execute its worshippers in purification rites conducted,
by priests of most cults, and usually presided over by a Sage
of Lhankor Mhy.

[...]

Most cults consider it
an honor to be part of an expedition into a Thanatar complex.
Such expeditions may prompt alliances between cults normally
hostile, such as Orlanth and Seven Mothers, but even the
Thanatar cult cannot get hereditary racial enemies like trolls and
elves to cooperate

Cults of Terror p55

 

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18 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

Yep, seriously.  Consider the chaos monsters and mages the Empire embraces, not least Sedenya herself.

Except that the Lunar Empire has been described as hating Thanatari in Cults of Terror.  They can tolerate the Bat and other chaotic gods but Thanatar has no restraint and so is purged without mercy.

 

18 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

On the other hand, if you favour Krarsht you are undermining society. If you favour Cacodemon you are promoting cannibalism.  If you favour Vivamort - actually, okay, the empire has a Vampire Legion, so everything is fine, yes?

The Empire doesn't favour Krarsht.  Krarsht conceals its own actions and is well-known for it.  The same goes for Cacodemon and to a lesser extent Vivamort.

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If Peter feels singled out by my criticism of him questioning canonicity, it is because comments like the one I reacted to are rarely posted by anyone else but perhaps myself, with the difference that I use phrasing like "may not be canonical any more."

The sweeping statement that the entire publication isn't canon any more wasn't helpful, hence the baby and bathwater quip.

It's not that I disagree with the statement that the Carmanian mother complex sounds more like a propaganda film to lure new underlings into the cult than anything real, but given that Thanatar isn't the sanest of all cults and has magic to tamper with memories, this may be a case of believing in one's own propaganda over facts. Facts provided as information for scenarios written by freelance authors may slip in unchecked facts, especially as the format makes complete fact checking way too time consuming and work-intensive to be economically viable.

 

But back to polemical detail:

5 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Seriously?  The Thanatari walk around with heads on their belts.  They stand out in a crowd.  How are they going to escape civilized societies from mustering in troops and magicians to kill them?  It doesn't matter how powerful they are - they have no friends and no means of concealing themselves.  

Thanatari walking around in the open with gibbering heads on their belts is an indication that they rule over the place. Thanatar is a cult that works from hiding and ambush, hence its weapon of choice, the tarnished silver garotte (possibly one of the least useful melee weapons ever). A Thanatari who wants to bring his heads to a place that has third party observers usually would use a cloak to hide the heads, and possibly something to muffle the heads so that their gibbering doesn't spoil any ambush.

The entire original presentation of the Thanatar cult comes across as an organisation with huge manpower.

If Carmania was to be home to a complex approaching the anomaly of Than Ulbar in the Wastes, it would have to have corrupted a couple thousand civilians into cowed silence, even if the majority of the cultists aren't humans or ogres.

If your underlings are badly deformed chaotics too repugnant for cults like Thed or Vivamort, they aren't creatures you could hide in a crowd.

Ecologically, preying on lowland Pelorians for rune-magic holding heads sounds like a losing proposition anyway, as the ration of rune-magic knowing initiates in the population makes the region a target-poor environment. Not even the Lunar cultists bring the victim potential anywhere near the target density you get in Orlanthi-settled areas. You'd have to prey on your potential allies for mere subsistence, and the only way to conceal that is before the background of an even greater Chaos mess. Trailing the Crimson Bat and scavenging on its larder might be less risky and a lot more rewarding.

 

But then, decoy underground complexes with well planned ambush sites sound like an ideal hunting ground for the more devious of the cultists while pitiful half-wit chaotic wretches with useful chaotic features like regeneration or thick hide may be ruthlessly exploited as disposable decoys.

Such considerations allow the question how common ugly chaos nests are inside the fringes of the Empire. It would take one or two of these to "outshine" regular Thanatar activity.

 

When and where the cult breaks from hiding it must be certain to have either control over the entire society, or ready to move on anyway and cull some of the worst disappointments among the underlings.

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15 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Except that the Lunar Empire has been described as hating Thanatari in Cults of Terror.  They can tolerate the Bat and other chaotic gods but Thanatar has no restraint and so is purged without mercy.

 

The Empire doesn't favour Krarsht.  Krarsht conceals its own actions and is well-known for it.  The same goes for Cacodemon and to a lesser extent Vivamort.

I feel that I have to point out that you were the one who spoke of them as preferable to Thanatar, not I.

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6 minutes ago, Joerg said:

If Peter feels singled out by my criticism of him questioning canonicity, it is because comments like the one I reacted to are rarely posted by anyone else but perhaps myself, with the difference that I use phrasing like "may not be canonical any more."

And Joerg now pretends that he wrote something completely different.  I did not start the argument about canon in this thread.  That was Svensson.  Pointing out that something is not canon is a legitimate respnse to someone who asserted that it was and that I chose to not to use your euphenism, does not give you the right to single me about as following a "very strict" policy.  You have no moral authority to be policing anybody about the tone of their statements when your own tedious transgressions are all too apparent.

6 minutes ago, Joerg said:

The sweeping statement that the entire publication isn't canon any more wasn't helpful, hence the baby and bathwater quip.

It was helpful in the way "may not be canonical any more" is not.  And I was criticizing a specific statement about Thanatari in Carmania which even you conceded was bollocks.  I did not say the Caverns of Dyskund do not exist which would have been a valid case of baby and bathwater quip.  If you had spent far less effort in making quips and boasting about your time with the Buserian links (you don't see me making similar comments about the Glorantha Wikia.  Should I be?) and paid more attention to what other people were actually saying, you would have seen this.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

I feel that I have to point out that you were the one who spoke of them as preferable to Thanatar, not I.

I said nothing about them being preferable.  I said they could conceal their nature, which is something completely different. I had hoped you would have understood the difference between a worshipper of Thanatar on one hand and a worshipper of Krarsht, Vivamort or Cacodemon on the other.

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1 hour ago, The God Learner said:

Why is that?

(OK, I see this has been asked before, so:) The Lunar Empire keeps around the Crimson Bat, that Vampire City(?), Yara Aranis and who knows what else. It's not like they cherish the lives of the Imperial subjects. Thanatar worshippers seem comparably calm and also have their uses, for example in extracting knowledge from enemies, so funding a couple of remote monasteries doesn't seem like a big deal. 

It's kind of bad form to edit a post when I've already responded to it so it looks that I've deliberately avoided the topic.

The Crimson Bat is in-your-face but also State-Supported.  

The Vampire City is rumoured as in the Legion of Broos.  There are no rumours about Thanatari.

Yara Aranis is not chaotic and supported by the population because they know Sheng Seleris is worse.

Thanatari are not calm by any sane definition and a couple of remote monasteries would be quite noticeable, may be even worthy of a mention in the Guide.    Even if there were Thanatari in Carmania, I fail to see how a Priest of Thanatar with heads at his belt could make the long journey from there to Prax.

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12 minutes ago, metcalph said:

I said nothing about them being preferable.  I said they could conceal their nature, which is something completely different. I had hoped you would have understood the difference between a worshipper of Thanatar on one hand and a worshipper of Krarsht, Vivamort or Cacodemon on the other.

Actually you spoke in terms of size of cult and ease of movement, not concealment. I do understand the difference, and do not find overly precious condescension attractive.

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