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Toward a Better Kralorela

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The tea discussion brought up a lot of points about Kralorela that make it an unsatisfying setting for many Glorantha fans:

The over-reliance on China for inspiration seems to be the main sticking point. So I thought I'd create a thread for ideas to make Kralorela less "Fantasy China" and more a uniquely Gloranthan place.

A few ideas of my own:

Attitude: Kralorelans believe they are all dragon spirits incarnating as humans to further their own spiritual awakening. Devote Kralorelans obsess about enhancing their draconic self, which they call their "Egg." They try to emulate dragons in all things, including dress, diet, and ritual behavior.

Clothing: Kralorelans tend to wear items that invoke their Draconic heritage. Hats with long central fins are very popular, as are cloaks that look like wings, both feathered and scaled. (See Hawaiian noble hats for examples).

Food: Kralorelans eat a lot of roasted meat, heavily charred and spiced with hot peppers. They eat with their hands and tear the meat with their teeth in imitation of their draconic betters. They also like small animals that they can swallow whole, either alive or freshly charred. Favorites include small mice, fish, shrimp, and crickets.

Interactions: Kralorelans tend to be quite bellicose and loud in their personal interactions. A dragon takes what she wants! They argue and shout frequently. This is understood as normal to the Kralorelans, but can be quite disconcerting to outsiders.

Fire: Kralorelans love fire. Most towns have a central fire pit which is always kept burning, and all homes have a hearth which is likewise always kept at least smoldering. This can strain local resources and contributes to deforestation. Because of this, Kralorelans use very little wood when building or crafting tools, preferring bone, metal, and stone. Wood is for burning!

Music: Kralorelans love music, which reminds them of the beautiful multi-octave voices of True Dragons. To replicate the range of dragon sounds, they use large assembles of musicians called orchestras which play a combination of drums, woodwinds, brass, and stringed instruments. Every town has at least one orchestra, and competition between the various bands is intense and can lead to violins. Dancing to the local band is a weekly event for most. The dance which accompanies this sort of music is called FLING (and sometimes this name is given to the music itself). Fling dancers are usually couples and many of the moves are throws or lifts that imitate the aerial maneuvers of dragons. Another popular form of Kralorelan music is ROAR, percussive spoken word recitals sometimes accompanied by discordant music called CLAW. Finally, lately groups of young singer/dancers have become popular. The collectives, either exclusively male or exclusively female, tour from village to village performing tightly choreographed uptempo music focused on love and fighting for respect, drawing from Roar, Claw and Fling. This music is called KAHPOP.

Battles: Kralorelans see life as a struggle for dominance and frequently challenge each other to contests to resolve disputes. These contests can take any form, usually decided by the challenged. While combat is not uncommon, often these contests take the form of demonstrations of other skills. Dance-offs, feats of strength, cooking competitions, eating contests, showing martial arts forms, and even flower arranging can all be fields of battle for two disagreeable Kralorelans. Because in the end it's all about...

Respect: This is the most important virtue of the Kralorelans and one that must be constantly earned. Respect is earned by winning battles, living a bold draconic life, and by excelling in one's profession. Rivals constantly challenge each other to determine who's the best in a given field. Respect must be seized from the world with your claws and teeth!

 

 

 

 

 

hawaiian hat.jpg

hawaiians.jpg

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16 minutes ago, RHW said:

Food: Kralorelans eat a lot of roasted meat, heavily charred and spiced with hot peppers. They eat with their hands and tear the meat with their teeth in imitation of their draconic betters. They also like small animals that they can swallow whole, either alive or freshly charred. Favorites include small mice, fish, shrimp, and crickets.

That's going a bit too far with it, IMO. I couldn't possibly take anyone in the region seriously if that's how they ate their food. I'd prefer something like, the wealthy use red-colored forks with two tines to imitate a dragon's tongue or something.

Edited by Leingod
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3 minutes ago, Leingod said:

That's going a bit too far with it, IMO. I couldn't possibly take anyone in the region seriously if that's how they ate their food. I'd prefer something like, the wealthy use red-colored forks with two tines to imitate a dragon's tongue or something.

I like this. Anything but chopsticks and rice.

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4 minutes ago, Leingod said:

That's going a bit too far with it, IMO. I couldn't possibly take anyone in the region seriously if that's how they ate their food. 

On the other hand, it works well for some weird little sect or movement that try to be dragons but have misunderstood the fundamentals. Like some kind of countryside attempt at Immanent Mastery. 

Edited by Akhôrahil
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16 minutes ago, RHW said:

I like this. Anything but chopsticks and rice.

You could still borrow from Chinese history without being overtly Orientalist about it by just going further back for your inspiration than the years AD, as Glorantha does elsewhere:

Quote

Chinese cuisine as we now know it evolved gradually over the centuries as new food sources and techniques were introduced, discovered, or invented. Although many of the characteristics we think of as the most important appeared very early, others did not appear or did not become important until relatively late. The first chopsticks, for instance, were probably used for cooking, stirring the fire, and serving bits of food and were not initially used as eating utensils. They began to take on this role during the Han dynasty, but it was not until the Ming that they became ubiquitous for both serving and eating. It was not until the Ming that they acquired their present name (筷子, kuaizi) and their present shape. The wok may also have been introduced during the Han, but again its initial use was limited (to drying grains) and its present use (to stir-fry, as well as boiling, steaming, roasting, and deep-frying) did not develop until the Ming.[3] The Ming also saw the adoption of new plants from the New World, such as corn, peanuts, and tobacco. Wilkinson remarks that to "somebody brought up on late twentieth century Chinese cuisine, Ming food would probably still seem familiar, but anything further back, especially pre-Tang would probably be difficult to recognize as 'Chinese'".[3]

The "Silk Road" is the conventional term for the routes through Central Asia linking the Iranian plateau with western China; along this trade route passed exotic foodstuffs that greatly enlarged the potential for Chinese cuisines, only some of which preserve their foreign origin in the radical for "foreign" that remains in their name. "It would surprise many Chinese cooks to know that some of their basic ingredients were originally foreign imports," Frances Wood observes. "Sesame, peas, onions, coriander from Bactria, and cucumber were all introduced into China from the West during the Han dynasty".[4]

The original list of "Five Grains" denoting the key grains for human consumption, for instance, was originally listed as soybeans, wheat, broomcorn and foxtail millet, and hemp (used for oil); rice didn't become prominent until much later when Chinese civilization expanded further south than the Yellow River valley. Same with tea, which was originally used almost solely as medicine. Beer was commonly drunk (the Chinese moved away from beer and onto spirits as time went on).

It might be an interesting subversion of expectations when you describe a Kralorelan person using chopsticks to stir and serve the food, but then you're expected to eat with stuff like knives, spoons and bare hands/aforementioned red fork, and instead of rice the primary grains are poridges of millet and beans.

After all, most peasant farmers can't afford lots of charred meat with spices for every meal. It's important to keep in mind the reality that, as elsewhere in Glorantha, the majority of people are just farmers or herders trying to get by, and they also probably don't have serious aspirations of great power or enlightenment whatever the official doctrine says. A lot of these suggestions are bit too overly fixated on the "draconic" stuff, IMO.

Edited by Leingod
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3 minutes ago, Leingod said:

You could still borrow from Chinese history without being overtly Orientalist about it by just going further back for your inspiration than the years AD, as Glorantha does elsewhere:

The original list of "Five Grains" denoting the key grains for human consumption, for instance, was originally listed as soybeans, wheat, broomcorn and foxtail millet, and hemp (used for oil); rice didn't become prominent until much later when Chinese civilization expanded further south than the Yellow River valley. Same with tea, which was originally used almost solely as medicine. Beer was commonly drunk (the Chinese moved away from beer and onto spirits as time went on).

All good stuff.

4 minutes ago, Leingod said:

A lot of these suggestions are bit too overly fixated on the "draconic" stuff, IMO.

Just trying to start the discussion and was going from "Dragon" instead of "China" as an inspiration. Also looking to add some of the anachronisms that characterize the Lunars and the Sartarites and make them more interesting, plus some additional cultural elements (Polynesian dress instead of Chinese).

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One random idea: the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla had a very stratified caste system where your rank was determined by your perceived relation to the royal family; this is called the "bone-rank system" by Western scholars because instead of the idea of "royal blood," the Silla called this concept the "sacred bone."

If we take bones instead of blood as being the important signifiers of things like heritage and hereditary privilege and superiority, you could have changes to common turns of phrase like "blood will tell" to something bone-related instead. Tales of human sacrifice and/or man-eating demons might feature phrases like "bone-eater" and references to piles of crushed bones instead of "blood-drinker" and red stains and such.

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2 hours ago, RHW said:

...

The over-reliance on China for inspiration seems to be the main sticking point

...

Love a lot of your ideas & examples!  Especially the Hawaiian / Polynesian stuff, it's IMHO a suite of cultural resources  under-utilized by the RPG community.  (Although I note the heavy use of feathers (hence birds) in noble&ceremonial gear, and wonder if Kraloreli hold to the same Runic associations that the Orlanthi do...  I wonder if lots of lizard/snake skin might be a viable motif?)

***

But on this one point -- quoted above -- we differ significantly.

I think the problem goes deeper than that.  "Too much China" would be a problem worth fixing in itself, if that's all it was... but lots of folks are seeing it not as "China" but as "stereotypical, Western-POV, bordering on racist" China.

No real blame on Chaosium, particularly nuChaosium:  Greg himself is known to have considered his own awareness of the East as inadequate to the portrayal, and held the extant materials as more a "placeholder" (what a wiki/etc would call "stubs") pending his better education or getting a better-informed developer to work on it...  And of course the TIME to work on it!  The areas surrounding Dragon Pass have had decades of intensive work by a series of top-tier creatives; Kralorela's "stubs" show that the area is equally rich & varied!

Nor do I blame the fans, particularly... the piecemeal / ad-hoc nature of per-campaign / per-fan development precludes any cohesive vision, and often tends to lean-in on familiar tropes (aka "stereotypes") for broad swaths.

It's clear that Kralorela can sustain much more, and much better, than it has had to date... and really, I've no doubt that Chaosium can do it justice.

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9 minutes ago, g33k said:

I think the problem goes deeper than that.  "Too much China" would be a problem worth fixing in itself, if that's all it was... but lots of folks are seeing it not as "China" but as "stereotypical, Western-POV, bordering on racist" China.

I agree. I was just putting it nicely.

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2 minutes ago, RHW said:

I agree. I was just putting it nicely.

Well, we can't have too much niceness... specially on such an opinionated & grognardian forum!

Well done, then; and I hope nobody finds my own remarks too on the nose.  😥

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Here are some Kralorelan warriors in their "dragon" armor, made from leather and decorated with feathers. Also another warrior with a Kralorelan dragon, which frequently have feathers.

tumblr_npv7ccp3Jn1u6oeoao1_r1_500.jpg

9311e4cd8eec6e85f749731af507346d.jpg

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I don't think Kralorela needs to be purged of Chinese influence so much as needs to dig deeper into Chinese periods that are more Bronze Age-appropriate, and get away from over-reliance on stereotypes. 

Go over here and read what Chris Chinn (aka Bankuei) has to say about this sort of thing, he even calls out the Guide specifically.

Now look back and read The Blood Monsoon, which he wrote before frustration with the stereotypes etc. soured him on Glorantha altogether.

Which brings me around to this: If we don't get some Asian/Asian-descended writers involved, we're going to keep screwing Kralorela up , no matter how well intentioned or well researched the attempt. We will perpetuate painful stereotypes and tropes that we are not even aware of being hurtful, and we will not even realize that we are doing it until it's too late.

While I like Millans's stuff in Rule One, hopefully Chaosium can reach out to someone like Agatha Cheng (Hearts of Wu Lin) to come on board as a consultant at the very least.

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3 minutes ago, JonL said:

Go over here and read what Chris Chinn (aka Bankuei) has to say about this sort of thing, he even calls out the Guide specifically.

Think you got the Blood Monsoon link on both references. 

That said, some cool ideas there, and it's too bad if he got soured on Glorantha. 

4 minutes ago, JonL said:

We will perpetuate painful stereotypes and tropes that we are not even aware of being hurtful, and we will not even realize that we are doing it until it's too late.

Agree. The more we can root out our own ignorances the better.

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15 minutes ago, JonL said:

If we don't get some Asian/Asian-descended writers involved, we're going to keep screwing Kralorela up , no matter how well intentioned or well researched the attempt.

I'd like to say I'm here for thissssssssssssssssssssss

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12 minutes ago, g33k said:

The areas surrounding Dragon Pass have had decades of intensive work by a series of top-tier creatives; Kralorela's "stubs" show that the area is equally rich & varied!

Now that you mention it, the earliest Kralor material I've encountered predates Greg's immersion in immigrant communities and doesn't incorporate any of the "Chinese" placeholder material of the Genertela Box at all. It's definitely a self-consciously colonial situation (a version of Eest is there from the beginning) but there's no obvious earthly referent: just local people interrupted by Seshnegi ambition, maybe the tiniest opiated blur more directly reminiscent of a Dunsany (himself apparently emulating Japan) or maybe Saki if you blink.

Definitely an opportunity to explore that early realm of totemic empires before advancing the timeline back up through the Genertela Box and beyond. 

P.S. I forgot David has Eagle Lords of Yu Ah in there. I love that!

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@RHW provides a radically different approach.

I am sorry that I don't have much enthusiasm for a number of those ideas.

5 hours ago, RHW said:

Attitude: Kralorelans believe they are all dragon spirits incarnating as humans to further their own spiritual awakening. Devote Kralorelans obsess about enhancing their draconic self, which they call their "Egg." They try to emulate dragons in all things, including dress, diet, and ritual behavior.

This requires us to define draconic appearance and dress.

If you look at a True Dragon, that entity is able to absorb the surrounding landscape into its being, and to release much of that when going dormant or slain, creating hillsides, ridges, etc.
But then, the draconic example in Kralorela is primarily that of the dragonewts. Which suggests nudity except for armor and utility belts. Tempting, but...

Anyway, draconic Kralorela is younger than Imperial Kralorela. Imperial Kralorela is the offshoot of Vithelan civilization, source for the sages that are the distinctive mark of the East.

Imperial Kralorela distinguished itself from the Hsunchen beast folk of the Shan Shan. That's the foundational myth about Wild Man and All-Giver.

5 hours ago, RHW said:

Food: Kralorelans eat a lot of roasted meat, heavily charred and spiced with hot peppers. They eat with their hands and tear the meat with their teeth in imitation of their draconic betters. They also like small animals that they can swallow whole, either alive or freshly charred. Favorites include small mice, fish, shrimp, and crickets.

Now this is what I would expect of Hsunchen hunter-gatherers, except for the hot peppers (the old Szechuan cuisine stereotype? Really?).

Otherwise, this kind of meat consumption is quite similar to what I have learned about authentic Chinese restaurants catering for Chinese. Confirming stereotypes...

One problem with a diet like this is that it isn't sustainable for everyday survival unless you have only Hsunchen population densities.

5 hours ago, RHW said:

Interactions: Kralorelans tend to be quite bellicose and loud in their personal interactions. A dragon takes what she wants! They argue and shout frequently. This is understood as normal to the Kralorelans, but can be quite disconcerting to outsiders.

Don't we have a Gloranthan culture that is blustery, loud, and bellicose? Ah, right, in Dragon Pass and the uplands. Violence Is Alway An Option.

 

5 hours ago, RHW said:

Fire: Kralorelans love fire. Most towns have a central fire pit which is always kept burning, and all homes have a hearth which is likewise always kept at least smoldering. This can strain local resources and contributes to deforestation. Because of this, Kralorelans use very little wood when building or crafting tools, preferring bone, metal, and stone. Wood is for burning! 

Another Teshnos?

 

5 hours ago, RHW said:

Music: Kralorelans love music, which reminds them of the beautiful multi-octave voices of True Dragons. To replicate the range of dragon sounds, they use large assembles of musicians called orchestras which play a combination of drums, woodwinds, brass, and stringed instruments.

So basically the western orchestra plus taiko drum ensemble we see in contemporary classical music from Japan.

To be honest, I have no idea how much influence on Renaissance Italian instrument makers came from Marco Polo. But then that period's influence isn't exactly where we should take our impressions from for this Bronze Age-feeling world, is it?

Imitating the broad tonal range of the dragons - fine. It doesn't have to be gongs all over, or the faux-antique brass ensembles that Hollywood likes to use for its sandal movies. Just keep away from the type of orchestras that grew in European classical music.

 

Getting rid of the rice is problematic - what few myths we have about the place are about rice. But then, as I mentioned before, _not_ having rice is almost more noteworthy for any agricultural society in Glorantha than having it.

Kralorela has to be an agricultural society. It also marks the difference between being Hsunchen and being civilized.

Being civilized also appears to embrace a significant portion of antigod heritage as legitimate. What portion might be a matter of distinction versus Ignorance.

 

I was tempted to blame the False Dragon Ring for installing an almost farcical (real world, but also Malkioni) western stereotype China as an overlay to Kralori culture and myths. Extending this to the Rice Mother vs. Krala story seems to be over the top, though.

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I remember a while back some people here talking about the cultural consequences of Ignorance and troll-ruled lands in the north.

Some people proposed that the Kralorelans would have integrated certain trollish practices or at least wares, such as having more bug-products in their cuisine and material culture. Someone mentioned for examples giant beetle wings used for building material (windows?).

Anyway, I thought it was worth mentioning it, since it's one of those things that spin organically from Glorantha itself rather than being mechanically inserted into the world.

Sure, you can argue that the upper classes would have been opposed to that, but the same arguments are true for Orlanthi and Pelorians, and we know very well that Pelorians styles  in textules, pottery and art have been adopted by Orlanthi living around the basin for hundreds of years.

3 hours ago, JonL said:


I don't think Kralorela needs to be purged of Chinese influence so much as needs to dig deeper into Chinese periods that are more Bronze Age-appropriate, and get away from over-reliance on stereotypes. 

Go over here and read what Chris Chinn (aka Bankuei) has to say about this sort of thing, he even calls out the Guide specifically.

Now look back and read The Blood Monsoon, which he wrote before frustration with the stereotypes etc. soured him on Glorantha altogether.

Which brings me around to this: If we don't get some Asian/Asian-descended writers involved, we're going to keep screwing Kralorela up , no matter how well intentioned or well researched the attempt. We will perpetuate painful stereotypes and tropes that we are not even aware of being hurtful, and we will not even realize that we are doing it until it's too late.

While I like Millans's stuff in Rule One, hopefully Chaosium can reach out to someone like Agatha Cheng (Hearts of Wu Lin) to come on board as a consultant at the very least.

While I agree with this sentiment, I think it's very interesting that this point has never seen to be raised about Pamaltela. No one seems to have these same stereotype-neuroses about Sub-Saharan African cultures in Glorantha. Not sure why... maybe it's just because it feels like there is more "going on" in Pamaltela, or that the Doraddi and Fonritan cultures feel less cut&paste (although I'm not sure if that is objectively true), or maybe it's because there is already an implicit awareness of negative African stereotypes.

----------

Personally, I think an outlining of the historical cultural origins and sources of influence could be useful for writers. As @Joerg mentioned above, Kralorela has different "currents"/"streams" of cultural practices from the God Time: the Solar/Mystical Vithelan civilization (Abzered, etc.), the Hsunchen animal totem peoples, the Draconic Enlightenment Mystical (and arguably Administrative?) tradition, and arguably Uz traditions from the north. There are more, of course, with Yellow Elves in Fethlon and a Malkioni invasion followed by a Pentan invasion, but the aforementioned are the big ones.

What this means in practice I'll leave people to think more about, but with those sources in place, it might be easier to see how different regions, different classes, different people over times have variously dipped their feet more or less in multiple streams at once, and syncretism, suppression, obselence and innovation has worked alongside each other.

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17 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

in practice

Handing out trophies on all sides because this thread is basically heroquesting and the process might take us somewhere great depending on how people identify with the material (are "we all" this "us?" can we be? should we be?) and the humility, respect & compassion it entails. 

The place I personally would start is a throwaway line in the Guide:

At one time there were more than fifteen different languages spoken in Kralorela, but Emperor Vayobi standardized a new speech

What were these languages and who spoke them at the Eastern Dawn, which almost sounds redundant somewhere?

Edited by scott-martin
달마가 동쪽으로 간 까닭은
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I'm kinda making my way through the Longest Day in Chang'An (24 set in Tang China) and given the number of things it has (databases, algorithms, Djimon Hounsow as a Crime Lord(!!)), I'm rather dubious of the latent sentiment that only Chinese people are capable of depicting a fantasy Chinese culture plausibly.  The things they come up with can be just as grating to western sensibilities as vice versa.  

Now Kralorela is too modern for a Bronze-age culture is a fair complaint.  There may be other complaints but I kind of cease to pay attention once people start throwing around charges of racism and cultural appropriation.  If something sounds stupid or ignorant, feel free to say so but avoid wider imputatuons please. 

In my hobby readings of Chinese History (which is generally post-Yuan), one of the things that impressed me was that the great enduring nature of the Chinese Empire is largely a myth and that the people in charge were trying to keep things static to preserve their own place in the social fragile order. For example, the Manchus saw that European Trade was a good thing but its benefits would have eroded Manchu domination over the Han so it had to be restricted, a policy decision which generally set off the shitshow that was the 19th century.

So in looking at Kralorela, I generally try to come up with the same sort of set-up.  For example, the current Mandarin government is a relic of the old Kingdom of Wisdom marching south from and re-imposing their social order while Godunya is really a scion of the EWF and the two have never quite seen eye-to-eye.  Godunya is served by Eunuchs whom the Mandarins hate and attempt to impede whereever possible.  In the early decades of Godunya's rule, Kralorela was a lot more aristocratic but the sun-worshipping aristocrats sided with Sheng Seleris and after his defeat, they have not only been demoted but the histories have been re-written to imply they never existed.  So the Mandarin dominance in Kralorela is a recent artifact and also an unstable one at that.

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I agree with Peter that the version of Kralorelan history we have is largely a fiction to show that the rulership we have now is eternal and the rightful heir to all that has gone before. The unbroken line of Emperors that has been obviously broken at least three times etc. 

And one obvious difference between Kralorela and China is in the nature of the Emperors. Chinese Emperors were political dynasties competing through intrigue and war. Kralorelan Emperors are immortal gods replaced only through massive magical crisis. I think Tibetan rule by successive avatars of Avalokitesvara comes a bit closer than Chinese Emperors, but really it is a situation unique to Glorantha. The Emperors may not really rule Kralorela, but rather be supported by the state for religious and magical reasons. 

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2 hours ago, davecake said:

I agree with Peter that the version of Kralorelan history we have is largely a fiction to show that the rulership we have now is eternal and the rightful heir to all that has gone before. The unbroken line of Emperors that has been obviously broken at least three times etc. 

And one obvious difference between Kralorela and China is in the nature of the Emperors. Chinese Emperors were political dynasties competing through intrigue and war. Kralorelan Emperors are immortal gods replaced only through massive magical crisis. I think Tibetan rule by successive avatars of Avalokitesvara comes a bit closer than Chinese Emperors, but really it is a situation unique to Glorantha. The Emperors may not really rule Kralorela, but rather be supported by the state for religious and magical reasons. 

If you read the Guide it is pretty clear that the "eternal Kralorela" as it is claimed, probably dates to the downfall of Sheng Seleris at the latest, or the ascension of Godunya at the earliest.

And there are plenty of hints of what the Emperor is actually expected to do.

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32 minutes ago, Jeff said:

If you read the Guide it is pretty clear that the "eternal Kralorela" as it is claimed, probably dates to the downfall of Sheng Seleris at the latest, or the ascension of Godunya at the earliest.

And there are plenty of hints of what the Emperor is actually expected to do.

For better or worse, when someone talks about what some powerful figure or organization is secretly doing/secretly supposed to do in fantasy, my mind usually fills in the blank immediately with "human sacrifice." Because that's right more often than you'd think, and even when it isn't human sacrifice, it's usually something roughly as bad, so it still isn't really a surprise.

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33 minutes ago, Leingod said:

For better or worse, when someone talks about what some powerful figure or organization is secretly doing/secretly supposed to do in fantasy, my mind usually fills in the blank immediately with "human sacrifice." Because that's right more often than you'd think, and even when it isn't human sacrifice, it's usually something roughly as bad, so it still isn't really a surprise.

In this case, that is not the case. .

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