Among the first things Greg ever wrote about the Kingdom of Sartar was the following:
“<Sartar’s> magic turned smart men into chieftains, good men into loyal followers, and enemies into pack beasts. It is said that he took over the valley without a fight, though that is an exaggeration since others did his fighting for him. But the transition was an easy one and he soon organized the robbers into a principality. After marrying the Feathered Horse Queen, he was named King and Dragon Pass rapidly grew in power and prestige.
Under Sartar’s rule, the tribes turned from pillage to trade. Sartar and the Queen set up tax posts, guides, and treasuries. Sartar also built roads and forts to protect the traders from possible nomad raids. He fostered literacy, experimentation, and luxuriousness upon his subjects. His short-lived dynasty grew and soon would have rivalled any empire for sheer splendor had it survived.”
When I was working with Greg on the Guide to Glorantha, we decided to go back to WBRM as a touchstone. RQG very much reflects the Glorantha of WBRM, the Redline Histories, Pavis, Cults of Terror, and King of Sartar. But it does require rethinking some of the assumptions from the HW period. First and foremost – the nature of the Kingdom of Sartar itself.
Under the reign of the House of Sartar, Boldhome and the other cities were wealthy from trade. The Prince had substantial revenues at his disposal. Masons could build impressive stone buildings, grand temples to the Lightbringers could be founded – including markets, libraries, and hospitals, paved roads could facilitate trade, mercenaries could fight for the Prince, and so on. Caravans carrying goods and luxuries from all over the world traveled through Wilmskirk, Boldhome, and Jonstown, paying a toll for Sartar’s protection (and for the convenience of the roads, inns, etc.).
Tribal kings, chiefs, priestesses, etc. all looked to the Prince for gifts and support. Cities bought large amounts grain and meat, and their citizens had the right to an allotment of the public stores. It should be reminded that New Pavis is stereotypically Sartarite in its layout, its political institutions (mayor, public granaries and warehouses, etc.). It is unusual in the presence of the Big Rubble, the nomads, and so many adventurers seeking treasure in the Rubble. It is not unusual in its institutions.
There’s no question about it, under the rule of the House of Sartar, Sartar was rich. Probably richer than Tarsh (dispute its smaller population), definitely richer than most Lunar satrapies. This also helps to explain the Lunar Empire desire to conquer Sartar – instead of it being an unimportant backwaters, Sartar was a rich, strategically important kingdom that controlled the bulk of all trade between the Lunar Empire and the rest of the world (let’s skip the Red-Haired Tribe and the Ralios caravans and whatever trade goes through the Janube Valley).
It wasn’t the Kingdom of Tarsh that defeated Tarkalor and the Feathered Horse Queen at Grizzly Peak – it was the Heartland Army and the Red Emperor (the Lunar advance was stopped at the Battle of Dwarf Ford).
Trade continued during Lunar Occupation, although not at the levels seen during the rule of Sartar’s dynasty. The Etyries cult played a greater role in trade, although the Issaries caravans continued to travel between the Holy Country, the Lunar Empire, and Prax under the protection of the Lunar military. However, Lunar tax collectors and military leaders prospered more than the cities, as they took much of what used to go to city and tribal leaders. So during the Lunar Occupation, much of the traditional Sartarite elite became poorer, the cities stopped buying as much grain and meat from the farmers, and it all trickled down.
With Sartar’s liberation, the Lunar Empire is no longer able to tax trade through Dragon Pass but also there is no longer Lunar protection of caravans. With political disintegration, much of Dragon Pass has returned to the state of banditry that prevailed prior to Sartar’ arrival. That’s the situation at the start of RQG.
This might explain some of my desire to linguistically clear the decks of “misleading” terminology like “cottar, carl, and thane” or of using Early Medieval Ireland as a model for understanding Sartar. Heck, if anything Classical Macedon or the Ghaznavids might be a better analogy (although those have lots of limitations as well). At the very least, it helps me see Sartar for the very unique place it is.
This was taken from the original post on BRP Central.
My purpose in the original post was to point out how Greg originally described Sartar, and how Sartar was described in Greg’s stories and writings. Which means cities, roads, and a wealthy ruling dynasty. All of that got lost when the Lunars occupied Sartar (longer in our lifetime than in Sartar itself).
None of this should be new to anyone who read HQG or RQG, except that the implications of how important trade was to Sartar only really becomes apparent now that it is liberated. If your assumption was that the HW material described life for the rebellious Sartarites during the Occupation, that’s fine – it just means that things are going to be changing a lot now that the Sartarites rule their own cities.
I will confess – I suspect a big part of the change in HW was the result of David Dunham and I. Our Taming of Dragon Pass campaign had a big influence on HW and on KoDP – both of those were settlement games. They might have correctly described pre-Sartar Sartarites (although I increasingly think we really didn’t understand pre-Belintar Kethaela either), but they certainly are wrong for understanding Hero Wars era Sartar.
When you say citizens had access to a portion of the public stores, do you mean like a social safety net? Famine is a huge threat for Gloranthan cities – if you consider that 1 in 8 harvests is a failure. So the city ring purchases/takes/receives grain and livestock from the tribes and stores it. Citizens are entitled to a portion of that grain and meat – based not on need but simply a right off citizenship.Speculators in times of famine are another concern, so cities try to hold onto as much of its foods supplies as possible until it is necessary. At the same time, many citizens depend on their allotment of city food – so obviously there is tension there.
Although this applies to Jonstown, it could just as easily apply to Pavis, Boldhome, etc.:The city of Jonstown, recognizing long term fluctuation in the food supply, purchases and distributes a large percentage of the city’s food in order to stymie speculators and maintain stability. Though this is paid for through taxes and service, access to nominally free food is a cherished right of the Jonstown citizenry.
You all might be surprised how much a close read of Pavis speaks of Sartarite cultures. And it might really surprise you to learn that the “Report on the Orlanthi” was actually originally written in 1981, for RQ2.
What do you mean hen you say citizens had access to a portion of the public stores?
Famine is a huge threat for Gloranthan cities – if you consider that 1 in 8 harvests is a failure. So the city ring purchases/takes/receives grain and livestock from the tribes and stores it. Citizens are entitled to a portion of that grain and meat – based not on need but simply a right off citizenship.
Speculators in times of famine are another concern, so cities try to hold onto as much of its foods supplies as possible until it is necessary. At the same time, many citizens depend on their allotment of city food – so obviously there is tension there.
Although this applies to Jonstown, it could just as easily apply to Pavis, Boldhome, etc.:
The city of Jonstown, recognizing long term fluctuation in the food supply, purchases and distributes a large percentage of the city’s food in order to stymie speculators and maintain stability. Though this is paid for through taxes and service, access to nominally free food is a cherished right of the Jonstown citizenry.