Glorantha Digest Volume 1 #2

From: David Dunham (via RadioMail) <>
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 00:11:16 -0800
Subject: Etymology; Bloodlines

[I don’t recall seeing this on the RQ Daily, so…]

Nick Brooke conjectures

Urox = Aurochs, surely. Not Norse.

I read it as Germanic: ur-ox, as in original ox. Or as in the term you use in another reply, “ur-Orlanthi.”
I promised more info on East Ralios bloodlines. Ingkel Hundred-Fighter (who was the Thane of the Belovaking clan in Delela) has 15 great-grandsons (and 15 great-granddaughters, who will marry into another bloodline), as determined by whatever random process I was using. Of course, most of these men will get married, so their wives will join Ingkel’s bloodline. If all the parents of the 15 are still alive, there are another 12 people. This gives a bloodline of 42 people. A clan would have dozens of them. (I don’t pretend these numbers are authoritative, but the bloodline of Kolla Head-taker is of similar size, FWIW.)


From: “Peter Metcalfe, CAPE Canty” <>
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 22:42:06 +1300
Subject: A small town in Sartar…


Fleshman here. Thanks for all the Kudos.
Michael Hitchens:

I think the real answer is that Greg has not done the sums. One (or maybe both) of the following is false:

1. Sartar has 180,000 people
2. Clearwine is significantly more important than any of the other stockades on the DP map

Unless an official Sartar Pack appears, we are not going to know the “answer”.
For the time being, 1,500 is too big for my vision of Clearwine. If nothing else, it means there are going to be too many temples there, and I want my players to travel when they go looking to sacrifice for divine magic.

May I humbly propose the following solution. We know that the Heortlanders are traditionally decentralized with clans with respective chieftains stuck willy nilly all over the place. Based on the experience of the Athenians with respect to Demes, I propose that for the Colymar clan, the situation is somewhat more centralized.

A Clan chief in the Colymar tribe is merely a glorified bodyguard of the King. Decisions that would normally be made by the clan chief are instead referred to the King. Other decisions that require an immediate decision are made by the thanes. To prevent a clan chief asserting his ‘rights’ the chief is required to be housed in the quarters of the king and all stockades other than Clearwine are forbidden. The ideal clan chief is strong, thick and pliable. Elections to the kingship are made by the thanes.

This way, Colymar becomes a conservative ruralized community which has an important centre in Clearwine. And it also explains why the Lunars persistantly underestimate the strength of the Colymar tribe.

– —Peter Metcalfe

From: (Jonas Schiott)
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 14:05:03 +0100
Subject: Re: Population of Sartar, Re: gods, myths & heroquests.

Well, well, a new list to write to. Of course, all the quotes below are still from the Daily.

Poor Michael Hitchens agonizes over population figures:

The only figure I had was for Sartar 180,000, per G:CotHW.

I think the real answer is that Greg has not done the sums. One (or maybe both) of the following is false:
1. Sartar has 180,000 people
2. Clearwine is significantly more important than any of the other stockades on the DP map

Sandy, who is responsible for the G:CotHW figures, has admitted (on this list) that they are all wrong. Or at least somewhat garbled. I seem to recall him writing that you could adjust the numbers up or down by as much as a factor of 5, but that seems a bit steep, my memory must be acting up again…
Michael goes on to demolish my Elmal/Yelmalio theory:

Does that mean if I eventually come to decide that my cult’s rules are unreasonable, start breaking them because I don’t think they make any sense (without any feelings of guilt, because they are senseless) and then eventually leave the cult because it’s all become a joke, the spirits of retribution won’t touch me?

If you have gained a deep enough conviction of the senselessness, yes. But this deep conviction is what is otherwise known as Illumination. So, when you ask:

As long as I think I am right I won’t suffer divine retribution?

The answer is “It’s not quite that simple”. My reason for extending the illumination immunity in this case is that all the priests said it was allright, which means that the former Elmali never had to suffer the doubt and angst of the free thinker. They were firmly and totally convinced that they were right all the time, and had the best possible authorities to back them up.
So what about the priests, then? Ahh, they were probably illuminated, the lot of them…

[The Divination question again]

The question I pose should be really easy for a god to answer: The god only knows what its worshippers tell it. It should therefore know who those worshippers are.

OK, my original reply was slightly off the mark – it didn’t really address your question directly. What I meant was that if you ask Yelmalio about the Elmali _now_ he will say “Nope. They’re Somebody Else’s Problem”, but if you ask him whether they ever _have_ been worshippers of the same god in the _past_ he’ll just give you a blank stare. And if you ask any of the gods involved if they’re the same they might reply “What’s in a name?” or just send you a vision or riddle that could be interpreted either way.

[The nature of gods]

He. The answer to all of these questions is _yes_. And no… maybe.

That makes life difficult for us poor GMs.

So what else is new? ;->

[In reply to Peter Metcalfe]

You some kind of God Learner?

What are you going to do if I say yes? 🙂

Welcome you to the club.
I mean, who but a GL would ask:

Are the gods self aware beings?

My current hypothesis is that they are, it’s just that “self” and “aware” don’t mean the same to a god as to a mortal. The former because deities are more complex beings, with many qualities (dimensions?) we lack. The later because their perceptive apparatus differs wildly from ours.
So it’s pointless to do a divination to find out “how are you feeling today?” because the answer wouldn’t mean anything to a human.

( Jonas Schiott )

From: Colin Watson <>
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 15:42:53 GMT

Subject: Are the gods self aware beings?


Are the gods self aware beings?

I think any kind of awareness that a god might have would be totally alien to human concepts of self awareness.

Look at it like this: How self-aware are humans? You suspect you exist, but are you aware of *how* you exist? Are you aware of what each and every neuron in your brain is doing? Do you care? Is there anything you can do about it?

I think this is in some ways analogous to gods/worshippers. If you imagine a god to be a person; worshippers are the cells which make up its body (ie. its cult). The god seems to be more than the sum of its parts.

Worshippers can be no more aware of the true nature of their God than neurons are aware of the Mind. They serve in faith, without understanding. Conversely, the god is not consciously aware of the activity of each and every worshipper
(just as the Mind is not directly aware of neuron activity in the brain).

Somehow, if things go well, the worshippers do what they can to support the cult and the god tries to supply what the cult needs, at the same time trying not to do anything willfully dangerous to its existence.

Most of the everyday interaction between God and worshippers is of a low-level, reflexive nature which the God is barely aware of. The worshippers can relate to this and are kept happy; it seems to them that God thinks and acts at the same level as they do.

But, despite the best intentions, God is (metaphorically speaking) just as likely to pick at an itchy scab, re-infecting a wound; or sink 10 pints of an evening, destroying countless braincells because it seemed a good idea at the time. And the worshippers are left wondering why God has turned against them. ie. *Conscious* divine acts may be difficult for worshippers to understand.
Now, obviously this isn’t a perfect analogy. In Glorantha gods seem to have somewhat less freedom of action than Humans; and worshippers are generally less deterministic than single neurons (tho I sometimes wonder in the case of Storm Bullies). But hopefully it demonstrates why I think a God, if it is self-aware at all, will have awareness which is fundamentaly different from that of its worshippers.



Date: Wed, 16 Nov 94 16:17:40 GMT
Subject: Spirit Speeches

Colin Watson says:

Now, I’m prepared to completely reverse my view if Power spirits ‘in the wild’ habitually donate their MP to passers-by; or Intellect spirits occasionally latch-on to individuals increasing their INT (for some symbiotic reason?).

Yeah, but how come some of these abilities only manifest when the spirit is bound if it’s not a function of the binding?

Why should you expect this? Do wild horses naturaly just wall up to passing humans and offer to give them a lift? Can you walk up to a wild mountain goat and milk it wile it just stands there placidly eating grass? Of course not, they have to be captured first and tamed. Just like spirits. Also, just like spirits, each has a particular domesticated role. I fail to see why you think this is unbelievable.

It is presumable a matter of horses for courses. INT spirits are good for storing spells the same way pigeons are usefull for carrying messages. Power spirits are good for yielding spells the same way cows are good for yielding milk. Ever tried to milk a pigeon or train messenger cows?

Any kind of Binding is pretty unfriendly at least as far as the spirit in question is concerned. But I don’t see any magician giving up this method on grounds of Political Correctness 😉

I don’t see binding as being a form of slavery, more a form of domestication. The procedure for controlling a spirit is characterised as a form of combat by the game system, but I think that is simplistic. OTOH, I don’t think it worth changing the rules.

Nick sez:

Some people want the diversity to be reflected in more tangible/mundane ways, distinguishing between Troll spirits and Wolf spirits and Flower spirits rather than between game constructs with different stats.

How about a ‘miscellaneous spirit traits’ table. Every time you summon
a spirit, you roll on the table to see if it has any secondary traits in addition to it’s main function. eg ‘Wolf spirit, friendly to telmori’ perhaps with a bonus for telmori shamen to deal with such spirits. The Wind Children writeup says they get a +50% bonus to summon/controll sylphs and wind spirits, so there is a good precedent for this.

Another way would be to proliferate new spirit species. Perhaps a Wolf spirit could be used as a spirit-plane tracker hunting down a desired type of spirit, or perhaps it could be despatched to hunt down an enemy and engage it in spirit combat. Imagine a party being attacked at night by a pack of wolf spirits despatched by a hostile telmori shaman.

I say we need more diverse spirits, not just one blobby homogenised generic spirit that can be tought all kinds of tricks. Yech!

If you want to bind a ghost and use it’s magic points/cast it’s spells, just cast Mindlink on it.
Steven E Barnes asks:

OK… Suppose a shaman grabs the spirit of a newly-slain human, and binds it into his fetch. What kind of spirit is it? What abilities can it use?

Sounds like the definition of a ghost, to me.

Simon Hibbs


From: David Dunham (via RadioMail) <>
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 11:44:20 -0800
Subject: bloodlines; human spirits

Jonas Schiott said

When we wrote up the Otter clan (for Growing Pains) we took the definition literally: the male line is traced to the founding of the clan, thus there are only three bloodlines. Of course, this is probably more of a social construct than genetic truth – the story about the three founding brothers has a touch of myth about it (there must have been more men around to father children).

If you traced bloodlines back indefinitely, it seems like it would become harder and harder to find marriage partners. Perhaps I should have said that the _legal_ bloodlines are 4 generations (similar to the way many US states prohibit marriages of only close cousins). I’m sure East Wilders can also trace them back to founding ancestors. But those lineages don’t matter for inheritance or marriage.

Steve Barnes asks

Suppose a shaman grabs the spirit of a newly-slain human, and binds it into his fetch. What kind of spirit is it? What abilities can it use?

A ghost, it always seemed self-evident. Special ability is that it can control a human body it happens to find itself in (unlike, say, Power spirits).

Thu Mar 20 10:04:57 1997
From: Nick Brooke <>
Date: 16 Nov 94 16:02:02 EST Subject: Continuing…


This would appear to suggest that 300 years ago, Esrolia was a Thoroughly Modern Model Patriarchy. Which I doubt. The Pharaoh may have made any number of changes in Esrolia, but why would he have made it matriarchal?

I agree completely, and was clearly falling into the same fault I’d just diagnosed in Joerg. Given my rather different view of Esrolia (i.e. not just an Orlanthi land with women in charge), I have always play down the alleged Colymar connection and assumed most of the Quivini settlers were from Heortland.


Sandy takes us a step closer to The Secret (probably):

The distinguishing feature of the RuneQuest Sight is that it KNEW  that it was subjective


Just because RQ III needs even more spirits, and details on what it DOES have (didn’t you like my suggestion that Intellect spirits are spell-recyclers?), doesn’t mean that we need to dump what has been accomplished at such great loss of life.

I liked all your theories. Thanks for posting them! Of course, I’d want Troll and Wolf and Flower and Cobweb spirits to behave differently stat- wise; it could be reverse-engineered by working out suitable ecological niches for the existing spirit categories. Not just the eco. function of Intellect spirits, but the manifestation/perception/tag that attaches to them (or that *is* attached by we subjective Gloranthan observers). Say: if they are recyclers, and if Praxians are as informed as we, would they tend to see Intellect spirits as spirit hyenas
(or other scavengers)? Something along those lines.


The campaign takes place in Sartar after the Starbow Rebellion. I have no real restrictions on cults, etc., other than being a Sartarite…

Be normal! Join Orlanth, and poke fun at all your weird friends. Read up the Players Book: Genertela Orlanthi What my Father Told Me article, and remember that you’re (probably) rustic, suspicious of furriners (“These Lunars are crazy”), and like running and shouting. Then find yourself a wife and settle down. Vote in weapontakes, support your Chief, keep the Clan prosperous. Join the posse when there’s Broos or bandits to hunt. Don’t get dangerously seditious: look how that ended the last few times!


You familiar with the AI conversational computer test? If you can talk to someone across a terminal link and not be able to tell whether it’s human or machine, it’s “intelligent”. Gloranthan deities may well be self-aware by the same test: there’s nothing you can do to prove they aren’t. My own opinion is that investigating Glorantha through play and speculation is a more rewarding pastime than defining it through obscure philosophies that in themselves don’t impinge on Gloranthans’ understanding of the world. Like you said at the start: RuneQuest is about investigating Glorantha; to me, that investigation is a continuing process of definition, not an extra-game or pre-game requirement.

It’s a pretty well accepted Truth that any Gloranthan question will have at least four valid answers: from the Animist/Shamanic, Theist/Priestly, Monotheist/Humanist/Wizard and Mystical perspectives. This fact seriously depletes my keenness to carry on constructing overarching “rules” for the world, which (as I say) mean nothing to the inhabitants. Because however you define the powers of “the Gods”, the humanists of the West will be able to say that you’re talking rubbish, that there are no such things. And if your theory says they’re wrong, then it’s wrong.



End of Glorantha Digest V1 #2

Related Pages