Question From Andreas Mueller Answer 1998 Greg Stafford. Published Feb 1998.
Q: How scarce is metal in Prax? On the one hand, you said that metal is not available, on the other hand an entire tribe (Bison) use, as their main weapon, Swords.
In my humble opinion, swords are forged out of bone or horn with the help of a spell named “Forge bone”. They tend to have less armour points and do less damage (due to less weight).
A: No metal is mined anyplace in Prax. Nor is any mined or collected by them from such resources as the huge deposit of the Copper Sands. The Praxians simply have absolutely no way to process ore, shape metal, or perform other such civilized skills.
Your suggestion about the forged bones is exactly right. This is how the Praxians would interact with the materials of their natural environment. By their nature, the bison people have an affinity with the Air element, and thus with the package which comes along, including swords. Their best weapons magic will work on swords, so they will have them, made from the most sacred thing in the world: the bodies of their kin.
Practicality would, of course, let many bison riders to prefer metal swords, especially if some of their magic worked on it, and it was not ceremonial work being done. They might get the swords through war or trade.
Metal is generally scarce in Glorantha, especially compared to our modern standards. We need to keep in mind a preindustrial measure of scale. Our modern age makes abundant and exotic materials easily available, but such ease doesn’t exist in Glorantha. Whereas some magical means will make easier our drudging terrestrial tasks of mining and smelting, such tasks are simultaneously harder because of the animate quality of the earth and metals and the lack of specialists for these tasks. I imagine these all these average out to be about the same for comparable terrestrial sources from our own historic times.
Finally, iron is much more scarce that any set of game rules has ever stated. (Such things as market prices are game artifacts, of course, and while they are generally true are also for play, and are not evidence for calculating universal truths in gallons, pounds and dollars.) I’d say that 95% of all mankind’s iron in Glorantha came from the aptly named Iron Mountains, where mostali still hold to their prehistoric trading deals. Discoveries such as those in the Von Mountains (in the Redlands) are of tremendous value, until they play out, as have all other iron mines in the world. What? Iron can’t be mined? What world are you from?
What? Smelt iron out of rock? Mostali magic. And some who stole from them, maybe.
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