Dan Zappone asked a very good question about how to get your players to play around with Gloranthan myths, especially in hero quests. Here are some thoughts of mine that I thought people might find interesting (and bumped up to its own post instead of hidden in a comments thread):
- Don’t worry about the specific Gloranthan myths. Think about how this all fits together thematically (this is why the monomyth is your friend) and reduce things to archetypes – Storm God, Earth Goddess, Water God, Death God, etc.
- Let your players name the gods based on what they know in play. Storm God? Oh that must be Orlanth. Wait that guy is really destructive – maybe it is Storm Bull. Use the Runes like Tarot Cards.
- Let the players tell you how they interact with these archetypes. That Storm God is Storm Bull – but I am the Cattle Goddess! She’s kind of like Hathor, right? Well, I got Earth, Beast, and Fertility, so I am going to get Storm Bull to help me instead of fight me. If I need to have a dalliance with the Storm Bull, so be it!
- Play around the framework of the monomyth. The monomyth is the framework of the Gloranthan cosmology, but this is like jazz. Dance around it, riff off it, fill it in and expand upon it. You know Storm Gods fight the Sky but get recruited by Earth Goddesses to fight their enemies of Darkness, Water, and Chaos. Run around with it.
- Don’t tell the players a super convenient myth nobody has ever heard of and ask them to repeat that. Start with the stuff in the Glorantha Sourcebook, and work at that level of detail initially. Let them heroquest and experience their mythic event.
Think of interacting with Gloranthan myth like an exploration of Jung’s unconscious. Filled with archetypes we express as Runes. These Runes are arranged in patterns but what those patterns really mean can only be understood through experience. What does Death and Man mean? What is Air and Movement? What is Light and Truth? How do all these things fit together?
As a GM, what you should do is think about the Runes. Define key parameters – The Waters are trying to flood the Earth. The Earth goddess is willing to promise something to Air if it will protect her. The Air can push back the water and get the reward. Beyond that go Brian Eno and David Bowie. Throw some random Power Runes in there to complicate things – Death or Life, Movement or Stasis, Illusion or Truth, or Harmony or Disorder. And then something else random into the mix. Pretty soon you have recorded Station to Station (hopefully without the cocaine addiction).
As a final aside, there are only two versions of the myth that are correct. The one you heard in stories, and the one you experience. After you experience the myth, you can tell a new version of it. Don’t try to play heuristics to figure out the historical “real version” of the myth. That’s a False God and a dead end.
And a follow-up thought – think of the God Time as a place, inhabited by archetypes and entities that can be eternally revisited. These archetypes did things in the God Time and are thus always doing them. But you can interact with them, participate in their deeds, even be their incarnation (and thus wield their magic). Be careful though – it is awful hard to define yourself as Orlanth when you have a star on your forehead! And it gets tougher when you encounter archetypes you don’t recognise or have any stories about!
What does it need to define yourself as Storm God? Defining yourself as “a Storm God” is easy. Defining yourself as Orlanth who beat the Water Gods into submission and extracted oaths and promises that you now want to call upon is harder. Especially if they are trying to point out that you don’t seem to fit the bill.
Reducing this even more – the gamemaster should be familiar enough with the broad contours of Gloranthan myth to feel comfortable with how things fit together, and then be willing to let the players run around with it, while resisting the urge to cement the myths in granular detail like happens so often in forum discussions. The trick is to get a feel for the pillars and moving parts in the monomyth and then players do what they will with it.As an aside, the best sources are Myth chapter in the Guide to Glorantha and the Glorantha Sourcebook. The Cults Book will have a Monomyth chapter that is even more useful but it is not available yet (soon!).
Another source of inspiration is how musicians reinterpret their songs over and over again. Or if you have the new remastered Funhouse you can hear Iggy sing a half-dozen versions of Loose – each is the “same” song but also each is very different. Or is Reed’s “Caroline Says II” the same song as the Velvet Underground’s “Stephanie Says”. The songs have many of the same lyrics, but the themes and arrangements have changed, the speed is changed, and in some cases even the meaning has changed.