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God damn it, I love Glorantha

Started by Ron Edwards, June 03, 2001, 07:02:00 PM

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Ron Edwards

Yes, Glorantha is highly derivative. Yes, nearly all the mythic details can be traced to their historical and literary antecedents.


It's a rockin' setting. In yesterday's game, the characters worked their way through the last steps of a heroquest. It culminated in:
- a big fucking chaos-maggot being born
- the rebirth of a man lost on the Other Side for decades, via his own daughter
- the bloody deaths of nearly all the PCs and their friends (fortunately, they discovered, this was REQUIRED in the heroquest, so losing the fight was GOOD)
- a broo hero! plus lots of bad broo too
- one hero reaffirming the existence of her actual god, who was in danger of being totally squelched and manipulated by a cunning foe
- me being able to use that great map of Snakepipe Hollow, and NOT for a dungeon-crawl
- a long journey through an underground river as the shaman led the souls of the clan dead back to the world of the living (I'm so classic-myth I could puke)
- the hand of the Devil
- another hero tapping into the grief from her childrens' deaths to reaffirm the hope inherent in childbirth
- and it all tied back into the primary myth of the clan that I wrote 20+ runs ago, before we started playing; and even better, it was the PLAYERS who spotted all these significant correspondences that I swear to God I never anticipated

Blood, sex, clan loyalty, triumph, prices to be paid, sacrifice, and Campbellian oomph. This is a great setting.



Dear Ron

Why dontcha post a copy of that origin myth, if'n you got one.

Clinton R. Nixon


I used to /hate/ Glorantha. Really. It made me sad that Hero Wars was attached to such a crap setting.

Then I read "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell today.

My next two games I'm running are Orkworld and Hero Wars.

Glorantha--rocks. I just needed the push.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Ron Edwards


I'm glad to hear that, but it might interest you to know that I think Campbell is a tad ... empty. "It's mythic because it's found in all the stories, and it's found in all the stories because it's mythic."

What I do like about his work is that he excites people about going to check out the actual myths and stories, and also to give modern stories (e.g. movies) the attention they deserve regarding their content.

OK, that's really the end of the post. For some reason I feel confessional, so now proceeds a bunch of kibble that anyone sensible probably ought to skip.

Ever since 1977-78, I have had a terrible time role-playing "fantasy." I'd already been immersed in Greek and Norse myth, and already read Lewis, Tolkien, Howard, Leiber, and similar amazing stuff. When I found out about this funny new hobby, I fastened upon it like a leech - only to discover that no one I knew was approaching it from any similar perspective. The D&D tournament scene was in full swing, and it was clear that my entire reason to play was not shared by anyone in that culture at all.

In my Hero Wars review, you'll see that I've been buying and reading RuneQuest stuff since that very time. I could tell that the authors were coming from the same perspective as me. But I could also tell that the system was utterly unsuited for what I wanted (yes, even back then), and I could not seem to shake my friends' assurance that D&D-type assumptions about "fantasy" were, in fact, fantasy. This continued through the early 90s, as RoleMaster, Earthdawn, Warhammer, and many others perpetuated those assumptions.

I also cop to a certain long-standing ambivalence about Glorantha - which is why I began this thread, by the way, because I recently tipped solidly onto one side of that ambivalence (the positive one).

Here's the negative side. As I said, it is highly derivative: oh look, there's the Irish stuff; oh look, there's Njal's Saga; oh look, there's Gilgamesh (and here, and here, and here); oh look, a whole ton of Indian/Persian material; oh look, the Plains Indians, with a dash of Hun. I have at least one friend, very well-versed in classic literature and myth, who sneers at Glorantha as a sophomoric hodge-podge of other people's good stuff, and asks why the hell don't we just pick one of these REAL mythic-settings and play in it.

So anyway, given the negative side of the ambivalence, the killingly complex system (I'd spent years stripping Champions down into what I considered playable; doing the same with RuneQuest is a daunting task; I know, I've started multiple times), and the lack of shared interest on others' parts, I never got an RQ game going.

You see, more than one of those pieces had to be fully "on" and inspirational both to me and to others. Pick two: the setting (Premise, actually) had to grab all of us for the same reason, the system had to be fun and rewarding, or the background/literature interest had to be shared.

Now, with Hero Wars, and with a group of friends my age who themselves had rarely enjoyed typical fantasy-RPG settings, it's firing full blast. And this whole post was about that final piece, the canonical setting, losing its ambivalence for me.


Zak Arntson

Okay, this isn't entirely on-topic, but the Planescape setting (as envisioned in the boxed set, not quite supported by all the supplements) as a hugely mythic, epic, and unique playground.  Ron, I'd recommend it to you, at least for peeking at (if only for it's wonderful _fantasy_ artwork as opposed to Frazetti/comic that you usually see).

Oh, this does tie in.  Clinton mentioned to me doing PS with Hero Wars rules ... Hooray!

Ron Edwards

Hi Zak,

I always wanted to check out the Planescape stuff. The settings developed by TSR during that time included some amazing things (Al-Qadim being ... well, simply great). The constraint has basically been whether I've seen it in the second-hand bins.

So, ah, why not dig out your copies, check out the HW rules, and apply them? I maintain that these rules do "epic/myth" fantasy better than anything I've ever seen.


Blake Hutchins

I've always loved Glorantha too, ever since I picked up the wargame "Nomad Gods." As a wargame, it was OK. A bit faster moving than the average, but lacking anything remarkable in terms of gameplay. However, the myths and folktales in the rule book absolutely gripped me. All sorts of evocative stuff there, turning the spirit units into unique entities with their own stories, not just pieces on a board. The plains of Prax offered a wonderful barbarian environment, with an exotic frontier flavor. It's still one of my favorite fantasy settings today. I bought Runequest with delight, based purely on the experience with "Nomad Gods." The other game, "White Bear and Red Moon," I found a less satisfying background, but still a cool read.

Now when I get into Hero Wars and check out the Issaries site, I find more of that nifty cultural/mythic background kluged into a dynamic and complex world. Though its parts are derivative, the sum feels sweetly original.

Viva Glorantha.



John Wick

On 2001-06-07 10:16, Ron Edwards wrote:
I'm glad to hear that, but it might interest you to know that I think Campbell is a tad ... empty. "It's mythic because it's found in all the stories, and it's found in all the stories because it's mythic."

You know Ron, for someone so voluble, you sure have a way of minimizing another man's life's work. :wink:

Take care,
Carpe Deum,

Blake Hutchins

John, I've heard similar sentiments from a friend of mine who happened to be a Religious Studies major at Reed College. According to him, there are other scholars who treat the origin and development of myth far more rigorously. I gather that students of this area get a bit miffed from all the attention paid Campbell's work.

All that said, I love Campbell and find the Hero's Journey cycle really useful in my writing. Whether or not his work completely measures up from an academic standpoint, he does a great job of laying out the archetypal myth structures and relating them to his readers in such a way that they become accessible and exciting. Consequently, he's turned on a lot of people to stuff that they wouldn't have paid much attention to otherwise. I guess you could say he's more of a populist in his approach.



Stefan Drawert

dear Ron,
your short summary sounds so interesting that I dare to ask you for some more details maybe even a short campaign overview, only if possible.
It would be very nice to see, what is actually possible using HW in Glorantha.

anyway, nice "teaser"


Ron Edwards

Thanks Stefan, and I'd like very much to post a lot of the material from my game ... but now's a big crunch time between real life, getting some new material ready for the Forge, book-publishing, and GenCon. I regretfully had to put a lot of HW stuff on hold, including my Hero Scape / Plane Wars stuff.

I'll get there, though.