Re: Spirits -- Shamans vs. Wizards

From: Joerg Baumgartner <>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 96 23:55 MET DST

Sorry for all that rules stuff. Some Gloranthan content is promised...

Sandy Petersen replied to my
>>wizards are even better able to command spirits quickly than are
>>full shamans under RQ3, who have to defeat the spirit by leaving
>>their body, beating it to zero MP and then capture that useless
>>bundle of spiritual energy used up - the wizard just tries until one
>>of his 1-point Dominate spells does the job.
> This comment makes me suspect that you have not tried this in
>practice, Joerg. Consider the following points:

I know that I tried to run each of a shaman apprentice and a beginning shaman against spirits, and an experienced sorcerer. Only the latter ever stood a slight chance...

> 1) Any reasonable spirit (i.e., a POW of 10+) has a 95%
>chance of resisting a 1-point Dominate.

The beauty of this powergaming trick is that with a multispelled Dominate 1 the statistical chance is a lot better than the linear chance you calculated. Already after five tries your wizard has a 22% chance to have succeeded at least once, which is enough, and by far quicker than to beat it down to zero MP. As soon as the critter's POW is greater than 12, this pays off.

>It will take the wizard an
>average of 18 tries to successfully Dominate the critter.

You failed your statistics roll. It takes 14 rolls to get a 50% chance to dominate the critter (0.95 ** 14 is the counter-probability for any these rolls to succeed).

I'll skip the other rulesy stuff here.

>>a Rokari wizard is well able to provide a protective circle with
>>Spirit Resistance, and with the appropriate equipment (religious
>>symbols, even better relics) even should be able to banish spirits
>>that haunt his parish.

> Hmm. About that protective circle ... a reasonably mighty
>wizard can put up a Protective Circle with a strength approximately
>equal to the average evil spirit's POW -- remember that a typical
>spook is usually in the 16-17 range. This means that when the spirit
>attacks the Rokari wizard, fully half the time it won't be able to
>attack in spirit combat (because it will fail to overcome the Resist
>Spirit). And I'm sure that it will never think of casting a
>Neutralize Magic, or of just wandering away much much faster than the
>wizard can move his circle.

That Neutralize Magic (a sorcery spell) has about the same chance to succeed as has the Dominate. The spirit will be hard put to produce a Dispel Magic 16, really. Sorry, there is a (maybe not-so-large) loop-hole in "da roolz as written" here.

Wandering away is about the desired effect, isn't it?

When I said banish, I wasn't thinking of an ordinary spell anyway, but rather a relic-using Saintly Intervention.

> Wow! Joerg, now I can see why wizards are so much more
>effective vs. spirits than shamans. Add to this their utter inability
>to exorcise a spirit from any possessed individual, and I'd never
>want to have a shaman around again!

Ok, it is impossible to Dominate a possessed individual of any kind (unless you have the spell "Dominate disease-spirit possessed human", which should be extremely rare). It is possible, however, to Dominate a spirit to attack the possessing spirit, let it win spirit combat thanks to its Spirit Resistance and take over, and then order it to leave the body.

> Seriously, wizards are at a _severe_ handicap vs. spirits, as
>we ought to know by looking at the record of the wars of the West.
>Traditionally, the most deadly foes of the Malkioni have always been
>shamanistic cultures.

You mean the Basmoli kingdoms of their Dawn Age wars? I have to disappoint you. There is some information on them in an unpublished, but ancient Glorantha source I happened to bid for this Convulsion (the "Book of Kings").

The Pendali (as the grandchildren of Basmalt were called after Pendal, Basmalt's son with the dryad Aelra, compare Enerali/Galanini in Ralios from the Broken Council Guide) were about as civilized as were the Malkioni of Frowal and Neleoswal. They ruled their land from cities, and had about as good agriculture as had the people of King Froalar. They had more of the native gods on their side than had the Malkioni (until Prince Hrestol became a knight, slew Penadal's wife Ifftala, the daughter of Seshna Likita, and King Froalar on his rescue mission for his son made a pact with Seshna Likita leading to his alliance with the land, the Serpent King dynasty, and Hrestol's exile) and had numerical superiority as well. The entire kingdom of Frowal was founded on a land grant given by one of the Pendali kings to Malkion during the Darkness (=Ice Age).

During the Darkness, the Malkioni enclaves of Frowal and Neleoswal on the west coast of the Seshnelan peninsula and the Pendali kingdoms on its southern shore and towards the lands which later became Arolanit. (To locate them in modern sunk Seshnela, Neleoswal covered about the islands of Ginorth to Guebelle and straight south, and Frowal is shown on the Castle Coast as ruins. The Pendali Kingdoms formed a semi-circle around these two Malkioni realm (separated by Kanthor's Forest) reaching from the Kanthor island featuring the plant rune over the Pasos Islands towards the Iron Mountains, including the Tanisoran duchies of Estaurenic, Noyelle and Vogai plus the western half of Tanisor. The Basmol ruins could have been the last refuge of the easternmost Pendali kingdom. More about them below...)

The Pendali were organized in five separate kingdoms, once again similar to the Enerali who ruled east of them (and who are quite well detailed in the Broken Council Guide). Each of the kingdoms had been founded by one of the sons of Pendal, and three still were ruled by their founders at the Dawn. Their kingdoms and capitals were named after the founders, like Orphalsland and Orphalsket for the westernmost Pendali kingdom. Each kingdom had several more cities, also named their noble founder plus -ket. (The Malkioni-founded cities are all named -wal.)

The Pendali were quite civilized. They had good access to the magics of the land through their ancestress, Ifftala, and were ruled by descendants of Pendal, their founding god. When Froalar (the younger son of Talar) arrived with his followers from Brithos (where he had left to avoid civil war between his more numerous followers and those of his older brother), the ruler of the central Pendali kingdom granted a little settled strip of land at the harsh northwestern coast to the newcomers. This must have been during the Lesser Darkness, aka Ice Age. During the Greater Darkness, forces of Darkness invaded Seshnela from the East (Zorak Zoran after his destruction of Flamal at Hrelar Amali?), and slew some of the Pendali kings and peoples, who nevertheless persisted.

The Malkioni kingdom had to struggle as well, but it came out of the Darkness in about as good shape as did the Pendali kingdoms. Troubles with the Pendali began around the Dawn, when resettling efforts led to rivalries about the border lands. When one Malkioni lord slew a rival suitor (a Pendali king) for a Pendali noble's daughter in a supposedly non-lethal (Pendali) ritual combat, war broke out, and the righteously enraged Pendali swept the outnumbered and outmagicked Malkioni from the battlefields.

What is interesting about this conflict is its cause. The fact that a Malkioni lord would have married a Pendali princess indicates that they regarded the Pendali as their social equals, though different through their ancestry. The Pendali do have their own pecularities, like the taboo to ride horses after their ancestor Pendal once had been beaten unconscious by a horse. In later encounters during their losing war against the Serpent King dynasty they did use chariots, though.

Only one of the Pendali kingdom did actively use lions in their battles. This was the kingdom of Kaanilland, the easternmost kingdom, and last to resist the encroaching Malkioni. Of the other kingdoms, three had been conquered, and one had submitted and been turned into a Seshnegi earldom, apparently without any cultural difficulties.

After their betrayal by their ancestress Seshna Likita (who did not avenge the death of her daughter Ifftala), the Pendali looked for other deities to aid them against the Malkioni, and at different times in different kingdoms worshipped Kraaljiid, a god of Darkness; Yelm, a sun god; Aerlit, a storm god, and their own ancestor Basmalt.

During their wars against the Malkioni, the Pendali produced one set of divine children of their lion ancestor Basmalt. These were born to the sister of one of their kings who disappeared one day, to be found again only later. Her three children became the greatest warrior, the greatest sorcerer (sic) and the greatest witch of the Pendali, and they directed much of the Pendali resistance against the Serpent King dynasty, inflicting great desasters upon the Malkioni. Their manipulative treatment of those Pendali kings who dared to have their own policy did cause much of their losses, though.

After three of the five Pendali kingdoms had fallen, only the easternmost kingdoms of Jorilland Kaanilland remained free from the Seshnegi, as the Malkioni called themselves by this time. The kingdom of Kaanilland had earlier conquered parts of Tanisor, but failed to hold them in a two-fronted war against both Tanisor and Seshnela as their king became senile. His successor was remarkable by the fact that he and his band of noble warrior supporters kept pet lions which they trained to cooperate in battle. He also introduced the worship of Yelm to his kingdom (at about the same time Jorilland turned to Yelm worship, and used chariots and bows in battle). When the Serpent Kings finally invaded his lands and his fellow kingdom failed to support him, the warrior king went to his enemy who, impressed by the bravery, granted him one request. The Pendali king took those of his people who would follow him (the vast majority) and left the lands conquered by the Malkioni to settle in Tanisor. This he and his people did for a while, but then the Tanisorans gathered to strike back and pushed them further east into the savage lands of the Mislari Mountains. When the land prevented a proper kingdom to grow, the people resorted to cruder and more primitive means of existance. After their king and his lion kin had chosen to be entombed below a (city looking like a) mountain (compare Genertela Book p.79, Basmol Ruins), the last unconquered Pendali had reached the primitive stage and were barely recognizable as their former race. They were called the lion-men, for they retained the friendship and partial control of the beasts, and lived in their mountain savagery undisturbed for years.

This much for the apocryphal stuff on the Basmoli and their not so Hsunchen origin...

What other "shamanistic" cultures were the nemesis of the Malkioni? The Doraddi in Pamaltela? The Praxian beast riders?

Ok, the Fronelan Malkioni did have problems with the White Bear Empire in the early 3rd Age, built around a powerful leader called Black Hralf the Weasel. However, this realm was a deviation from shamanic ways (as were the great counter-movements of the Doraddi against outer enemies) and IMO/AFAIK also used sorcery of the demon-calling kind (nameless Man, Gate of Banir etc), similar to its precedessors among the great enemies of the Malkioni, which were the Vadeli, the Pendali, the Tanisoran Vampire Kings, and the Stygian Empire.

Note that, in this context, I use the term "sorcery" as "gaining magic from personal power as well as from any god or demon which will answer an invocation." This kind of old Kingdom of Logic wizardry seems to have spread before the expansion of the Malkioni way (Solace, castes, proper conduct etc) into the east all the time. The Blue People of Peloria turn out to be adherents of a Kingdom of Logic, and sorcerers. The Tanisoran kingdom uses sorcery against King Gerlant, and is only defeated when the superior sorcerers from Brithos come to Genertela. The Waertagi used wizards' magic plus their sea demons and ruled the seas until the Jrusteli wiped them off it in the battle of Tanian's Victory. The Stygian Empire has taken mainstream Malkioni wizardry and merged it with native Ralian and trollish concepts, and is regarded as hardly or even non-Malkioni by a majority of the winners (Middle Sea Empire) and their descendants (modern Seshnela).

Except for Akem/Loskalm, the main foes of the Malkioni seem always to have been sorcerers, not shamans.

If you look at the scarce material we have about the early Malkioni/Brithini and the Kingdom of Logic, the wizards were magicians who knew all the gods of the land, but worshipped none. (The material we have is the God Learner history of Glorantha in Cults of Terror, the stuff on Gods and Goddesses of Glorantha in Wyrm's Footnotes/Footprints, and various hidden mentions in other texts, like e.g. the Monomyth in GoG.) They did bargain with the local deities, or did even summon them (Cthulhu-style?), but never worshipped them. The most powerful wizards (like e.g. Ostorious Archmagus, or more recently Argin Terror) could command lesser gods to do their bidding, being quite similar to the shamans of Nomad Gods in this respect.

However, I do agree that the Rokari village wizard _should_ be less effective against roaming spirits or demons than a Kolating (acolyte, in Nomad Gods rating?) shaman from the Storm Mountains of similar experience.

This should manifest in the rules, and not so much by making the wizard even less effective than he already is, but by making the (lesser) shaman's interactions with spirits more playable, and a bit more powerful. A new mechanic for spirit combat with a couple more options for embodied participants trained to do this would do the trick, and even render the "Control <(Otherworld Entity) Species>" spirit magic spell useful in actual play for less powerful shamans or advanced shamanic acolytes.

All IMO...

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