Re: The Glorantha Digest V8 #73

From: Martin Dick <>
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2000 17:33:37 +1000

Mike Dawson wrote:
> on 10/5/00 6:54 PM, Adept wrote:
> > I try to run Glorantha as a world. I don't run adventures and
> > scenarios. I run the world, and the playercharacters live their lives
> > inside, come what may.
> This is really the crux--of whether the reader is likely to care about
> Ultimate Gloranthan Truth, and about whether the game someone runs would
> captivate me or bug the hell out of me.
> If what you want in your game can be had by "fixing" things so they work out
> dramatically, so that the players and the GM cooperate in telling a riveting
> story with the occasional wink back and forth to show that each knows the
> other fudged something to make it "play better", then you need not care
> about the integrity of the world as a system, or the hidden, immutable
> secrets behind the workings of the world. There needn't be any immutable
> secrets, since you're making it up as you go along. As the punchline goes,
> "It's turtles all the way down."
> But if you want to immerse your characters into a world where meaning has to
> be found out, where things occur for reasons, not because it was convenient
> or added a nice twist to the drama, then you as GM need to understand Why
> Things Are.

Do upu really think these things are incompatible? It is quite possible to run a campaign where things occur for reasons, yet at the same time nice twists are added for drama's sake. I've never found the two to be incompatible. Assuming of course we are talking about a reasonable level of both and not deliberately trying to break suspension of disbelief.

> Now, this next point drifts away from the whole "Gloranthan Truths" topic,
> but here's why I run my games as Adept says he does:
> If a GM is in the habit of doing things because they add a neat dramatic
> twist, or for color, or comic relief, or any other "MGF" reason, it REMOVES
> the reality of cause and effect from the world. The ultimate power of that
> GM's Glorantha becomes the narrative taste of the GM.
> "So what?" you ask, "As long as the game is fun?"
> In response, I say two things:
> 1) In such a game, what is the point in any player character wondering about
> the motivations of any NPC, or attempting to determine the root causes of
> ANY problem? The root causes of EVERY problem in such a game are "because
> the GM thought it was cool." For example, consider the bizarre Balazar(?)
> weather patterns mentioned on the digest recently --caused by an
> interventionist GM who didn't want the PC heading off that way. Why would a
> player in that game think it was a good idea for his character to start
> trying to figure out what storm god was angry with him?

Because it is not a black and white issue. It is quite possible to add dramatic twists and then go, hmmm okay how does that fit into my world picture. 99% of the time, I find a way to make it compatible with my world pretty much straight away, the other 1% of the time I have to think about it for a day or two. Having a nice framework for why things are happening is great and adds to a campaign, but if your framework is so rigid, it can't handle a dramatic twist or a dose of MGF, then you aren't roleplaying, you're simulating.

As well, the situation you mention really has nothing to do with MGF or adding dramatic twists, it's an example of a GM who doesn't know how to direct his players subtly or when they ignore subtle direction, go with the flow that the players are putting on the game. Ascribing poor GM practices
as an example of GM narrative tastes ruling the roost doesn't support your
argumanet at all IMO.

> 2) In such a game, how can any player or character take pride in
> achievement? How can you know, for sure, that it was your Yelmalion's hard
> won Light of Inner Purity 5W2 feat that enabled a last ditch resistance to
> the giant gorp? Did the GM think that this made a handy excuse not to kill
> off the central character too early in the quest?

It's never worried me, either when playing or GMing. What is the real difference
between a GM writing an adventure and saying 'Hmm the best light based character
is Mike's and his character has Light of Inner Purity 5W2, I'll make the bad
guy about 10W2 with his Foul Soul feat and Mike with some help from his mates
and quick thinking should be able to beat him" to "Hmm, I made the Chaos Foe
15W4 with his Foul Soul and now the entire party's getting their butt kicked
and wiped out, maybe I need to fudge a bit/add a deux ex machina." If I beat
the monster, then I beat the monster!

Of course a GM should balance things so this doesn't happen all the time, but
there is nothing wrong with doing it occasionally.

I had a GM who used to use the actual numbers in the Monster Manual for wandering monster encounters, e.g 30-300 orcs, 3-24 stirges regardless of what level we were, it did make for some memorable encounters, but it also killed a lot of us off. Now that was the early eighties, I didn't particularly
mind rolling three characters up in a day, I do now. Sticking to the set encounter, because that what you wrote because that's what your framework
is is way to rigid for my tastes.

> No doubt, running a world is harder than running a narrative.
> But the rewards can be great. If I may once again polish my own apple, let
> me point to the Gaumata's Vision scenario from RQ 3. It is not a narrative.
> It is a free form. It's "plot" grows from a few actions, extrapolated
> logically given the time, place, and magical nature of those involved. The
> right characters walking into it can bust it wide open in a few hours, but
> most may completely fail to get "hooked" by it, and LOGICALLY will have to
> live with the consequenses for a generation or longer.
> I should imagine that GMs who let narrative fiat enter their games have a
> lot of trouble running games like that, where mysteries and "detective" work
> play a part.

Actually not at all, it's just a matter of making a decision of balancing
narrative fiat against your world framework. My personal taste is for a bit of both, if we as characters take on things that are clearly too tough for us and we die, so be it, but if there is no warning or we just get particularly unlucky, well a bit of narrative fiat goes a long way in my opinion.

Hero Wars and Glorantha are clearly biased towards the narrative end of the spectrum, live with it and make your own decisions about the facts you need if you want to roleplay down the simulationist end of the spectrum.


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