Bell Digest v940418p2

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To: RuneQuest@Glorantha.Holland.Sun.COM (Daily automated RQ-Digest)
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Subject: RuneQuest Daily, Mon, 18 Apr 1994, part 2
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From: (John P Hughes)
Subject: Initiation,kinship, bits
Message-ID: <>
Date: 18 Apr 94 20:22:31 GMT
X-RQ-ID: 3691

Howdy folks, John Hughes reporting for temple duty. 
Please, not the guided teleport room again....

When Voria blooms in the darkness
Her blossoms swing light from each tree
When Dragon awakes and spreads fire
It's then that our land will be free.


Lewis, why do Aldryami eat Broo Grass? Wouldn't that 
assist in propagating it's seeds?

And isn't broo grass a chaotic musical style? :-(


The discussion has certainly been a stimulating one, but to 
my mind a lot of unnecessary attention has been paid to 
RQ rules rather than to human and community behaviour.

In my own explorations of Glorantha, I always try to keep 
in mind that the rules, especially those relating to magic 
and cults,  are (very!) rough simulations and abstractions 
created for gaming purposes rather than ethnographic 
descriptions of Gloranthan reality. I treat them with 
cautious disrespect.

Point One: most Gloranthan settlements are of a size that 
the adolescent children are known to most of the village. 
Even in most cities, if the culture is organised along clan or 
tribal lines, individual 'suburbs' or blocks would grow up 
composed mostly of members of individual tribes. 
'Welcome to Aldachur. You seek Thunderstone of the 
Tovtaros Tribe? Those Ironspike folk dwell along the north 
watchtower, near where the main sewer goes under the 
wall. Go there and ask the women at the well or the men in 
the dyehouse.'

Point Two: what do we mean by the game abstraction 
'sacrificing POW' whether temporary or permanent? OK, 
granted that some part of your essence is absorbed into 
the temple or the god(dess) and you sometimes get NEAT 
spells (the main game phenomena) - but what are the 
other correlates? Worship, prayer, involvement in temple 
ritual such as singing or drama, listening to or reciting 
sacred stories, training or being trained (not the highly 
specialised cult skills, but 'Godsday School' stuff like how 
to dance windershins or 'Sacred Hymns To The Wind 
A101'). In essence - community involvement centred on 
the temple - interestingly the one thing that most questers 
of the wargaming/monster-bashing  school tend to avoid. 
No wonder it's such a rules abstraction.

Point Three is similar - what does it mean to pass an 
Initiate test? And how does a priest decide if your Jump 
Skill is 45% or 50% or 55% or whatever? How important is 
exact (abstract) qualification against the fact that you're 
reasonably 'proficient' in the major cult skills, are 
obviously eager (you spend all your free time baiting 
Lunar traders in the local hophouse or publicly singing 
heroic cult ballads till the moon turns blue) and that the 
priest has known you all your life (plus your relatives, 
who probably contribute a substantial proportion of  his 

Which brings me to - 'any temple on a holy day'. By this I 
mean that most priests are in a position to KNOW 
prospective initiates reasonably well, and that cultic 
barriers are probably a lot more fluid that the games 
abstractions indicate. And of course, not everyone in a 
church is baptised/sealed/elected/circumcised or 
whatever. If some snotty-nosed brat whose breasts are 
only just beginning to bud hangs around your temple 
wanting to listen to the stories, watch the training and 
handle your iron sword, wouldn't you encourage her - 
even if you knew she was a regular out on Old Windbag's 

Elaborate formal standardised induction tests seem to me 
fairly alien to most Gloranthan religions, and religious 
authorities checking up on them even more so. Can you 
imagine a Jaw of Krarsht doing a tour of the temples, 
checking the books to make sure no one slipped in with 
only 48% Scream Obscenity?

The nexus of any temple is it's community, and the criteria 
for acceptance depends on whether or not the priest is 
convinced of your suitability IN THE BROADEST TERMS. So 
trust the priest, and hope to the Goddess the priest trusts 
you. Even if no formal category such as 'lay member' 
(remember lay members?*) or 'friend of the temple' exists, 
you can be sure that the local priest will either make one 
up especially for you, or treat you as well as the other 
initiates - if your attitude is right. 

* Maybe they're still there, like the Humakti 'distrust 
other-species' geas, and were merely quote "dropped from 
GoG's Listing." Thanks Sandy!

Similarly, even if you're wearing an iron breastplate, no 
priest in her right mind will let you inside the temple 
unless your piety can be independently verified or you're 
willing to crawl a lot and be treated like nobody while she 
assesses you. And if  you've done anything, even in the 
name of your god, that the local temple disapproves off, 
well it's time to move on ironboy. So check local temple 
politics before you slice a tax collector and then run to the 
Wind Temple to hide.

Once upon a time, roleplaying rule-systems were designed 
for psychopath(et)ic murderers interested only in 
maximum violence (the characters! the characters!) and 
anything relating to human interaction was abstracted into 
a die roll so that no time was lost in fighting the next 
illuminated chaotic Eurmalian were-vineyard. I'd like to 
think those days are passing, even if sections of the RQ 
rules relating to cultic acceptance do carry a lingering 

So I say have a healthy disrespect for the rules, and a 
greater respect for roleplaying and for the community of 
worshippers that constitute the temple. By Arkat, that was 
the way I learned what my religion was about, rather than 
just what spells and skills it taught! I guess this makes me 
a member of the non-abstracted interpreted-interaction 
low initiate pantheon initiation faction!

'A chaotic illuminated Eurmalian were-vineyard has been 
sighted? Lets kill i... I mean, lets ask the parish council if 
it's alright to kill it! Right after I finish this 'Sacred 
Tapestry Weaving' class!'  :-)

I wander her hills and her valleys
And still through my sorrow I see
A land that has never known freedom
And only her rivers run free.


Alex's diagrams continue to haunt me...

^ "Is it always the case that these relationships are 
_symmetric_ though?^

It can go either way. 'Direct exchange' works best for 
smallish communities, but from a MLD's point of view 
asymmetric relationships are best for intrigue, politicing 
etc. You may have to get three or more clans on side to 
pull off a particularly shaky marriage deal, (or a break-the 
-marriage deal for that matter). 

Kinship Rule 1: MAKE IT UP! Human kinship is not only 
weirder than you imagine, it's weirder than you can 
imagine! (with apologies to Prof. Haldane).

Confession time, Alex. Most anthropologists HATE kinship 
systems :-). We suspect that the people who make a special 
study of them are frustrated symbolic logicians who 
should be locked away in a mathematics department. 
Kinship has very little to do with biological relationships, 
and has everything to do with the symbolic construction 
and ordering of the world, politics and keeping outsiders 
who ask stupid questions (anthropologists) hopping. The 
rule systems are never written down, and always seem to 
be changing - it's like being permanently 'gregged' :-). In 
regard to your second question:

^ can it be that each skin divides the tribe up into 'Us' and 
'Them' in distinct ways.

Arghh! Well yes, it is possible and it certainly does occur, 
but I suspect your players would lynch you if you tried to 
put it on them. 'Let me get this straight. Clan A and Clan B 
are allied against Clan C, but members of Clan C regard 
Clan A as ritual friends but can never trade anything with 
Clan B. Clan D on the other hand...'

I just don't want to think about it.

Yep, it's so weird it can only be true. These bizarre alliance 
combinations (both globe and lozenge) are probably made 
up by clan elders to justify their existence: they're the only 
ones who actually understand the whole system, and are 
continually called upon to negotiate exchanges. Often you 
can't even borrow a cup of sugar without five intra-clan 
meetings and three rituals; and the sugar will have to pass 
through three clans before it gets to you; will be repaid 
(plus three pigs and an umbilical cord) to an entirely 
DIFFERENT clan, and borrowing the sugar this time means 
that clan X can borrow a glass of milk from you at any 
time in the future. (This is humorous but fairly accurate!). 
Its not the goods, the trading, that is important but the 

Kinship Rule Two: Keep it simple!

As I suggested in the kinship article, MAKE UP something 
simple and let your players get used to things a little bit at 
a time. An avoidance relationship or two, a restricted 
marriage category or an illicit romance between banned 
partners can generate lots of plot hooks. Leave the 16 skin 
bilateral shifting alliance tribes to masochists or bored 

^ Do these relationships change over a prolonged period? 
(or periodically?)

Something else too frightening to contemplate. These 
relationships are usually fairly stable, but sometimes have 
to adapt to catastrophes like war, famine, population 
explosion or (a perennial Orlanthi problem) simply wiping 
each other out! In my own tribe, the Tovtaros of Northern 
Sartar, the Ironspike clan has nearly become extinct 
because of its strong cultic allegiance to Orlanth Martial 
and the leadership of a nearly invincible thane who keeps 
surviving full-frontal charges even if his followers don't. 
However, the tribe has always had a smallish 'adoptee' 
clan called 'The Exiles', reserved for newcomers who 
wished to settle (originally Tarshish, of course). Not 
surprisingly, this clan has been swelled by southerners 
since the Lunar invasion and has taken over many of the 
tribal duties traditionally carried out by the Ironspikes. 
Lucky the Orlanthi don't have intricate arranged marriage 
systems to worry about!

There's a nice section in King of Sartar on the Colymar 
Clans (pp 205-209) that is full of ideas for Orlanthi inter-
clan relations.

I drink to her sons and her daughters
Those ones who would rather have died
Than to live in the cold chains of bondage
To bring back the rites we're denied.

Where are you know that we need you,
What thunders where storm used to be?
All gone, like the rains of last season
And only our rivers run free.

How sweet is life but we're crying
How mellow the mead but we're dry
How fragrant the grape but it's dying
How gentle the wind but it's ice.


^ In your GIE, John, what did the other players do? Did 
^ get to be, frex, the hawk possible-totem? Or the sea? I 
^ think of lots of cool possibilities, and with a facilitator, it
^ shouldn't get mushy. (I can see how it could turn into
^ something from one of those acting classes where the
^ teacher has the students do all kinds of weird things, but
^ lets hope not.

Spot on comment Martin. First of all, the exercise is a 
storytelling exercise, a co-creation between the 
player/character and the MLD. In this particular case, the 
other players didn't intervene at all, but accompanied the 
unfolding tale with clapper sticks and soft drumming. 
(Yeah, I know it sounds all sensitive third-age, but it 
WORKS really well). In situations where I'm prepared 
ahead of time (usually convention modules I must admit) I 
DO sometimes assign brief NPC roles for player characters, 
usually in dreams, visions of flashback sequences. The 
trick is to have a brief (one paragraph!) character sheet, 
and a simple goal stated in plain language: 'Your goal as 
the water spirit is to scare/threaten the trader with the 
vague suggestion that she will kill her lover with her own 

Some multiforms and other 'roleplaying theatre' games can 
go off the deep end; they're certainly for (experienced) 
players who take the co-creation / mutual storytelling 
ethic seriously. On the Australian Convention Circuit 
(where we have a healthy tradition of experimental 
gaming going back to the mid eighties) we have what we 
call 'The Roleplaying Contract'. This document encourages 
players to take responsibility for involving all other 
characters and to creatively add to the plot while not 
straying from the storyline.

However, the GIE is not one of these. It occurs within the 
context of a vision, and involves only one player exploring 
her creative imagination through the matrix of her 
character: Literally ANYTHING can and should happen. It 
can also be brought to an end at any time: the MLD simply 
suggests that bodily sensations and consciousness are 

What good is a youth when it's aging
What joy is an eye that can't see
When there's sorrow in stormwind and shower
And still only our rivers run free.


John P. Hughes                             "When a Lhankor Mhy 
Department of Archaeology & Anthropology   approaches, the gods 
Australian National University             depart."			   Praxian Wisdom



Subject: Rape
Message-ID: <>
Date: 17 Apr 94 08:02:40 GMT
X-RQ-ID: 3672

>MOB replied
>But "she was asking for it" is often a defense in rape trials...

>>Surely you don't think this is other than a baldfaced lie?...

>>>Scott Haney:
>>>It is.  And it almost inevitably turns out to be untrue.  Rape is not 
an act of passion or sex.  Rape is an act of violence, an act no less 
violent than battery...

Agree with you both.  I would go further to say rape is an act of
violence AND dominance.  In the state I live in, the prison term for rape
has been increased to be equivalent of murder (one of the things 
the looney-rightists have don that I approve of)


From: (Dogs Playing Poker)
Subject: Female Broo
Message-ID: <>
Date: 16 Apr 94 13:20:50 GMT
X-RQ-ID: 3673

SBF seeks SBM (Single Broo Female seeks Single Broo Male)

I definitely like the idea of the female Broo as am uncommon creature. It makes
a good rare GM special creature and gives a lot of fun scenario hooks. I can
just see the female "leader of the pack" becoming enamored of the local
chieftan's puny son after spotting him from afar and dispatching a group of
male broos to help her "woo" her perspective "courter". A female broo would
want to spell trade for the spell that brings the pain of childbearing upon the
father and would have an elaborate scheme to get the spell. If you were 
especially mean as a GM you could give her the chaotic ability to have the
father carry the offspring to term "How come the other broos want nothing to
do with the female?" similar to the male broos ability to breed with other male
creatures. Great idea - kudos to whoever came up with it. Same with the broo
/ stove mixture , only problem is , what would happen in that case if some 
broo became enamored of part of the Mostali world machine?