Visibility, Transparency, Reality and Game System

From: John Hughes <nysalor_at_...>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 20:49:42 +1000

Heys Folks

Be warned - meandering philosophical ramble follows.

VISIBILITY, TRANSPARENCY, GLORANTHAN REALITY AND GAME SYSTEM First, a rank newbie question, and a possible one for the FAQ.

What are the practical limitations on casting spells/using magical abilities/performing ceremonies?

If necessary conditions are fulfilled (ritual objects, touching talismans etc.) could for instance, an Ernaldan priestess use her Bless Crops spell errrr *ability* all day, every day, with multiple castings (i.e. an automatic success or a simple ability test)? Could a Sword cast her Sword of Honour upon every willing clansmember in the hours before a battle?

To put the question into another (more general) form, what are the areas where low-level HW clashes with the description provided by RQ-moderated Glorantha? (Or PDP or storytelling Gloranthas?)Where are the holes and problem areas? Are there areas where the descriptive ability of HW breaks down in a serious way? Is it necessary to do any *reality* retro-fitting as opposed to mere selective system fiddling? What are the things once important that are no longer so (i.e. POW points, fistfuls of Lunars) and the things perhaps formerly unimportant that now are? (Concrete mythic knowledge is an obvious one - formerly much more abstract).

There are several dimensions to my puzzle, and to similar ones, such as the recent questions about whether Rune Levels still exist. (Please pardon my somewhat critical take on this - I'm genuinely puzzled. I'm also eager to be corrected if my experience is significantly different to others. Remember I'm mastering the system 'cold' from the final drafts).

One is the way HW utilises its own vocabulary (and an additional, somewhat arbitrary television vocab borrowed from scriptwriting textbooks) rather than the storytelling reality it is supposedly emulating. It does not appear to be seeking story-first system transparency. (I know that the constant conscious referencing to game mechanics will become less intrusive with usage, but it's been a MAJOR stumbling block to my group).

I also realise that I am obviously filtering my experience of Gloranthan reality through the lens of a previous game system. However, in twenty years of roleplaying, writing and exploring Glorantha using many different systems (RQII, RQIII, PDP, systemless, my own card-based storytelling systems, and a whole host of Glorantha-lite freeform and convention systems) I think I have a healthy understanding of the difference between game constructs and Gloranthan cultural and physical reality. POW, for instance, is a game construct, while the flow of power between 'deity'* and mesocosm is a culturally-moderated reality.

(* insert ontological prejudice of choice).

Spells, whether you call them battle magic, feats or Banjo's Big Boom Booms, exist, and *all* game reproductions necessarily simplify and abstract the processes involved. Heortling titles of mastery and recognition such as Wind Voice, Sword, Sage, Goldentongue (i.e.Rune levels) have always existed and are independent of any game system - of course exactly *what* they mean will vary according to the clan that honours the title - and this was true even in the RQ 'five skills at 90%' days.

My own confusions seem to spring from the fact that HW does not sufficiently distinguish between its own mechanical and descriptive mechanisms, and the Gloranthan 'ethnographic' reality upon which these mechanisms are based. The murkiness seems further accentuated by the intrusive nature of the game's vocabulary.

I'm having a lot of fun with HW, and I appreciate its tremendous potential in giving us the heroquest. I applaud the effort made by Robin and by the Issaries folk and playtesters in bringing it this far. So my question is; how significant have the difficulties I describe been among other groups, and what can we do to clarify the difference between game abstraction and Gloranthan reality? Is this well-trodden and unproductive ground?

I realise that my difficulties may largely be a result of my own psychological foibles (shaddup Mikael :)) and the storytelling biases of my own group, but I'm not *entirely* convinced. What has others experience been?



nysalor_at_...                   John Hughes

There was a muddy centre before we breathed. There was a myth before the myth began,
Venerable and articulate and complete.
>From this the poem springs: that we live in a place
that is not our own, and much more, not ourselves. And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.

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