Re: Glorantha Futures - A Cautious Appraisal

From: john.hughes_at_QfGYWVuprqhhhtCr4IMEXWvRJMZRY5Cj5Z4G9P8hlPP0mef1GhBye_oun_r6DrTu
Date: Sun, 03 Aug 2008 19:34:35 +1000

 <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:EN-AU; mso-fareast-language:EN-AU;} _at_page Section1 {size:595.3pt 841.9pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:35.4pt; mso-footer-margin:35.4pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> Hi Ian  

 Thanks for those kind words. I was in fact greatly encouraged to see you on the Sartar Cults II project: not only are you among our finest writers but you have a fine track record as an editor with an acknowledged respect for Glorantha as both a community and a gaming world.  

>>Simplified cults/sub-cults and better playability for female characters are definitely on our agenda as very valid issues for us to deal with.


 >  Feel some love. There is plenty of it.  

 I hear you.  

 But at the risk of appearing contrary, it is because of matters of love - well at least respect and encouragement and community building - that I keep making loud noises and asking what some see as difficult questions. I have a deep and enduring affection for Glorantha and the Gloranthan community that stretches back beyond the earliest days of the Digest to running my first RQ convention event in 1986, an affection enacted through my many and varied roles as author (scenario background and story), editor, convention organiser, fanzine publisher, web publisher, artist, Glorantha propagandist/hagiographer/mythographer, list participant and gamer. (Not to mention wide-eyed, slightly sozzled Heortling poet and resident anthropowanker).    Now despite considerable practice over the years on ImmoderateGloranthaQuest, serious boat rocking doesn't come easy to me. Like most of the Old Guard, and some of the New, I tend to bite my lip and stay silent at most of the carryings on these days. But sometimes you just have to speak up, even if its only as a strategic intervention.  I'd much rather resume my accustomed role as eccentric uncle than some third-rate imitation of Nick in one of his 'decry the stupidity' phases. For one thing, Nick is far funnier. For another, and I think everyone is in agreement here: its much more fun talking *about* Glorantha than what is happening (and not happening) to it. Let me share a few personal observations, flawed and limited as they might be.  We can’t ignore the new reality. Glorantha has undergone some pretty drastic changes over the last few years – both in its presentation, its publications priorities, and in its (mal)functioning as a community. The varied but overlapping arcs of the new fan policy, with the resulting  demise of various support mechanisms like Lokarnos and the Digest, the lack of *playable* HQ material, only partly explained through publications hold-ups, the departure of Issaries from publications planning and of Mark as series editor … all have taken a serious toll. Above all, I sense a profound lack of leadership, guidance, or vision for the future. Rather than sustaining, building and encouraging a creative community, events of late seem to run in exactly the opposite direction, to paranoia, defensiveness, and limitation of any effort that does not spring from the controlling centre.   And to this the growing problem of genre fatigue, the lack of new ideas, the endless cookie cutter repetition evident in some recent material - a sort of mythology/history by numbers - and the self-created problem of a narrowing pool of contributors, and things are looking just a wee bit grim.   There are good bits of course… Mongoose RuneQuest being an obvious example.  And far from being a naysayer, I’ve also done my bit to keep the flame alive of late - a piece by Pip and I in Champions of the Reaching Moon, my editing and production of the last YBOT, my assistance with editing (until the curtain came down) of Greg’s convention essays, the ‘Ruin’ story on Questlines, various bits of art shared on the list … and efforts to progress FarPak, the Far Place scenario pack for Moon Design. However, there’s a story behind that last one, which I’ll come back to in a minute. It might further explain why I’m feeling a mite tetchy.   At the risk of oversimplifying, the brave new world of Glorantha might be summed up with three admittedly provocative phrases.   WE ARE ALL US (Population seven, plus or minus whatever).   THEY ARE ALL THEM (Sod ‘em).   And sadly   THE DRIVERS ARE ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.     Lets have a quick look at some recent trends in HQ publication (and non publication). Since I’ll be chatting about Sartar Cults II, let me use the original Storm Tribe and also Champions of the Red Moon as referents.   Storm Tribe was by ‘Greg Stafford and Friends’ The friends who co-authored the book included yourself, RRR, Jeff Kyer, me, David Dunham, Robin Laws, Andy Dawson, Ian Thomson, Bryan Thexton, Otto Leppa, Julian Laws, David Millians, David Gordon, Janet Anderson, Clint Staples, Simon Phipp, Wesley Quadros … you get the picture. ST was perhaps the culmination of a long and conscious effort by Greg to broaden Glorantha’s community base, and to empower writers as co-creators. It was one of our finest moments and still one of the most useful and enduring Gloranthan documents.   Champions of the Reaching Moon was Mark Galeotti’s last contribution as MD series editor. (How he managed to do *anything* while running a university department is a source of wonder in itself).  Champions was by ‘Mark Galeotti and Comrades’, and those comrades included yourself, Maddy Eid, Martin Hawley, Pip Hughes and her lesser half, Paul King, Jeff Kyer, Martin Lawrie, Kevin McDonald, Newt Newport, RRR, Stew Stansfield, Ray Turney. (I’m quoting here from my purchased PDF copy, since Moon Design have never bothered to send either Pip or I author’s copies).   Let’s compare this with the more recent stream of MD breathless announcements and publications.   Trader Princes by Jeff Kyer (long time in development, largely finalised in Mark’s time).   The Great Argrath Campaign by GS and Jeff Richard. (Vapourware, promised with much fanfare for 2008, ‘the answer to all our questions’, then seemingly forgotten.   The Big Bumper Book of Orlanthi Mythology by GS and JR (Vapourware, promised with much fanfare for 2008, ‘the answer to all our questions’, then seemingly forgotten. This was going to be the one that would answer the curious paradox of Vinga’s alynx: half dyke, half straight until the box was opened; i.e. Jeff or Greg actually bothered to clarify the situation, which they have been asked to do repeatedly.  Two years on - no answer - with god-knows-what implications for established characters and campaigns).   Pavis County by JR and Loz. Apparently on its way, fearlessly rewriting material first created by Ian Thomson. (It is great to see Loz writing for HQ).   The Heortling History book by GS and JR. (what was it called?) Deep background of variable quality and usefulness.   HQ2 by Robin Laws. Broader system, less Glorantha.   Cults of Sartar by JR and Ian Cooper (originally Neil Robertson). A rewrite of Storm Tribe, an answer to all our questions. Breathlessly announced, potentially interesting, but a loooong way off).   If you pay really close attention to the lists, you may catch rare glimpses (though not from Jeff) of other projects that are also under development (or at least, trying to be under development). These include Far Pak, A Far Place scenario pack by me.   Now this all occurring at a time when the Sartar Rising arc needs one more publication to finish it, to deal with Dragonrise, but, after three years, there is nothing remotely on the horizon (with the exception of some stars visible and invisible: see ‘Ruin’). It is also at a time when, nearly 20 years on, we still do not have a playable PC scenario pack about life in the Lunar Empire or the Lunar Army. (But heck, I’m talking about *game* material. How quaint…).   Okay, do you see any patterns here? There are quite a bundle, but here are a few of the more pertinent.   First up, we need a new acronym. SMJR – ‘Starring me, Jeff Richard!’.   Second, the effort to broaden the writer base has collapsed entirely. Everything is Jeff. This seems partly because Greg and Rick are increasingly MIA, with Jeff ever-willing to step in as voice of the prophets. However, given Jeff’s to inability to distinguish between promoting Glorantha and promoting himself, and his tendency to breathlessly place his latest bright idea at the top of the MD publications list, things have gotten very unbalanced. While Jeff has doubtless much to contribute, it is also noteworthy that he prefers to ‘improve’ the work of others rather than do the hard yards with original creative work and scenarios.   There are few scenarios.   Convention fare are being disguised as ‘real publications’, possibly to disguise lack thereof. Background materials have always been part of Glorantha, with the quality ranging from brilliant to chook raffle, but mixing them in with ‘real’, game-able publications confuses newcomers and does little for Glorantha’s reputation as a home of turgid, unreadable source books.   There is lots that could be said here. It seems that, not for the first time, Glorantha as a sub-literary realm of ideas to be admired has triumphed (hopefully momentarily) over the idea of Glorantha as a game world of stories and campaigns.   What is Greg up to? Well he can best explain that, and has a constant capacity to amaze, but he does seems increasingly caught up of late in ever more obscure ritual theories of magic (notice his mention of Aleister Crowley in a recent post on  sources and inspirations) that no one understands, let alone believes. I’d love to see more of Harmast’s Saga, which many in the community offered diverse supports to bring to completion last year.   And Rick, for whatever reason, is effectively missing in action. I say this with some sadness. My emails to MD on the Far Place project disappear into some absolute black hole: I get no reply. (I’ve already mentioned the lack of author copies for COTRM). Trying to complete a major scenario pack is a lot of work, but I haven’t advanced FarPak for nearly eight months now awaiting some fairly simple responses from Rick. (I’ve completed two other roleplaying projects in the wait, btw). If he’s changed his mind and doesn’t want it, fine – just let  me know. Heavens, I’ll scrape off the numberplates and put it out as a PDF. But in the face of this unprofessional silence, coupled with Jeff’s regular hijacking of publication schedules, one has to ask oneself what the chances of it ever being published actually are.         That’s my recent experience. And I fear this conscious exclusion and turning inward will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.   Which brings me to Cults of Sartar.   I must have heard hundreds of people say to me, ‘What we *really* need is another Sartar Cults book’.   Hold on, no.   I must have heard dozens of people…   No.   I must have heard at least one person …   Ok, honestly, I haven’t heard *anyone* mention a need for a new Sartar cults book. Still I’m prepared to be surprised, especially since you are on the project. I have to note in passing that it does fulfil two (perhaps all) of Jeff’s working criteria… it’s SMJR, and it gives him a chance to ‘improve’ the works of others. However, there is also a certain amount of disquiet. The ‘improving/unimproving/don’t talk about the improving’ of the cult of Vinga was hardly Glorantha’s finest moment, and his final word before retreating into silence was a claim to make Redalda the ‘new’ baseline womens’ cult, based, as it turned out, on the experience of a single character in a single campaign. There is also his increasingly personalised drive to selectively ‘purify’ the existing corpus, seemingly directed against particular people as much as particular ideas. These are not the most promising of omens …   In pushing the project forward I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you can take the opportunity to reengage with some tribal traditions seemingly forgotten or overturned in recent years. Looking back to the original might provide inspiration. Among the keywords are inclusiveness, openness, a minimum of respect for co-creators, an encouragement of young and upcoming writers, and a reality based promotions and publications schedule. I look forward to seeing the result.   What I really was meant to be finishing was some observations on Glorantha source, genre and process. However, the Doc’s about to start and I have to run… Cheers   John

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