Glorantha Con 5
Victoria - July 1997
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Just back from Glorantha-Con V, held at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. What a blast! Congratulations to Neil Robinson, Bill Thompson, the Seattle Farmers' Collective, and everyone else who was involved in making this such a successful Con.
The opening ritual (Welcoming the Goddess) was good creative fun, very much in the spirit of the HeroQuest Party from Convulsion 3D. By natural selection, I'd have been picked for Sandy's anti-Lunar team, but through some strange warping of space and time, I ended up narrating for the Lunar Descenders. We couldn't have made any headway without Kerie Campbell playing the Red Goddess, though.
At the Singalong, we sang. The barman called out, "The bar's going to close unless you buy more beer!" Everyone bought more beer. And on we sang... Once again, I stress that you only need to be able to sing as well as a raw Lunar recruit or drunken Orlanthi farmer to take part, and that I'm aware that my own vocal abilities are at the low end of this spectrum. A new EWF song based on "Puff the Magic Dragon" was unveiled late in the evening, which I'd like to steal if anyone has held onto the lyrics...
Saturday morning, we set up our new freeform, Reaching Moon Megacorp's Life of Moonson. There was a pre-game meeting of the Court of the Silver Gate (the ruling sultans of the Lunar Heartlands), which went exactly how we'd hoped it would: this was a great morale boost for the authors, just before the main proceedings commenced. Obviously, many Glorantha fans were born to be corrupt, scheming Lunar politicians...
The game ran all afternoon and evening, and was a joy to behold: the usual inventive costuming and role-playing, the crowds of onlookers and participants, etc. Some rules didn't work as well as we'd have liked, and we'll have time to rework these before the next run. But overall, I guess it worked and was fun for most players. Certainly, we were pleased with the way it turned out, and the levels of energy and enthusiasm during the game were palpable. There was a completely unexpected "cliffhanger" in the Presidium, just before the half-time food break, and many other surprisingly timely events in the course of the game.
Sunday morning, 9:00 am, I lurched from my slumber to present a Cultural Exchange. Never again will I consent to be programmed for an early-morning event the night after running a freeform. The audience were about as lively as me; the appearance of a pyjama-clad Chris Gidlow was my salvation, as we were able to drop into a discussion of past and future projects which we could do on auto-pilot while still illuminating the audience (I hope). But all the same, never again!
Meet the Megacorp was, once again, our chance to learn David Hall's future plans and policies. The next Tales will be a catch-up, with some Lunar Army material (a training scenario based on Rune Metal Jacket, and the cult of Yanafal Tarnils); future planned issues include Sartar, the Lunars in Sartar, the Upland Marsh, the Holy Country, and others. Please write stuff for us, then we can print it. David has announced that henceforth we'll try to produce two Tales's a year (and meet this plan), rather than announce three, produce two, and disappoint our readers. We should have a Tales website shortly, which will include submission guidelines and blasts from the past. And the Best of Tales #1-6 is well advanced.
Fall of the House of Malan was the second freeform of the Con, an Orlanthi bash set in the 14th century, before the coming of Sartar. This was a GREAT game: playing Orlanthi purely within their own society, without the convenience of outside enemies to unite against, proved to be an illuminating experience. I was a carl of Malan's clan, and opted for traditional Orlanthi traits: expressive, running and shouting. The freeform was played outside, with each clan having its own 'tula' (homeland); you could always see who other players were scheming with, and get advance warning of cattle-raids by seeing who was pointing fingers in your direction.
Being an open rather than a scheming freeformer, I began play by walking up to my character-sheet friends and telling them they were my best friends, seeking out the people I respected and showing them how much I respected them, and finding an enemy to make my disdain for him obvious to all. That, plus some gratuitous rain-dancing at the Orlanth Temple to make my piety obvious. The plot for me started rolling after the first hour, when I cocked up a ritual big-time and attracted the attentions of our feared King, Mad-Blood Malan: it is seldom healthy for a humble carl to be noticed by such a mighty potentate... best to flee for your life.
The best insight I gained from this freeform was about one of the key cultural differences between Orlanthi and Lunars. The Orlanthi think every gift is reciprocal, conferring some obligation on the recipient (the right to call in a future favour is the most common). But the Lunars of the Seven Mothers cult believe in charity, which the Orlanthi naturally treat with extreme suspicion. Honest Lunar denials that they have any intention of calling in a favour, or asking for anything in return for their generosity, are utterly incomprehensible to the Orlanthi, who can only assume that there are hidden strings, sinister plots, and an intention to snare them with unstated obligations. Creepy... but very reasonable on both sides.
Sunday evening, Jeff Richard and Greg Stafford conducted a debate (ably fronted by David Dunham) in which Orlanthi (JR) and Lunar (GS) spokesmen presented their world-views to a neutral Gloranthan enquirer. Audience questions were answered from both points of view. This was an illuminating performance: my favourite dialogue was when Jeff answered the problem of how to treat the destitute: "There would be a great shame upon me if any of my kin were to starve." When the obvious follow-up question was asked, "What if they're not your kin", Jeff reacted with a look of blank incomprehension which spoke volumes.
Greg read from his new introductory book of Gloranthan myths, the Book of Belintar - in this, he seems to have found an ideal voice for presenting most of the myths of Glorantha from a single personal perspective, as Belintar has, of course, experienced them all in the course of his many lives. This one should be good, and (if Issaries, Inc. works) should be out shortly.
Over the late-night beer and lemon vodka, a cluster of us cornered Greg to probe some of the mysteries of Glorantha. We clarified our understanding of the God Learners, of how worship rituals work, of Sacred Time, and how the relationship between Philosophy, Myth and History parallels the Mystical, Mythological and Material Worlds emerging through Greg's recent Lunar works. All good stuff, and feeding into future projects for myself and Rick Meints.
And then, all too soon, we were off to the ferry and airport for the body-breaking overnight flight home. Chris and I were driven by Gregg & Jeff Richard, and after the hangovers wore off we may have completely revised our understanding of the Lunar Empire's wars of expansion and relations with the southern Barbarians... watch this space for more!
-- Nick Brooke
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