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Featuring Nick Brooke and Chris Gidlow
AM = Audience Member
Nick: We are now technically in the Lunar Cultural Exchange. I love the Lunars, and we have lots of things to say about them, so I'd say in half an hour, or forty-five minutes, if you have some pressing Lunar question you'd like to throw out to the world, we'll come to those then. We'll do another time announcement then. For now, we'd be delighted to take whatever questions, or brick bats, or suggestions you have about the Lunar Way. Or, if you'd rather carry on randomly, we can do that. But let's start with some questions.
AM: Can you tell us a little bit about the Lunar neighbours, Balazar and Imther?
Chris: They're blank aren't they? Can't talk about them.
Nick: One thing that my friend Mike Hagen, who wrote the Tales from the Black Galleys I was reading last night, one thing he came up with was the idea of the Lunar Governor. The top ranked of the Lunar Imperial Cult that you'll see in Tales #16 is the Red Satraps. After them, of course, you become a Red Senator, one of the council of wise advisors who guide Moonson's every decision if he bothers listening to them. But the Red Satraps include the Sultans, who are usually hereditary families that worship a particular Mask of Moonson who was their ancestor. And the Governors, these are the people who have worked their way up through the bureaucracy, they weren't born to a title, it's not hereditary, but Moonson has appointed them.
So the Governor General of Dragon Pass's cultic rank would be a Red Satrap in the Cult of the Red Emperor. Along with all the other cults he's in, because the Lunar Empire has a very higgledy-piggledy cultic system. And another one would be the Governor of Kitor, the Governor of the West Reaches, Palamtales, the son of a cobbler from Kostaddi. A local boy who made good, and is now ruling over Carmania. But Mike was coming up with all these other people, like the Governor of the Redlands, who's a fat, bald man who lives in Glamour, who's never once set foot outside Silver Shadow's Sultanate. But is officially responsible for making sure the Redlands are pacified, which he knows they are; because everyone knows the Pentan nomads were extinct after the Nights of Horror. And he collects a nice little, what's the word? toll, tariff, tax? off the silk trade with Kralorela and things. And he's never left Glamour...
And Mike has some other people. One of whom is the Lunar Governor of Dorastor, who was (this is almost a Danfive thing), he was sent to be Lunar Governor of Dorastor after being implicated in a massive tax fraud, which would have been politically inconvenient to admit had ever happened. But he was in fact sent out to join the court of Ralzakark and act as his Lunar Advisor in all things. So he has a very high cultic rank, and is a very unhappy man.
Who are the other ones that were thought up? There was a man who had gone off to Aggar, and gone native up in the hills. You know, sitting in a tent, painted with red woad.
I can't remember what the Balazarian one was. I think he was a Sylilan, and he'd been very pushy, and very successful in the bureaucracy and they had to give him a Governorship. And there were no Governorships, so he said, "I'll go to Balazar!" 'cos he'd read Griffin Mountain, and he knew it was out there. So they said, fair enough. The Balazarings haven't heard of him, he probably hasn't arrived yet, in the time frame of Griffin Mountain. But things like that.
Chris: I think that in my view of the Empire, is that we've grown up beyond the Good Empire/Bad Empire idea. The only fun you can have is when there is a massive dichotomy between the Lunar Empire and Sartar. And most of the world's not like that, most of history has not been like that, great conflicts between ideological systems which are exclusive. And the Lunar Empire provides good border areas where both sides are Lunar. If you go to Arrolia, the people follow the Lunar way, but they are not in the Lunar Empire. So everybody is in basically in the same kind of cults, and have got the same kind of outlook on things. It's all politics, though. Similarly the Redlands is a shaving away area. A lot of them come from Carmania, and some of them from the Heartlands, but they are all still Lunars. At the moment of time when most of us are playing, they are still a part of the Lunar Empire. If you play Dragon Pass you know there is going to be a revolt in the Redlands. These people are going to declare themselves to be separate, like Arrolia.
Nick: The current position is that they do not worship the Red Emperor, they are not subjects of the Lunar Empire, but they are currently not rejecting Lunar rule. They just aren't doing anything to support it; they are not paying taxes, they are outside of the Empire as far as they are concerned. And the Empire's opinion, especially the Imperial Tax Collector's opinion, is probably different.
Chris: And in another part of world, which we are familiar with, Tarsh is like that. Lunar Tarsh is a place where it's quite conceivable that if the royal family politics in Tarsh go one way or another, like under Fazzur Wideread's faction, you have people who are Lunars, but aren't of the Lunar Empire. I think that the game fun possibilities of those things are excellent, that you can have hours of fun with that, especially if all your gamers are pro-Lunar, and you don't necessarily want to be in the Empire.
Nick: But getting back to the specific question, which was Balazar, one of the things I've resented for quite a while now -- it's one of the chips on my shoulder about Balazar -- is the portrayal of the Lunars and the Lightbringers there. Because one of the things that the Balazar campaign in Griffin Mountain was meant to be, was that you begin your game in Glorantha as a cave man. And everyone knows you go out hunting cave bears or drag your wife by the hair, and there's dinosaurs in Balazar too. Like dinosaurs and cave men really co-existed. And there's are really nice primitive life, and we all like primitive role-playing, as well as that ultra-sophisticated Imperial Presidium kind of stuff, and it was meant to be a great thing, 'cos you could gently learn about Glorantha.
You come from a culture which knows that Found Child the Hunter taught us how to make bows; this is Dog, he is my brother. And you go out from there and meet this guy who paints himself blue and keeps saying, "Foul spawn, curse of existence begone." Or whatever it is. And so you get to meet these people, as a foreigner, and if you are new to Glorantha this would be great. But the thing I don't like too much about it is that you never learn in what circumstances the Balazaring natives, the Votanki, were to meet Lunars. Other than Lunar military patrol coming along the road, oppressing people. Or evil Lunar agents come and smash up tribal systems by stealing tribal artifacts and killing people. You don't actually learn what, if anything, is going on. (If there is anything: it's possible there isn't anything like this going on). But what about the Cult of the Seven Mothers, which is the missionary cult: 'We want to include you in the Lunar Way, and here are the ways you'll benefit from it...'
What impact it has on say, a Balazaring clan, when a woman turns up handing out free weapons, clothes, teaches them a new prayer, and stuff like that. And giving them benefits, I think that would be really interesting. And then you could take the flip side and look at the Lightbringers, who always are presented very favourably in Griffin Mountain, 'cos it's that kind of book. And you just say, hang on a second, we are talking about a sleazy Sartarite trader who's here to make a fast buck out of the gullible natives. Don't deny it, you were there.
Chris: It's true. (laughter)
Nick: He's not providing sanitation or housing, he's interested in ripping off whatever valuable local resources they have by telling them they are not worth anything, and giving them some cheap tat in return. Now maybe, I don't know, I'm not American enough, maybe that is admirable behaviour. (laughter)
Chris: One of the brothers of one of the characters in the insula who turns up every now and again is a Seven Mothers missionary, and we are used to these characters being weird, Hari Krishna people who are out to steal your brain, that I want to say that this is not how people view them in the Lunar Empire, so here's a man who has a nice red dog-collar on, a very nice, gentle man who feels it's his duty to go out as a missionary amongst the natives, and every now and again when he's been away from the insula too long, people say, "Oh, he's been eaten by the Orlanthi." And in Balazar it's even more likely that he's been eaten by the natives, this nice man who's gone out to try and bring people the benefits of the Lunar Way, and we just said, no, we're playing Griffin Mountain here, so he's probably come to repress us after all, better eat him quick. (laughter)
Nick: But the other thing, of course, is that the Seven Mothers cult doesn't just go out preaching moral homilies, and giving you the benefit of sanitation. Because if you want to join the Lunar Way, because it gives you better offensive magic, and sharper steel scimitars, and chance to ride around shouting "The Goddess is Great!", cutting down your enemies, they'll give you the tools to do that, too. There are many aspects to the Lunar Way, and if you want to become a fanatical zealot Yanafali, but not join the Red Army, the Seven Mothers Cult is for you! Absolutely! They'll give you the tools you want, they'll give you the benefits of...
Chris: "But the sages of our clan won't allow us to torture people." "Well we do... (much laughter) we'll even export civilised torture equipment to you!"
Nick: This must be something that survived the death of the British Empire, we still do it. (laughter) And we'll send your people security advisors and the like. I mean, the regime in Elkoi will be fascinating if you start treating it as something out of a game of Junta. And you look at the Lunars as the foreign aid cropping up, it's completely despotic, what's up in the citadel. You can have hours of fun just looking at it that way, and thinking, yeah, they are exporting tons of old, unfashionable stuff from the Lunar Heartlands, and dumping it on these people.
Chris: It's your job, if you've got the ranking Red Tribune in the Red Emperor Cult, that's when you go out, and you advise these people, and try and get them to stick in with the Empire, regardless of what they are doing.
Nick: And, if things start going wrong when you end up having to call up Imperial troops and you dragged into a nasty bush war out on the frontier, yeah, people could go kind of crazy with that sort of thing going on.
AM: A Lunar thing we have been having some fun with in our campaign, is the fact that it's an empire, and empires are made out of distinct cultures. And there's some pretty wacky ones in the Lunar Empire. You've got the Aggari, you've got the Thunder Delta Slingers, the Carmanians, the Carmanians are always bad guys of course.
Nick: Of course.
AM: Even in our games, where there are good and bad Lunars...
Nick: Oh yeah, there have to be bad guys, because they are so much fun. It's a great country, 'cos it's all bleak, and it's high draughty ancestral castles, and oppressed serfs toiling down below, and weird ancestral cults they won't let anyone into. And you never know when they are going to have one of those alarming mood swings the Carmanians have. They have really seasonally-affected personalities, the Carmanians. In the summer, the are always kind of nice, and happy, and having a good time, and displaying tolerance and inviting the neighbours over. And in winter they lock the doors, and start sneaking around, worrying about who's following them down the corridor, and they get very nervous. I like Carmanians.
But, what you say about it being an empire is very important. As Chris has said, we work as to be enabling. We don't want to say: "The Lunar Empire is, is like the Hittites. I'm sorry, but up till now we have been telling you it's like the Greeks, and the Romans, that was wrong. We've decide that it's going to be more of an ancient Middle-Eastern thing; you'd better get rid of all those lead figures you've been painting, throw out all the Dan Barker art, chuck all that rubbish out. We're only going to have one kind of empire."
Chris: No one would say that, would they?
Nick: Surely no one would be so foolish. What we've said is the Lunar Army has got people in it that are like Romans, and people in it that are like Greeks, and people who look like mad Arab fanatics. And people who look like knights in shining armour, people who look like Cossacks. It's got all kinds of things. It's not a homogeneous put- it-through-the-blender and pour out the Lunar Army. This way, which ever troops you've met, and you've probably met some, that's what some of the people in the Lunar Army are like. You've got the ancient Dara Happan phalanx regiments, and the nifty peltasts nipping around the hills, and the light cavalry skirmishers. You've got lots of stuff.
Chris: I like not necessarily people from the different regions, but different cultures in the same place. And Dara Happa is a real giveaway: the way I see it there are Greeks and Romans. The Dara Happans are Greeks, they've got a wonderful culture, all kinds of philosophy, and religion. But unfortunately, it got taken over by this kind of parvenu culture, which started importing lots of Pelandans and Pelorians from the countryside who then came and lived in their cities and had a cult that said that anyone can get to the top. And so you have these two things living side by side, and very snooty culture that does provide I think, most of the governing classes of the Lunar Empire, in fact. Just like you found people speaking Greek in all branches of the Roman government, alongside the enabling part.
Nick: Another parallel for that one is when the Roman Republic turned into the Roman Empire, and you got lots of people who used to be the kind of people who would have run the Republic, the old Senatorial families who happened to be on the wrong side in the last war. And the people who are born to money, but unfortunately nowadays, promotion is done by catching the Emperor's eye, or doing a good job. And they are no longer just rising to the top as part of the cyclical turnabout. So you've got these old, dispossessed, but they've still got their estates, and are still allowed to use their old titles, although they don't carry much weight, and there are some roles in the civic magistracies that can only be held by the Arch-Falconer of Yuthuppa, or whoever it might be. But otherwise they've been sidelined, and the government is being run by bumpkins and slaves and...
Chris: Moonson's horse.
Nick: Yeah, and people like that.
Chris: He is sentient, you know. That's what Moonson says. More intelligent than most of the Presidium, he says.
AM: Do you have any idea why the Lunars are trying to resurrect some of the old gods and goddesses from Rinliddi and other areas the Carmanians are in now, or are they just trying to bolster them?
Nick: They could be just trying to bolster them. But one thing I'll chuck out now, is that Rinliddi is the old name for what is now known as First Blessed, the Satrapy of the Lunar where the Goddess was reborn. But in the old days, it used to be the Bird Men of Rinliddi place, where Vrimak the Big Bird was the great god that everyone worshipped. And they of course got assimilated into the Dara Happan Empire, or squashed by various nomad dynasties at one time or another. They were never worth very much.
But one of the ways of showing rebellion against the established Dara Happan/Lunar orthodoxy for street kids, in Rinliddi, is to dress yourself up like a bird, so you cut your hair so that it's brightly coloured and all spiky. You wear bright clothes, with sort of feathery tufts on them, you put on a sort of strutting walk as you go down the street, like a bird would have. And you do these elaborate courtship dances and things. The Bird Punks of Rinliddi, which I have a lot of time for myself. Something very nice came out of it. If a cult does exist, as part of the sub-culture, I would say then possibly the Lunar Empire was not attempting to get a wide-spread, popular form of bird worship re-instituted in Rinliddi. Maybe Bat worship...
Chris: Of course! It's very difficult to reconstruct birds, but it's so much easier to make those wings like struts, with their membranes hanging between them, and they look very similar in silhouette, and that's what you really want to be worshipping.
AM: There's actually remnants of Rinliddi stuff in Balazar too. Flying birds are about the only stuff that survived the First Age.
Chris: Yes! The giant hawks.
Nick: So if the people in Rinliddi found out about them you might well get the Bird Punks of Rinliddi going off to see the big birds of Balazar. Now if that's not a nice idea for a campaign, I don't know what is. (laughter) Hey! Let's see if we can steal one of King Skillfil's hawks, and ride it back to Rinliddi! And then maybe they will worship us as gods!
Chris: I would say that they are mercifully trying to bring back some of the old gods from the bits left over...
Nick: Well, part of the Lunar Plan has always been to rebuild poor old Nysalor, the Good God of the First Age Bright Empire, that was hacked to pieces by Gbaji the Deceiver, and buried in various places. And apparently yes, if the Lunars ever found out where all the bits of Nysalor are, and they have found several of them, then you'd see sealed caravans marked 'Completely Safe; Do Not Tamper' accompanied by military guards in protective clothing, marching up towards Kitor, where they are trying to re-assemble Nysalor. I think it's near Kitor.
Chris: In a big hangar. (much laughter)
Nick: Yeah, and lots of red-coated lab technicians from the Lunar College of Magic would be locked up underground for a little bit too long there. This is a thing I'd like to say, because everyone you've ever met in your life who's a Sartarite says, "Lunars are all Chaos fiends, we must destroy them." I think this is as true as saying all Americans were in on the plot to kill Kennedy, and are probably controlled by the UFOs, or a league of little grey men from outer space. You see, the bad press that the Lunars receive is such that most people in the Lunar Empire would think of it as baseless rumours, spread by barking madmen. And they hear these reassuring public announcements, such as 'Chaos is safe, we have the problem under control. Please stay in your house." (laughter) And you have people who say, "Well, you know, my brother sprouted tentacles after..." and the men in black togas would come to your door in the middle of the night, "I don't think you should be saying that. Would you like to come with us, we can teach you to..."
Chris: He sacrificed in order to get a gift...
Nick: That's right, he voluntarily chose to sacrifice his pride; the Lunar Way is about freedom of choice. So all the conspiracy theories and barking mad weirdo political subversive conspiracies, they're all in league with creatures from beyond seeking to steal our soul, and black helicopters are trying to take over the Empire, and they are in league with all Lunars. I think that kind of stuff goes on in the Empire, and the thing is, that just as in the real world, it is all true. These things are happening, there are little weirdo cults and subversive groups, and they shot Ignifer! There are people trying to make people into slaves of Gark the Calm, because it will be a quieter population. But the vast bulk of Lunar everyday life treats these things as wild rumours that the state itself is happy to squash for you, and say, "No, there's nothing in that. Get on with your normal lives." Not every person in the Lunar Empire is a Chaos Fiend, most people would hate one if they saw it, and would run away from it very frightened. They hear these public pronouncements that say, yes, Chaos is alright, but you don't see Broo on the streets of major cities often. And when they do have to go around, they usually go about it litters. Just avoid alarming people. And if you get into high government offices, yes, sometimes you will find a nice a clean Broo, with little horn-rim glasses, and a neatly combed goatee.
Chris: Gold-rimmed horns, presumably.
Nick: That would be good. But are the streets of the Lunar Empire cavorting with Chaos every day? Yeah, you get the Tentacled Gladiator and such, but those are about as common as say, Hulk Hogans.
Chris: May I say something on the relationship between the Lunar Empire and the old cultures? I think that it's what Lunars say about their relationship to those old cultures is not true. I think that the Red Goddess was born at a particular time in the thirteenth century, and took over. I don't think she had really been other goddesses, I don't think she was connected with those things. After all, if you come up to some tribe, and they've got a goddess who's a Goddess of Wisdom with a half-red and half-black shield, and they say, "Ah yes, this goddess you are talking about; we've always worshipped her." Well, the Lunars are not going to say, "No, you haven't." They are going to say, "That's very convenient then, you are lucky we have a great big empire worshipping your goddess."
Nick: I think I've got it, if I paint the left half of my shield black, then...
Chris: And the part of my view that it is all a lie, is that the Lunar College of Magic, has been set up in history, but some of the classes inside it dress up like the people on the God's Wall, because they say that's the old style, that's what all the old priests used to wear. So if you met them, you'd be forgiven for believing that they were part of the old tradition. The people that had been worshipping Murharzarm and these old characters...
Nick: "One hundred thousand years have we preserved Murharzarm's wisdom..."
Chris: But they haven't, it's a pose. I think that the Lunar Philosophy really is new, it's about new phenomena and new ideas. But for political reasons, they found it expedient to say they were the same. And if you want to say that's HeroQuesting, yeah, that is.
Nick: What we can say, for sure, is that before the Lunar Empire, it does seem as if there were various deities which the Lunars now, are saying, "That was a Lunar Goddess." And the Lunars have come along and strung a bunch of these together and explained how it's actually all just one figure, passing from one stage in life to the next, and the next, and coming back, and the world-apotheosis of the Lunar Way fulfils all of the prophecies, and is the culmination of all the rituals. And given the way Glorantha works, maybe because they said it, it's true. Remember that HeroQuesting is often about finding a new path, finding a connection between things that previously seemed unrelated. The fact that you can find the path means that it was there all along.
So yeah, while I agree with Chris, I do not think the Lunars are necessarily drawing on all this ancient philosophical tradition, at least until they said, "Yes, we believe all that. Tell us again what it is we believe. You are so much wiser than us in this particular aspect of the Goddess, no doubt about it." That trick works wonders. But I do think that also, you could go along with a completely orthodox view, and say yes, that everything that you will eventually read about in the Path of the Red Goddess, and the Story of Her Life, it will all be in Tales #16, or at least large chunks of it will be. Everything in that could be true; and it could always have been true, and it could have recently become true. But it could also be a big lie. That's the nature of Glorantha, there are some things that are mysteries, it is not for us to know.
Normal people don't wake up in the morning and think, "I worship Humakt. I wish I could be resurrected. I'm going to go and change the nature of Humakt so things will be better." They wake up and say, "I worship Yelmalio. Yelmalio is God of the Worst Things Life can Throw at Me, he can endure them, he can survive them, that's why he's a great god for a phalanx culture. We know that we can survive being ambushed by barbarians, and bushwhacked by trolls, and Yelmalio put up with all that, took it really badly. But he soldiered on." You don't think, "Gee, I wish I had some way of dodging troll ambushes, so I never have to find out if I can survive them." People don't do that. So, I think that this manipulative, hands-on, let's give us a rulebook to play games on the Hero Plane model of HeroQuesting is really a rather dangerous kind of distraction to go along with.
There are things that we know people do, routinely: the short Lightbringer's Pilgrimage. There are things we know people don't do, the big Lightbringers Quest, yes we just found out how difficult it would be to go to Nelat's Bath for wisdom. In fact, probably no one has done that for thousands of years. But I think that fact that we know the Lunar Empire has cobbled together a big HeroQuest in 1220, so large that basically the whole Zero Wane was this big Lunar HeroQuest shaping the world. That doesn't mean it's been like that ever since, that every one is always constantly doing huge, great world-revolutionising HeroQuests, that retrospectively affect all past history, and it's kind of like time travelling, and you go back in time to kill one's grandfather. I just find that a really tedious model to have to work with.
Chris: But on the other hand, if you have played in games where you do that, it's also true, because you might be in the Cult of the Red Goddess, which has got lots of people who sit gazing at their navels thinking, "Wouldn't it be interesting if on the Hero Plane, this had happened?" It also has HeroQuesting cults like Kalikos. And the Moonswords, the Bloodspillers, or whatever they call the cult of Jar-Eel the Razoress. That's also a cult about trying to change things around on the Hero Plane. But I would say, that if you play the games as they are made, in part, that's not a very sensible way, to play the games.
Nick: I think what I'm really saying is that since you can see rationally and reasonably, and without needing to draw on any magical superstructural theory of the God Learners, how the Lunar Empire, as it exists today, would be able to say, "Yeah, we have all these previous deities; well a) they were all Lunar gods, and b) they are all Lunar gods, and c) ours is the combination of everything yours are standing for. You can see really good political and pragmatic reasons why they would do that; without there necessarily being a mystical/spiritual/religious truth behind it. I think that's what I was getting at.
AM: I think re-writing Dara Happan history itself, and preserving Dara Happan traditions, as previous Dara Happans have done the same thing, do you really believe they were all descended from Yelm?
Nick: Oh absolutely. (laughter) And they are all virtuous, except the ones said to be unrighteous.
AM: You don't think the Lunars are coming along and making it up?
Nick: Actually, Dara Happans these days will tell you that Moonson is the 78th Dara Happan Emperor, and he's obviously a child of one of the solar deities, and perish the thought that anything has changed at all... I mean, we've had Emperors that worshipped the Darkness, we've had Carmanian Emperors, we've had Emperors who went completely barking mad. And the fact that we have now had for four hundred years an Emperor who is the immortal, ever-reincarnating Son of the Moon Goddess, they Dara Happans will say he's just one of those phases Dara Happa is going through. Unfortunately, this has been the line that Greg, as a result of sticking his head into a Dara Happan bucket for several years, he's come up believing it. He started thinking that maybe the Lunar Empire is just another phase of the Dara Happan Empire.
It's scary, but let me tell you that one of the things Eric handed me today was a document that Greg wrote called "Gods and Goddesses of the Lunar Empire." And it's great, you pick this up and think, wow! I'm going to learn all about the Danfive Xaron, and the Red Emperor, and actually, it is exactly what it says it is. This book is about gods and goddesses who happen to be worshipped inside of the Lunar Empire. So it's about the Stork Goddess of the Darjiin Marshes, and about the... (fades out). Let's look up Danfive Xaron, oh dear! he's not in here. (laughter) Irrippi Ontor, oh, bugger me! No Irrippi Ontor! The Gods and Goddesses of the Lunar Empire doesn't include them!
Chris: They are un-gods.
Nick: At one point I thought the reason Danfive Xaron is always shown in chains is that he's like the Lunar Trotsky, they had to show how bad Xaron really was. I don't want to take the piss too much, but my idea of an article for Tales #16 which is "Gods and Goddesses of the Lunar Way", and this is all the people you want to read about. Irrippi Ontor, and Yanafal Tarnils, and Hwarin Dalthippa, and the Inspirations of Moonson, and the Goddess herself. And I think this would be great, 'cos you could cut and paste it. If you are having a Darjiin campaign you could read through it, find the five Darjiin Gods, stick them into your local knowledge section, and then get on with reading my article on how the place really works. But they great thing for us, 'cos Greg's gone barking mad and abdicating his responsibilities, we're writing "Gods and Goddesses of the Lunar Way" and the institutions of the Empire. I don't mind leaving the local detail to satraps, and underlings, and people who care about what they are getting up to in the provinces. And if we need to find out what's going on, we can send out one of our Red Tribunes to investigate, and make sure everything is all right there.
Chris: The way I see it, and this is going to veer into Pendragon, is that if you really went to England in the Middle Ages, it would be a Christian country. And everyone would tell you it is a Christian country. If I read a book on religion in 13th century England, I would expect it to have monks, bishops, and all these characters in it. Because that is the religion of the country. Now how I see Greg's thing, is if you really went to England in the 1250's and went to someone's village, perhaps every St. John's Day they'd light a big bonfire, and stick their brands in it, and run around the fields blessing them. You'd say, "Hang on, I don't remember that was in the Bible, where did that come from?" And people who start putting food out for Robin Goodfellow, and if you are an anthropologist you say, "Ah, I know what's going on here. They are actually worshipping Odin and Frey, and there's a bit of Thor worship in here." But what Greg has then said is that here's religion in 1250's England, and the gods worshipped were Odin, Frey, Thor, with Jesus of Nazareth.
Nick: But even if Jesus was there, I mean Jesus was just a modern form of Tammuz. So that's how people worshipped in 13th century England.
Chris: And you have to say, well that is true, at that level, but you ought to have the over-arching view that no, the place has a particular philosophical religion, which is the mainstay cult.
Nick: I will say though, of the enabling thing, because Glorantha is a magical world, yeah, if you did go along to the mid-winter fire somewhere and thought, "Hey, let's go contact the Burning God, that used to be worshipped here a thousand years ago. And fix up the ancestral shrine up on the hill, and see if we can summon up the spirits that used to worship here." Yeah, of course you can do that, 'cos this is a game. In the real world, Caesar invaded Britain for financial gain, but in a fantasy world he would have done it to smash the Druids, because the were an evil cult. We are talking about a game of lost temples and evil cults and secret knowledge passed down through the ages, and HeroQuests known only to select local groups. So all that stuff is true, but I think if you ask what gods are worshipped in the Lunar Empire, you get a lot of Lunar gods being named. You'd say you worship the Lunar Way, and the Red Goddess, and the Red Emperor. And you say what gods do you worship in your village, and they say, well we have a shrine to Moonson, and we've got the local harvest gods, but, you know, that's the harvest, isn't it? I do think that the degree of local patriotism in the Lunar Empire, while good, allows for a lot of local variation. But it is still a Lunar Empire. Call me old fashioned.
AM: You are old fashioned.
Nick: Thank you. I'm not as old fashioned as the people who are still worshipping the Stork Goddess of the Marshes. They have Stork Goddess temples, they have Stork Goddess festivals, they walk around on stilts flapping their wings, they do all that kind of stuff. But they are Lunars.
Chris: If I went to 1982 Uzbekistan, we could say it was a Moslem country. And the Uzbeks run it speaking their own language, and they all wear Uzbek costumes, and so on. But the trained troops, it was the Soviet Union, and everywhere you see pictures of Lenin and Marx, and red stars and the Red Army. As far as everyone else was concerned, it was the Soviet Union.
Nick: I will say another thing, because the Lunars are so keen on ethnic diversity, and the fact that the Empire contains people from every culture on Glorantha, in fact even invented, they are in fact inventing national costumes and fold festivals. Just the same way old Scots Highland traditions were cobbled together by English Imperialists, to make them feel good about themselves.
Chris: That's probably why they are making these birds, and things.
Nick: Exactly! Traditionally Rinliddi had lots of birds, we had better set up a Bird Temple, and have a Ministry to look after it. And send out a Tribune to see that the people are keeping up the old Bird Feather handicrafts. And he'll go out there and say, "Well, you people worship birds, don't you?" And they'll get Imperial Grants, and charitable status for their temples.
AM: So they'll give 'em the bird. (laughter)
Nick: Well, have we been ignoring any questions you might have?
AM: No, I've just been sitting here thinking about what you've been saying, and we basically set up our campaigns to use the old major diversity with the Lunars. And that works well for us too. So I just wanted to say that if you like the oddball cultures like I do...
Nick: What I'll say is, what I find regrettable about these things is the 'blind eye' turned to that fact that there is anything changed. The fact that you can read Greg's stuff about the Lunar Empire nowadays, and it looks like it's old Dara Happa. And you read Gods and Goddesses of the Lunar Empire and it leaves out the Seven Mothers. I don't mean the Seven Mothers cult out on the frontier, I mean the Seven Mothers aren't in that book. I just think that you're missing something.
Chris: Go with a Russian rationale, and you'll say, yeah, Soviet culture is a very thin veneer, isn't it. Because when it went, everything was exactly the same. But what a veneer! It was a very, very shiny, very noticeable veneer. And that would be your first impression, going into Red Square, I would think, that you were looking at a Soviet country. And if you look behind the easel, hang on, this Kremlin wasn't actually built by Lenin, it was built back in the time of Ivan the Great, and Ivan the Terrible. And there's a whole orthodox religion behind it. And thing is supposed to be a monument to an atheist culture?
Nick: But what about that regiment out there, the Queen's Own Cossacks? Is that Queen Lenin or Marx? I can't find that in copy of Das Kapital, what are they going on about with their funny fighting rituals, and... Local diversity, definitely; we love it. It's a great thing, but don't forget it's a Lunar Empire.
Chris: Any more? We could probably spare a few minutes for non-Lunar questions.
AM: You could always talk a little on how other people view the Lunar Empire; the world isn't full of Sartarites. In Ralios, this one little caravan showed up, and "whoo!". And everyone was awed by the Wine Emperor, distributing his gifts to the Orlanthi leaders. They thought it was, well they had this prophecy about the Red Moon, but they're getting wine! Nothing connected to that.
AM: We played 'em our bagpipes and showed 'em our heads, and they gave us wine! It was great!
Nick: If you are really lucky it will turn into an annual event, and they'll set up a shop near you, and give you wine all the time.
Chris: Something that I dearly love, and I wish people would have written this for RuneQuest, it was crying out to made, was Marco Polo. It was the people going on the caravan across Pent to Kralorela. And there you've got a culture which is, it's like the Lunar Empire in fact. A Lunar would understand it, and then he'd see what was different, and similarly, there'd be the same in reverse. You'd have the people in the silk caravans and so on.
Nick: There's a Kralori Ambassador in Glamour, I'm sure.
AM: What do the Fronelans think?
Nick: The Fronelans are great fun, because they've got their own local Lunar Church, the Arrolian Lunar Church. You see, during the wars against Sheng Seleris, there were lots of good reasons to why you might not want to live in the central Pelorian bowl. Most of them caused by the nomads, some of them were because the Lunar state was going around conscripting every child it could lay its hands on.
Chris: The economy had collapsed.
Nick: The fields were regularly getting devastated, and they were also starting to get a tougher line on heresies and on pacifists, and peaceniks, and people who were saying maybe we should lay down our weapons and defeat the nomads that way. So a lot of people pulled up their stakes and moved out to the West reaches, and even beyond. This was before the Syndic's Ban, so you went down the beautiful blue Janube River in boats or along the banks, and arrived at cities in what was probably considered Greater Loskalm, by the muscular Hrestoli of Loskalm. And a region called Dona. And they made converts, and they built a new city for themselves, and they took over one city by force of arms, they formed something called the Arrolian Federation. And as I recall, they are a really rapidly expanding religious force in Fronela. If you look at the common events, and the uncommon events tables for the Kingdom of Loskalm, and the region of Junora, which is that sort of disorganised state near it, you'll find that it's very frequent that a bunch of Arrolian missionaries will be arriving in town, preaching the Joy of the Lunar Way.
Now of course they've gone native, they're bound to, 'cos a lot of them aren't descended from Pelorians at all. And the Lunar Way is always flexible and adaptable, and fits in well with local cultures. So they yeah, we're Malkioni, the great Prophet Malkion came in God Time and gave us the Laws; he was the First Prophet. And the Second Prophet was Hrestol, who came at the Dawn of Time, and he gave us new laws that explained that the old laws we had been living by aren't really what they're cracked up to be, so here is a new set. And we worship the Third Prophetess, the Red Moon Prophetess, and she came when the Red Moon came heralding the New Age. And she brought us the New Dispensation; some of these old fuddy-duddy Malkioni things, like the Solace of the Body, was a really grim, restrictive, legalistic set of caste rules, and luckily Hrestol swept all that away with his Joy of the Heart, which gave compassion, and morality, and conscience. And now the Red Moon Prophetess had given us the Liberation of the Soul. And it's even more liberal, it's great! We're moving back to the Harmonious Unity with the Creatrix; it's wonderful stuff.
And, of course, just as we have a Lunar Prophetess, we have specifically Lunar Saints. There's all the old saints, from the old churches that you've heard of, like Talor, he was a great man, and good old saint Hrestol and all these people. We've got saints too, mortal people who have a special relationship with divinity, like the Seven Saintly Mothers. There's Sir Yanafal, the Knight of the Ram, we think he's a great exemplar of chivalry. There's the Blessed Virgin Teelo, and there's penitent Danfive, the Redeemer of Sin. All these lovely characters, and they are our local saints in the Arrolian Lunar Way.
Well, of course, the Lunar Way is very all-embracing, so there are still Syanoran Churches. There are Syanoran Bishops; they wear red vestments now, and have Moon Runes embroidered on them now, but they're still perfectly familiar with the nice, revised Syanoran rituals, as liberated from old-fashioned ways. And if you are an old-style fogy and you like the bishop to from the High Church, and wear the white vestments, and preach from the old books that were pre-existent to the Goddess, we don't mind. We're sure you'll see sense sooner or later. And there's all the local cults as well, 'cause just like we're saying, the Lunar Way doesn't squish down and exterminate whatever's underneath them.
So in fact, if you look at the three Syanoran cities; one is said to be run by the Red Goddess cult, and one is said to be run by the Seven Mothers, and the third is said to be run by Yelm, or Yelmalio. And this all makes perfect sense, if you look on these guys as being transplants out of central Peloria, heading off down the Janube, and then being cut off from each other and working out their own way of doing things. You can see that after the Ban lifts, you'll find one city where they've gone back to the Yelmic way of doing things. The Yelm folk are on top, and the Red Moon people are down there underneath, and not interfering in government so much.
Chris: I think that a lot of the problem that people down in the Dragon pass area have with the Lunar Way is that it's mighty similar to the western religions. Actually, the Lunar Gods aren't at all like the western saints, or Orlanthi gods. It's just that the Seven Mothers cults has to polyglot say, "These are our gods. Our god beat Humakt and so he's a bit more powerful." But in the west you don't have that problem at all, because the west already has a paradigm, where people who really lived became so saintly, and so at one with the way they were following that they should now be revered and give power to their worshippers.
Nick: But the other interesting thing about the Arrolians, is their relationship with the Lunar Empire. Now I hope this came as a bit of a surprise for (Chris: It did!) the first ever Lunar Ambassadors to Arrolia. Because of course, the Arrolians fled from the Lunar Empire when it was being completely slashed up by Sheng Seleris. All the way through the Third Wane there were people flocking out westwards. At the end of the Third Wane the Red Emperor was being killed practically on a weekly basis, and then something really funny happened to the Moonlight. It stopped spreading around and everyone could see that the Moon had changed. Now we know that this was the birth of Yara Aranis and the creation of the Glowline, but if you go outside the Lunar Empire and you have no contact at all with the people at home, you look up at the Moon and you see it's looking slightly different....
The Lunar Empire has a seven Wane history, we are now at the end of the Seventh Wane, this is like being in the year 1997 or 1998, or thereabouts. You get this feeling that something is coming. The Zero Wane, at the beginning of it all, was like a Full Moon, then the First Wane was the Full Half Moon Wane, and that's when things were still on the up and up. Then the Second Wane was the Crescent Going Wane, when things weren't quite so good for the Empire. Then the Third Wane, this bunch of horse nomads came in and started kicking everything over, and that is referred to as the Dying Moon Wane. Now of course, after the Moon's been dying, it becomes dead.
This is the point at which all the Arrolian colonists are settling down in Fronela. And they think, well the old Empire's died, we will now create a new one. So they start building together an ideal Lunar State, and remember that these were people who were refuse-niks, and weirdo heretics, and people who didn't want to get conscripted and made to fight the nomads by an Imperial State. So they built this more tolerant and reasonable and lovely Lunar State, out in the sticks. And they say the old Empire died, we've reborn it, we're carrying on. We're not the Lunar Empire, that made mistakes, it's gone, we're something better.
And then, in the Fourth or Fifth Wane, or sometime, some people from the Empire come down the river, and they say, "Well, it got better. And we are all ruled by Moonson." "What, that Moonson, you mean Takenegi, the lover of Teelo Norri?" "Well, he's actually called Magnificus now," and the show them a picture of this guy who's running the Empire. They pull out these colour portraits of Magnificus, which show a big, beefy Carmanian warlord, and these people look at it and say," Are you trying to tell me that's Moonson, who's always reborn to be exactly the same, and had been ever since the Empire set up?" And they say, "Um, yes. Yes we are." And they say, "No, that's not the Red Moon Empire, that's the Dead Moon Empire; you are propping up a corpse. You are lying about the powers you are worshipping. We do not approve of this. What's more, you are a repressive, militaristic nasty..."
Anyway, before this got too vicious, the Syndic's Ban interposed and let the Arrolians stewing over their own little theological differences on the one hand, and left the Lunar Empire getting riper and more decadent on the other. Until, at the end of the Seventh Wane, just as the Arrolians are looking forward to the birth of the White Moon, and the stars will beckon an eighth, final twenty seven year period of history during which all good Lunar believers like themselves will be swept up to the White Moon, and everything else good will come to pass. And you try telling this in the Empire and you're not going to get far. And just at that point, the...
Chris: Isn't that the White Moon Rebellions?
Nick: Absolutely. You've got the White Moon theology coming back into the Empire with the collapse of the Syndic's Ban. And also, the Arrolian pacifist White Moonie stuff is infecting Loskalm a bit. There are people in Loskalm who think the only way to fight the Kingdom of War is to disarm. There's Kralori mysticism coming into the Empire, there was a big influx of that under Sheng. Because Sheng ruled both Kralorela and Peloria for a time, and there was a bit of cultural interchange. Not wholesale exchanges of population, though I'm sure that they probably tried one of those...
Nick: There could well be deported Pelorians living in a remote region of Kralorela being thought of as rather odd, white-eyed foreign devils over the hill.
Chris: I would like to know what religion Argrath is going to be following when he's fighting around in Peloria.
Nick: I always see him as a White Emperor myself. If you look at everything does, what he does...
Chris: What about his sacrifice to Orlanth he makes in the later part of his history?
Nick: When you think of this chap, what's he famous for? Well, before the coming of Argrath, Sartar had been kicked in by the Lunars, because they didn't have an organised College of Magic, Like the Lunars did. They had little, disparate bush traditions. Argrath comes along and says, "What you ought to do, is get yourself together in schools, and band together, unite your powers. Don't defend your individual clans, come and work for the good of all Sartar; centralise!" The Sartarites got kicked in a bit because they didn't really have a standing army, they only had local levies that they were calling up. But Argrath came along and said, "What we shall have is something called the Sartar Free Army. What we'll do is get bodies of ethnically diverse troops and we'll clump them under a single, unified command, we'll have a standing army, and we'll use that to fight off our enemies." And then they said, "Wh-wh-wh-well you are our Prince, Argrath." "Well, I quite like the idea of being a King, or shall we say High King? And we'll extend our dominions over other lands, gradually. But we'll keep local rulers in them, they'll be allowed to keep their local traditions going, as long as they contribute to the war against..."
AM: So does he move his capital to Glamour and start acting like a Lunar?
Nick: Well of course, later he does. We don't know what happened after he kicked in the Red Moon. But I have a story about this which I will do from memory after we finish this seminar, which is five minutes off.
But yeah, I do think there are very good grounds for suspecting that Argrath had slightly more to do with the Lunars and the end of the Empire, and the White Moon and the culmination of the Lunar Plan than anyone suspected. Whether it was deliberate, whether he was a pawn of dialectical materialist forces, as the Lunars would say in New Pelorian. Whether it was inevitable that someone would be there to be the catalyst for the New Era, and Argrath happened to step perfectly into that vacuum, and was shaped by historic and mythical forces completely beyond his conception, so that although he wasn't consciously intending to be the thing that would replace the Lunar Way and broadcast it world-wide across all of Glorantha, he did it. Whether the Lunars consciously shaped him, or unconsciously shaped him, I think it's like HeroQuesting, it's all a mystery to me. And if there was an answer, I wouldn't want to know it, because if I don't know the answer I can carry on writing fiction and making stuff up about it.
Chris: I bet for every saga going around saying, "Oh yes, Argrath, he was in the line of all these Orlanthi Liberators," there are other histories that say, "And then the Mask of Thunderous came out of the Lunar city of Prax, and he was able to throw out the proxy he had been fighting there and re-establish himself." And there would be people around in the Harshax Era who would definitely say that.
AM: There's also Sheng coming from the south, this time.
Chris: Yes. I'm sure that when Sheng was in charge, he was escorted, he was the Mask of whatever-he-was. And people would look at him and say, "Yes, he comes from the pure, sun country...."
Nick: One of the interesting things about Sheng is that when he takes over the Lunar Empire in King of Sartar, and it's at that point it becomes called the 'Shadow Moon' Empire, because Greg liked changing its name a lot in that book. Now I was thinking about it, and maybe what they're doing is still worshipping the Moon, because they were used to that. But now they have Holy Days like three days later in the Lunar Phase. So everyone devotes all their worship to the Red Moon when she is in her Black Phase, and the Dying Phase, and if you remember the Cult of Yara Aranis, which is the specific 'we want to kill and eat horses and hate all Pentans' cult, it is connected with the full phase of the Moon, the idea is now that the Pentans have taken over and they're saying, "Well, we like this Lunar business, but we're going to worship it as the Black Moon, the Dying Moon, the reverse of what it used to be. We're going to do all the evil, twisted, dark-side stuff that the old Empire didn't do, but they allowed, they permitted to keep it there, and we have ways of making that strong; we'll use that to dominate you." So that under the Full phase of the Moon the Empire will be a happy, friendly place of people who have joyfully submitted to the Will of the Goddess. And under the dark Moon, it will be a really unhappy, unpleasant place where people come round and kick your door in, and make you worship the Goddess. And maybe the Pentans found that was a more...
Chris: Those Temples of the Reaching Moon, they look just right for Black Day, blood sacrifices on the top, don't they?
This transcript first appeared in the Glorontha-Con IV Conpendium. Contact Andrew Joelson if you would like to order one of the few remaining copies.
Glorantha, HeroQuest, Hero Wars, and Issaries are trademarks of Issaries, Inc. The contents of this page are copyright by Nick Brooke and Chris Gidlow, 2002; any material derived from Greg Stafford's world of Glorantha is also copyright by Greg Stafford. Glorantha is the creation of Greg Stafford, and is used with his permission.