|Return to Home Page||
Featuring Nick Brooke and Chris Gidlow
AM = Audience Member
Nick: Hello, good morning, and welcome. This is a seminar on the Lunar Empire, and the Lunar Way. We can ramble on, we can take questions, comments, abuse, suggestions...
Chris: Okay, why don't I put my card on the table first? I suppose I have an opposite to a Greg Stafford philosophy on the Lunar Empire, and I suppose that's shared by most people here. I think that if Glorantha has got any real existence, it exists in the games that people have played. Because you've actually been there, you've seen things, and you've done things. And I think it's inimical to go out and say, "No, you didn't see that." So my conception of the Lunar Empire is an enabling conception that everything that you have come across in your games about the Lunar Empire is true.
Now we're pretty lucky with that, because the Lunar Empire itself already has a philosophy that says, "we accept all of these things." It's a big, multi-cultural unit, so it's got lots of different cultural archetypes inside it. But, what it looks to me, reading through all the game products we've had back to "White Bear and Red Moon", is there's a base of certain things that Lunar Culture is like. It's obviously like the Roman Empire, and if you have things that aren't like the Roman Empire, people are going to feel it's a bit odd. They are going to expect Legionaries, Senators, amphitheatres, chariot races. They are going to expect all of those things.
There also, I think, is a certain Islamic feel to the Lunar Empire. It looks kind of Arabian Nights-ish. You expect to find people with turbans, with scimitars, you expect crescents and minarets. It's also a technically advanced country, and that enables me to go for what I think is the best type for it. There was an empire that was like this, it was a cross between Rome, and it was a cross between the Turks; it was Byzantium. If you go to Constantinople, you'll see that country. It was the Roman Empire, you met people who said they were Senators, there was a big theatre for chariot races, there were bath houses and aqueducts. And at the same time, you were in a world that would have looked to us Oriental, and if you go there now, it really does have mosques and minarets and crescents and scimitars and turbans and so forth.
When I was trying to get a handle on the Lunar Empire, though, I found that these weren't, well everyone knows about them; they're very dull. There's no surprise, so I looked at the other archetype. In Greg Stafford's boardgame it's pretty obvious to me that the Red Empire is, whatever he's come up with now, you're talking about something that was thought up in the 1960s, when this was a big issue. You've got a frontier free-enterprise society, which is America and Sartar. And there's a horrible Red Empire taking over the whole world. Now, it's gone now, it's in the past, the Evil Empire, and I think it's still good to play with, just like in the latest James Bond film. It's a nice thing to have around. And also, the Soviet Empire, unlike the other things we talked about, had this real ideology behind it, that infused everything it did, everything people said in the Soviet Empire was based on, "We've got to say something that Lenin would have agreed with, or Marx would have agreed with." I think this allows you to have a nice framework, and so the things I have been working on now do have a distinct Soviet flavour, but it's a Soviet flavour that is always conditioned by the knowledge that this is a Byzantine, Roman and Arab Empire, not Soviet.
Nick: One of things I really enjoy about Chris's Soviet parallel for it was, that they would have said that what they wanted was really good things for everyone. And what they did was not at all what they were preaching. But you've got the religious dimension of the Lunar Way saying, "We will be tolerant, we will be all-embracing, we will accept everything." And you've got commissars going out telling this to people at the same time as you've got the Army going in there and repressing people, and the secret police cracking down on dissidents and all that stuff. But it does give you this ideological component that you can see, well, if the Lunars did what they said they did, it would all be really wonderful. If the world was the way their doctrine said it was, it would be quite a nice place to be. But you've got this culture shock, because what they are doing is something completely new to Glorantha, no one's ever tried to do this before. And the old religions, the old organisations, the old institutions, tribal societies, Dara Happan Empire and things, are all kind of off balance. Because the Lunar Empire is coming at them from a new angle.
Chris: I also have to say, what the formal part is, it's British. I'm sure that, deep down in Greg Stafford's psyche, there's a nice frontier society under the paws of an empire, and it's trying to break away from it. And the baddies are all in red and we know if there is a film of Glorantha, then all the people of the Empire are going to be played by the Brits; it's obvious (much laughter). And we know this as much as you do, so when we had yesterday when just about everybody said they were pro- Lunar with a small faction of Sartarites, we said, "Why, is it because we haven't got any Sartarite songs for the Sing-a-long with Nick?" Now you come here and it's a big change. I mean after all, we are Reaching Moon Megacorp, no beating about the bush there.
Nick: The other great thing about them being British, is of course, I don't know if anyone noticed but off the record, there isn't really a British Empire anymore (laughter). But we do have, in the background of our cultural closet, a whole amount of stuff about how it's a brilliant Imperial Mission to go out and convert the natives to the virtues of civilisation. We'll bring them the benefits of British rule, selflessly taking up the burdens of Empire... We have all of this stuff, and we can take the pee out of it relentlessly. So that the Lunar officers and men in "Tarsh War" and other stuff we've run, are political caricatures of British Army types. One of the original models for "Tarsh War", if I am not much mistaken was "Carry on up the Khyber."
Again, that's something we may get more fun out of than you do, is the idea of this Empire preaching its idea of Tolerance, Fair Play, Civilisation, and all these other things. And in fact, they are really underhanded and oppressive and evil. But they're telling themselves that they are really good, and are doing it for everyone else's benefit.
Chris: I think it's true the Lunar Way is probably the most modern, and therefore if you believe in progress, the best philosophy there is in Glorantha. The most tolerant, the most liberal; but I believe that the Lunar Empire is a pretty horrible state.
Nick: It's done horrible things to make life nice for the people it likes.
Chris: It's a mirror and a mask; it has got both elements inside it. And then I've played the second version of the "Tarsh War", probably the least successful as a roleplaying experience because some people went off in a huff in the middle of it. But at one point the Char Un had descended on one of the villages, and they were directed by their hetman to be as brutal as possible, they were going to give the natives a lesson they deserved. So I said, "They charged in, they destroyed the houses, they killed the men, they killed the livestock, they raped the women and killed them." And a woman said, "I'm not standing for this, I don't think there should be rape in games." And I said, "Look, I'm not going to say that the Lunar Army does not operate in that way. Most armies do operate that way, and historically they did, but this is a very, very oppressive army, and most of the world that you go to it's there, in most of the frontier world, it's there, as a very unwelcome guest. The people who are living underneath it. And that's the way that it works. Similarly I wouldn't particularly agree with the way the Soviet Union ran its client states. But you still have a kind of warmth for the empire, despite the fact that it's unpleasant. So I like the fact that you are looking at villainous characters, but I am not apologising for it."
Nick: The Char Un character sheet says, "You are a brutal and bloodthirsty maniac." And that character is something you have to get yourself worked up for (laughter).
But the great thing abut the Lunar Empire is, of course, because it's a very (in some ways) modern and progressive place, we can identify with it to the extent that we can make these British and Soviet parallels. They've also got propagandists, and apologists. So I can happily write apologists for the Lunar Way explaining that this is the best thing to ever happen to Sartar, since Sartar. I can do this, tongue in cheek or not. There are people in Sartar who are spin doctoring the news you get, there's the Cult of Glamour, it is the acceptable face of the Lunar Empire. It's the cult of telling you that demonstrators were endangering innocent citizens, and we had to cut them down like rabid dogs. The Lunars will do that, it's one of the things we've always known about them, that they can lie persuasively, they can put a favourable face upon completely unacceptable behaviour. And they will try to make the people swallow their version of the events. Which is more than Sartarites, for example, would do. Because they are less concerned with news manipulation, there's no one saying, "We did the Sartarite thing, and we did it, and we're proud of what we did." You very rarely get Sartarites who are ashamed of their actions, the Lunars are. They have the public ideology, which is the Lunar Way loves everyone, if only the poor, benighted barbarians would understand that, then we'd get along fine. But actually, the Lunar Empire is run by decadent, power- crazy, militaristic fanatics. And time servers.
AM: You just described the US. (laughter)
Chris: I would not have dreamed of saying that! So what are people up to, now talk's cheap, and I used to just sit around talking. But I realised that nothing in Glorantha was every going to get done, if everyone just sat around waffling away. So David Hall gave what was a pretty use full deadline, that he wanted Tales #16 to be a Lunar Special. Now essentially, we are all there, you've seen the cover, you know what's in it. Well, once we had this deadline of something that was going to be published, I set to work, and my view was that the Lunar Empire was going to be something that really did work. Now, it's a very difficult society compared to most other things that have been done for Glorantha, because most societies for Glorantha are on a very small scale; barbaric, very little infrastructure. Whereas the Lunar Empire is a very, very complex organisation, it's got a massive economy, a big population, all kinds of different government agencies. And also, we've seen the front end of the government, we've heard about the Spoken Word, we know somewhere there is a secret service, there is a very efficient tax collecting system, there's some sort of bureaucracy that turns out all the forms you have to fill in when you go into the Big Rubble. There's a lot there, and you've got to somehow pull that into a self-contained, internally consistent framework. Now, a lot of people would say, who gives a... whatever. But I, personally, think that it should be like our world. What's good about our world is there are no boundaries, if I go to France, I might notice men with onions round their necks, and funny berets, and the Eiffel Tower, but if I go into a shop; everything's the same. Some of the things will have taxes on them, there are going to be books. If you go out into the countryside in France you are going to see different things, people are going to talk to you about literature, there's going to be monuments to wars they took part in. And I want the Lunar Empire to be like that. That you won't go into a place and all you know about is the Seven Mothers Cult. And it's not a simple state, it's very detailed and complicated. And it has to be internally consistent. So the first thing I did was say, "Why is it internally consistent?" And I came up with the Red Emperor Cult. Now we did kind of know there was a Red Emperor Cult; I believe it was alluded to in "How the West..."
Nick: "Home of the Bold." A lot of Moonson Imperator stuff going on in there.
Chris: And David Hall used to talk about it. So it did exist, and I thought, well, we've got a good model for that, we've got the Cult of Yelm. The Cult of Yelm appeared in, was it "White Wolf", in its final form?
Nick: It's been in "White Wolf", it's pretty well described in an old "Wyrm's Footnotes", and therefore in "Wyrm's Footprints", and there's a short form of it in Gods of Glorantha.
Chris: The problem with that is it's like all the cults were in those days. Here's the Cult of Yelm, here's how initiation works, but it's trying to say, "The Cult of Yelm, we find it in Dara Happa." And I think, do you? that's in the heart of the Lunar Empire, what would Yelm Imperator be doing there? And it's found amongst the horse nomads of Pent. What's all this got to do with people working in the civil service? What are they to do, how do you ever meet anybody? So, you've got the challenge to say it's like Yelm, but there is one real culture in the world, where this works, and runs it. So you don't need to waffle, but you need to say specifically what would an initiate of the Red Emperor do? What would a Rune Lord of the Red Emperor do? What would a Priest of the Red Emperor do, in society? And once I've got that out, I basically used the cursus honorum as the norm, the way the Roman Empire understood its culture of service to the state. You've got something that functions, holding together all the disparate forces. And once you know how the disparate forces are held together, you're quite free to go out to the disparate forces, and say, "Well, there's the economy, and there are cultic elements inside it, and militaristic elements inside it." And so on; but we know what the over-arching theme is. That it's all run by the Red Emperor and his bureaucracy.
Nick: You also have in Tales #16, the Cult of Danfive Xaron. This is the cult for everyone who is inside the Lunar Empire, but has for whatever reason, rejected the Lunar Way, or misbehaved, or done something they really oughtn't to. Now everything you've ever read about the Cult of Danfive Xaron in "Cults of Prax", and elsewhere there's not that much, is pretty much true. In some respects it's kind of like a thieves' cult, I suppose, in that it's a cult where you can get sanctuary for any of the crimes you've committed against the Lunar laws. If you go to the Danfive Xaron place where their sort of monastic cult members hang out, who are called Penitents, so the places they live are Penitentiaries, and what you do to gain amnesty from Lunar law, you go to the Penitentiary and say, "I would like to join the Cult of Danfive Xaron." And it's a great cult. You have initiation, no, initiation is what happens at the end of the time you spend as a Penitent, which may be one year, or five years, depending on the judgement of the cult's Masters, perhaps in co-operation with the civic authorities.
AM: Do you get time off for good behaviour?
Nick: You could do, you could show exemplary devotion to the way of Danfive Xaron. The cult does offer free food and lodging to all its members, and in fact insists that you use it, although this would normally amount to a small cell and bread and water. It will provide training in useful, hard labour skills. Cult members are given as a focus for their devotion, the way some other people would get a 'holy symbol', or sacred sword, they get the manacles of Danfive, which they are encouraged to meditate upon, to remind them of their mortal imperfections and the importance of submission to the Red Goddess.
AM: And those lovely robes with either the broad arrow or the stripes on them?
Nick: I would suppose so. That's quite tasty, I like that; we'll have to see if we can't do that. Um, the cult provides a lot of instruction in cult discipline, which consists of finding out about the limits of your bodily endurance, and there are frequent beatings, long boring sermons, and periods of solitary meditation. Now, your Penitent, I should say that Penitents aren't the lowest level in the cult, below the Penitents are the lay members. The lay members are anyone in the Lunar Empire who is kind of doing things they hadn't ought to. 'Cos that's how Danfive himself started off. And though the cult isn't so actively proselytising, the higher members of the cult will occasionally encourage lay members to take that step into initiation and enter a Penitentiary. But I will say that everything I've just said is entirely true, because as well as the Danfive Xaron cult, all of the legal institutions that pre-existed the Lunar Empire, almost all of them I would say, are still there today. And if you look at the ancient world, you will find that very few, I can't think off hand of any ancient cultures, used prison as a method of punishment. What they would do if you offended, you would be beaten to death, or beaten very, very painfully. Your hand cut off, your eyes put out, you'd be branded. Now the thing is, if you are caught, and flagged for trial in the Lunar Empire, while waiting in the holding prison pending trial, the Danfive types will come up to you and say, "Look, you know you did it. Just confess, join the Penitentiary, you'll be out in five-ten years; whatever we give you."
Chris: I feel they come up and say that to you with a rack, and thumbscrews.
Nick: Yeah, they give you the option; you can always volunteer. (laughter) But after sentencing, you can go through the full court hearing, which might take as much as five minutes, and at the end of that the judge will say, "Yep, he's guilty. Take him outside and poke out his eyes, and throw him into the river in a sack with crocodiles in it." And at that point, the nice man in the black habit comes up to you and says, "Well, do you feel sorry now?" (laughter) "It's not too late to volunteer."
And the thing is, if you join the cult of Danfive Xaron, if you are a very, very naughty person, they chuck you out of the cult before you get initiated, and at that point the nice men outside the Penitentiary take you, poke out your eyes, put you in the sack with crocodiles and throw you in the river. So, you do have quite a bit of incentive to stay in the cult. But at the end of your time in the cult, you are eligible, but not at the end of your time, I should say after three years, or five years, or whatever time the civic authorities and cult Masters agree on, you are dragged before the Danfive Inquisitors. These are kind of like the Examiners of the Red Goddess Cult, and they find out if your time in prison has taught you the Three Noble Actions, and the Seven-Fold Path to living the Righteous Life, which is the Danfive philosophy, as codified by Cenobius, the first Priestly follower of Danfive Xaron. And they ask you some more questions. It's not like Illumination, don't get me wrong, they're just trying to find out if you are brow-beaten and humble and penitent. And you can make an Intelligence times something roll to get it right, and if you get it wrong they throw you back in the pokey. If you get it right, then you may just be about to be reborn as an initiate, who has understood, who has seen the error of his ways, and who is now able to rejoin normal society. But it doesn't end there, of course. Because you are let out of the Penitentiary, you are allowed to keep your manacles if you want to use them as a focus in your evening prayers to Danfive Xaron. You are required to attend the Danfive Penitentiary for worship services, and they could say that's every day, or once a week, or once a month, depending on what they think is appropriate. You are expected to provide assistance and help to the officers and priests of the cult, so that if they come to you and say, "Where's Bugsy?", they would expect any former Penitent to be overjoyed at the chance of contributing to the reform of other sinners. (laughter)
And of course, because you are now an initiate, you are now vulnerable to the cult's Spirit of Reprisal. I should explain, at higher levels than this the cult of Danfive Xaron has two rather useful skills, which are Sense Criminal and Intimidate. If you are an initiate of Danfive Xaron, in other words if you've been through the Lunar prison system and come out the other end, the Spirit of Reprisal if you start acting in a criminal manner again, is called Rass-Koll-Nikov. And the effect of it is that any use of Danfive Xaron cult skills against you have double normal chance to succeed. Because you are the ex-con in the corner of the bar, and you say, "I don't dare to do this, do I?" And then the nasty man from the Danfive secret police comes up and says, "Did you do that bank job?" "Oh, yes! It was me! Take me away!" (much laughter)
It's high level though, 'cos what I've said so far is entirely true as far as it goes. But you don't actually have to go up to the Danfive Penitentiary and say, "Um, I offed an old lady, let me in." You can just go up there and say, "I feel morally unworthy, I need a direction and meaning in life. And they'll let you in. They won't treat you different than they treat anyone else, but when you look around the world at mediaeval monasteries, and Shao Lin martial arts films and things, you will find plenty of similar...
Chris: Living in cells, getting your head shaved, wear dehumanising uniforms, get beaten...
Nick: ...people shout at you a lot, and at the end of it you turn out a better character. Now, if after you have been initiated into Danfive Xaron, whether because you've committed a crime, you did a crime, you've paid the time, and now you think, "Well, actually, this is more useful than the completely useless (but the Lunar Empire guarantees full employment to you) job that I've got." Digging ditches in a muddy field or whatever. 'Cos the cult does actually provide work for initiates, helps them rejoin the world, as well as requiring your assistance and ensuring you live a virtuous life. You know, you have to turn up to worship and give 10% of your time and income to the cult, as you'd expect. If you think that's quite good, then you can go back into the cult again. You can become a Catechumen of Danfive Xaron. Now these are people who don't often get out of solitary confinement, it's very hard to tell the difference between them and other Penitents. This is the first level in which they are starting to be trained in Rune Magic; they are still beaten and humiliated and abused by the cult's Overseers, which are the Rune Lords, and by the Cenobites, which are the Priests because they follow the way of Cenobius. And if you think you've heard the word 'cenobite' recently and it means people who go around in weird black leather stuff inflicting self-torture on themselves, that is purely coinci-dental (laughter). We wouldn't dream of infringing on anyone's copyrights. Now the Overseers of Danfive Xaron are really, I suppose, the field agents of a rather not talked about aspect of the Lunar Empire. The Emperor's Unspoken Word. or, the Black Army, as we more often call it. Because we know there is the Red Army, which works against the enemies of the state outside of the Empire. And the Black Army works to suppress dissent and potential problems and revolutionaries and criminals inside the Empire.
Chris: Well basically, it acts as the secret police. Every one knows that the Lunar Empire has secret services and so on. And I think maximum game fun can be achieved by having more than one of them. And all the secret services tend to have overlapping structures, so like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, all of their forces for security, all had navies, armies, air forces, police agents, and so on attached to them.
Nick: And overlapping jurisdictions, keeping tabs on each other.
Chris: And it's deliberately not made exactly clear how the different secret agencies operate inside the Lunar Empire. But basically, the Black Army is the KGB, it's responsible for state security. You will sometimes see it in the field, for example it does guard borders and it sends punishment battalions out, usually chained together to form a completely nasty battle line against unstoppable forces. There's a Blue Army, which is essentially the assassin counter from Dragon Pass. It's called the Blue Army because most of its agents belong to the Cult of Annilla, of course. And they're broadly the same as the GRU, the military intelligence of the Soviet Union. There's also the Emperor's Spoken Word...
Nick: Might I interject at this point, the Blue Army being military intelligence, you might want to remember that Annilla is the Goddess of Insanity, she has no mind. So if anyone ever tells you that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms, it's all true!
Chris: Then there's the Spoken Word, which is part of the Emperor's own household. It's the way the Emperor finds out what's going on, in theory, because of course, Moonson doesn't bother listening to any of the reports. So, the Imperial Chamberlain is in charge of it. But in theory, it's the way Moonson gets the reports in, and he has people operating for him. And all of their cults have, in some way or another, a covert force as well, which will overlap. Now I don't want to mumble on about these things, but I personally feel that the heart of the game is the game. That's why we deliberately rant about these things in the form of cults, so you could join them. You can easily see how you could become a Danfive informer, that's really about being an undercover policeman. If you want to be a proper detective rather than a private detective, in the Lunar Empire, that's how you'd do it. In the Cult of the Red Emperor, it gives you positions like Red Tribunes; trouble-shooters for the Empire sent into different areas. But at base it provides you with the second cult in the run-up of subcults, Moonson Citizen. Which is what nearly everybody in the Lunar Empire is.
Nick: But the lay members of the Red Emperor are called Subjects. These are people who acknowledge that the Red Emperor is the Emperor. The next step up is Citizens, and these are the people that the Red Emperor would look down upon favourably, and it's quite nice. Above them you are getting into the real cult, which is like the peak of the pyramid, it's the Lunar Government. But the vast crowd, everyone who thinks that the Red Emperor is their ruler, or has been made to say it, is a subject, and therefore a lay member of the Red Emperor's cult.
Chris: So somewhere along the line, hopefully somewhere before the summer, it's about 60% done, I'm working on something we call the Insula, but which is actually called Citizens. An Insula, if you are not familiar with the classic writings, it's one of these big city blocks that Roman cities were broken up into, bounded by a road on all sides, and being a self-contained unit that people in cities treated rather like country people would treat their village. It's very similar to a modern block of flats.
Nick: All around on the ground level it's all retail units, and the shopkeepers all live just above, and above them you have the unemployed, and the temple dancers and the Char Un squatters and student accommodations.
Chris: It's divided into different families and a it's a perfectly self-contained economic block; you find out that because most families in the block are paying the standard rate, of about two imperials a day for their rent, that the block itself provides every year, one third of the Senatorial income requirement for Falerius Aggarius, the man who owns it. And you can see that ever year, he takes his income and builds another block. And rents it out.
Nick: But they do burn down every few years.
Chris: As soon as they're getting a bit old and the inspectors start coming around, they have a tendency to burn down. Now nearly all the players are just citizens, they're normal people. And the vast proportion of the Lunar Empire are actually unemployed, just like they were in the Roman Empire. They don't really do anything. Because the state provides corn doles, and drink to everybody, and so it does actually support a set of people who don't do anything. And these are perfect adventurers to my mind, you've got everything you need, you've food in your stomach, a roof over your head, and the whole day to kill. (laughter)
But some people actually do work, if you've ever read the Lindsay Davies books, is Falco the informer, but we know he actually works for the Black Army. Just an informer, so he's there, tying you in with the Danfive Xaron. And nearby the Insula...
Nick: The place of course, has a doorkeeper, the janitor or in this case, the janitrix. She's this nice little old lady, a bit of a cottage-loaf shape with a broom, and she's always there. "Good morning," and "Good evening" and sweeping out the shrine, and keeping the shrine of Great Sister in the stairwell clean. And, you get to know her if you live there, if you are a Sartarite adventurer coming to town she'll be the person who shows you your rooms, and learns your names. And if you happen to get on well with her, she invites you in for a cup of tea. You go into her apartment, her little room on the ground floor, and you'll find she's got little icons of her receiving her military decorations from Moonson. And you'll learn that she is in fact a retired officer, she was in the Mother's Guard. And there's all these military decorations up on the wall, and as a retired soldier she's been given this nice quiet pensionable job.
Chris: Practically everybody else from 'Les Miserables' is living in the block, so if you've got a musical bent you can sing along with them. (laughter)
Nick: So you have Gavrotius the Urchin down on the ground floor, along with Phronski the legless Cossack beggar who gets wheeled out every morning. And there's Sheng: the mongrel, useless little dog is Sheng (laughter). And all the inhabitants of the block chipped in a couple of imperials to get a "Beware of the Dog" mosaic laid. There's a lot of civic pride in the block, at least for most people. There's a couple of unemployed wastrels up in the top floors.
Chris: The scenario is written as if it could be anywhere because basically all Lunar cities are the same, and the citizens are all the same. But the way I think of it, it's actually somewhere in Glamour. Most of the driving force of the scenario will be the Gbaji Park murders. Which is a celebrated murder case that happened in this big pleasure garden, Gbaji Park, which is something like an insane version of Alice in Wonderland, with playing cards going around painting trees in red; combined with Gorky Park, big ferris wheels and so on for people to enjoy themselves. I don't know exactly what the form of publication of the Insula is; it was writ ten for Tales #16... and it grew. So then it was moved back to Tales #17, and it kept on growing. So it'll probably be a stand-alone product, like "Tarsh War" by the time it sees print. And like the "Tarsh War" I want it to be a proper resource, so I want you to find out things that were true in the ancient world, but you don't think about. Like hardly anybody has got a kitchen. And we are so used to being able to cook that everybody in the Lunar Empire, unless they are really big landowners, eats fast food. Just go down to the bar, that's part of that block, and they eat quick food; maize tortillas, which would be made for them. Bathrooms; there's a few toilets down at the bottom, that's where most people meet in the morning.
Nick: I'll stress that there's only a few toilets in this block, because this is a privately constructed block, by Falerius Aggarius, as Chris was saying. When the state builds a housing project, they think that they've already done their duty by you by building public toilets elsewhere in the city. So they don't actually feel the need to stick any toilets down in the bottom. Of course it is against the law to empty your chamber pot out of the window; especially after dark. (laughter)
Chris: It shows all of the shops that you need to live in a self-sufficient block, because most people don't like shopping outside their block. I don't know that this is the case in American cities, but if you go to France or Italy you'll find people treat that with loyalty, they wouldn't dream of going to a grocery store in the block across the road. They want to go to the one that's in their block. So you find, for example, that there's an oil salesman, who sells maize oil to people to put in their lamps. Most people can't afford lamps, but some people can. So they have a light after dark and they have to get oil for it. It's a religious state, so there's an icon painter who's a rather driven man, he thinks he hasn't got the recognition he deserves. He just paints the icons of the Emperor and the Great Sister, who is the most popular deity amongst the citizens. And every Insula in the Lunar Empire has a mosaic or fresco or icon of Great Sister, with the words, "Great Sister Watches Over You," over the top.
Nick: And the eyes are painted to follow you around the room.
Chris: She's a, I suppose as far as most people are concerned, a force who looks after poor people, and safeguards their interests.
Nick: She's also kind of metropolis god in Glamour. She's the nearest thing to a city god that the inhabitants of a block are likely to think that they have. I mean, her rune spell is 'Block Harmony', makes everyone in the block calm down, and turn off the loud music.
Chris: This is why I like the Lunar Empire, in all respects this is a god who is real, that you could actually meet Great Sister, you might see her in the street, and so people really would turn out with flags to wave at her. Or course, as a real person, she does her own agenda, she does have things to follow and, you know, how much time she actually spends worrying about the poor people is probably a very small portion of her time. But she is generally widely revered as someone who's a counter-balance to the power of the state and the power of big business, big industry. She's for the underdog.
Nick: Greg isn't here to speak for himself; this is our version of Great Sister. I should have informed you the official version is, "just as Sheng Seleris is Moonson's Solar Shadow, so Great Sister is Moonson's Lunar Shadow." But back to the main plot. I would like to go through a few more people who live in the block first, because I think this is a slice of life of the people who live in the Lunar Empire. This is a completely average block. So on some of the upper floors you've got the temple dancer, Teela?
Chris: Unemployed by day. (laughter)
Nick: An unmarried single mother. She slips in in the early morning and needs a bit of a wash... And there's the students, the students from the Lunar College of Magic. And they are, of course, students; they are all inhaling strange incenses...
Chris: That's part of the course, though. (much laughter)
Nick: Reading banned books, and having all their friends around, and you're never sure exactly which ones live there, and which one's paying the rent. They're messing the place around, and playing loud music late at night on magical instruments.
AM: And painting the room strange colours, like pitch black.
Nick: And then there's the thieves!
Chris: The thieves are the no-good sons of the second-hand goods salesman. In most of the ancient world, if you want to buy something, it would be made for you. So, you wouldn't go to a clothes shop, you'd go to a cloth shop and be measured up. But the unemployed can't afford to live like that, so they live on second-hand, which is basically ready-made goods. There's not a massive stigma against it, so the second-hand merchant is one of the people who works there. And his sons are thieves. But it's all right, because they wouldn't dream of stealing any thing from anyone on the block (laughter). So what you see every morning is the planks of wood going across from the top of the block, into the next block as they come back. They've been going across and stealing from other blocks (more laughter). So, there's a bit of loyalty there.
Nick: And Strello, the informer, he wouldn't dream of informing on his neighbours, 'cos that's way out of order. It would have to be a hideous crime against the state being perpetrated there.
Chris: Then there's the block militia man, this was part of the Soviet system, you'd have a militia man, their version of the police, would be living on each block, so they'd know the neighbourhood. They'd be the local bobby on the beat.
Nick: And so they'd have security guards as well.
Chris: And also, if the whole city was attacked, they would be the militia as we understand it; they'd all run to the walls and defend them. But, what they found in the Soviet Union, it was pretty obvious, is that he's a man who's lodged on the block. So he patrols the block, seeing what other people on the adjoining blocks are up to, that might be inimical to the block. It all works perfectly because all the other blocks have got militia men who are doing exactly the same thing to our block. But he himself is not going to inform on you.
One person is going to inform on you, though. The cult that we haven't spoken of, that stands somewhere between the subjects and the citizens is called Moonson Youth, or appropriately the Moonson Youth. Where children of the Lunar Empire are taken in and drilled, and given flags and homework where they paint up pictures of the Ice Breakers, and so on. And they are encouraged to inform on anybody they suspect of being against the Lunar Way. And they get badges, and special armbands for having done that.
Nick: Did you see one badge with the little eye on it? (laughter)
Chris: So the Grocer, who's got a write-up that says, "the good Lunar Citizen," the man who works exactly to the model of a good Lunar Citizen without any quirks: his children, being good Lunar children, are all Moonson Youths. And if you are doing something which is like trying to overthrow the state, they're the people who are going to go straight to the authorities and say what you've done.
Nick: And if you visit their apartment, there are some lovely pictures up on the wall, 'cos isn't it the ten-year old who's done his own painting of Moonson? We're talking about a ten-year old's painting, I'm not talking about a great religious artifact.
Chris: The teenage son has his picture of Jar-Eel the Razoress on the wall.
Nick: Like a recruiting poster! (laughter)
Chris: And boy, does she want you.... (more laughter)
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.