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Author Topic: Otherworlds And Applicability to Fantasy Worlds  (Read 8396 times)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« on: August 24, 2006, 06:39:34 AM »

What Source Material Does HQ Magic Match?
I often argue that the way magic is described for Glorantha actually, despite what some may say about it being "Glorantha specific," be good for describing the workings of magic in any fantasy setting. There's one part of it that I'm trying to work through to see if it needs alteration for other worlds - basically to see if it can be made more generic to fantasy.

In HQ, Glorantha is described as having many Otherworlds. Some players actually get caught up at this point, and find this hard to grasp. But I think that it very much makes sense, given that different mythologies have different otherworlds in our world, and even in the fantasy literature and other RPGs we see lots of otherworlds at times. That said, most often with these other sources, the mythology is unified to some extent. In a fantasy book, we may only understand the cosmology of the world from the point of view of a single culture, for instance.

The D&D Model
Even in D&D, where I could argue that there is one otherworld for each alignment, these all exist as part of one mythology that everyone shares in terms of the nature of the otherworlds. That is, even if you're lawful good, and believe in the seven heavens, you also apparently believe in the plane of Neutral Good With Chaotic Tendencies that's three steps clockwise from it.

In D&D, everyone's mythology seems to incorporate every god - they just consider their gods the only ones worth worshipping. And, then, wizardry is considered a secular sort of thing, more akin to science than anything else. And there is no animism per se. So all of the planes are really sorta like one big otherworld that has lots of different sections that are hard to traverse to (and inimical to you depending on how off your alignment is).

I personally believe that this sort of cosmology is the bastard son of gamism necessity. That is, it developed as D&D developed, not to be a cosmology like real world ones or fantasy ones, but one that fit the needs of the rules of the game. Indeed can you think of any fantasy literature that has a cosmology remotely like D&Ds (outside, of course, the literature spawned by D&D)? I can't.

So let's not include this sort of cosmology. I think it's ill conceived of in the first place, and once you "fix" it using HQ, I find that the same world plays much more interestingly.

Sci-Fi
I also have to disclude any "fantasy" that is actually sci-fi in disguise. Pern, for instance. Jorune, as an example of a RPG, as well as Tekumel actually. That's not to say that HQ couldn't be altered to cover these things, but just that the magic rules as they stand with the varying otherworlds don't cover this, because the "magic" in these cases turns out to be scientifically explained, and just comes from the physics of the mundane world.

But let's look at a couple of classic sources, Middle Earth and Conan.

Middle Earth and Mono-culturalism
Middle Earth has the "problem," IMO, that it's meant to be myth itself. So, in fact, it's written to be something like the myths of the real people of England. So, of course, there's only one cosmology involved. From a slightly more open POV, you could say that the myths of the Silmarillion are the myths of all of the people of western Middle Earth. It's important to note that these people share the same language - the humans at least (Westron), and that Tolkien was writing the setting to fit his study of languages. He came up with the languages first - elven, and then created the mythology to fit both the English and Elven languages. And the elves are actually divine beings and part of the mythology, so there's really only one culture involved here from a linguistic POV - which is the only POV important to Tolkien.

So we have to discard Tolkien as a sample, too, unless your RPG world is monocultural. If that's the case, then HQ simply isn't the right game, as it's all about poly-cultural fantasy. Most fantasy RPGs, however, would claim to be poly-cultural. D&D worlds certainly are. Which is what makes the seeming "single pantheon" cosmology seem odd. It's based on the idea of delivering an objective explanation of the entirety of the cosmology, and saying that the worshippers have that objective understanding of it. I can imagine a world in which this is true, don't get me wrong. It's just not at all like the real world, nor like the source material.

Conan
Consider Conan, for instance. Not a lot of magic there, but it happens. In that world, the people have distinctly different religious beliefs. There's no pretending that just because magic seems demonstrably real that suddenly everyone has an objective understanding of how the world works. Instead we have several competing beliefs.

This is what HQ is all about. This sort of poly-cultural fantasy where, like the real world, the people have varying beliefs, and only your culture's magic is, to you, legitimate. All others being some sort of sham or magic from evil beings. Or, at best, slightly misunderstood. In this sort of world, I think that belief in varying otherworlds makes sense too. Certainly they're going to be named differently by the different cultures. From the perspective of the people of the world of Glorantha, in fact, I'm sure that they believe that their god's locality in the god world is actually a completely separate otherworld from the ones of their enemy gods'.

Three Otherworld Perspective
In fact, seen from this perspective, the "Three Otherworld" model of Glorantha seems suspect on first glance. To clarify, there is no such model in reality - there are any number of otherworlds in Glorantha. What the rules do tell us, however, is that all of the gods - except for those of the Lunar Way - are from the God World. This seems on the face of it to be telling us something about the cosmology. And, in fact, from what I've heard from Greg, I think that it is just that which he intends (though he's quite philosophical and might not disagree with the following interpretation, seeing them as potentially equivalent).

But, fortunately, you don't have to see it that way. What the otherworlds seem to represent in their division is groupings of entities that provide power, grouped by how one must worship in order to get the power. It's important to sometimes consider otherworlds to be something like states of mind. It's a matter of getting your head right to get across to being X, or being Y. Sacrifice for gods, ecstatic worship for spirits, veneration for saints, and study for wizards. All of the above with Sedenya being worshipped as the ultimate source for all of this, if you're part of the Lunar Way. Where there are otherworlds besides these, they represent different routs to power.

The importance of these otherworlds, then, is not to give so much an objective separation between these worlds as to explain that there is a different mental leap necessary to get to each sort of world and the entities therein. The "separation" between all of these things, then, is really more about the different ways in which we seek to understand the universe, rather than something set about the cosmology of the world in question.

Mechanically this is represented by not being able to merely "walk" from some place in one otherworld (or the mundane world) to some place in another. One must do a "Crossing" (with attendant 3W10 difficulty). Again, this represents the leap in method. The other mechanical representation is the "Alien World Penalty" for those who have so dedicated themselves to one mindset, that they have problems when dealing with another.

All seems quite sensible to me for any fantasy world. This is merely a description of the basic differences between forms of magic. Draw these lines anywhere they seem to make sense to represent your fantasy world.

BTW, this all seems to jibe with some of Greg's recent revelations about what it means for a character in Glorantha to become "enlightened." Basically they learn that there is some deeper truth that transcends all of these required methods of worship based on the idea that at their heart they really are all about one central truth. Of course, this itself is just another belief system, and doesn't invalidate any of the others or make them inferior other than that one may believe them to be so. There's still no objective truth here.

Seen from this perspective, I think that people can see that the otherworld concept is really something that can be applied to any poly-cultural fantasy setting. Create as many otherworlds as you find methods of getting to otherworld entities that you find sufficiently disparate to merit it. That might be one, or it could mean thousands - you might want to declare that the specifics of the worship of any being or study of any essence or whatever are sufficiently different to declare them all otherworlds.

Mixed Worlds
This leaves, however, the question of the "mixed worlds." There are three important ones in Glorantha that come up frequently.

Underworld
The least contentious of these is the "underworld." Really the only question is whether or not there should be one underworld or many. In Glorantha there is only one, but this really isn't any different from the notion of the other various otherworlds. The Underworld is the place you get to by doing bad things. Or, from a Trollish perspective, by doing trollishly dark things (which are, to them, good, effectively). Just because it's "shared" by religions, it's really no more shared than, say, the god world is. Again, the people may see it as different places. The only unifying feature of it, really, is how one gets there again. Mechanically it means that for most there will be an Alien World Penalty for being in the Underworld.

Mundane World
The second mixed world, the mundane world, has on odd feature. And the feature is that there exist within the mundane world, various entities that have a nature that would indicate that they have an affinity with one of the non-mundane otherworlds. So you have spirits in the mundane world.

This seems to me to be a layer of complexity that might not be necessary, and is hard to explain. That is, what this explanation means is that, for instance, ones own soul is not in the otherworld, it is here with one now. A spirit in a tree is all in the mundane world (and requires the tree as a body so that the spirit can stay), and has no part of itself in the Spirit World. A fetish, in fact, is a body that holds a spirit who was previously in the spirit world, but whom the animist has given said body to in order that it might stay with the animist in the mundane world.

Now, the idea of a being existing on the other side, or having a manifestation in this world, is a common enough one. Demons are summoned and let loose as a classic example.

But something in me wants to say that a spirit in a tree is simply in the otherworld, and dealing with the mundane world through the agency of the tree. What is a ghost? They don't have bodies, by definition. You can pass through them. So are they really here, or in the otherworld somehow, and simply "projecting" an image across to the mundane world? If you're dealing with the essence of a river, aren't you dealing with the representational world behind the river?

Isn't your essence that otherworldly explanation for your form? Your soul your connection with the god world? Your spirit that part of you that belongs to the spirit world?

I can see both POVs here, and maybe it's not necessary to determine the precise nature of the phenomenon of "otherworld entities" creating parts of the "essential landscape," the "spiritual landscape," etc, in order to play effectively at most times. But this is one place where I'd somewhat like an explanation in order to adjudicate certain things. For instance, I've seen descriptions of spirits of fear that are insubstantial. How are they existing without a body, if that's the case? Are there exceptions to this rule? Or is a "tangible" aura of fear present in something enough "body" for them to stay in and not return to the spirit world?

Are these otherworlds at all representational of the mundane world? If not, then that goes a long way to explaining things, yet, it leaves a gap as the representational world is one we expect. I'm guessing that the notion is that the "representational world" in Glorantha merely means all of the beings that do underlie certain bodies in the mundane world. But that hardly seems to be a world itself. For example, it doesn't seem that one can traverse it. You just walk around in the mundane world, and use your special perceptive abilities to see the representational world.

That's not how people who believe representational worlds in the real world see it, is it? Is this just a Gloranthan thing? Or am I misinformed on representational worlds?

The more I describe it, actually, the more I "get" the mundane/otherworld entity model, actually.

Hero Planes
The most contentious of the mixed planes, however, is the Hero Plane, I'd argue. This seems to be a deliberate construct to explain something about heroquests. I sense that there's some cosmological problem that the hero plane exists to solve. The way it's explained, in the god world, spirit world, etc, things are not really maleable. The Great Compromise is an agreement between all of the entities that they would stop fighting and become completely static, allowing Time to begin in the mundane world. The Hero Plane is also known as the Gods War, because it's an echo of the times in which the gods, spirits and essences were, in fact, fighting and still maleable. As such, it's the place where characters go to alter things about myths, essentially.

This is odd to me, because most of the quests that people seem to be rather about emulating some myth, rather than redacting it. If that's the case, why can't they get the same benefits from going to the world appropriate to the emulated being? In fact, Greg admits that one can get similar benefits, and this is precisely how most magical powers that one sees listed in the specialized magic rules are gained. He even says that it's not out of line to use the heroquesting rules to represent this sort of acquisition on the god plane or whatever.

So, really, the Hero Plane seems to exist solely to support the idea of "experimental heroquesting" where one changes the myths. But what I don't understand is that this cannot change the actual nature of a god or such - you can do that in theory, but it requires actually facing a god instead of some echo of him (which is far, far more difficult to accomplish). So, it doesn't seem likely that, for instance, raising the red moon could have been accomplished by a heroquest. So what's the point of experimental heroquesting?

More importantly, why the need for the whole Great Compromise? Why not allow players to quest into the god world and just make changes there if they can? Is it merely to give a lower level of power so that you don't have to be a great hero to accomplish a quest? That could be accomplished in a number of ways. Is it because then we can have PCs meet other questers? Why can't this happen in the God's World, or the Spirit World, etc? Is it important that the world where quests happen be mixed so that one can fight entities originating from otherworlds that are, otherwise, rather inaccessible? What's wrong with a mythic version of such a being existing in the "wrong" world? Or would that make a sham of the real myth? Aren't heroquests shams of the real myth by definition?

So at the moment I'm leaning towards the notion that the hero plane concept may well exist solely to accommodate some previous objectively determined mythology of Glorantha. In practice, I've only used the Hero Plane in other games sorta conceptually as a weak, more accessible version of the real otherworlds. If that. Mostly I let people quest in all of the otherworlds.

In fact, when describing the hero plane concept, players seem to go all cross-eyed. I don't mind some learning curve to this material, but this one element I find hard to describe in general terms.

Discussion
So, thoughts on all of this? Am I too much of an apologist for how HQ handles cosmology? Is the complexity not worth the learning curve? Are the mixed worlds not as problematic as I find them?

Mike
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2006, 11:49:53 AM »

I have a few thoughts. . .

First, lemme say I'd be very interested in seeing your "fix D&D cosmology with HQ" treatment if you ever feel like doing so.

Good points about Middle Earth, but I don't buy that "the elves are actually divine beings and part of the mythology, so there's really only one culture involved here from a linguistic POV". . .if you look at the bulk of the Silmarillion, it's not "the mythology of Men, with Elves as divine beings within that mythology;" rather it's by and large the story of the Elves, by the Elves and for the Elves, especially the early stages with the Darkening of Valinor and the Revolt of Feanor and such. Even later when you see stories of, say, Beren or Turin, here are stories that are more Man-centric, even if they exist in a predominantly Elvish backdrop, BUT where are these stories reposited (within the mythos, that is)? With the Elves. Aragorn learns of Beren and Luthien at Rivendell, and Bilbo translates the whole freakin' Silmarillion at same. And if you want to talk about the linguistic side, well, as you said, JRR developed the Elvish language, then the people to go with it, and their stories, so of course it's about the Elvish people. And really, in the early stages behaviorally they're not so "divine;" the tales are as full of passion and vengeance and pride and folly as any collection of human legends.

More on the topic of this discussion, though, I don't think you can demonstrate very easily that the myths of the Valar and such are "the myths of all of the people of western Middle Earth." They're the myths of the Elves, certainly, and the Dwarves of course revere Aule though under a different name. But we don't see much of any sort of belief from anyone else. Sure, the Numenoreans, but they're a pretty Elvified culture. Whenever, say, the Hobbits encounter any of the Elvish myths, they're fascinated, like they've never heard of any of this, and they probably haven't. I'd probably argue thatthe Silmarillion's myths are largely unknown to the peoples of Man in Middle Earth, the descendants of Numenor being, as I said, an exception. It seems pervasive because we're seeing throught the lens of rather extraodrinary individuals;how many Hobbits or Men get as much exposure to Elvish culture as Frodo and company? If they even know about it, they fear and distrustit, as in "The witch of the Golden Wood." Which implies to me a lot of segregation of culture, which further implies a diversity of belief not unlike what you describe for Glorantha (the "ours is right,all else is sham or evil" model). there's certainly not as MUCH diversity, and we have the disadvanage of not having any material on it, but it is arguably there. I'd imagine the Rohirrim, for example, have a pretty distinct culture and mythology.

Now, about Glorantha:

Your explanation/exploration of the whole Otherworld system has helped me immensely to make sense of it, and warm up to it some. See, before now, I certainly got the whole "clash of cultures" thing, where the different peoples have distinct beliefs, practices, gods, what have you. but when it got to the Otherworlds, well, I confess it started to look to me more like that D&D thing you describe (which I HATE) where everyone has the same cosmology and they all know and acknowlege every part of it. Pointing out that different groups would surely think their own part of the "God world" is a separate place is a real eye opener. For some reason the HQ text didn't convey this to me. In fact, the way it talks about the different otherworlds, and refers to them in narration, suggested the opposite. I think if I ever played in Glorantha I would want to work out just what the individual cultural names WERE for the various Worlds, and hope to ever hear the words "God World" in play as long as I live.

Also, I'm one of those people who go cross-eyed at the whole "Hero Plane" thing. And Ithik part of the reason for my distaste (on top of confusion) is, again, how the text makes it seem as if everyone knows about all this and refers to it in the same terminology. Like D&D. "Where's Jeb these days?" "Oh, he's off on the Hero Plane." "Well, Gods bless 'im. Hope he gets back 'fore harvest."

Anyway, I don't kow how helpful my comments are, but those are my impressions. Thanks for helping make some things clear for me.

Peace,
-Joel
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sebastianz
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Posts: 51


« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2006, 11:54:36 AM »

Hi, Mike.

As your post is pretty long, I’ll reiterate some parts to clarify it for me. If I misunderstand you, please fell free to correct me.

Your claim is that the way magic is described for Glorantha is good to describe the workings of magic in any fantasy setting. You do not want to talk about this in general, though, but only concerning otherworlds.
As regards otherworlds, you propose that they are common not only in existing mythology (lets say Norse or Greek) but in fantasy as well. So far, I fully agree with you.

Next, you analyze some fantasy worlds. You start with D&D. First, you argue that even D&D knows several otherworlds. But every mythos contains all deities. Also, there is no animism, so no spiritual plane (?) and wizardry is more science than magic. Therefore you postulate that there is really only one big encompassing otherworld, just with different sections. You want to exclude this sort of cosmology as it is not right (“ill conceived” but can be fixed).
Now, I am not sure I follow you here for two reasons. One, it seems to be more a matter of perspective whether you see one encompassing otherworld or several different ones. One could claim that the cosmos of Glorantha is all encompassing and just has different sections. Those sections just happen to be otherworlds, seen from the mundane world. I am aware that you adress this point later on. Two, you want to show that the magic described for Glorantha describes the workings of magic in any fantasy setting. But now you tell us that D&D does not fit the bill. You claim that D&D cosmology is ill conceived and I do not want to argue that. But obviously your claim cannot be maintained. Not all fantasy settings correspond to your claim. Unless, of course, you see the different planes in D&D as otherworlds.

Next, you exclude sci-fi fantasy worlds as magic is explained with science. I follow this argument; after all, otherworlds do not make sense without mythology to base them on. But again you invalidate your claim. Not any fantasy setting conforms to Gloranthan standards.

Middle Earth. You conclude that ME only has one culture and therefore is no good example, either. HQ needs a multicultural world. I think this point needs clarification. First, why cannot one people have different otherworlds? Let’s look at the Norse or the Greek. They know several planes (Asgard, Vanaheim, Jötunheim; Hades, Olymp, Tartaros). Are these not otherworlds? Of course, we have to differentiate two perspectives: an in-world perspective and an observer’s perspective (this leads to two different notions of otherworld). For an observer, all these planes could belong to the same otherworld (like, say, the gods world), while to the believer they are all different. So, I think you talk about the observer’s perspective, right? Because otherwise, a single culture could easily produce a plethora of otherworlds. But is the number of cultures important for determining otherworlds? Again, Norse, Celts, and Romans lived happily next to one another. But they all believed in a pantheon. In HQ terms there is only one otherworld, that of the gods, although we have three different cultures. Therefore I claim that cultures are irrelevant for determining otherworlds. I think, and you say it yourself, otherworlds inform us how the characters can access power and that they have to do it in a different way in-game. I speak of the game term “otherworld”, by the way.

You continue, that the three otherworld divide can be utilized for any fantasy setting. You say:
"All seems quite sensible to me for any fantasy world. This is merely a description of the basic differences between forms of magic. Draw these lines anywhere they seem to make sense to represent your fantasy world."
And this I do not comprehend. Do you mean, that one type of otherworld can be found in every fantasy setting? In one the gods world, in the next a spirit world, or even two or three otherworlds in a third? Or do you claim that all otherworlds can be found in all fantasy settings? The latter I reject. You give examples above invalidating this claim, it seems. The former does not strike me as great revelation. And I think it would be wrong. Of course, if there is magic in a setting, I will use a system to represent it. But there is no need for an otherworld. All the magic could exist in the mundane world without the need to link it to something else.
 
Another point: Let’s assume you were right. Your claim that otherworlds are a solid concept for all fantasy settings makes only sense (apart from a philosophical interest) if we also use the different game mechanics associated with the otherworlds in HQ. But that does not follow. Only because characters have to do different things to access power does not require different game mechanics. It could all work using one.

Okay. I will stop here for now. I think that your thoughts on mixed worlds might address some of my concerns. But this post is already long enough and I am getting tired.

Did I misread you?

Sebastian.

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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2006, 01:29:59 PM »

Joel,

I've already participated in some D&D work (World of Greyhawk). I'd love to do a fix of one of the settings more completely.

On Middle Earth - my point is merely that it's not a tale of two different cultures. As I'll point out in a bit, more importantly, they all believe in but one magic system (it seems to me). Mithrandir is certainly divine, the elves have some magic, and the humans use the magic made by elves and divine beings like Mithrandir and Sauron. The "West" is the otherworld from whence magic comes in ME. Even if it takes a long time to get there. The hobbits are a captive culture who seem to have no pariticular belief system other than "Home is good."

The Rohirrim have common ancestors with the Dunedain. If they do have a different belief system, I've never seen it. In any case, they don't seem to have any magic. Oh, you could make something up, but that doesn't make the case for multiple otherworlds. More on that below.

I think that the idea that people in Glorantha don't know about the objectively different otherworlds I got from Greg or Rory on the lists, but I could well be imagining that. In any case, it's how I play it, and how I think it works. I think that if you see the rules related to this as game structures, and the perceptions of the people as much more mustical than sometimes is implied, it goes a long way toward making multiple otherworlds make sense.



Good format for a response, thanks Sebastian.

Your claim is that the way magic is described for Glorantha is good to describe the workings of magic in any fantasy setting.
Well, not any setting. I've counted some sorts out right off the bat. But for most RPG fantasy settings I think it's pretty near perfect, yes.

Quote
You do not want to talk about this in general, though, but only concerning otherworlds.
I find that often this is the stumbling block that people have. Not so much the specific otherworlds - they can change them etc. But just the fact of their existence, their implications, and how they're implemented in the rules.

Quote
Also, there is no animism, so no spiritual plane (?) and wizardry is more science than magic. Therefore you postulate that there is really only one big encompassing otherworld, just with different sections. You want to exclude this sort of cosmology as it is not right (“ill conceived” but can be fixed).
"Not right" is a simplification, buy yes.

Quote
Now, I am not sure I follow you here for two reasons. One, it seems to be more a matter of perspective whether you see one encompassing otherworld or several different ones. One could claim that the cosmos of Glorantha is all encompassing and just has different sections. Those sections just happen to be otherworlds, seen from the mundane world. I am aware that you adress this point later on.
Heads I win, tails you lose. Either D&D is "wrong" as I say above, and we can dismiss the differences and apply the HQ model, or it's actually got it "right" in which case we we would be fools not to apply the HQ model. :-)

Quote
Two, you want to show that the magic described for Glorantha describes the workings of magic in any fantasy setting. But now you tell us that D&D does not fit the bill.
No, actually the styles of D&D magic do fit the bill, they just don't provide otherworlds to support it. But it's clear from the definition of how wizardry and sorcery work in D&D that they do, in fact, imply an otherworld that simply isn't well put forth. In fact, the Negative and Positive energy planes, the elemental planes, and the astral plane could all be seen to be wizardry planes. The link is just not made clear.

Note that I'm using the first edition model mostly, because it's what I recall. I noted playing Planescape, however, that it hadn't changed much.

Quote
Next, you exclude sci-fi fantasy worlds as magic is explained with science. I follow this argument; after all, otherworlds do not make sense without mythology to base them on. But again you invalidate your claim. Not any fantasy setting conforms to Gloranthan standards.
I concede this point. Hence why I put the first section as a question.

Quote
Middle Earth. You conclude that ME only has one culture and therefore is no good example, either. HQ needs a multicultural world. I think this point needs clarification. First, why cannot one people have different otherworlds?
I don't deny that such a world, if one existed to play in (I'm not aware of one) could have multiple otherworlds. But only that in such a culture they wouldn't represent differing magic types, and so not functionally different otherworlds per the HQ rules. Same with D&D's alignment planes - they're all clearly theistic.

Quote
But is the number of cultures important for determining otherworlds? Again, Norse, Celts, and Romans lived happily next to one another.
True. I'm assuming that with multiple cultures will come multiple magic types, but that's not sure either. To be technical, one single culture in Glorantha will tend to actually have magic from all three types. So it's not a single culture thing at all really. It's just that with a single culture background like ME, that's where you tend to get all one sort of magic.

Note that MERP actually allows different looking sorts of magic, and so if you want to adulterate ME by allowing in Lay Healers who can make prosthetic legs, then you probably have a setting that could use a multiple otherworld ruleset.

To be clear, you certainly can do a single otherworld setting with HQ. It's just that you'll end up dropping a lot of the rules. ME is only "out" to the extent that it doesn't provide a positive argument for why you need the multiple otherworld rules.


Quote
You continue, that the three otherworld divide can be utilized for any fantasy setting. You say:
"All seems quite sensible to me for any fantasy world. This is merely a description of the basic differences between forms of magic. Draw these lines anywhere they seem to make sense to represent your fantasy world."
And this I do not comprehend. Do you mean, that one type of otherworld can be found in every fantasy setting? In one the gods world, in the next a spirit world, or even two or three otherworlds in a third? Or do you claim that all otherworlds can be found in all fantasy settings?
No, I'm saying that the form of the individual otherworlds is not set. Yes Glorantha proposes certain ones that I think will work for most settings. But, even in Glorantha, there's always room for more magic methods, and attendant otherworlds. The magic methods shown in the HQ rule books are examples.

Any particular setting may not have gods. Or it might not have wizardry, or not have spirits (or perhaps they're not so different from gods that we have to worry about it being a different otherworld that they come from). For these purposes I'm not concerned with whether any particular Gloranthan magic model fits into every or even any other fantasy world. Merely whether it makes sense to have magic modes linked to particular sources such as otherworlds. Do these otherworlds need the sort of detail that you get in HQ descriminating them from each other?

Quote
All the magic could exist in the mundane world without the need to link it to something else.
That's the fourth magic type in HQ, Natural Magic (see the article about it on Glorantha.com). The fifth is common magic (with it's various subtypes linked to the otherworlds). The sixth is the Lunar Way. The seventh is mysticism (though actually now that looks like a mod for certain of the other forms of magic).

I think you can cover most anything with the HQ magic systems presented if you look at all of them. But that's not my point here, not what I want to prove. Look at a specific example. You have a particular game world where there's clerics and wizards. Does it make sense to consider the otherworlds presented in terms of their link as the source for the magic? Even if you end up deeming wizardry to be like Common Magic or Natural Magic (a mistake I think), but you can do it that way. Again, I'm only saying that in most fantasy worlds where you have magic that does match the HQ sorts that have otherworlds, that the multiple otherworld explanation seems to work to me.
 
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Another point: Let’s assume you were right. Your claim that otherworlds are a solid concept for all fantasy settings makes only sense (apart from a philosophical interest) if we also use the different game mechanics associated with the otherworlds in HQ. But that does not follow. Only because characters have to do different things to access power does not require different game mechanics. It could all work using one.
This is the best argument against the otherworlds, that it's basically much ado about nothing. A lot of complex extra detail that doesn't deliver anything useful.

It's been my experience that, to me at the very least, this detail has been interesting in play. But I've had players indicate otherwise. I think that in part it's due to not understanding what the otherworld explanation means...one player was OK with it, at least, after he and I discussed it. Others have had no opinon (for some reason I get lots of players who have characters without much magic).

Mike
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sebastianz
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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2006, 01:22:29 AM »

First I respond to your reply and then go on two the second half of your first post.

It looks a bit to me like you are fighting against windmills. If I understand you correctly all you say is that the HQ model of magic with its otherworlds adds a level of detail to the explanation of magic. A level you find appealing.

Now, I would like to differentiate three different levels.
The first level is an in-game perspective. Various cultures worship different entities. It is possible that a culture believes in some sort of otherworld, a special place which ordinary people cannot access. This is no necessity, they could simply believe it to be all in the world. They also can assume a myriad of otherworlds for each being.

The second level is an onlookers perspective. The onlooker is not involved in the worship and has an objective eye for the situation. He sees the reality with all of the otherworlds there may be. He also sees whether people within the world “get it right” or are mistaken. This is our perspective as players. Usually, we are told how a given fantasy world is. We could see, for example, that there are three otherworlds: essence, spiritual, and a gods world. All of these otherworlds have their own pattern. These otherworlds could be further divided in sub-worlds, for example, the dwellings of particular deities. But all entities on the spiritual plane are accessed in essentially the same way, even if their particular kind of worship differs in details.

The third level is that of the game designer (in a broad sense). Once he knows the cosmology of the game world he can decide if he wants to support these in-game differences with different mechanics. AD&D does not. While priests and wizards have different spells available, they function in exactly the same way. The same is true for Rolemaster. There is a divide in essence, channelling, and mentalism with different spell lists. But they are learned and applied the same way. HQ, obviously, goes another route. It gives additional support for these differences. The purpose, I believe, is to make them important in-game. I think we are on the same page here.
I submit that the HQ model with otherworlds is a right fit for any fantasy setting if you want to make the supernatural, its nature, and how to interact with it an important part of actual play. If this does not interest you, than the different mechanics become superfluous. They add "crunch" although no "crunch" is needed.

The Hero Plane does not fit in this model. While the other otherworlds all provide power to the worshipper and can be channelled, this is not possible with the Hero Plane. We could try to understand the Hero Plane as Time. That is why myths can be changed. All otherworlds and the mundane world are represented in the Hero Plane as even gods and spirit exist in time if they come to the mundane world. Also, past deeds are re-enacted and this fits as well. It should then be possible, by the way, to encounter future myths. But, still, it is an odd feature.
For otherworld entities in the mundane world I see two possible explanations. One, an otherworld entity lives in a bubble of otherworld within the mundane world. This applies to landscape entities, but could also explain fetishes or talismans (these are even directly connected to the essence plane). Two, otherworld entities can exist in the mundane world as easily as mundane entities can in the otherworlds. That is, they suffer an alien world penalty. But a physical manifestation offsets this penalty. While they are still otherworld entities, they can now interact with the mundane world without penalty. Both explanation do not satisfy me, yet.

Sebastian.
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soru
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2006, 03:25:59 AM »

I think the idea of the Hero Plane is useful anywhere you want to have:

1. gods being objectively real, with their followers being able to meet and talk with them without necessarily being deluded or foolish.

2. the same gods being worshipped in different places, as happened historically.

3. the structure of human societies not being radically altered by the above, for example different cultures respecting the same god still going to war.

4. rational people, in-game or out-of-game, also not necessarily being deluded or foolish in believing the world makes rational sense.

As the computer scientists say, there is no problem that can't be solved by adding an extra level of indirection. The Hero Plane is the Fox News and al jazeera of Glorantha, connecting you to a place that is as objectively real as Iraq, allowing you to see and feel real things, but always applying a cultural filter and usually a political agenda.

So you go to the big temple in the city at the High Holy Day, and get to stand at the back of the court while Orlanth the High King takes tribute from his sub-kings. And you go to a little shrine in the back-country, and watch as Orlanth the Rebel defies the Emperor. Maybe you can actively quest to change the channel, or even creatively quest to get to star in your own show.

Not something you'd want in every game, but a good solution to a common problem.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2006, 11:21:15 AM »

First I respond to your reply and then go on two the second half of your first post.

It looks a bit to me like you are fighting against windmills. If I understand you correctly all you say is that the HQ model of magic with its otherworlds adds a level of detail to the explanation of magic. A level you find appealing.
Well, fact is that, as I've indicated, I've had people tell me that it's not a good construct. So it's this opinion, not some windmill, that I'm tilting against. In a way, I'm posting this as something to point people to when I get this particular objection. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and it was a straw that broke a camel's back that got me to finally take the time to put it down.

Yes, obviously I like it, or there'd be no need to debate it at all. The question is whether or not it's convincing to anyone else. Looks like it's working on Joel, for instance...

And, to clarify further, I'm not saying that this is the only way to play a fantasy game. I think the D&Ders should keep on playing D&D. I'm just trying to prove that the otherworld model is worthwhile for the doubters who see no use in it.

I like your perspective break down...
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The first level is an in-game perspective. Various cultures worship different entities. It is possible that a culture believes in some sort of otherworld, a special place which ordinary people cannot access. This is no necessity, they could simply believe it to be all in the world. They also can assume a myriad of otherworlds for each being.
I agree, but would say that in most cases where you find something akin to "specialized magic" (IE any magic that defines a class, say), that you almost invariably find an otherworld associated with it in the source.

That's even when it's not really obvious on the surface. Otherworld can almost mean "frame of mind" and nothing else. Thus the "Essence World" in Glorantha is not a place where people often dissappear to, it's really more of a place one can view and see the essential underpinnings of things. Such that one can draw the energy of said underpinnings from that place. In almost every description of wizardry, if you don't find outright references to planes where magic is drawn from, you find that there's some "energy field" or "Mana" or something that powers magic. Well, the "essence plane" is simply that frame of mind the wizard must get into in order to manipulate this stuff.

Seen from this perspective, it's hard not to see otherworlds like this in almost all magic. That said, I don't deny that there are going to be exceptions. There are two that we know of in Glorantha alone.

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The second level is an onlookers perspective. The onlooker is not involved in the worship and has an objective eye for the situation. He sees the reality with all of the otherworlds there may be. He also sees whether people within the world “get it right” or are mistaken.
This is a good point. I believe that, indeed, this is supposed to be an "objective view" of these things. The fact that there is the penalty for worshipping a god by ecstatic worship supports this.

I'm not sure that this is entirely problematic. But I will say that the way I run it, that there is some question as to the objectiveness of these things. That is, I'm fully willing to view the otherworlds as a problem with character perspective alone. Should that make it any easier for the player to swallow.

I have a love/hate relationship with misapplied worship, but that's for another thread.

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It gives additional support for these differences. The purpose, I believe, is to make them important in-game. I think we are on the same page here.
I submit that the HQ model with otherworlds is a right fit for any fantasy setting if you want to make the supernatural, its nature, and how to interact with it an important part of actual play. If this does not interest you, than the different mechanics become superfluous. They add "crunch" although no "crunch" is needed.
Excellent point. Here's my corollary? What is fantasy about? Yeah, sure, we can play D&D, which is all about killin' folks and taking their stuff. But is that fantasy? I mean, before D&D existed, is that what you would have thought of if somebody said fantasy? Even the Gor books are about more than that (see Phil Foglio's "What's New" strip vis a vis "Sex and D&D").

I believe that fantasy is about exploring magic. And to the extent that magic is made subservient in the rules to any other activity, an RPG doesn't really support fantasy. Put another way, looking at the World of Greyhawk campaign world, what's interesting about it. Well, there's the demigod named Iuz, who has this dark land, and he's threatening to take over other countries.

Well that's pretty much the theme for all fantasy. Good vs Evil (even if looked at in shades of grey), and how magic works into the mix. Simplified morality. Orcs and Elves. Can the good guys resist the coming darkness. It's in Shadow World (hence the name, in fact), Greyhawk, Midnight (made after the model for this, Middle Earth), etc, etc. In Glorantha, it's the Hero Wars taking a complex look at the changing world. Fascinating then that in all of the play that I'd put into these worlds before now, somehow none of this theme had ever really managed to emerge. Or certainly did so only despite the system.

HQ, in focusing on the magic, and more importantly the source of the magic, makes questions like this jump into focus.

Sure you can play fantasy without this. I'm not saying this is the only model that works. I'm only trying to show why the model, when applied, has the positive effects that I claim.

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It should then be possible, by the way, to encounter future myths. But, still, it is an odd feature.
The way that the hero plane is described, time is, in fact maleable. You might encounter somebody going into the hero plane years from when you do so. Yes, this might theoretically lead to paradox, but lets leave that question aside for now.

What does not exist in the hero planes are echoes of deeds that took place after time began. That is, the only myths in the hero planes are those created by the gods, spirits and such, before time began. The people you may meet who entered before or after you exist with you right there and are not echoes.

Yeah, it does seem a bit tortured. I'm willing to investigate it only because it was only after deeper reflection that I discovered the applicability of  some of this other stuff. I'm hoping that if I think about it long enough, the reason for it will come to me. With the hero planes, however, I feel that it's existence may actually be specific to some need to explain something in Glorantha.

If not, then It might have something to do with some of the things that Soru is talking about.


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...a bubble of otherworld

...a physical manifestation offsets this penalty....
Actually any of these explanations works pretty well for me.


Soru,

Took me a while to get what you're on about. I'm not quite sure that the Hero Planes are neccessary for what you're getting at. If two people go to look on a god in the god plane, they must be able to see two different things. In fact, I asked about this, and it's true (assuming I understand correctly). Why would a god "let" this happen? Because the god is unchanging. He can't do anything to alter people's perceptions of him. If one person sees one thing, and another sees another, the god can't "correct" this. He just continues to be.

Given the perspective of Otherworlds as "Frames of mind" going in with a somewhat different frame of mind means that you'll see something different. This is the explanation for why the Aeolians worship the Storm Pantheon as saints. They went looking for these entities venerating god, and so what they saw was what they expected, saints.

OTOH, yes, we have to remember to the character going to the hero plane, he's not altering the god's myth, he's "discovering" a deeper, more accurate, version of the myth.

"Ah, so when Orlanth became the storm, we see now that it was the peaceful spring shower, not the violent thunderstorm. So Orlanth is, in fact, Doburdun!"

So, yeah, given that the gods do not change at home, this is the place to find interpretations of the god that you can't get by staring at their unchanging form on the god plane.

So the question is, however, couldn't we just do this on the god plane? Why can't heroquesting there simply be seen as finding deeper meaning in the being in question? "Ah, we've looked deeper than those before us, and we understand the diety better now!" Though it may be possible that the god is "discovered" to be a saint on the hero plane, in the end, it's the god itself and not a hero plane echo, that's communed with at regular ceremonies. Even if it's done by looking at him through the "wrong" filter.

Note that, IIRC, each "Orlanthi Saint" has a node in the saint plane. Basically, I think this is what one sees when one looks at an Orlanthi from the god world, through the "filter" of symbolic sight, or crossing to find him in the Saint Plane.

If we could discern the Glorantha reasoning for why the hero plane exists additional to the unmixed otherworlds I think we might be better able to extract a reason for this. Either we could see why it's Glorantha specific, or what larger cosmological problem it exists to solve.

Mike
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2006, 04:20:21 PM »

I've already participated in some D&D work (World of Greyhawk). I'd love to do a fix of one of the settings more completely.

it's too bad you're not familiar with 3E stuff, simply 'cuz that's the version I'm exposed to, and it'd be nice to have the Holmes Perspective on its mythology. Then again, I'm unsure how much it's changed, so the work you might do could still be applicable/illuminating.

On Middle Earth - my point is merely that it's not a tale of two different cultures. As I'll point out in a bit, more importantly, they all believe in but one magic system (it seems to me). Mithrandir is certainly divine, the elves have some magic, and the humans use the magic made by elves and divine beings like Mithrandir and Sauron. The "West" is the otherworld from whence magic comes in ME. Even if it takes a long time to get there. The hobbits are a captive culture who seem to have no pariticular belief system other than "Home is good."

The Rohirrim have common ancestors with the Dunedain. If they do have a different belief system, I've never seen it. In any case, they don't seem to have any magic. Oh, you could make something up, but that doesn't make the case for multiple otherworlds.

I think I wandered a bit from the point in my Tolkien-geeking and digression. sorry 'bout that. Anyway, you're right about the Rohirrim and their Dunedain descent. I always forget about that, because, well, they seem so different. So Anglo-Saxon, which is of course their very, very strong inspiration, though JRR insisted that they weren't supposed to be equivalent to Old English folk or anything. Still, protest though he did, if language is key, then nowhere is that more telling than with the Rohirrim, who have this whole sort of cultural feel that's radically different from, say, Gondor. I thik they suggest to me a whole 'nother culture and mythology, even if they're "supposed" to be the same.

(Incidentally, have you ever seen this lycical parody? It strikes me that you'd get a kick out of it. Personally, I was singing it for weeks, to the annoyance of friends and family.)

But I'm picking something up from your reply that had sailed over my head before: you're all about the magic as an indicator of distinct culture and mythology, and of course the Eorlings have none. And why wouldn't you be; this is all about justifying the magic system of Heroquest, after all. I was just blinded momentarily by Tolkien-geeking, and losing sight of your main point.

I think the mental block also stems in part from the fact that in real life, we don't automatically think of "culture and beliefs' in connection with magic. Not in the Modern World, anyway. So the fact that the Rohirrim don't seem to "have any magic," i.e. cast spells with overt effects, doesn't, to me, check them off the list for having their own culture. But of course, in the realm of systems for representing fantasy magic, of COURSE a unique culture with its own religion and mytsh is going to have its own magic. So I'm down with all that now. One observation, though; it strikes me that original fantasy (not modern fantasy, mind, but the older tales that were Tolkien's inspiration) WAS by and large about the magic of one, particular culture; the gods and giants and dwarves and elves of Norse tales, are of course all different projections of Norse culture. It's only in our current, more multicultural perspective that we've begun to "zoom out" to weavstories of whole worlds of differing cultures like Glorantha. Not that this invalidates your thoughts, just another dimension to contemplate.

I think that the idea that people in Glorantha don't know about the objectively different otherworlds I got from Greg or Rory on the lists, but I could well be imagining that. In any case, it's how I play it, and how I think it works. I think that if you see the rules related to this as game structures, and the perceptions of the people as much more mustical than sometimes is implied, it goes a long way toward making multiple otherworlds make sense.

I wholeheartedly agree. Like I said, the tone of the book seemed different than this, and the idea that everyone in Glorantha would chatter on about the "God world" and "Hero Planes," was about as appealing to me as the thought of D&D characters referencing each other with lines like "Oh, sneak attack, eh? You must be a rogue." You've provided the missing link for me, so thank you. I'm now seeing how these concepts can be invoked in a reasonably non-cheesy narrative.

Yes, obviously I like it, or there'd be no need to debate it at all. The question is whether or not it's convincing to anyone else. Looks like it's working on Joel, for instance...

Indeed it is. :) As outlined above, I'm really warming up to the whole idea. I think all I needed was to  make narrative sense of it.

Otherworld can almost mean "frame of mind" and nothing else. Thus the "Essence World" in Glorantha is not a place where people often dissappear to, it's really more of a place one can view and see the essential underpinnings of things. Such that one can draw the energy of said underpinnings from that place.

This is way cool and key to your model, of course. The great thing is the veratility it lends; the Otherworlds CAN be distinct places, or just frames of mind, or whatever in-between, as needed for a given fantasy setting. OR, you can challenge and question the true nature of the Otherworlds, and characters' belief in them, within a particular fantasy world. Delicious possibilities. . .

I have a love/hate relationship with misapplied worship, but that's for another thread.

Man, you're just full of promised future threads today. . .;)

Excellent point. Here's my corollary? What is fantasy about? Yeah, sure, we can play D&D, which is all about killin' folks and taking their stuff. But is that fantasy? I mean, before D&D existed, is that what you would have thought of if somebody said fantasy? Even the Gor books are about more than that (see Phil Foglio's "What's New" strip vis a vis "Sex and D&D").

I believe that fantasy is about exploring magic. And to the extent that magic is made subservient in the rules to any other activity, an RPG doesn't really support fantasy.

Excellent point (hah, I just realized I echoed you). D&D isn't really about much of anything, and as we ("we" being the self-segregated ranks of roleplaying subculture) grow more removed from the knowledge and appreciation of actual fantasy, the problem compounds. Like the remark Ron made in an AP thread about gamers "who learned their fantasy from Dragonlance and their SF from Star Wars fandom." When a D&Der's Fantasy sensibilities are inbred, it gets easy to conflate D&D's paradigm with "what fantasy is about." Your remarks here are a breath of fresh air. Ironic, then, that on first glance the HQ system looked as forced and hokey to me as D&D's.

I'd like to clarify, though, that (in my opinion at least) fantasy is about "exploring magic" in a thematic, moral, human-issue way, as opposed to the mechanics of "well, you see, spells of Essential binding can only be accomplished by an Adept of the Third Circle ascending astrally through the Celestial Firmaments. . ." Which is exactly what you seem to be saying; I just wanted to make it explicit. Because I personally was distracted by HQ's details that looked more like the second sort, but now I'm seeing the exploration of first sort running through it all.

Well, I think that was a pretty long and rambly way of saying "Yeah, I get it, cool." But anyway, there you go. :)

Peace,
-Joel
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2006, 06:18:42 AM »

At the risk of belaboring our agreement...

it's too bad you're not familiar with 3E stuff, simply 'cuz that's the version I'm exposed to, and it'd be nice to have the Holmes Perspective on its mythology. Then again, I'm unsure how much it's changed, so the work you might do could still be applicable/illuminating.
I think that it's not changed so much that it's problematic at all. That is, in "converting" to the HQ way of thinking, you're going to alter it slightly anyhow to the extent that the differences between the editions wouldn't be too important. That is, you'd have to alter both editions, and I think the resulting version is practically the same.

I mean it's really quite simple for the most part. The "alignment" (outer) planes simply become various parts of the god world. If you want to try to emulate the idea that each is for one alignment, then, sure, go ahead and assign an alien world penalty for acting in a world other than specifically fits that character's mythology. So your pantheon resides in the seven heavens? Then he'll have a -5 in the other good or law planes, a -10 in the neutral plane, and a -20 in the non-law, non-good planes.

That's not even bending the HQ rules which say that one can aquire alien world penalties even in the otherworld that they're used to, assuming they're far enough from "home." On the other hand, I'm not sure such detail is all that neccessary. Might be fun.

What I wouldn't want to do is to actually try to emulate the actual alignments at all. The homeland I did was for the Archclericy of Veluna, which is the prototypical "Lawful Good" place. Instead of alignment, the people of the homeland simply have typical personality traits like "Know Place in Church Heirarchy," and "Generous." But another "Lawful Good" homeland might have slightly different personality traits. To say nothing of the religion keyword which has it's own specific virtues. The point being that I find it far more beneficial to set up specific value systems than to tag places with a generic "alignment." This can help explain why Veluna and Furyondy don't simply become one nation. They have slightly different values, even if they're both "Lawful Good."

So, you see, in coming up with the homelands and religion keywords, you essentially remove any D&D specific stuff anyhow, and all conversions come out the same.

In defining wizardry and sorcery as coming from certain of the planes, I think you're making enough of a change in perspective that the cosmological differences between editions are, again, minor. The Astral Plane is that place where peoples minds go and wander with astral projection. OK, that's going to be handled the same by HQ, independent of any small cosmological details like certain spells being unusable in the Astral Plane or something.

As I always point out, the idea of such a conversion, IMO, is not to use HQ to emulate D&D cosmology, but to alter D&D cosmology so that it becomes interesting in play. Basically playing Greyhawk with HQ, not playing D&D with HQ.

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Still, protest though he did, if language is key, then nowhere is that more telling than with the Rohirrim, who have this whole sort of cultural feel that's radically different from, say, Gondor. I thik they suggest to me a whole 'nother culture and mythology, even if they're "supposed" to be the same.
I think it's telling that the Rohirrim speak the same language as the Gondorians and the Arnorians (the Rangers). That's a good indicator that you're dealing with but one culture.

Again, sure, I buy that the Rohirrim have had time to become culturally distinct, and seem different enough. But my point is merely that, if they have a distinct belief system, Tolkien never shares it with us. So, I'm not saying you couldn't develop that if you wanted. In that case, then the world you're putting together does, in fact, work with the multiple otherworld scheme, it seems to me.

So on the larger scale of this discussion, again, like D&D, either the Tolkien world is polycultural in which case the otherworld ideal works, or it's not, and drops out for purposes of the discussion.

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(Incidentally, have you ever seen this lycical parody? It strikes me that you'd get a kick out of it. Personally, I was singing it for weeks, to the annoyance of friends and family.)
I'll check it out.

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I think the mental block also stems in part from the fact that in real life, we don't automatically think of "culture and beliefs' in connection with magic. Not in the Modern World, anyway. So the fact that the Rohirrim don't seem to "have any magic," i.e. cast spells with overt effects, doesn't, to me, check them off the list for having their own culture. But of course, in the realm of systems for representing fantasy magic, of COURSE a unique culture with its own religion and mytsh is going to have its own magic.
I think your point about the "modern world" is key here. That is, I think much of the disconnect for us comes from the fact that we see things through the lens of our own belief systems. If you're Catholic (as I was raised), you believe that the Pope is holy and infallible, you believe that at mass the priest makes bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and you believe that these powers come from Christ in heaven acting in the name of his father, God.

How is this not magic?

Magic is the supernatural things that happen because you follow a certain belief system. That belief system may be as simple as, "Roger showed my the Common Magic Feat to Sharpen a Blade" and you don't know the mythological background for the ability. But that doesn't mean it doesn't come from somewhere.

This is the key. All magic has some source, whether it be "natural" or coming from some otherworld entity, or whatever. It is in identifying the source of magic that magic becomes more than just some untility tool in a RPG. It's within the value context of the source of the magic that magic becomes magical. Put another way, if you don't know why you should not use a particular form of magic in certain circumstances, then how can it have a philosophical meaning to it? That even includes "Common Magic" where the lack of meaning is conspicuous. This is why it's "little magic" IMO, not because the effects are neccessarily less important, but because one doesn't attempt to bend the nature of reality very far without having a good, good reason.

Why doesn't Gandalf cast spells all the time? Fear of running out of Spell Points (that wouldn't even wash in MERP where he has hundreds of em)? No, it's because his magic is the same as Sauron's and Sauron can see it from a great distance. There are no rules in MERP for this. In HQ, it's simply Sauron's massive "See Magic of West" ability at work.

See how understanding the source of the magic is important? It links everything together, instead of having magic be this haphazard set of "Spells" that anyone can use for any purpose as long as they've memorized them enough.

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So I'm down with all that now. One observation, though; it strikes me that original fantasy (not modern fantasy, mind, but the older tales that were Tolkien's inspiration) WAS by and large about the magic of one, particular culture; the gods and giants and dwarves and elves of Norse tales, are of course all different projections of Norse culture. It's only in our current, more multicultural perspective that we've begun to "zoom out" to weavstories of whole worlds of differing cultures like Glorantha. Not that this invalidates your thoughts, just another dimension to contemplate.
You're talking about myth again. Fantasy starts with, I dunno, Edgar Allan Poe and Lord Dunsany, and Burrows. Tolkien is a deliberate throwback to myth, I'm arguing, which is why it doesn't work for HQ. Yes, HQ is not about myth, but about a fantasy land in which myth is an active and powerful source of that which makes fantasy fantasy. Magic.

So, Moorcock, Lieber, Howard, Vance, etc. These are the Fantasy authors that HQ supports. D&D is so confusing cosmologically because it seems to be Tolkien at first. There are hobbi...halflings, dwarves, elves (note even keeping Tolkien's misspellings - it's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with an "f"). But that's where the Tolkien ends, and the Dwarves of D&D have their own entire pantheon of gods. It's clear that, unlike Norse myth, where the elves and dwarves are simply part of the myth, that these are cultures all their own, with their own myths.

Yes, largely as a RPG phenomenon this all began with the fact that D&D is a scenario for Chainmail. Meaning that you get to make up the details of the scenario, so you can throw anything in. Gygax compounds this problem by taking Arneson's scenario, and making a pseudo-world around it. Then an actual world of his own Greyhawk campaign. So you hve the world being a polyglot of...whatever fantasy sources. So we expect this now.

Oh, we really can't blame Gary. I mean, Tekumel and Glorantha already existed as poly-cultural worlds from the get go (Glorantha predates RPGs by a decade). So they're already following something more like Howard's Hyborian Age anyhow. But, between these starting sources there was no doubt that "fantasy" was going to mean lots of distinct cultures and beliefs. No surprise, I think, coming from Barker and Stafford and such.

Again, if what you want to play is something more...Arthurian, more mono-cultural, then the otherworld features of HQ are probably more than you need. But if you want to play poly-cultural with magic...then HQ is key, IMO, to looking at the cultural aspects. D&D simply ignores them.

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I wholeheartedly agree. Like I said, the tone of the book seemed different than this, ...
While it's taken me a while to come to all of these conclusions, I have to say that when reading the book (probably HW, actually), the general notion of what it was all about did come clear to me. When I saw what heroquests were, I instantly thought of the various methods that different cultures in the real world have for "going" to otherworlds. The most obvious is the (usually animist) idea of the vision quest. Followed by temple worship rituals. And then, most delightfully to me, it explained wizardry in a way that I never saw before. That is, I'd always imagined wizardry being about seeing the essential nature of things that underlies them. But having mechanics where you can actually see that "world"? That suddenly makes how wizardry "works" all snap into focus for me. That is, now, just like how magic comes to animists and theists through their perigrinations into otherworlds and contacting the being there, wizards could be seen to be doing the same sort of things. Just from the "wizardly perspective."

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... the Otherworlds CAN be distinct places, or just frames of mind, or whatever in-between, as needed for a given fantasy setting. OR, you can challenge and question the true nature of the Otherworlds, and characters' belief in them, within a particular fantasy world.
Yes, here's the key. The characters in the fantasy world have no more a level of objective knowledge of the "truth" of any of this than we do about our beliefs in the real world. All the wizard knows, for example, is that by doing this and that, that he can see visions of what he calls the essence world. And that he seems to be able to go to the hero plane. But do these things really exist? Or are they just a figment of the character's imagination? If they're figments, then why do they work? Well, the God Learners in Glorantha posited that it was just a form of mental energy or something that formed itself to the minds of the believers so that by manipulating it, you could manipulate the gods - or the magic that seems to come from the delusion that is gods.

See what I'm getting at? We have no "proof" that the gods exist in Glorantha, just the rules that say that if a character does X, that it'll seem like a god gives Y magic ability. That's certainly enough to make for faithful characters. What it's not is some incontrovertible proof of the nature of reality. When it comes right down to it, there's still the question of the underlying belief system that's adhered to in order to obtain the powers. 

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When a D&Der's Fantasy sensibilities are inbred, it gets easy to conflate D&D's paradigm with "what fantasy is about." Your remarks here are a breath of fresh air.
But now I've doubled the irony here. Because I do want to play D&D. Sorta. Rather, in every such fantasy setting there were the seeds of "real fantasy." Occluded by systems that made them about the killin' and such. I've always been inspired even by the junky nature of a setting like Greyhawk. I look at the darn hex covered map of it, and think, I wonder what's in this hex here?

The thing is that with D&D, the answer was "Some hidden temple filled with monsters and treasure." OK, not bad, but what if it's "A hidden temple, filled with monsters and treasures there to distract from the real gold which is the culture that built the temple, and the magic that they had which is still ensconsed in said temple." No, not some magic item that one can just pick up and use as though it were some trinket. But the actual rituals cut into the stone of the temple. Their beliefs and rites that allowed them to do great things. Maybe their culture and temple were cast down by a misuse of such magic? Maybe the characters will be tempted to rediscover that magic? Maybe there is some magical artifact there? Does it contain the soul of the last priest of the temple? Will the item simply work for the character, or will the character have to bend to the item's will to get it to work? How to the character's homeland values compare with those of the people of the temple?

See how the setting is now suddenly alive because we're looking at how the background culture and magic are linked? I mean, where do you go "adventuring?" The first "dungeon" published was "Descent into the Unknown" which was the lair of a wizard, for all intents and purposes. Others are wizards' towers and such. Why go to such a place? Because there's magic there. Hidden temples are about theist magic. Crypts and tombs are about what happens to the dead, and what's burried with them. Same with haunted houses. Ancient cities that lie in ruins where many sorts of magic once held reign, now lost.

All of this stuff is great ideas, marred by the "dungeon" concept of a maze with monsters to loot. Looking at it as a miniatures challenge, rather than for the cultural content. What's the only treasure that Gimli finds in Moria? The Book of Balin, recording the heroic last stand of the dwarves. Aren't dwarves supposed to just look for gold in dungeons? Turns out that, when the chips are down, and they're in a rush, a book of cultural notes is the only thing the dwarf stops to look at.

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I'd like to clarify, though, that (in my opinion at least) fantasy is about "exploring magic" in a thematic, moral, human-issue way, as opposed to the mechanics of "well, you see, spells of Essential binding can only be accomplished by an Adept of the Third Circle ascending astrally through the Celestial Firmaments. . ."
Yes, well said. It can be said that narrativism is simply players using the medium to tell morality tales and discuss values. Fantasy is powerful in that it allows us to directly adress matters of belief and deep philosophical conviction. No, that's not saying that you as a player believe in wizardry if you're a wizard. Play is more complicated than that. In that context you could be saying a lot of things. But you can't say anything until you're looking at the nature of the magic and cultures that exist around your character.

Mike
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2006, 10:51:41 PM »

As I always point out, the idea of such a conversion, IMO, is not to use HQ to emulate D&D cosmology, but to alter D&D cosmology so that it becomes interesting in play.

Yeah, awesome. What piqued my interest in this subtopic in the first place was the prospect of making D&D "not suck," as in not be a hokey, cobbled-together mess of arbitrary pantheon-ness.

That is, I think much of the disconnect for us comes from the fact that we see things through the lens of our own belief systems. If you're Catholic (as I was raised), you believe that the Pope is holy and infallible, you believe that at mass the priest makes bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and you believe that these powers come from Christ in heaven acting in the name of his father, God.

How is this not magic?

Yeah, no shit. Part of MY cultural background, which is Baptist Christian, was the vehement definition of Magic as "supernatural powers NOT employed by Christians, and therefore evil and Satanic." The big difference was that a Christian blessing or miracle was God exercising his omnipotent power for our benefit, and emphatically NOT any power inherent in, or wielded by, a practitioner. ANd of course, one of the reasons Catholics were looked down on by we TRUE Christians was because there was so much "magic" or superstition or what have you, in the Eucharist,rosaries, genucflections, and so on. :)

So yeah, we do the same thing as these paranoid, isolationist, primitive cultures in, say, Glorantha, but it's both disguised and diluted (to varying degrees by individual) by our multicultural understanding of the world. Even when exclusionary Christians encounter, say, Buddhism, they have a much vaster understanding of both cultural and religious differences than missionaries a few hundred years ago. And it's a lot easier in many parts of the world to live as part of a community without being a devotee of a specific belief system, than it ever has anywhere before.

You're talking about myth again. Fantasy starts with, I dunno, Edgar Allan Poe and Lord Dunsany, and Burrows. Tolkien is a deliberate throwback to myth, I'm arguing, which is why it doesn't work for HQ.

Point taken.

See what I'm getting at? We have no "proof" that the gods exist in Glorantha, just the rules that say that if a character does X, that it'll seem like a god gives Y magic ability.

Yes, it's awesome.

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When a D&Der's Fantasy sensibilities are inbred, it gets easy to conflate D&D's paradigm with "what fantasy is about." Your remarks here are a breath of fresh air.
But now I've doubled the irony here. Because I do want to play D&D. Sorta.

Well, I don't know that it's SO ironic. . .'cause when I say "a D&Der's inbred fantasy sensibilities," I'm talking about someone who's gotten all their fantasy from D&D and associated fiction, and never (or little) hunted outside those grounds for literary food. I'm NOT talking about taking broader understanding of fantasy literature back into D&D, as you describe.

Anyway, this is all mostly just elaborating on (perhaps, as you said,  belaboring) your point. I'm probably done unless there's more clarification in order. I've had a lot of fun discussing this and you've helped me understand a few things of great significance, both for HQ and fantasy. Thank you.

Peace,
-Joel
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2006, 07:22:12 AM »

The big difference was that a Christian blessing or miracle was God exercising his omnipotent power for our benefit, and emphatically NOT any power inherent in, or wielded by, a practitioner.
Here's the interesting thing. With most of the HQ magic models, the character doesn't "Do" magic. With animists, it's pretty clear, really. The character doesn't cause any magic effects whatsoever. All of his abilities are mundane. All he has are relationships to spirits that, as supernatural beings, cause effects that are supernatural.

Theists, too, are merely causing the diety to channel power down to the mundane world when the character emulates the diety. The character isn't doing anything supernatural, just ritually emulating. The god in question does the supernatural stuff. Even moreso with liturgists, who simply correctly beseech the almighty for blessings in the way he's shown.

Even with wizards, the wizard is just opening up a channel for the essence to do it's stuff.

This is as opposed to natural magic, like the Puma People shapeshifting, which actually is magic that comes from their nature, and directly from their will.

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So yeah, we do the same thing as these paranoid, isolationist, primitive cultures in, say, Glorantha, but it's both disguised and diluted (to varying degrees by individual) by our multicultural understanding of the world. Even when exclusionary Christians encounter, say, Buddhism, they have a much vaster understanding of both cultural and religious differences than missionaries a few hundred years ago. And it's a lot easier in many parts of the world to live as part of a community without being a devotee of a specific belief system, than it ever has anywhere before.
Well said.

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I'm NOT talking about taking broader understanding of fantasy literature back into D&D, as you describe.
Good point. What I'm trying to say is that, in fact, these settings do have fumbling steps towards "proper" fantasy, which is what makes them worthwhile to revisit. In fact it takes very little work to find this fantasy core when making your HQ conversion. You just have to be looking for it.

That's not to say that there aren't issues to deal with, however. For instance check out this list of Greyhawk gods: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Greyhawk_deities

It's not a short list, by any means, but what it looks like to me is one single pantheon. Or, rather many, many single god pantheons. Note the conspicuous lack of a "King of the Gods"? I'd say that it's a list of single god pantheons, except for the fact that there's very little overlap. That is, the gods are designed to each control their own portion of things, and not to interfere with the others.

This is because it's an objective view of the dieties of Oerth. Instead of using a real world model of how pantheons exist, the notion is that the gods do exist, meddle in the affairs of humans, and, if that's the case, then there can't be any "confusion" about which god is in charge of what, etc. There are no (or few) cosmological conundra, because the gods work to ensure that there are none. No case where you have two cultures each with a god of the sun. Just one culture where the sun is worshipped, and another where the moon is worshipped.

That certainly makes things simple, if that's what one wants. But I'd posit that the interesting thing about a multi-cultural setting are precisely the matters of faith that come up regarding these conundra. "We worship the real god of the sun, not you!" Giving objective knowledge of the gods seems to me to be both impossible, and undesirable. What if god B decides to say that he's the god of the sun, too, and has power to back up his claim? What human could say otherwise. It's only in giving a "correct" objective description of the gods - that only this god provides this power, and only that can provide that - can this objective nature get transfered down to the characters.

So...does one create a multitude of pantheons each based off of the god or gods that each culture is said to worship in Greyhawk? Well, that would be one solution, and one that seems to have some support. The source material does say that there are lots more dieties, especially minor dieites, that are worshipped all over.

But that's far too much work, IMO. What's not impossible is looking at it as a single pantheon (or very few pantheons). Well, at least the human parts - the demi-human pantheons having a lack of gods is just indicative of a humano-centric POV. Those each say that they have their own pantheons behind their major gods. One can even discern the "Olman" pantheon (like an Aztec/Olmec pantheon), distinct from the others. Note how they're "special cases" and do, in fact, overlap with the other dieties in terms of sphere's of power.

And there's an easy explanation for this in D&D, too. Linguistically "common" is explained away in Greyhawk by the idea that the Great Empire once spanned all of these countries. So, in fact, what we can see this as is a once mono-cultural empire since split up into many individual cultures. So what you're seeing in the single diety religions of the individual new cultures is simply about a fracturing of the once overall pantheon into local worship patterns.

Yes, this is a convenient description of what's going on, but it's a good one. From this perspective, you can start to build out the religions using HQ. For instance, instead of listing out the pantheon for X country or Y country, you can have the entire pantheon worked out, and simply say that each country has it's own prefered dieties and restricted ones.

The question arises about multiple initiation. I think that from the factionalization of the nations and who they worship, you can find the lines that lie between the different gods. They may not follow perfectly, but probably are in close parallel. So, obviously one can't be an initiate of Saint Cuthbert and of Iuz (in fact, Iuz could be seen as part of a "Darkness" pantheon separate from the main one). Rao and Saint Cuthbert? Sure, why not? Rao and Beory? You may have to make a judgement call on this one.

See how this is all starting to work? Suddenly it really doesn't look all that different from Gloranthan cosmology in which many "elder dieties" like Glorantha herself are somewhat shared in the cosmologies of different cultures. Pantheons aren't strict lines of worship, either, they just indicate tendencies of gods to reject one another.

So now we have a model that works and is very interesting for another reason. Within the "civilized" lands of the world of Greyhawk, where once the empire reigned, you now have the political dissent caused by the fractioning of the once monocultural religion. That means that there's a supposition that all who are faithful to individual gods of the pantheon will co-operate against other pantheons (most notably the dark pantheon), but in practice, I think you'll see friction. Why haven't Veluna and Furyondy become a single entity? Because the Furyondians don't want to accept the clergy of Veluna as their overlords along with their mandatory worship of Rao as highest god. The nobles of Veluna prefer their much more secularly feudal structure. So, yeah, everybody's "Lawful Good?" So what? Everybody thinks they're right, and maintain their independence to enforce this. Can you see how Furyondy and Veluna might end up warring over some border province? Despite having otherwise similar philosophies?

See how applying the HQ model to these things suddenly makes the setting elements become more important? It's no longer "us against the evil orcs" alone. All manner of setting frictions that result from the various philosophies become available.

Even better...how does the clergy of Veluna feel about wizards? Oh, I'm sure that the lords of Furyondy allow them in with their relatively lax standards (though even there, I'm sure that wizards have to watch their steps). But in Veluna? Yeah, D&D says that wizardry and such are, effectively, secularized and not subject to this sort of trouble - and yet elsewhere it'll say that wizards aren't always trusted. Wizardry is weird, why would it be trusted when it provides magical power, a sort of power that can only be trusted as coming from the priests who support the local god? I mean wizardry is magic without a moral center, no? Why would the Archclericy allow it? Even if they allow the worship of some other gods?

See, suddenly the difference between wizardry and theism becomes the reason why anti-wizard biases exist. Ah, but wizardry comes, ultimately, from Boccob, cry the wizards. Is Boccob well known here? Is he a trusted diety? If he's the source, then why aren't wizards simply priests of Boccob?

And now I want to play an Adept/Priest of Boccob. Maybe even an Adept/Initiate/Priest (I'd go for Adept/Devotee/Priest if it were legal - and maybe it is with Boccob?).


Something else to think about, don't get stuck on terminology. Does "Saint" Cuthbert represent a monotheist structure being present in Greyhawk? Complete with Saintly Orders per the HQ rules? Well, I think it would be legitimate to have such an order for sure, but it's pretty clear that Saint Cuthbert is worshipped as a god - once a man, certainly, but one who has apotheosized. As such he's more like a Theist hero cult. But that's not to say that there can't be an order that uses something like the chain of veneration to worship through Cuthbert and get abilities in a similar structure. You could even call it misapplied worship, if you liked.

Or you could make Cuthbert a wizardry exception (I've already proposed one with Boccob), to an otherwise mainly theist pantheon. As Greg says, all religions are to be thought of as having mixed otherworldly antecedents. Even the Orlanthi have Kolat, Ganval, and Torvald.

Or, if you're really ambitious, you could say that Cuthbert represents a monotheist ideal of some ultimate power of good. It'd take a lot to develop it, and you'd have little support, but you could do it if you want. My point is merely that the term Saint here doesn't neccessarily mean anything about the otherworldly source of power.

Mike
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2006, 08:05:32 AM »

Following up on the post above, looking through the data on the Greyhawk Pantheon, I see that under the listing for Pelor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelor) it includes the names for the diety in other languages. Again indicating the notion of an objective pantheon.

I also note that, if one wanted to break this down, that one could create a Flan, Oeridian, Baklunish, etc, set of pantheons. Understanding, again, that after the syncretization of the empire that they are all part of one pantheon, but with the current nations going back to worship only those gods that apply to them.

Or, even better, the imperial pantheon can have been syncretized by heroquest - think of it like what the Lunars are doing in Glorantha - and now that the empire is gone, the overall religion is breaking apart into it's constituent parts again, and in some cases into new religions.

Mike
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2006, 11:49:51 AM »

This is all pretty damn brilliant stuff. That's about all I have left to say at this point.

-Joel
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soru
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« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2006, 10:03:13 AM »

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If two people go to look on a god in the god plane, they must be able to see two different things. In fact, I asked about this, and it's true (assuming I understand correctly). Why would a god "let" this happen? Because the god is unchanging. He can't do anything to alter people's perceptions of him. If one person sees one thing, and another sees another, the god can't "correct" this. He just continues to be.

The hero plane by no means necessary, it's just a convenient way of talking about what people see and experience as a _consequence_ of the god's inability or unwillingness to alter their perceptions.

One important thing is that if a group of people go through a particular questing ritual, they will share a common baseline of perception, can talk to one another about what they see without continually getting into an unplayable situation of 'you see a red deer? I see a blue hawk'. Differences in perception can happen, but they are rare and usually significant.

Normally anything that coherent gets talked about as a place, a 'site', just as I can talk with someone about a web site, say google, even though physically when they communicate with it it will likely be with a different server, and maybe with different display preferences.

The web is a good metaphor for the heroplane. Do something (click a link, kill a guardian), a transition happens, you end up in another place, with another set of options. If you were to map the whole web, you would see a network of paths starting from ritual sites in the mundane world, with paths branching, merging and intersecting.on the way to their destination in a true otherworld.Well-travelled paths fed by many sites would be bright, and there might well be completely different paths to the same final destination.

In fact, one coherent (and probably very hard to prove wrong from the inside) metaphysical view is that only the web exists, there are no otherworlds, just questors interacting with the magical after-effects of previous quest rituals.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2006, 11:32:22 AM »

So, without getting too deep into the epistemology, you're saying that it's a construct that exists for ease of use in play?

Mike
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