understanding chaos

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understanding chaos

Postby mwsasser » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:18 am

Heya guys, I have a new question. Do any of the sourcebooks cover Chaos itself? Is it a place? There seem to be lords of chaos right?
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Postby Loz » Mon Jul 13, 2009 3:38 am

Which setting are you discussing here? Glorantha, Elric or something else?

Usually, Chaos isn't a place. There are places that have been tainted by chaos, such as Dorastor in Glorantha; and there are Lords of Chaos, such as Arioch in Elric, but the term chaos may have different connotations according to the setting.
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Postby The King » Mon Jul 13, 2009 11:42 am

May be he is refering to the book of chaos for Glorantha which I asked for sometimes ago.
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Postby mwsasser » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:47 am

Well... many of the monsters are considered to be monsters of chaos. There is a chaos deity mentioned in monsters 2 linked to certain monsters. It just seems that chaos is mentioned specifically a lot but chaos itself is not explained. Nor is anything that is supposed to balance chaos.
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Postby Loz » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:54 am

Okay - so are you talking about the monsters in Deluxe RQ, or the monsters found in RQ Monsters II? I need to ask these questions to give you the best answer.

In Glorantha, where many of the monsters from RQ Monsters II are drawn from, are chaotic or chaos-tainted, and indeed, Glorantha has pockets of land that are tainted by chaos. So, what is chaos for Glorantha?

Chaos is the absence of laws. It is existence without rules or guidance, continually changing, utterly amoral (note - this does not necessarily mean evil), without respect for life, yet continually creating more of it. It threatens to overwhelm Glorantha and nearly did, during the Great Darkness, when the sun died and the gods were in turmoil. Chaos is complete abandon: but it is not necessarily evil.

What balances chaos is unity: the unity of gods, the unity of life, and the unity of the runes. That unity can be broken at any time, and some gods, like Storm Bull and the Troll Gods, actively make war against chaos to preserve the unity. Others are more ambivalent. No one thing opposes or balances chaos in Glorantha - save the continued efforts of people to battle it where it occurs.

Chaos in Elric, however, is something entirely different (though with a great many similarities) and works very differently.

I hope this goes some way to answering your question.
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Postby duncan_disorderly » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:27 pm

Loz wrote:Chaos in Elric, however, is something entirely different (though with a great many similarities) and works very differently.
Chaos in Elric is Creation/Entropy and is opposed by Law which is Sterilirty/Order. Either taken to extremes are not good for "normal life". The ideal state is the Cosmic Balance, where both forces cancel each other out allowing for a peaceful and fruitful existance.

Chaos in Glorantha is a sort of Cosmic Cancer. It is destructive rather than creative. (Chaotic "fertility" dieties might include Ragnaglar - driven insane by lust, Thed - Goddess of Rape, or Bagog, the Scorpion Queen who feeds on others in order that they may be reborn in her image). Dieties like Porchamgo the Mutator, or the Gorpgod are really just changing non-chaotic creatures or matter in to chaos in their own image rather than genuinely creating.


In Moorcock's Multiverse, Law and Chaos are philosophical positions (as well as being religions) - groups, nations or species may tend towards one or the other, but other than social pressure, there is little to stop a Melnibonean worshipping a God of Law. And while people will be more comfortable with others who share their views, worshippers of Law and Chaos can be friends or allies (providing they aren't to extreme) - just as in our world Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims can all be friends, even if, in some places and/or times their beliefs are violently opposed.

In Glorantha Chaos is more like HP Lovecrafts cthulhu mythos. Some creatures are doomed to chaos by the actions of their ancestors (The wild healer of the Rockwood Mountains is supposedly a Broo who is free of the taint of chaos, but there are few, if any others). Those who choose to join a Chaos cult seeking power are like Cthulhu Cultists - If they weren't mad when they made the decision, they are almost certainly less than sane as time goes on, as the Cult feeds both their ego and their paranoia and sociopathic tendancies.
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Postby mwsasser » Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:26 pm

I think Loz's answer probably came the closest to answering my question. I do not have any books besides the core ones, no Elric or Glorantha specific books at all.

I think the info about the monsters seems to be very heavy Glorantha oriented and not campaign neutral. Frequently monsters are listed as a "creature of Chaos" or "foot soldiers of Chaos" with chaos being upper-cased. I had assumed the clanking planes were the balance for chaos at first from the monster books descriptions but I'm now thinking its an entirely different thing from Glorantha source material. I assume things like the "Great Darkness" and many of the named gods are also Glorantha material but its only a guess since I don't have that material. So I'm still not sure if Chaos is a place or just a concept. The books are unclear.

My confusion is further exacerbated by the many unfortunate sentence structure problems in the books too, its a shame there are so many in the published material.
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Postby Loz » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:01 pm

I don't think the books are unclear.

RuneQuest's default background is Glorantha - although as a rule-set it can be used in any fantasy background you wish. Although you don't have Glorantha: The Second Age, I do recommend it; as well as being a fine fantasy setting book it contains lots of ideas that you could use for your own setting.

RuneQuest Monsters II states quite clearly - on the back cover blurb and in the introduction - that it concerns itself primarily with Gloranthan creatures, whereas RQ Monsters I was a generic book.

But, I'm glad that you have your question answered (more or less). Chaos changes depending on how, and where its being used. Duncan's summary of Moorcockian chaos for Elric was very nice and succinct!
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Postby duncan_disorderly » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:26 am

Loz wrote:I don't think the books are unclear.
I think they are. The problem arises because the books are conflicted between whether they are a generic rule set (in which case they should *be* generic, with no Gloranthan, Morcock, Lieber etc references in the body of the rules) or a set of rules which default to Glorantha, but can be adapted for use elsewhere (in which case the body of the rules should *be* Gloranthan, with sufficient explanation of core concepts (like Chaos) to allow newcomers to understand them, and any suggestions for alternative settings clearly labelled as such and kept out of the way in sidebars and/or appendicies.
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Postby Loz » Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:53 pm

No more unclear than RQ versions 1 or 2, both of which were explicitly Gloranthan, but offer no clear definition of Chaos beyond the somewhat obscure description of the Chaos rune.

If you look at the section on Creatures and Chaos from RQ Monsters, and which can be found on pages 198 and 199 of RQ Deluxe, the definition of Chaos and how it relates to Gloranthan creatures is better (but not perfect), and does offer some description of what Chaos creatures exhibit in terms of features and their rarity - both for Glorantha and 'generic' settings.

I don't think its unreasonable for RQ Monsters vol II, which is the volume mwsasser was referring to in his original post, to not delve into a definition of Chaos. This book explicitly says that it concerns itself with Gloranthan creatures, both on the back of the book and the intro. Its therefore not unreasonable to presume the primary audience will also have Glorantha the Second Age or some Gloranthan familiarity. So, on that score, I don't think the books are as unclear as you're suggesting Duncan.
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Postby Deleriad » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:12 pm

Loz wrote:No more unclear than RQ versions 1 or 2, both of which were explicitly Gloranthan, but offer no clear definition of Chaos beyond the somewhat obscure description of the Chaos rune.
I do think the current RQ Deluxe rulebook is neither Gloranthan enough nor generic enough. RQ1&2 were explicitly Gloranthan but very terse. RQ3 tried to be more generic and generally succeeded though the assumption that everyone got magic of some sort was very un-generic.

I do think the RQ core book needs a section - doesn't have to be much more than 1500 words saying what Glorantha is and its main premises alongside a parallel "playing RQ in different settings" section. It would basically be free advertising for other Mongoose books after all. I seem to recall that the GM's Handbook has something to that end but don't recall exactly.

I suppose one issue might be that chaos is not that relevant to most Second Age settings but it's a term that piques interest.
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Postby mwsasser » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:16 pm

I didn't read the back cover because I expected it to be a rehash of the name of the book. I mean, what can be more descriptive then the label?

I do think that a newbie like me coming into this system is really going to be confused by the poor description of Chaos. Mongoose fumbled the ball on this one.
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Postby Pruneau » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:25 pm

Or... you could try a google search for chaos + glorantha and find out a lot more about what chaos is and how the gloranthan population looks upon it. I'd post the link here if I knew it was allowed.

But then again, I could see how someone new to RQ and Glorantha might be at a bit of a loss at first, and I think it is a valid point that concepts that are totally familiar to old RQ players might need a bit of clarification for new players. After all, not everyone read King of Sartar or Drastic Resolutions.
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Postby Loz » Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:23 pm

I do think the current RQ Deluxe rulebook is neither Gloranthan enough nor generic enough. RQ1&2 were explicitly Gloranthan but very terse. RQ3 tried to be more generic and generally succeeded though the assumption that everyone got magic of some sort was very un-generic.

I do think the RQ core book needs a section - doesn't have to be much more than 1500 words saying what Glorantha is and its main premises alongside a parallel "playing RQ in different settings" section. It would basically be free advertising for other Mongoose books after all. I seem to recall that the GM's Handbook has something to that end but don't recall exactly.

I suppose one issue might be that chaos is not that relevant to most Second Age settings but it's a term that piques interest.
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Postby Loz » Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:26 pm

mwsasser wrote:I didn't read the back cover because I expected it to be a rehash of the name of the book. I mean, what can be more descriptive then the label?

I do think that a newbie like me coming into this system is really going to be confused by the poor description of Chaos. Mongoose fumbled the ball on this one.
I agree with you 95%! :)

I think there's an incorrect assumption that everyone in gaming instinctively understands what the term Chaos implies; but as this discussion's proved, it's wrong to make that assumption. I absolutely agree that a good description of Glorantha needs including in the RQ rules, and that Chaos should be either part of that definition or made clear elsewhere.
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Postby duncan_disorderly » Thu Jul 16, 2009 8:54 am

Loz wrote:
I don't think its unreasonable for RQ Monsters vol II, which is the volume mwsasser was referring to in his original post, to not delve into a definition of Chaos.
RQ Monsters 2 is part of the confusion.

It is "mostly" Gloranthan monsters (but not entirely) and is a "Generic" book, not explicitly a "Gloranthan" one. It is thus entirely reasonable for someone not interested in, or aware of Glorantha to pick up the book expecting it to contain monsters that are not tied to a specific setting.

If Mongoose wanted a generic monster book then they should have made Monsters 2 generic. If they wanted a Gloranthan Bestiary for MRQ then they should have excised the generic and emphasised the Gloranthan. Trying to be all things to all men just ends up satisfying no one.

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