Civilized spirits

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PhilHibbs
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Civilized spirits

Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:39 am

One of my players wants to play a civilized Witch, and pick Spirit Walking and Spirit Binding. Now I'm guessing that the intention was that civilized witches should pick sorcery whereas barbarians, nomads, primitives get either divine or spirit. But, I don't want to say "no". I guess there will be spirits in and around civilized areas, and old traditions die hard. Coming from Jrustela is probably not an option, but any large town or city on the southern Genertelan coast is a possibility. Any suggestions where might be a good place for a civilized spirit witch to come from?

As to spirits - a rat spirit would be useful, maybe brick elementals, or air conditioning elementals? With the vast amount of sorcerous magic fizzing around the Middle Sea Empire, Guardian Spirits would be commonplace.
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Postby Exubae » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:56 pm

Cool Idea, that opens up a bit of scope for cults disposed worshipping in dark secluded corners of the empire.
That once glorious river that ran through the city which now makes up the main flow of the cities sewers; shes was once a benign Niad- well shes back and mad, shes managed to get a rag tag outfit of lowlifes to worship her and is provide all manner of unpleasant spirits to blight those who torture her.
Dankness Spirit (posseses an object and covers it in a layer of slime)
Fouled Water spirit (Turns water unpotable/cause vomiting)
Bad Wind Spirit (Bad smells)
labyrinth Spirit (born from the enigma of mans creatons, causes befuddle on targets)
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PhilHibbs
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Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:54 pm

Exubae wrote:That once glorious river that ran through the city which now makes up the main flow of the cities sewers; shes was once a benign Niad- well shes back and mad, shes managed to get a rag tag outfit of lowlifes to worship her and is provide all manner of unpleasant spirits to blight those who torture her.
But the PC is part of civilized society, so s/he could be playing a mediation role between the spirits and the human world, propitiating the spirit rather than being its agent of revenge. The authorities are going to take a dim view of shamanic practice going on in their back yard, but in these more liberal and inquisitive times, I'm sure an informal accommodation can be reached.
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Postby Rungard » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:02 pm

Perhaps she could worship the spirits of the city ancestors, the spirits of the founders from which the noble families stem. These spirits' main goal is to preserve city traditions and city harmony. In return, they ask to be remembered and duly honored.
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PhilHibbs
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Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:09 pm

Rungard wrote:Perhaps she could worship the spirits of the city ancestors, the spirits of the founders from which the noble families stem. These spirits' main goal is to preserve city traditions and city harmony. In return, they ask to be remembered and duly honored.
Ancestor worship is too dangerous for Malkioni authorities to allow, you might get good citizens thinking "cool, I'd like to be worshipped, screw this Solace lark!"
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Postby Simulacrum » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:10 pm

In my (non-gloranthan) campaign there's an example of a (secret) spirit cult in a sorcery and theist-dominated civilisation that has grown up as the only way to make contact with a sun god whose worship is outlawed; there's also an entire civilised culture that practices ancestor worship, with the priestly caste having shamanic rather than divine magic skills.
I see no reason why spirit magic has to be confined to primitive or illiterate cultures. If it works it works, why abandon it if it retains cultural relevance because just your society has developed?
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Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:28 pm

GeneralPanic wrote:I see no reason why spirit magic has to be confined to primitive or illiterate cultures. If it works it works, why abandon it if it retains cultural relevance because just your society has developed?
I think the theory is that in order to run a large, organized society, monotheism is a huge advantage. It gets everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, both literally and metaphorically. Pantheism is inherently divisive and leads to the break up of empires into warring states. Therefore the Malkioni (or Christians or whatever) will have to stamp on pagan traditions, as they represent a very real threat to the empire. Alternatives are bad. Having the Sun as your main god is a decent alternative to montheism, as Dara Happa demonstrates, and all the successful empires that had pantheons had a strong ruling deity, but monotheism denies all pantheons, which is one step up the ladder.

So, any "primitive" traditions that survive in a monotheist empire will have to be find a very precarious niche, where they are subservient and non-threatening to the dominating religion. If any particular witch gets in trouble with the authorities, then a nice cooling-off period away adventuring somewhere might be in order.
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Loz
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Postby Loz » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:43 pm

The Romans successfully merged pantheism, shamanism (the Oracle) and ancestor veneration without any inherent conflict.

The Japanese merged mysticism and animism and ancestor veneration, again, without conflict.

The Jewish faith mixes monotheism and mysticism...

I think you could most certainly have ancestor veneration in Malkioni cultures. The ancestors would rank between mortals and saints, and thus have limited powers.

Its ripe of God Learner experimentation:

Lord Blackadder: 'Bloody hell, Baldric, I've just discovered that there's a plane between here and the Saints Plane where my great, great, great grandad lives...'

Baldric: 'Fell a bit short on the old Solace then, did he?'

Blackadder: 'Let's just say he was more into Arkat than was good for him.'

Baldric: 'Got you, boss. Mum's the word. So, what can we do with him?'

Blackadder: 'Well, you'd be surprised what all these ancestors see and interpret. If you treated them just right, offered them some gifts to make them feel important, they could be powerful allies. I mean, they still believe in the Invisible God; they just haven't managed to achieve Solace and Joy yet. We could help them on that path, in exchange for, y'know, knowledge...'

Baldric: 'Hmmm. I have a cunning plan my Lord...'
What am I supposed to say?
Where are the words to answer you,
When you talk that way?


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PhilHibbs
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Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:12 pm

Loz wrote:The Romans successfully merged pantheism, shamanism (the Oracle) and ancestor veneration without any inherent conflict.

The Japanese merged mysticism and animism and ancestor veneration, again, without conflict.

The Jewish faith mixes monotheism and mysticism...
Sure, but once exclusive monotheism came on the scene, look how much better it did than anything that came before it.
Loz wrote:I think you could most certainly have ancestor veneration in Malkioni cultures. The ancestors would rank between mortals and saints, and thus have limited powers.

Its ripe of God Learner experimentation:

Lord Blackadder: 'Bloody hell, Baldric...'
Excellent! Yes, there's much fun to be had with God Learners trying to muck about with my poor player's spirit practice.
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Postby Rungard » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:56 pm

Loz wrote:
Baldric: 'Hmmm. I have a cunning plan my Lord...'
Brilliant! I suddenly want to play a Malkioni lesser noble and his servant with a cruel GM!!! :D :D :D
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Postby Cleombrotus » Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:30 pm

It sounds like a good character concept to me. I think that of all RQ magic systems, shamanism can be represented as the one that chooses the character rather than the character choosing the system, i.e choosing a cult or apprenticing yourself to a sorcerer. So this character can talk to spirits. If this is discovered they are destined for just persecution as are all heretics.

I know these are crass examples, and I don't go for tongue in cheek stuff personally, but unwilling (yet inherently skilled) spirit magic wielders are easy to write adventures for:-

Whoopie Goldberg in "Ghost" and Michael j Fox in "The Frighteners".

The idea of having to keep your magical affinity a secret dates back to Orlanth worshippers in Pavis having to attend ceremonies for other Lightbringer cults.
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Postby kintire » Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:52 pm

The Jewish faith mixes monotheism and mysticism...
And let's not overlook the very strong tradition of Christian mysticism, or the fact that ritual magic that looks a lot like sorcery flourished in Christian Europe: although not practiced actually by the church.

Usually.

Ancestor worship was practiced by the Chinese, who are not noted for excessive lack of civilisation. On the Gloranthan side ancestor worship is widely practiced in Peloria.

And also, I would be very very wary of drawing comparisons between real world history and Glorantha. After all, historically the pagan gods were...shall we say... a little less active than in Glorantha, and that does make quite a difference!
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Re: Civilized spirits

Postby duncan_disorderly » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:07 am

PhilHibbs wrote: Coming from Jrustela is probably not an option, but any large town or city on the southern Genertelan coast is a possibility. Any suggestions where might be a good place for a civilized spirit witch to come from?
Spolites are described as witches and are (reasonably) civilised - not sure what type(s) of magic they use though

There will be Spirit worshippers of Serdrodosa, the Earth Witch in Esrolia, and Nochet, at least must count as civilised

In the 3rd Age, Jalakeel the Witch will be one of the 7 Mothers, and she is a shaman, so there must be some sort of tradition in Peloria that she came from...
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Postby PhilHibbs » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:13 am

Clarification: the rest of the party are all from the Middle Sea Empire, so the character will have to fit in with them.
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Postby kintire » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:13 am

That's no problem. The Middle Sea Empire is a cosmopolitan realm that welcomes those of all faiths and spirit traditions freely so that their beliefs can be studied for future plundering and manip... uh, for future partnership and increase in understanding. And, of course, for proselytising.

Remember, while the closemindedness of the Third Age Malkioni is a strand in the MSE, it isn't dominant.

Of course, those who take advantage of this hospitality might eventually wish it was...
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Postby Vagni » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:34 am

kintire wrote:And also, I would be very very wary of drawing comparisons between real world history and Glorantha. After all, historically the pagan gods were...shall we say... a little less active than in Glorantha, and that does make quite a difference!
Easy for you to say, I just had a very angry Thor come round...seems I'd forgot to return his lawn mower...talk about a temper... :roll:
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Postby Jujitsudave » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:37 am

i don't know much about Glorantha, but I do know that ancient Celtic religions were more closely in keeping with Animism than worship of particular gods. Although they did have gods (Oghma comes to mind) their druids, if I'm not wrong, seemed to be interested in nature spirits and placating them rather than adherense to deity based religion.

My point is that a Druid may be more likely to be based on shaman magic than divine. Hopefully that has relevence in this conversation.
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Postby Vagni » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:28 am

Interesting point Jujitsudave.

The Viking/Norse faith also had it's spirits and ancestors what were venerated, often alongside or instead of the major deities. I suspect most pagan faiths had similar patterns too.

I'm looking forward to the Vikings book to see how this has been approached, the preview looks fantastic. :D

One of the themes of this thread seems to be a gentle encouragement to experiment with the Gloranthan cultures and cults, not necessarily just to stick rigidly to the official write ups. The rules for spirits in MRQII certainly give a lot of freedom on this score.
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Postby Simulacrum » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:34 am

PhilHibbs wrote:
Loz wrote:The Romans successfully merged pantheism, shamanism (the Oracle) and ancestor veneration without any inherent conflict.

The Japanese merged mysticism and animism and ancestor veneration, again, without conflict.

The Jewish faith mixes monotheism and mysticism...
Sure, but once exclusive monotheism came on the scene, look how much better it did than anything that came before it.
You can equally ascribe the rise and success of monotheism to its convenience for large scale autocracy. From well before 3000BC to 380AD polytheism was the rule (except in Israel and the actual date at which monotheism became the norm is debatable). In the earliest times - eg transition from pre-dynastic to Old Kingdom Egypt - single divinities of only local relevance were gradually assumed into pantheons serving a wider culture and sometimes became "national". From the Hellenistic period onwards and inspired both by the problem of how to assimilate the gods of foreign cultures, there was a lot of movement in higher circles towards a syncretic monotheism - whereby similar deities could be regarded as aspects of one "superdeity" (for an example see Isis' speech to Lucius in The Golden Ass), and to deifying kings and emperors, or abstracts such as the notion of Rome, to offer cults that could be recognised empire-wide. Conversion to monotheistic religions superceded these efforts, but hardly succeeded in perpetuating the status quo or of keeping highly developed and populous civilisations on track.

Monotheism obviously stuck, and embedded itself in the power structures of medieval society, but has clearly declined with the retreat of autocracy - you can of course debate whether that's a valid link or just a coincidence. But to ascribe it greater success or utility for civilised societies than polytheistic or even animist religions is, as Loz has indicated, assuming that what happened over the last couple of thousand years (rather than the many thousands before that) as indicative of the way it would always have happened - and not massively relevant in comparison to a fictional world where there is no "uncertainty" about the existence of gods and magic. In the real world, so far as we know, noone ceased to recieve a magical benefit or got magically punished, for abandoning old rites and embracing the new. Perhaps most relevant to the OP (apologies for the digression) is whether people who do things another way to their compatriots are tolerated, or else oppressed for apostacy. It may be a simple as whether you are allowed to intermarry, to own land, whether you pay tax. The real world comparison on that score is pretty compelling, and has always played a powerful part in the drama of Glorantha.
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Postby Mongoose Pete » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:51 am

GeneralPanic wrote:You can equally ascribe the rise and success of monotheism to its convenience for large scale autocracy...

Monotheism obviously stuck, and embedded itself in the power structures of medieval society, but has clearly declined with the retreat of autocracy
This subject is particularly examined in Vikings, where the historical introduction of Christianity appears to have been specifically encouraged by Viking rulers to strengthen control over their less enthusiastic pagan populations.
Nice to get a reminder that these rules were written assuming a quite different sort of campaign from the munchkin "It's in the rules so you have to let me do it, look at me buffing my character I'm going to go kill now arrgrgrgrh" approach. -dbhoward

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