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Conversation: Ethnicity in Glorantha

As part of my recent swim-about in the internets of Glorantha and its associated games, my friend Nick Brooke and I had the chance to mix it up a little! It's regarding the long-standing interpretations of human ethnicities in Glorantha, including those which made it into published form

One of the setting's claims to fame is that Greg Stafford was educated in anthropology and brought about as much mythic history and understanding of prior cultures into role-playing as anyone has managed to do - his only rival as such, I think, would be M.A.R. Barker with Tékumel. However, and especially given that perspective, one may ask why we don't see easily-understood designations of ethnic forms in the setting.

Nick and I have differing but often-compatible views ... well, I just realized, about everything ... so we jumped at the chance to bounce ideas at one another. Now, this is a friends-talk, so we give each other some shit and a lot of the agreement or appreciation is understood rather than voice. Also, sometimes something that's said doesn't develop down a nice little five-item topics outline and eithe picks up later, or fell aside.

For maximum benefit and to make this worth your while, I suggest electing yourself to be a participant and throwing in your notions in the comments. Agree, disagree, throw some shade, pitch in.

It's audio-only but I put in lots of pictures to make it viewable. I hope you like it!

Department: 
Seminar

Comments

Sean_RDP's picture

This was an enjoyable listen. 

Just a few thoughts, which may or may not be interesting.

I have always felt that Glorantha fits into the chaoskampf much more than just basic mythic fantasy. Whether that was intentional or not, or even relevent, I cannot say. Not having been in any of the creative discussions. My thinking is that we see Glorantha as a formed world where individual heroes occasionaly emulate past accomplishments of immortal beings to set the present on a particular course. But I don't think so. I think Glorantha is the world of Marduk vs. Tiamat. It is early Biblical texts. It is any number of possible Ur myths associated with the creation of cultures across the globe. The final form of Glorantha has yet to be decided. The final form of the myth of its creation is still to be decided. Third Age is not a post-mythological world. 

So, what does that have to do with ethnicity? Well, and I admit this is only something I have thought about in the last few years, ethnicity is largely irrelevant. Now, it is very relevant to us as designers and players and to the RPG sphere, but to this unformed world, what you look like doesn't matter to anyone. At least, anyone in the fiction of the game.

Culture matters, sure. In the US we still deal with the issues of racism and bias because of skin color, but one thing a southerner who is white and a southerner who is black agree on is that unsweet tea is garbage. That is their shared (for good or ill) culture. In Glorantha, what does a Sarterite look like? Doesn't matter. What they believe and the cults they follow are what matters. Especially in light of the existence of the elder "races". 

That is what I would say to a new player. Your character can look like anything they want, really. What defines you is your beliefs and your cultural biases, not the color of your skin or the shape of your head. 

Sean_RDP's picture

Elder Races - I realized that was an unfinished thought.

Simply, the Elder Races, one might say "the better races" are where we see the kind of xenophobia and chauvanism one typically runs into in the fantasy tour. Trolls are great and largely live their own existence, free of Billy Goat Gruffs... unless you count the broo. But the elf and dwarf inerpretations, while interesting, don't seem to matter to the conflict at hand. Are they just observers? 

For the record, while I have no issue with Ducks, I don't know enough about them in Glorantha to have an informed opinion. But they too seem largely to be observers of the human nonsense that makes the world go.

Sean_RDP's picture

What about Fronela?

I realized that much of what we talk about is just the middle of the map of the upper continent. Do the people in Fronela care about the Hero Wars? I have no idea. Our cultural biases tend to have us focus on the center and ignore the margins, but the Malkioni don't necessaruly care about Dragon Pass. 

Again, is this relevant to the overall conversation? I think it is. 

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