Saturday, 19 July 2008

Made in Sartar from Gyrdas

(Appalling pun stolen shamelessly from Stu Stansfield).

As I write, there is currently a debate on the World of Glorantha mailing list about, essentially, whether anybody else can understand a word we're on about. Or more precisely, how difficult to understand are books about Glorantha, and, if the answer is 'very', should we care anyway? The debate began when someone questioned whether the word 'gyrda' (meaning, if you ask the people I've been writing about recently: "some pagan bint that claims to talk to false gods") should be used as is, or replaced with something more easily understood[1].

Myself, I'm inclined to use the simpler term, if I can get away with it. The late Ken Bulmer (who I had the privilege of gaming with for a number of years) used to say, of made-up names in science fiction, "if you can use the real world word instead, do so." I think this is pretty good advice. It doesn't take away from the richness of the world, but it does make it easier for other people to understand.

Of course, there's more to the approachability of a book than the author's choice of words. Not to mention that are many words in any fantasy world that won't have an even approximate equivalent in English - "Rokarism" and "broo", for example. And then there's a whole bunch of proper nouns. So, making allowances for all of that, I wonder how comprehensible my books are, and if they are readily comprehensible, whether that means they're too dumbed-down to get across the richness of the setting.

Some have singled out Thunder Rebels as a book that's too complicated for newcomers to understand. I can't say that I felt that myself, and I think it's a great book, but then I'm not a newcomer. At any rate, whether it is or not, I would have guessed that LotW1: Heroes of Malkion is about on the same level. Which means that if you didn't like the former, because of its level of detail, you aren't going to like my next book, either. So fair warning to you on that front.

This is partly because LotW1 covers a lot of ground. It's not that I didn't try to make it readable (obviously), but the subject requires a lot of detail, and, even then, it's going to be obvious that there's a lot more detail out there beyond that. Which is why there are other books in the Lords of the West series at all, of course.

However, LotW2: Kingdom of the Flamesword is written much more for the beginner. Now, it's not totally self-contained, because there are certain details, especially of the rules, that you'll need LotW1 for. But, as a description of the culture, I think it's fairly comprehensible. It may help that the West is easier to understand than the Heortlings, because it's closer to our own society, and the generally weirder culture of Loskalm may make LotW3: Wizard-Knights a more difficult proposition.

But then, again, there is a lot of detail in it. And there's not much in the way of ready-to-play scenarios, which may not help. It's a culture book... but I'm not sure it's any more complicated than, say, this (which, for all I know, sunk like a stone - but was at least published by a company with a pretty good track record for selling RPG books that people want to buy).

So I don't know, really; I tried to make the book easily accessible, but I'm not myself in a position to know whether I've succeeded. Or if, in so doing, I've wiped out the depth that makes Glorantha as interesting as it is. But I do generally think that the balance of detail and usability of recent HQ books has been about right, and I'd point to Blood Over Gold as a case in point. The Stafford Library series is a different case, but it doesn't pretend to be an easily usable gaming resource in the way that the other books are. To be honest, if I can be on a par with Blood Over Gold, I'll be pretty happy. If you were looking for something more like the old Apple Lane book, with its keyed locations and scenarios, you're probably going to be disappointed with most of what I write, anyway.

[1] Such as, say, "some pagan bint that claims to talk to false gods". Or you could use "wise woman" or "god-talker", I suppose.

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