Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Magic of Malkioni Commoners

Yes, it's been several months since I've posted here. Not that I haven't been busy writing in the meantime, of course. For one, I have managed to write weekly posts at my mammalogical blog, Synapsida - and those do require quite a lot of preparation. There have been many other bits of writing besides, some of which may eventually appear somewhere for public perusal. But, on the Gloranthan front, I have also continued to write some fan material on Jonatela - what would have been LotW4, had the series not been cancelled.

The latest instalment has taken a while to appear, because its quite a big one - ten new cults, in fact. The next will focus on the wizardry schools and that, too, may take a while because of its complexity (I predict early September). But I think the latest one will likely raise a few questions that I think its worth answering here, rather than in the more formal outlet of the web page itself. The questions are:
  1. Why did I treat the commoner caste cults as I did?
  2. What, if anything, is their relationship to the Orlanth cults?
  3. Why did I even bother?
Taking the first question first, we have to go all the way back to the days of RuneQuest 3. That was the first rules edition to address Malkioni magic in general, or Jonating magic in particular. The RQ3 publication Genertela: Crucible of the Hero Wars says, in the Players Book, that about 75% of Jonatings follow the Orlanth pantheon and gain "the benefits of a barbarian initiate", while the remainder follow the Malkioni religion and receive, unless they are professional wizardry adepts, some limited sorcery magic. There is no indication that - priests and adepts aside - this is anything other than random. That is, parts of Jonatela are Orlanthi, with all the magic that implies, and parts are Malkioni, with all the implications of that.

This was, an aside, recently mentioned as a surprising new revelation by Moon Design... I have no idea why it was considered so surprising now, since it was first published back in 1988, but there you are.

The Genertela Book, however, adds a little more. That says that the Lords worship the Invisible God (albeit together with "any of several war gods") and the peasants "worship Ernalda". That's the approach I took when writing up Jonatela for LotW1, and expanded on in my new writings: the upper castes are Malkioni, and the commoner caste are, in some sense, Ernaldan. It may or may not (probably not, but you never know) be the approach taken when the official material eventually comes out, but its the one that interests me, and I prefer to write about what I'm interested in, especially if I'm not doing it for money.

Now, the thing is, the Jonating peasantry are severely oppressed by their rulers, and Ernaldan magic, while not great for fighting, isn't that crap. It seemed to me that what was most interesting and fitting for the Jonatings was to keep the idea that the commoners worship Ernalda, but to make her magic somehow weaker, not giving them the same level of power that the Heortling Ernaldans enjoy. Since RQ3 only had a limited range of cults to draw from at that time, that the commoners might worship something like Ernalda, without being the full Sartarite version of the cult, seemed then (and seems now) perfectly reasonable to me, and quite consistent with prior publications.

Others may disagree, according to their personal taste, but such was my thinking. And so I created the Elmoi.

But how does the magic provided by the Elmoi work, and how does it fit in with the magic other commoner caste Malkioni? Step forward to the Hero Wars rules. Here, its implied that Malkioni commoners - and for that matter, the knights and nobles as well - never have any magic of their own, just the spells that the liturgists cast on them. That goes against what RQ3 said where, aside from oddities such as the Brithini, all Malkioni can cast at least spells directly. More significantly. if the Jonating peasants are initiating to Ernalda, they're actually better at magic than those in less oppressed countries. Which didn't seem right.

HeroQuest 1 solved that problem very effectively indeed. It introduced something called "Common Magic", which was generally less potent than either wizardry or theism, and it became obvious that that was what the Jonating commoners used. All Malkioni commoners had access to Common Magic, and the Jonatings would be no different. Their magic would look a bit more theist, and there would be specific Ernalda-lite common magic cults that they followed, but essentially, it all fit together.

That was the approach used in LotW1, together with some text elaborating on the Elmoi, and how they made Jonating Malkionism into a form of "henotheism", worshipping other gods alongside the Invisible God. When the manuscript was submitted for perusal by Issaries, it came back with a number of suggested amendments, but nothing disagreeing with the approach I had used for the Jonatings. Also, in fairness, nothing endorsing it, either, so it could be they didn't read that bit. Or that I hadn't written it very well, and they didn't understand what I was getting at. And, of course, even if it was considered acceptable by Issaries then, that says nothing about what Moon Design will do now, since they're hardly bound by an unpublished work by a contract writer.

But, regardless of that, no criticism, so I kept it - and I'm pleased with it. But, of course, LotW1 was written for HQ1, and we've had a new edition since then, and I'm trying to keep my new, expanded, Jonatela material consistent with that, as well as with my own existing work. HQ2, however, makes no mention of Common Magic. That's actually fairly reasonable, since the only culture looked at in depth so far is that of the Heortlings, for whom such magic is relatively unimportant - they all initiate and have full access to theist magic, after all. It's minor by comparison.

Nonetheless, there were no rules on which to base the Elmoi magic. I toyed with the idea of essentially re-inventing Common Magic for HQ2, and using that but, until and unless such rules come out, that didn't seem very fitting. On the other hand, I could hardly give them full theistic magic, as in Kingdom of Heroes, since that was the very thing I was trying to avoid - the commoners would be as magically potent as the wizards, even if they concentrated on different areas.

So, instead, I came up with a stripped down version of theistic magic; only one affinity, no devotees, and so on. Make the affinities themselves pretty crappy (on which more later), and it begins to fit. This also has the advantage of making the Jonating commoners "Ernaldan", or something much like it, and allows me to explain how they're really theists, even if they see themselves as being Malkioni.

It may well be that the official version of HQ-style Jonatela makes the commoners fully Orlanthi, maybe just keeping them down by restricting cults like Orlanth and Humakt to the ruling elite, alongside the likes of Saint Talor. But, unsurprisingly, I like my version, of a weird henotheism that's kind-of-Malkioni-but-not-really, making the commoners emasculated Orlanthi with a partly Malkioni world view. Hopefully, some others will also find this useful.

I'll try and post on the other two questions this raises soon.

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