Selkana's Saga #4: Love and Tradition of the Grand Design
Selkana’s Saga is a new Chaosium blog series by Ellie and Scott Akers, following a long-format roleplaying campaign using the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha system.
Telling Diverse Stories with Role Playing
How setting drives the story, and a crash course on Esrolia
"Help I've joined a Cult", practical advice for the new initiate
Our adventure begins in fire season of 1627. It’s a transitional period in Gloranthan history. The looming apocalypse of the Hero Wars has already been set in motion, though our particular heroes don’t know it yet.
Fresh off years of famine and bloody wars, travel is still dangerous, even on the better-maintained trade roads. Our party of Selkana and Kitha, with their colleagues Laak and Meplep hire on with a caravan. While they will have to work to earn their keep, the caravan provides safety and eases the burden of travel.
The caravan is owned by Itara, a shrewd and competent business woman, and is a family affair. As a permanent traveling caravan, this family all lives and works together. Included in the caravan’s number are many siblings, spouses, and a whole slew of children of all ages. The children are all raised communally, and the caravan is like a small, mobile clan of its own.
Scott: A caravan like this would have extensive connections to the rest of the setting, but we ended up using the caravan largely as a way of exploring Gloranthan families and clans.
Ellie: In ancient societies your job and your family were deeply interconnected. You relied on your clan for survival and kin bonds were extremely important.
Scott: Disconnected people – like your typical adventuring party – would be weird and dangerous.
Ellie: In this society most people in your daily life are related to you by blood or marriage. Those ties help to insure protection and peace in a deeply violent age. Itara has allowed our party to join up because she has extensive past dealings with Selkana’s clan. Interpersonal relations are important to these people.When our party first made introductions with the caravan we made charisma and charm roles to see how the introductions went. While most went well, Laak actually failed his introduction.
Scott: I decided that while being interviewed for guard duty by Kulbran, the caravan’s captain of the guard, Laak had inadvertently insulted the women of the caravan. You see, Yinkin worshipers have a certain reputation as playboy sexhavers. I figured that a rootless, foreign mercenary like Laak would be warned in no uncertain terms that he was not to play homewrecker or break any hearts. I decided that Laak badly messed up when he tried to diffuse the situation. He ended up getting put on the worst possible night watch rotation until he had worked himself into everyone’s good graces.
Ellie: Kulbran doesn't necessarily want this man around his family. These are his sisters and his kin. Having relationships outside of marriage is considered completely normal among the Orlanthi, but once married adultery is considered very taboo. With most of the women of the caravan married, any meddling by Laak would not be appreciated. The Orlanthi have many different types of marriage though. For example Itara the caravan leader has a year husband.
Scott: Marriages among the Orlanthi are about practical matters. The type of marriage tells you whether it’s monogamous, who controls what property, which partner joins the other’s clan, and which clan any children are raised in. Marriages are unions created to insure greater prosperity and the selection seldom involves love.
Ellie: So, Itara and her husband Heratig are in a year marriage. (These can be of variable length and are not necessarily just for one year). Heritag is much younger than Itara and is learning from her how to manage and run a successful caravan. When his apprenticeship with her is over their marriage will be disbanded, and the child that Itara is pregnant with by him will stay with her. So why the need for a marriage? Well Heratig was an outsider to this clan. To bring a outsider into your family is dangerous. By marrying him, Itara creates both emotional and magical bonds of protection that insure this union will be peaceful.
Scott: In Glorantha, marriage isn’t just a cultural contract. Marriages emulate the deeds of the gods. Violating the terms of a marriage isn’t just a bad idea for social reasons: it literally has magical ramifications. An adulterer can bring Chaos down on the clan and retribution from the Gods they offended.
Ellie: Many game settings simply port modern Anglo-centric values and morality into a fantasy world. But people in Glorantha don’t operate under those systems. They explicitly have different experiences with childrearing, marriage and home life than we do.
Scott: With RQG it’s really engaging to dive down into the depths of the setting and get involved with things like family dynamics. But it’s still a game, and it all feeds into the basic fun of roleplaying out interesting scenarios. This session was a fun mix of dealing with the caravan people and handling the rigours and dangers of travel.
Ellie: My favorite thing from this session was the accidental pregnancy crit. Selkana has a lot of fertility magic from her goddess and is a highly trained temple dancer. She was dancing for the entertainment of the caravan one night, and a surprise critical roll came up. We decided this meant that she unwittingly channeled the Goddess to bless Itara’s sister Limarka, and that Limarka and her husband conceived a child that night.
Scott: I had two favourite things from this session. The first was digging out all of the various Gloranthan maps and and gazetteers that I’ve accrued over the years, and then using them to plan out the exact route of the caravan. It was very rewarding to see all my dusty books come to life. The second was seeing Ellie frantically scribbling out the relationship map of the caravan on the side, and then the delight at experiencing them coming to life.
Ellie: Next time we will be heading to the ruins of Whitewall, and running into unexpected company.