Saturday, 15 September 2012

Polytheism and the Lunar Way


Over the years the many many books have been published about Glorantha's Lunar Empire and its major feature – it's supposedly unifying universal religion. Since MRQII was set in a period before the rising of the Red Moon nothing was written about it for the MRQII/Legend rules, so here is my take, adapted freely from Issaries' Publications Imperial Lunar Handbook volumes I and II and Champions of the Reaching Moon.

Polytheism and magic

The natural state of the Gloranthan public is polytheism. A spirit worshipper calls on many spirits from his local area and traditions; a theist prays to the farming god when he plants his crops, the gods of the elements and weather when he wants them to grow, the god of war when danger threatens and so on, and even the monotheistic westerners call on multiple saints and guilds.

And all these gods, spirits and orders allow the person to use magic. Trying to combine magic from different pantheons gets difficult however, if the hierarchies controlling them will even allow you to do so. For example an Orlanth cultist might be able to go up to a Yelm temple and drop a coin in the collection plate, but the hierarchy will be deeply suspicious and will want him to repudiate his previous god before letting him in. A Balazaring shaman who binds a Praxian spirit will be seen as being guilty of kidnap and worse and Praxian shamen will pursue him and punish him, and the fate of a Rokari churchman who is found to have learned spells from a heretical Hrestoli Idealist grimoire will be painful to say the least.

And it is even harder to combine types of magic. Adopting the mindset required to command and control spirits makes the subservience to divine will and the logical frame of mind of sorcery harder and vice versa.

There are exceptions of course, there always are. The Lankhor Mhy Temple at Jonstown contains a grimoire of sorcery spells reformulated and blessed for use by their sages, and priests of Orlanth Thunderous have often controlled wind spirits of the Kolat tradition, but on the whole people who try and combine two or more forms of 'higher' magic are limited to mere dabbling.

Game Mechanics:

Each PC has a maximum number of spells based on his highest rank in any religion, which is his Primary Religion. Each spell from a different pantheon counts as 2 spells, each spell from a different style of magic counts as (Rank in primary religion+1) spells.

For example Tazos of Trilus is a Soldier of Tharkantus (Rank 1) with POW 12. He can have a maximum of POWx0.25 = 3 divine spells. He is also a Hawk Warrior of Balazar (Rank 1), but since his Pact skill is 50% and his Spirit Binding only 30%, Tharkantus is his primary Religion.

Tazos binds a Hawk spirit, counting as 2 spells (his rank in Tharkantus+1). He can now only have one divine spell.

If Tazos joined the cult of Orlanth and sacrificed for an Orlanth divine spell this would count as 2 spells, as Orlanth is from a different pantheon to Tharkantus. If he tried to bind a wind spirit from the Kolating spirit tradition it would count as (2x2) = 4 spells, as it is a different pantheon and a different magic type, and he just couldn't do it.

Primary religion can change if the character puts more effort into learning the new cult theology than in increasing his current one; his access to spells will change if he does so and jealous gods and spirits may well withdraw the magic hey have granted him.

The Lunar Religion

The Lunars are the big exception. The Lunar 'pantheon' is bewilderingly broad and diverse and it includes spirit traditions, gods and sorcerous orders. Lunar worshippers are positively encouraged to follow multiple gods and their most powerful mages will deploy a mix of spirits, sorcery and divine magic.

Lunar gods fall into three main categories:

First are the Moon goddesses. Sedenya and her priests demonstrated that she had always been a part of most Pelorian pantheons, and that the diverse and obscure moon goddesses were all in fact one and the same and were all reincarnated in her, the glorious Red Moon. Ulurda, Gerra, Lesilla, Natha and so on are all older moon goddesses whose worship has been updated to take into accont their status as previous incarnations of Sedenya.

Then there are the 'Healed' deities, mostly minor gods or demons from other pantheons who were converted to the Lunar way through heroquests by Sedenya or major Lunar heroes. These include Yara Aranis, Erelia and Verelia, Alanthor, Blaskarth and others. One favourite Lunar tactic is to find a demon from an enemies pantheon, such as Yara Aranis from the Horse Nomads, convert it and deploy it against them as an Imperial ally.

And finally a there are a whole range of Immortals, mortals who have raised themselves to godhood through devotion to the Red Moon. These are motley crew to say the least, including the original Seven Mothers, deified charioteers and accountants and living demigods like Hon Eel and the Emperor Takenegi, who are descended from the Goddess herself. They include the founders of various sorcerous orders such as the Orders of Borovich, Makabeus and the like.

Most people in the Empire worship these gods from time to time, but are not initiates. A worshipper of the Dara Happan pantheon still owes his primary allegiance to Yelm and will possibly be an initiate of one of the gods of his divine court, but will occasionally pray to Sedenya or one of her aspects as well, and will accept the Red Emperor as his legitimate ruler.

Any Lunar initiate of any cult who knows something of The Lunar Way (see below) can learn and use any moon related spell from any other with no penalty. A Sorcerer of the Order of Makabeus will have the skill Grimoire (Tome of Bleak Despair) and a head full of Makabean spells, but can also learn Pact (Irripi Ontor) and use his Divine magic with no penalty, and Jakaleel the Witch's Spirit Binding (Five Spirit Moons) and have a spirit or two handy as well.

Without this skill the Lunar worshipper has the usual penalties for learning spells from other gods of the same pantheon and different magical traditions.

In addition many of the Lunar gods count as being in a local pantheon as well as the Lunar one. The Red Emperor is not just a Lunar deity, he is a Dara Happan one as well, and a dedicated follower of the Emperor can learn the magic of Yelm, Lokarnos or any of the other Solar deities at no penalty.

Game Mechanics:

If you know the Lunar Way to any level, all Lunar spells count as 1 spell against the maximum known, no matter what type and no matter what rank you are in your primary religion.

The Lunar Way

This is a skill that any initiate of one of the specifically Lunar deities can learn as an Advanced skill.

The starting score is POW, but there is a bonus of 1% per 10% Speak Lunar and 1% per 5% in any Lunar spell casting skill such as Grimoire, Pact or Spirit Binding. This skill cannot be increased by improvement rolls, and training is very scarce and limited to high ranking members of the Lunar hierarchy. Gains can also be made through deeds benefiting the Red Moon.

This link between the Lunar Way and the Lunar language is one reason why barbarians sometimes refuse to learn it, to speak the tongue of the Moon really is to become it's servant.

The Lunar Way can be used to substitute for any Lunar magical skill such as Spirit Walk, Theology or Manipulation, a Lunar learning any new moon-related magical skill can start at this level if it exceeds the usual basic %age.

The skill also affects how influenced a character is by Lunar cycles beyond the Glowline. On the day of the full moon he adds his Lunar way skill, or 20%, whichever is higher, to any Lunar magic roll, on half moon days the bonus is half the Lunar Way or 10%, on crescent moon days there is no penalty or bonus and on Dark Moon days the penalty is the skill in The Lunar Way or -20% whichever is greater. Within the Glowline there is never any penalty or bonus as the magic influence of the moon is 'evened out' by the Temples of the Reaching Moon.

The Lunar Way is also used in the rites of the so-called Lunar Illumination or Sevening, a key stage on the way to becoming a Lunar Immortal oneself. Illuminates receive a bonus of +the crit range of their Lunar Way skill to all magic skills if within the Glowline.

Most initiates of Lunar cults will know the Lunar Way as the knowledge is required to become a Lunar Citizen and is always useful in advancing in the hierarchy of these religions.