The Let's Play Archive

King of Dragon Pass

by Haifisch

Part 26: Dwarves 3

OK, let's talk a little more about the Mostali and the Clanking City.

When Stafford was designing Glorantha, computing was still in its infancy, so you have to imagine that heavy-duty programmers tend towards dwarfish physiques, were pale and stayed indoors all day, and all had goony neckbeards... uh... so not much imagination needed, I guess.

The Mostali are partly a riff on these guys, who spend all day working for the Machine and only eat artificial/processed food.

Dwarfs are obsessed with fixing the World Machine, which they alternately blame almost everyone for damaging. That includes the Aldryami, whose uncontrolled growth is disgusting to dwarfs, Umath the head of the Air family for separating earth and sky, and trolls because trolls like to live in the same sorts of places as dwarfs. Trolls also eat dwarfs, presumably because trolls will eat almost anything. Dwarfs actually hate the other races more than they hate Chaos, because Chaos is from outside the Machine and thus doesn't require repairs, while everything else is a part of the Machine that's gone wrong.

Dwarfs use sorcery exclusively, and there's strong suggestions that the Brithini achieved their immortality by adopting Mostali ways (Stasis, basically) but by modifying them (Stasis into Law, which permits change but only under strict rules).

Here's a little about the dwarf subtypes (these are all Clay dwarfs):
Rock: Miners, who also quarry and build with stone. Architects and sculptors. They can also work in cement.
Lead: Invented plumbing and glassblowing. They also are in charge of wards and seals to block off entrances.
Quicksilver: Dwarf alchemists. They can make gunpowder and they also make what passes for food.
Copper: Tool makers, who also make coinage, machine parts and some kinds of weapons.
Tin: Summon and control gnomes (earth elemental constructs, basically), and build other semi-alive constructs as well as making replacement limbs and the tin cans dwarf food is stored in. Nilmergs are basic constructs that do repair tasks on machines. Sometimes they go wrong; the dwarfs train these gremlins to go sabotage devices, especially dwarf devices stolen by other races. The dwarfs can also make gobblers, who each are programmed to desire one food above all else, typically gunpowder
Brass: Metallurgists. Also in charge of keeping the forges going.
Silver: Enchanters and sorcerers.
Gold: Teachers and lore-keepers.
Iron: Blacksmiths who concentrate on armor and weapons.
Diamond dwarfs represent the best of each specific subcaste, and are theoretically replacements for the original Mostali, although some heretical dwarfs believe this is a terrible mistake.

The Clanking City:
Earlier sources on the Clanking City suggest that the mass-production of magic items (in a setting where permanent magic is almost unheard of) was the least of the horrors perpetrated here, and to some degree, the newer source material spoils things by defining what the place was like. Dwarfs, Orlanthi and a variety of other peoples gathered together to destroy the place and trap the ruins, and I get the impression many of the Godlearners were unhappy about what was going on inside.

In part, that's because they were creating a Machine God, Zistor. The Orlanthi (and non-heretical dwarfs) considered that a particular horror. Legends say that Orlanth contended himself with the Machine God when the city was thrown down. Zistor's creation bears a certain similarity to the creation of Nysalor in the First Age. Traditional Orlanthi believe both represented an attempt of Chaos to leak in under the guise of beauty or utility.

I've always preferred to think that the machinery of the Clanking City was intended to do far more than just make weapons. It was an attempt to automate things like heroquesting. Imagine if you had a machine that could run that Humakt quest and bring back magic items... that would allow you to mass "manufacture" magic equipment, but in theory it would also give you the ability to rewrite everyone's heropaths because you could "tread out" a deeper path on the Godplane than the actual worshipers could by simply running the quest over and over and over.

In some ways, this is far worse than the godswapping experiments other Godlearners were up to, because on a fundamental level most of the Godlearners didn't really understand how the Godplane actually worked.

Want to get really creeped out? I have some suspicions that the Pharaoh in the Third Age represents something cognate to the Clanking City people in the Second Age, although what the Pharaoh's abusing isn't on quite the same scale and is different in degree.