Home Forums Glorantha Glorantha Discussions Role of women in Glorantha

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    Profile photo of Carcosa

    Just as background, I am starting a Griffin mountain campaign, and my players all come from a DnD/ Pathfinder background. During character creation,one of the women was somewhat taken back by the traditional roles of men and women in the Balazaaring territory ( more specifically of the tribes where only hunters (males usually) can vote while women tend the home, the children, and the cooking).
    After reading through some of the guide it seems that women generally hold more restricted positions in society, especially deferring to men. If I remember correctly even in Darra Happa women are subservient to men. My female players character has been deep into the Lunar empire and back. Is there anything encouraging to tell her about the role of women in Glorantha? One encouraging thing is that she can fight to prove her equality to men.

    I know about the red goddess and the seven mothers, and I like the fact that Glorantha has a sense of realism in mirroring historical societies in some ways. I know that there are female heroes, but is there any empire where women are equal or superior to men?

    Any suggestions?

    Profile photo of Down With People
    Down With People

    One of the things the Lunars have accomplished is rights for women in Dara Happa. Dara Happan culture is very patriarchal, with women essentially being treated as property in the cities. But now, any woman can join the Lunar Way to escape from that, forcing Pelorian societies controlled by the Lunars to dial down their misogyny.

    There’s lot of places where women are equal to men. Orlanthi society has some strong ideas on what men and women are supposed to be like, but they are equal and there is nothing stopping a woman from becoming a chief or a warrior. In Esrolia they very pointedly have a matriarchal society, with each clan being headed by a Grandmother. Then in Pamaltela you have the Doraddi, where women own most of a family’s material possessions and make most of the political decisions. The great wagons in the Doraddi nation of Kresh are pulled across the country by men, and the women are expected to never have to touch the ground.

    A lot of the Hsunchen societies have distinct gender roles, but not really favouring men over women. Western societies can be extremely patriarchal, but there’s others which have more equality between genders, and in Loskalm there’s complete gender equality. Even the Fonritians have gender equality: free women and slave women have the same rights as their male counterparts, be it all rights or no rights at all.

    Profile photo of Carcosa

    Thank you!


    In hunter-gatherer and nomad societies the women are quite powerful except in matters of hunting and warfare. Theirs are the mysteries of fertility and (quite often) sovereignty, the ties to the land.

    They often affect the fields of warfare etc. by having suitably heroic males competing to be their champions. Sartar and the first Feathered Horse Queen had a two year contest to decide which of them would be the dominant part in the Sacred Marriage, which Sartar won by a slight margin. Orogeria’s contests with Kenstrata or HonEel’s contest with the Most Reverend Mother of the Pentans have strong elements of women beating the men on their field of speciality and then add women’s mysteries on top.

    There hasn’t been much info on the female side of the Votanki. Griffin Mountain was written for adventurers and deals with encounters with hunters and raiders rather than with the inner workings of the dog folk. Even the Sartarite and Esrolian female point of view is slowly being discovered, away from the housewife stuff that appears to be the male knowledge of female mysteries (as presented in Thunder Rebels).

    Gaining a magical husband and giving birth to a future hero are part and parcel of the powerful woman heroquests. They appear to involve surviving dangers while pregnant or feeding the infant. The different meaning of time on the Other Side means that all the pregnancy business may happen outside of normal time flow, although for instance HonEel was at her most powerful in the mundane world while being pregnant, both with the celestial twins during her contest with Most Reverend Mother and during her pregnancy with the future King of Tarsh.

    I would expect pregnancy to be a quite normal state for Gloranthan women in the child-bearing span of their lives, as much on as off. This would account for much of the role division in these societies. When not visibly pregnant, women would almost be expected to be able to do many things the males do.

    So, females who don’t get pregnant pretty much have the run of all options in the less civilized societies, up to the Orlanthi culture. In Dara Happa, Yelmic patriarchalism is countered by numerous ecstatic female cults, even prior to the Lunars, e.g. Surenslib or the Naverian goddesses.

    In the Malkioni west, there are various different opinions about the roles of women. Strong patriarchalism coexists with almost complete egality (except among their wizards). A lot of originally non-Malkioni traditions and rites have snuck into even the Orthodox west, like the female rites of Seshna Likita.

    Back to your Votanki problem: if your female character is not pregnant, she is free to act as a huntress. If she gets pregnant through non-magical sex, she will drop the ability to act as a huntress for about a half of a year, but will probably be ranked a something akin to an Elder during that time, with indirect influence on the clan business. If she gets pregnant during a rite (for which chances are quite high, since festivals are a time of less restrictions), she might even make a more magical quest out of that. If she actively seeks out a spirit or god to father her child, you’re in to a heroic journey you may loan from HonEel, and do male-like stuff even while pregnant.

    Profile photo of David Summers
    David Summers

    We, I would say that _even_ in Darra Happa women are subservient to men, but _especially_ in Darra Happa. In short answer to your question, you might look to the Lunar Empire and Esrolia.

    We play in the Lunar Empire. Lunar culture is quite liberal as far as women go and we expect to see women in all types of important positions (though, for example, in the army they are a smaller percentage). Dara Happa subgroup is probably the most sexist culture in the Empire (though, as noted above, the Lunar Empire provides a way out for women). Pelandans are probably the least sexist of the four most major cultural groups (and fairly even handed) and I think the Darseni and Holay are matriarchial.

    Others have mentioned Essrolia which is a land to the south which is ruled by “Grandmothers” and worships Ernalda.

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    David Scott

    I’d like to point out the two different strands of the “Role of women in Glorantha”.

    Firstly there is Glorantha as a Bronze Age culture with proscribed gender roles and with a historical veneer overlaying it. Real world examples of primitive and nomad gender roles also colour this and in many cases give us a feel for “how it should be”.

    Secondly there is Glorantha as a real world roleplaying game environment for real men and women. Gender specific roles are going to cramp the style of some players, especially many women – you can’t be x because that’s a male only role. Ignore it, make an exception, or bend the world to suit your players needs.

    If you want the Votanki to have women hunters with equal status – just make it so. Have children looked after in a communal way – men must do it too.

    You might be interested in this –

    The same problem has arisen in Prax where if I followed the basic outline for Praxians – nearly all women would be herders, with an occasional warrior, etc. Now women can have any occupation, by bending the world.

    Profile photo of boztakang

    It is worth noting that the Balazarings themselves probably do not consider their “traditionally female” roles to be in any way inferior to the “traditionally male” roles of hunting and fighting. Without women to tend the Life Force, there would be nothing to feed or fight for. If you extend the narrative of your campaign to focus more on the larger community of clan or tribe, the importance and power of women in most gloranthan societies becomes Much more apparent (and fun to play)

    The extreme patriarchy of Dara Happa and parts of the west are much more an exception than the rule, in my opinion.

    As an extreme example, the Uz have an extremely matriarchal society. Female Uz are bigger, stronger, more magical, and better respected than males. Outside of a few very narrowly defined situations, any male is expected to defer to and obey any female at any time. Males are an expendable resource to be used and abused as needed or desired by the women they serve. The entire difference between “one of us” and “delicious meat” is having an uz mother willing to claim you as her own.

    Female Uz are not warriors and hunters because such things are BENEATH them – short-term and easy tasks for the relatively weak and expendable males to perform.

    Women have much more important things to worry about, like placating the ancestors, ensuring the gods’ favor, identifying upcoming threats and dangers, competing with other clans, and producing the next generation of hunters and fighters.

    I suspect there would be a similar (though less extreme) dynamic amongst the women of Sartar or Balazar. Men do “men things” because they are silly and excitable and don’t understand what really matters. Women do all the stuff that really matters, and men are just pawns in their larger game of prestige, population, and true Power.

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