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MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?


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#1 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:00 AM

Howdy Herophiles! Time for a WDYWTS thread about our next awesome book: Mythic Hero, which I've been itching to write for a long time now. ;)

Our shorthand description for MH around here is "Steve's version of Deities & Demigods," and while that's a good one-sentence pitch I think the key words there are "Steve's version." I think this book is going to go significantly beyond other gaming supplements on the subject. Or at least, that's my intent. ;)

Here's what the book will contain as it's currently conceived:

Chapter One: Gods In Gaming: A review of a bunch of useful introductory material, much like HSB has its own Chapter One. It will cover "Templates" for common divine abilities, a discussion of how to use gods in your campaign (such as the various approaches, from "ultra-powerful" to "basically just like the PCs"), and even how to play gods in mythology-based campaigns.

The rest of the chapters are descriptions of individual pantheons, arranged roughly in this order: the cosmology/setting; other interesting bits (such as unique magic systems, spells, or pantheon-wide items); the gods (major/important/fun gods get full character sheets; lesser deities just get textual descriptions; heroes; villains; and monsters. For example, the Norse monster section has Fenris and Jormungandr; the Russian/Slavic monster section has character sheets for vodyanoi, domovoi, rusalka, and other such spirits.

Here's the current list of pantheons I'm intending to cover:

American Indian (selections from major tribes like Cherokee, Haida, Iroquois, etc.)
Arthurian Legends (but see second post below about "Legendary Hero")
Assyro-Babylonian
Aztec and Mayan
Celtic
Chinese
Demonology (medieval Christian demons like Belial, Moloch, maybe even Satan ;) )
Egyptian
Finnish
Greek and Roman
Hawaiian and Polynesian
Hindu
Hungarian
Japanese
Norse
Slavic/Russian
Sumerian
Voodoo
Yoruban

And then I'll have a final chapter on mythoi I don't have enough information to write up in full, like Aborigine, Armenian, Hittite, Zulu, and so on. If in my researches I come across enough information onany of them, that pantheon will get bumped to "full chapter" status.

The main guideline about which pantheons get a chapter is, generally, whether the subject has good, approachable resources in English that I have or can obtain. One reason gamers in general tend to emphasize/know about Greek/Roman and Norse mythology is that there are such excellent resources available on them. My library (see picture below) contains a lot of good references on a lot of mythologies, but there are some mythoi that just aren't covered well in English (or at least not for prices I'm willing to pay ;) ). If you know of a source for a mythos that I haven't included on my list, feel free to mention it. Please include author and title so I can easily look it up on Alibris or the like.

So, now that you've got the basics... what do you want to see in Mythic Hero? :hex:
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#2 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:04 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

I mentioned above something called "Legendary Hero." This is a book we've vaguely considered that would feature characters and beings from famous legends that don't rise to the level of mythology (i.e., that don't generally involve gods and the like). I'm interested in doing this because (a) it would let me shorten MH a little, and (B) it would let me cover fun subjects that are totally inappropriate for MH.

However, if we're going to do it, we need to decide before MH goes to layout. There are two parts of MH -- the Arthurian Legends and the bogatyr section of Slavic/Russian -- that are more appropriate for "Legendary Hero" than MH. Other possible subjects for inclusion in MH are:

Robin Hood
The 1,001 Nights (Haroun al-Rashid, Sinbad, Alladin, Ali Baba, all that fun stuff)
Roland and other such folx from various European sagas

I'm not sure that there's enough material there for a whole book of the size that we like to publish. Nor am I sure there's enough consumer interest in "Legendary Hero" to justify considering it as a separate product. So, if you'd be interested in seeing a Legendary Hero book that's distinct from MH, let us know!

#3 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:09 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Well, I was going to post a picture of my mythology library, but even converted to a PDF it's too large for me to include here. Perhaps some other time. ;)

#4 megaplayboy

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:24 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Gods in Hero System! Yay! A few quick thoughts: 1. Have you perused the Primal Order series from WOTC? Some of that material might be useful... 2. Will there be a few "generic demigod/lesser/greater god" templates? Just a few would be really helpful for coming up with new gods "on the fly". 3. An emphatic Yes! on the Legendary hero book--if you include Arthurian, Robin Hood, Beowulf, Musashi, Vainamoinen, Siegfried, Ancient Greece, Roland, 1001 nights, and so forth 4. The mythology of William Blake--the prophetic works, Albion, the 4 Zoas, and so forth, would be pretty cool; The old Avalon Hill RPG, Lords of Creation, briefly touched on these deities 5. The Titans, Mother Earth, Ptah, maybe a "stand in" for the Old Ones--some really old, really powerful gods 6. Superheroes and Super-gods: using deities and deity-heroes in Champions 7. Space Gods: in Champions and Star Hero 8. Disembodied Gods: God-as-AI design 9. Sphere of Influence Powers: basically, maybe a few sample "beefed up" power groups similar to HSG or Champions Powers, scaled up to deity levels(controlling the weather on a continental scale, e.g.) 10. A writeup for a certain contemporary monotheistic "pantheon", with the Main Man and their various cadres of winged servants 11. "theories of divine power": e.g., deities get their power from worship, deities exist and have the characteristics their followers assign to them, deities are mortal beings who ascended to godhood, etc. 12. Alien and Nonhuman and Extradimensional deities--do the faerie have a deity they follow, gods of the Elder worm, etc.

#5 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:39 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

To answer your questions, megaplayboy:

1. I have a copy of TPO that Peter Adkison gave me somewhere around here. I may take a look at it while writing MH but I certainly don't want to "copy" it or anything like that.

2. Only to the extent that the "Templates" covering standard divine powers in Chapter One provide this info. Beyond that you'll just have to adapt an existing god to suit. ;)

3. Some of the people you list (Vainamoinen, Sigurd/Siegfried) clearly belong in MH. Some (Musashi) are purely historical, and therefore outside the scope of LH as I envision it. Beowulf would definitely go in there; I should've remembered to list him. But in any event I'm glad you like the idea. :)

4. Sorry, I don't want to delve into made-up mythologies. In any event, Dean Shomshak's already made good use of that stuff in the Champions Universe's multiverse.

5. Those which are appropriate for the book and useful will at least be mentioned.

6. This will be covered in Chapter One.

7. "Space gods" are a separate subject already sufficiently covered in Champions Beyond and Galactic Champions, IMO. That's not really an appropriate subject for MH.

8. I'm not sure I understand what you mean here, but it sounds to me like it's beyond the scope of the book except insofar as I go into how to use gods in various genres in Chapter One.

9. I don't think I want to take up page space in what's already going to be a huge book for this. I'll let gamers pull 'em out of the individual gods' character sheets if necessary. ;)

10. This touches on the topic of potentially offending religious believers. I struggled with this a good bit in deciding to include Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, and Voodoo, all of which are living religions. I ended up including them because (a) it's not like we have a lot of readers who belong to those faiths, and (B) the book would seem distinctly sub-par without them, since they're major mythoi. Also, as a more or less atheist to some extent I think that all religious believers are nuts, regardless of faith. ;) However, I decided against including Christian mythology because (a) most of our readers are Christians, making it much more likely people would get offended, and (B) it's a complex enough subject that it would add a huge amount of work to what's already going to be an enormous book. At the most, I might include some angels in the Demonology section, but that'd be it. ;)

11. Unless I touch on that in Chapter One, that's not something I care to cover in the book.

12. I have enough to handle just dealing with Human mythologies; I'm not going to start making up mythoi for fictional species. ;)

#6 megaplayboy

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:44 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

To answer your questions, megaplayboy:

1. I have a copy of TPO that Peter Adkison gave me somewhere around here. I may take a look at it while writing MH but I certainly don't want to "copy" it or anything like that.

2. Only to the extent that the "Templates" covering standard divine powers in Chapter One provide this info. Beyond that you'll just have to adapt an existing god to suit. ;)

3. Some of the people you list (Vainamoinen, Sigurd/Siegfried) clearly belong in MH. Some (Musashi) are purely historical, and therefore outside the scope of LH as I envision it. Beowulf would definitely go in there; I should've remembered to list him. But in any event I'm glad you like the idea. :)

4. Sorry, I don't want to delve into made-up mythologies. In any event, Dean Shomshak's already made good use of that stuff in the Champions Universe's multiverse.

5. Those which are appropriate for the book and useful will at least be mentioned.

6. This will be covered in Chapter One.

7. "Space gods" are a separate subject already sufficiently covered in Champions Beyond and Galactic Champions, IMO. That's not really an appropriate subject for MH.

8. I'm not sure I understand what you mean here, but it sounds to me like it's beyond the scope of the book except insofar as I go into how to use gods in various genres in Chapter One.

9. I don't think I want to take up page space in what's already going to be a huge book for this. I'll let gamers pull 'em out of the individual gods' character sheets if necessary. ;)

10. This touches on the topic of potentially offending religious believers. I struggled with this a good bit in deciding to include Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, and Voodoo, all of which are living religions. I ended up including them because (a) it's not like we have a lot of readers who belong to those faiths, and (B) the book would seem distinctly sub-par without them, since they're major mythoi. Also, as a more or less atheist to some extent I think that all religious believers are nuts, regardless of faith. ;) However, I decided against including Christian mythology because (a) most of our readers are Christians, making it much more likely people would get offended, and (B) it's a complex enough subject that it would add a huge amount of work to what's already going to be an enormous book. At the most, I might include some angels in the Demonology section, but that'd be it. ;)

11. Unless I touch on that in Chapter One, that's not something I care to cover in the book.

12. I have enough to handle just dealing with Human mythologies; I'm not going to start making up mythoi for fictional species. ;)


Okay, thanks. By God-as-AI, I was just referring to the fact that some deities aren't portrayed anthropomorphically or as having a body at all, just disembodied entities. It seems like you could portray that kind of deity using the AI rules. A couple angels in the Demonology section would probably be plenty, and if you had a Prince of Demons writeup, then I'm pretty sure gamers could extrapolate how powerful their "counterparts" would have to be. :)

Did you have a page count in mind?

#7 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:46 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

Did you have a page count in mind?


I never do at this stage of things. I'm just guessing that with all that I want to cram into the book, and the work I've done so far (I've done partial descriptions of several mythoi in my "copious spare time"), I'm guessing it could easily be a 300+-page tome. ;)

#8 Derek Hiemforth

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:02 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Definitely like the idea of Legendary Hero in addition to Mythic Hero. One thought on that one, because I think it would both be interesting and help expand the scope a bit, would be to go ahead and include at least a section on "larger-than-life" sorts of actual historical figures. Just briefly touch on the person's actual historical details (since these are readily available to interested folks), then focus on the more outlandish stories and feats associated with them. For example, Leonardo daVinci in history was an artist and inventor; Leonardo in legend was also a secret society grand master, the inventor of photography, and a time-traveler! Grigori Rasputin in history was a monk and a court advisor; Rasputin in legend was also a psychic and practically an immortal! Mythic Hero might also have room for some general material on religions; how they function, how different branches of religions split off and how they interact with each other, how they evolve over time, etc. (since, after all, "myth" mostly means "religion that not many people believe anymore." ;) )

#9 Patriot

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:03 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Will Mythical Artifacts, be covered? Excalibur....The sword and trumpet of Gabriel...those kind of things.

#10 Lucius

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:10 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

Okay, thanks. By God-as-AI, I was just referring to the fact that some deities aren't portrayed anthropomorphically or as having a body at all, just disembodied entities. It seems like you could portray that kind of deity using the AI rules.


That's already been done: "The Dragon" of the Champions Mystic Universe (I can't quite recall which supplement it's in) is the personification (but NOT anthropomorphication) of all the evil of the human race (essentially, The Devil) and is done as an AI.

I can't think of a more appropriate way to do Gods in Hero System than as an unfocused AI, and I think using that approach would highlight the strengths of Hero System and very clearly differentiate this product from something like Deities and Demigods in which Gods are just bigger monsters with higher hit points who may be attacked and killed. It IS possible in Hero to mechanically represent such "transcendent" beings without reducing them to "It has hit points, it can be killed."

As far as organization is concerned, I would suggest that one can combine Sumerian and Assyro-Babylonian in the same manner as Greek and Roman and for similar reasons.

I like the idea of a seperate Legendary Hero. Given the emphasis in such of Finnish myth as survives on heroes as opposed to Gods, perhaps that whole section could go there. And the Greek and Roman legends provide a lot of material for it, quite apart from the deific materiel that would clearly go in Mythic Hero. And then there are folk heroes.

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#11 gojira

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:34 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

Good stuff. I think you've already said "no" but I'll add a request for Fantasy pantheons -- generic gods and godlings that can be plugged into a typical Hero fantasy campaign. Gods of the elves, gods of the dwarves, gods of the monsters-we're-fighting sort of thing. Dieties and demi-gods had it, and I think it was a useful addition for folks who are doing gaming.

If you need more specificity, then pantheons for specific Hero system genre books would fit the bill. Pantheons in the Turakian Age, for example.

I'll add a request for a spirit based "pantheon" -- similar to Katherine Kerr's Devery books. In that series the elemental spirits -- Earth, Air, Fire and Water -- are the gods (called "Kings" in her books) and their lesser minions interact with people when magic is called for. These spirits on the whole are much nicer about it than, say, the spirits in the Valdorian Age.


Other ideas:

American Gods! Like the book by Neil Gaiman. How do I de-power a god to either: make them less powerful in a fantasy campaign, or for a more modern or urban fantasy campaign. Alternately, how would the world be different if modern gods existed? How many F15 Strike Eagles before a god starts to get nervous? (I realize some of these themes are dealt with in Urban Fantasy, but touching them again here doesn't seem out of place.)

Other Fantasy gods: the Kikaha from Charle de Lint's Newford series. The Kikaha are an invention but they seem most similar Algonquain people, from the US North East and Quebec area. Here's a page on the Lenape which seems similar to his mythos, esp the mahtantu and Crazy (Whiskey) Jack. Since you might not want to de Lint's stuff directly, including the Algonquain mythos and then pointing out some ways to modify them might be useful. Plus, the Lenape are from the Delaware area, which would put them close to Hudson City. Hmm....



OK that's it! Mostly I'm concerned here about making sure this is a gaming supplement, not a treatise on real mythoi. Some nods to gaming (at least nods!) would be the best way I think to make sure as many people as possible are interested in picking this up.

#12 Dr. MID-Nite

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:45 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Well....for the most part, you're covering exactly the kind of material I want to see. As for Legendary Hero, I think you should(and I can't believe I'm saying this) make it a PDF product only. That way...if the interest level isn't there, you're not out the outrageous priniting costs. I myself would probably buy it either way even though I would prefer a printed form.

#13 Orion

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:54 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Legendary Hero would be much more interesting to me than Mythic Hero, so go for both. I strongly feel that the text description of the various deities is of far more importance than the stat writeups. Tell me who the deity is, what it stands for, and why it is worshiped. STR and EGO numbers are meaningless. I'd go so far as to say there shouldn't be any stats on beings that are true deities. If it's just another mutant with worshipers, sure, knock yourself out, but pass on Odin and Zeus. In fact, now that I think about it, I'd much prefer two completely separate books. The first treats them as powerful deities that cannot be completely understood, and certainly never fought, and the second says they are all just dudes that live on one of the outer planets. I really don't see how they can be presented both ways in the same book and be useful. What I need regarding deities for Fantasy Hero, Horror, Champions Magic, and Champions SuperHero are four different things. If you plan to target one of these, be very clear up front. Have a paragraph or three describing why Tyrannon or V'han should or should not be considered a deity. At what point does a dimension conquering entity and its minions become a pantheon? In the Gods in Gaming section, be sure to cover using them as distant and unknowable. I don't like this use myself, but most of the people I know doing fantasy gaming want their gods to be like real life. That is, there is belief and faith, but all miracles can be explained away by superstition and coincidence, and the deities just don't interfere in earthly matters. I agree that doing a writeup of the Christian god could be bad. Feel the same about doing Satan. But, please consider doing a representative sample of the angels. You are doing the demons after all, so there should be no difference at that level. If I'm trying to fight Belial, I just may need the help of an archangel, or at least a couple cherubim. Suggestions for creating a unified pantheon for us world builders would be great. Talk about the evolution from Earth Mother to a Sky Father as head honcho, and the rebirth/renewal deity. Suggestions on what happens to the spirit after death. Creation myths. Different beliefs by region and time period, and the storytelling possibilities of heretical and/or non-standard beliefs. Definitely mention that not all pantheons need to be unified, and they don't have to make sense - they could just be the more powerful of those that came out of the primal chaos and thus survived the fighting between themselves.
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#14 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:13 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

Will Mythical Artifacts, be covered?
Excalibur....The sword and trumpet of Gabriel...those kind of things.


They will be if some god who's getting written up in the book wields them, or they're otherwise interesting enough to stat out. I've already written up Excalibur for King Arthur's character sheet, f'rex. ;)

#15 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:14 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

Mythic Hero might also have room for some general material on religions; how they function, how different branches of religions split off and how they interact with each other, how they evolve over time, etc. (since, after all, "myth" mostly means "religion that not many people believe anymore." ;) )


Unfortunately I think that's too big a subject for a book that's already gonna be pretty large. If I ever write anything like a "World Builder's Handbook," that would definitely be a chapter, though!


Suggestions for creating a unified pantheon for us world builders would be great. Talk about the evolution from Earth Mother to a Sky Father as head honcho, and the rebirth/renewal deity. Suggestions on what happens to the spirit after death. Creation myths. Different beliefs by region and time period, and the storytelling possibilities of heretical and/or non-standard beliefs. Definitely mention that not all pantheons need to be unified, and they don't have to make sense - they could just be the more powerful of those that came out of the primal chaos and thus survived the fighting between themselves.


This all falls into that same "beyond the scope of this book" category, unfortunately. It's an intriguing subject, no question, but one for another book sometime.

#16 Steve Long

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:17 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See?

I'd go so far as to say there shouldn't be any stats on beings that are true deities.


If I agreed with that, there'd be no point in writing this book. ;) There are lots of mythology books out there; this will be the only one with HERO System information on gods, creatures, items, and other related cool stuffs. Those who don't think gods should have character sheets are, as always, free to ignore 'em. Having them in print won't hurt anyone. And for those who do want 'em, they'll be available. It's a win-win.
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#17 megaplayboy

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:17 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? On the Supers and Super-gods thing, maybe something about tweaking god stats for supers settings--in Ancient Greece, the most legendary heroes were capable of grappling with gods, but to make them a challenge for supers, some upgrading might be necessary.

#18 Steve

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:24 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Regarding the pantheons and "portfolio" powers, it would be good to have at least one example of a specific area of influence. For example, if you don't have room to include a full writeup for every pantheon's version of a fertility goddess, maybe do one full write-up for a particular pantheon and then add some notes on how that write-up could be modified to portray the abilities of the fertility goddess for other pantheons. For the Norse, please include the servants of the gods like valkyries. Lesser divine powers like those can be more easily used as templates for epic fantasy games or superheroes than full gods. While I understand not wanting to write up the Christian Trinity, I would like to see some write-ups for Old Testament style angelic beings that would be opposed to the devils and demons. Speaking of demons and devils, would Lilith be included in that crowd?

#19 megaplayboy

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:27 AM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Even if she isn't, I'm pretty sure one could extrapolate a writeup, based on the succubus and demon princes writeups.

#20 Ockham's Spoon

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 12:34 PM

Re: MYTHIC HERO: What Do *You* Want To See? Mythic Hero! Yay! Sounds like a great book. Here's my 2 pence: Definitely Legendary Hero should be a separate work. There is too much good stuff for it to get short shrift. I agree with Lucius that Sumerian and Babylonian mythos could get rolled into one, but maybe I just don't know those mythos well enough to see them as sufficiently distinctive for each to get its own chapter. The idea of putting most of the Finnish myths in Legendary Hero has merit too. Jehovah should not be written up for two reasons. One is the potential for offense. The other is that despite his alleged omnipotence, he is a real hands-off kind of god, so any direct intervention would be better handled by angels or just played as deus ex machina. So that said, a write-up for angels would be nice. I could see this in the Demonology section possibly, or maybe you just want to say "For angels, use the write-up for devas or asuras in the Hindu section" since they are similar beings. I think. My feeling is that most gods have rather variable power levels, depending on the story you are reading. As megaplayboy pointed out, heroic level guys sometimes best gods in contests, but other times they are nearly omnipotent. Does the power of the god depend on the venue or the number of worshipers or some other parameter? Since we will have write-ups for the gods, certainly the characters will interact with them at times. Some of those times the PCs might fight the gods, other times it is really just an excuse for GM fiat. At the simplest level this could just be a limitation on their powers or a Complication of some sort. I don't see that multiple write-ups of the same god for different power levels as reasonable, but that could be done too.