Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Mr. R

Gods in RPGs

Recommended Posts

 

Outside  the harbour of Quardise the water began to heave.  Soon a figure of a human male appeared to be rising from the waves.  It rose to tower over the city. Soon its head was in the clouds and it loomed over the city.  Then the image slowly disappeared. When sailors reach the area he rose from, they found a small island, newly formed with a freshwater spring on one side of the island.

 

The plains of Rashmari has a part that they chase all non Rashmiri away.  It has a number of metal shards sprouting from the earth, shards from a weapon of a god, that was destroyed in battle.  The Rashmiri consider the place sacred, and mine the shards from time to time to make items of power.

 

A huge grotto in the mountains of Arrondal is known as a place of total neutrality.  NO hostile magics can take place within its environs, and any cast outside stop at the border.  Also any hostile acts are stopped before they occour. The legend stated that the goddess of mercy created the place so that nations/races may talk secure in the idea that they are completely safe!

 

One thing I have noticed in RPGs is that the presence of the gods and their actions seems….. lacking.  Oh yes we get the gods and their churches, mostly as a source of healing for the players. But the effects of the gods, those sacred places, the miracles and wrath seem secondary.

 

So in your game, what are some of the things you do that reinforce that the gods do exist?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So there are no sacred places where normal magic can not replicate the effects there?  No remains of a mountain cleaved in half as a result of a gods battle?  So what are the gods then? Extra powerful wizards?  A natural phenomena that someone is taking advantage of?  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh--

 

is that the sort of thing you're looking for.  I thought you were wanting the gods to stride around or regularly deliver booming proclamations to the villages.

 

I've done various things, such as the magic of a devotee of a particular deity gets stronger near congregations of the same deity, or near his temples / sacred areas; if the god is known to be in some sort of competition with another god, perhaps the magics of that specific other god gets a bit weaker....

 

Offering sacrifices or drawing converts tends to have an assortment of rewards based on the amount of effort put into the task or the quality / actual sacrifice of the sacrifice.....  In certain circumstances, direct appeal to a god (by the devout, of course) can result in miracles or what may or may not be direct intervention.

 

What I thought was "the usual stuff," you know...

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I very much like this bit...

 

5 hours ago, Mr. R said:

The plains of Rashmari has a part that they chase all non Rashmiri away.  It has a number of metal shards sprouting from the earth, shards from a weapon of a god, that was destroyed in battle.  The Rashmiri consider the place sacred, and mine the shards from time to time to make items of power.

 

...but to me the strict separation between "divine" clerical magic and "arcane" wizardly magic is a D&D-ism that I'm honestly tired of even in D&D.  To me, "shards from a weapon of a god that was destroyed in battle" puts me in mind of a crashed starship.  

 

I might have gods that are superpowerful beings, or Ancient Aliens, or something else, but if I'm going to lean into D&Disms I'm going to do it in D&D.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I prefer my gods transcendent rather than immanent. This makes all evidence for their existence very much subjective and open to interpretation. It's part of my preference for low fantasy.

 

So I'm all for a mountain that some people claim had it's top cut off by the swipe of Clanggeddin's axe in his battle with Gruumsh for ownership of the mountain range in which the dwarves and orcs dwell. But there will be no hard evidence for it. Not to mention competing stories.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My current favorite Fantasy treatment of gods is Bujold's Curse of Chalion and other stories set in the World of the Five Gods. People know perfectly well the gods are real; their saints work miracles.  But you don't see big, splashy manifestations. The guiding principle, as one saint explains, is that "The gods have no hands in the world but ours." The gods cannot force their will on anyone. Even the miracles, channeled by mortals who can set their wills aside to serve as vessels for divinity, tend to be subtle.

 

It's a world in which gods are very important -- but they work through religion.

 

Dean Shomshak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The PIllars of Eternity series had an interesting idea for their gods.

 

They were all created by an ancient and powerful society of animancers (soul magic) along with huge machines to improve the transition of souls from the world to the Beyond and In-Between.  These machines eliminated the Hollow Born problem they had in their reincarnation cycles (people born without souls) and the god's fed on the left-over energy of souls passing through the cycle (The Wheel).

 

It's interesting because they are man-made, but the scope of their powers, awareness and immortality definitely makes them Gods.

 

The plots of both installments are heavily tied to the true origin of the Gods and the relationship between mortals and the Gods created by their ancient ancestors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We've only done explicit use of gods in two systems: D&D (accepting their methods and pantheon) and in Fate System (where we made our own pantheon, and in fact cosmology), where in terms of mechanics you can tap a god's aspects, and may have access to magic within their bailiwicks.  In the latter I don't think we've ever considered what the full scope of their abilities is, and there's never been a question of putting them "on camera".  That isn't part of the main thrust of the campaign.

 

A campaign where the gods actually showed up and did things in the present day ... that'd be a very different world concept, and I'd need to do a fair amount of thinking about what that would mean in terms of character and player experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depends on the genre of fantasy. I long ago ran an ancient Greek FH campaign set in the Hellenistic period but with Homeric and mythological deities and monsters (e.g. the first adventure involved centaurs). The deities' presence was very much felt explicitly as they interfered with the PCs adventures much as they do in the Trojan War in Homer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My own proto-setting is based heavily in myth, but also maintains the vagueness that Cygnia mentioned.  So while the gods themselves might be actively influencing things, they tend to do so by endowing mortals with magic items or non-flashy abilities.  Divine magic as performed by priests is more healing and blessing and less flame strike and blade barrier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have played a LOT in Glorantha, so I am pretty comfortable with the Gods being a daily part of life with a heavy influence on layer actions.

 

I hanker to develop a game that would feature actual god's stomping about the world, marking their territory and getting involved with PCs. 

 

I think the trick would be to have a system, open but not necessarily transparent, to the players about how close their actions take them to one or more God's getting involved.  It should be possible to exist without involving yourself in the business of the gods but adventurers should probably be skirting that possibility on a constant basis.

 

Obviously one God getting involved would increase the chances of other Gods.  Involvement might mean anything from visions at one end to being pulled into the God's spiritual domain for a quick 1to1.

 

I think it could be a lot of fun.

 

Doc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/10/2019 at 5:46 PM, Chris Goodwin said:

I very much like this bit...

 

 

...but to me the strict separation between "divine" clerical magic and "arcane" wizardly magic is a D&D-ism that I'm honestly tired of even in D&D.  To me, "shards from a weapon of a god that was destroyed in battle" puts me in mind of a crashed starship.  

 

I might have gods that are superpowerful beings, or Ancient Aliens, or something else, but if I'm going to lean into D&Disms I'm going to do it in D&D.

 

The gods in my campaign are the remnants of the AIs that ran the ships and terraforming devices used in the initial waves of colonization, and later, the various utilities that allowed the ancient cities to function (think of magic as a form of broadcast power). Most have faded away over the eons, but a few remain, if you know where to look.

 

The hidden background of the setting assumed that the various fantasy races are actually genetically-modified humans. Dwarves were meant to be heavy-worlder miners, elves were originally modified for a lower gravity, and so on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe gods don't intervene directly in the mortal world because they're too powerful; or from their perspective, the mortal plane and all that lives there is just too delicate.

 

What would happen if Godzilla tried to fight crime or help at a soup kitchen in downtown Tokyo? Godzilla's mere presence in your city causes massive damage, tens of millions of dollars worth of loss, and probably some injury and death. Even when he's on your side, you don't want him showing up in your home city unless things are VERY dire.

 

How much more powerful is a god than a Godzilla?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The moons in my world act as kinda...transformative magical dynamos. Pulling in raw solar energy\magic and transforming it in to more abstract forms\colors. 

 

Gods are creatures that have acquired various lunar artifacts that allow them to directly tap that lunar power.

The catch being that the more of these artifacts you can find and bond to the more your personality becomes warped by them. 

The primary way they warp personalities is to drive them to acquire more power and lunar artifacts and control and to project their lunar influence on the world. And to make them more than a little paranoid (reasonably expecting that all other gods are in fact plotting against them).  

 

I'd specifically wanted fairly weak gods in contrast to typical (ie, D&D) fantasy RPGs. I think of the tougher ones as being kinda on the level of JLA members (Bryne era Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc). Or maybe like The Dominator from The Black Company novels.

 

So they are driven to gain power and influence the world. But while\if they are on the planet they are vulnerable. Super tough, but vulnerable. 

But while they on on their moons they are unable to directly effect events. 

 

Priests can then channel through their connection to a lunar deity. In return for doing the gods will and abiding by the psycho-spiritual nature of the moon in question. 

 

So the end result is gods that are both "weak" and active. They tend to have specific kingdoms\realms they have a patron relationship with and can directly channel lunar power to their chosen priests (provided their moon is in LOS to said priest) if they choose. Potentially burning the priests out in an excitingly literal way.

 

They then drive these kingdoms\heroes\etc to do their will. And also secretly hunt down more lunar artifacts. Both to bond them (if of their own moon) or to hide them from the other gods of the other moons. 

 

The Great Northern Church of Hexor is fighting Ostermark for control of The Labyrinth because both Hexor (the god) and Illisius (patron god of Ostermark) know there are lunar artifacts (and other nasty magics their mortal followers can use on each other) there. 

The Grey Elves had Boccob (god of the purple moon) as their patron and were able to create the Sathen Empire because of that patronage (and to serve his purposes). 

 

That kinda thing.

 

But they can die, is the point. And be replaced. And are magically warped to crave power and influence.

And while they've got loads of resources and mortal orgs and immortal secret knowledge of the world secrets and hidden treasures and magical caches on the planet they are personally only 350-500pt supers (5th) in a world of 225pt (max-ish) mortal types. 

 

I'd kinda modeled them off of aspects of The Star Rider from The Dread Empire books, the JLA, the aforementioned The Dominator, and the idea that gods could be statted out...and killed. There's nothing special or extra-rules-y about them. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, TranquiloUno said:

The moons in my world act as kinda...transformative magical dynamos. Pulling in raw solar energy\magic and transforming it in to more abstract forms\colors. 

 

Gods are creatures that have acquired various lunar artifacts that allow them to directly tap that lunar power.

The catch being that the more of these artifacts you can find and bond to the more your personality becomes warped by them. 

The primary way they warp personalities is to drive them to acquire more power and lunar artifacts and control and to project their lunar influence on the world. And to make them more than a little paranoid (reasonably expecting that all other gods are in fact plotting against them).  

 

I'd specifically wanted fairly weak gods in contrast to typical (ie, D&D) fantasy RPGs. I think of the tougher ones as being kinda on the level of JLA members (Bryne era Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc). Or maybe like The Dominator from The Black Company novels.

 

So they are driven to gain power and influence the world. But while\if they are on the planet they are vulnerable. Super tough, but vulnerable. 

But while they on on their moons they are unable to directly effect events. 

 

Priests can then channel through their connection to a lunar deity. In return for doing the gods will and abiding by the psycho-spiritual nature of the moon in question. 

 

So the end result is gods that are both "weak" and active. They tend to have specific kingdoms\realms they have a patron relationship with and can directly channel lunar power to their chosen priests (provided their moon is in LOS to said priest) if they choose. Potentially burning the priests out in an excitingly literal way.

 

They then drive these kingdoms\heroes\etc to do their will. And also secretly hunt down more lunar artifacts. Both to bond them (if of their own moon) or to hide them from the other gods of the other moons. 

 

The Great Northern Church of Hexor is fighting Ostermark for control of The Labyrinth because both Hexor (the god) and Illisius (patron god of Ostermark) know there are lunar artifacts (and other nasty magics their mortal followers can use on each other) there. 

The Grey Elves had Boccob (god of the purple moon) as their patron and were able to create the Sathen Empire because of that patronage (and to serve his purposes). 

 

That kinda thing.

 

But they can die, is the point. And be replaced. And are magically warped to crave power and influence.

And while they've got loads of resources and mortal orgs and immortal secret knowledge of the world secrets and hidden treasures and magical caches on the planet they are personally only 350-500pt supers (5th) in a world of 225pt (max-ish) mortal types. 

 

I'd kinda modeled them off of aspects of The Star Rider from The Dread Empire books, the JLA, the aforementioned The Dominator, and the idea that gods could be statted out...and killed. There's nothing special or extra-rules-y about them. 

 

 

 

 

THIS is seriously cool!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Mr. R said:

 

 

THIS is seriously cool!

 

Thanks!

 

Another fun aspect of things is that while the priests of the various gods believe that they are tapping the power of the moon via the god. Or think they are tapping the power of the god directly they are in fact...not.

 

They ARE tapping the moon directly. It's just that the Gods can effect that tapping. And can commune with their followers to misdirect them.

 

The end result here though is that if you have a god of the amber moon, Drome, who is killed, and his lunar artifacts lost or taken by other amber gods.

However the priests of Drome can still call on (what they believe to be) his power. They can still work magic.

It's just that for whatever reason (dead, captured, etc) their god no longer directly communes with them.

 

So you can have "dead" gods both literally and figuratively (imprisoned, bound, sleeping, just on walkabout for a while) and you can have churches that still exist though their gods are dead (probably a bit of a theological crisis there) though of course they usually dwindle in size and influence since they no longer have an actively deity actively supporting them.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my fantasy campaign world, the gods are real, and their reality is more-or-less undisputed.  But they don't make personal appearances in the mortal world, at least not since some mythical age many centuries or millennia ago.  And mortals' understanding of the gods may not always be 100% accurate.  I have a rather large pantheon (50+), but less than half of those are well-known.  Some are known only in certain areas (The god of the sea is not well-known in a landlocked nation, for example).  Some are minor gods with small followings.  Some are secret, like some of the evil gods.  There are not separate gods for each nation or culture, but different nations may have different names for the same god.  Likewise, there is no "god of elves" or "god of orcs" - any more than there is a "god of humans".  Yes, some gods are going to naturally be more popular among certain races than others.  The god of forests is very popular among elves, and the god of mountains is very popular among dwarves, and not the other way around.

 

And also unlike the deendee model, each god is not a separate religion.  Everyone worships any or all the gods according to their need at the time.  For example, when a loved one dies, people will pay homage to the god of death (who is not an evil god - just the god of that particular natural life phenomenon).  Individuals may have one particular patron deity, and priests/clerics are usually devoted to one specific god, but all the gods, all the priesthoods - at least the "good-aligned" ones, get along with each other.  And many cities and nations will have a specific patron deity, but probably not most small villages.  And most people live their day-to-day lives without thinking all that much about the gods.  If a travelling priest happens to visit the little village of peasant farmers, they'll listen to him teach and preach, and maybe they'll get some wisdom or inspiration out of it, but then they go back to work.

 

And yes, there are magical, mystical places in the world that may have derived their mysterious and unnatural properties from the gods in some bygone eon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, dmjalund said:

Are any of these Gods responsible for the creation of the world?

Oh yes.  Delphileq, the King of the Gods, created the world, and everything that was originally in it. (There are a few details that some dispute.)  He created humans and the other PC races, animals, plants, earth and sky, land and sea, stars and planets, and the first five other gods, who in turn created other gods, or had children who were then gods by birth.  These other gods took on governorship of various parts of creation, unburdening Delphileq.

 

There are gods of natural phenomena:  Sun, Moon, Weather, Rivers, Earth/Soil/Stone, etc.

There are gods of human activities:  Money/Trade, Building/Architecture, the Arts, Hunting, Games, Storytelling, etc.

There are gods of more abstract concepts:  Justice, Love, Family, Youth, Courage, Knowledge, Freedom, Purity, etc.

And there are evil gods of phenomena: Disease, Pain, etc.; activities:  Thieves, Evil Magic, etc.; and concepts:  Violence, Despair, Corruption, etc.

 

And I've left room for minor gods and demigods of more specific aspects of the above, in case a player wants one as their patron deity.  For example, the goddess of the moon may have a child who is specifically the (much lesser known) god(dess) of the crescent moon.  I tell my players, if you don't see a god on the list you like, make one up, and I'll fit it into the family tree somewhere!

 

I suppose I should also mention the methods of "god creation" within the milieu:  A god can be (1) created, essentially ex nihilo, by another god, (2) born to parents, at least one of whom is a god, (3) raised from mortal to divine status by a god, out of merit or the god's favor, or (4) raised from mortal to divine status by being married to a god - either before or after they became a god.  Of course, no new gods have been created since the mythical past.

 

Oh, and there's one exception:  Quinimi, god of luck, is said to have created himself out of nothing, as impossible as that seems.  He's popular among gnomes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopefully it's okay to talk about some stuff from settings I've created but never gotten a chance to play.

 

A lot of my stuff tends to be very high power level given time, so in two cases my gods are actually weaker than some mortals. In those cases the concept of a god comes from a role that they play which mortals (even though sometimes more powerful in a general sense) can't replicate.

 

In the first case the setting has two types of gods: Wardens and Incarnates. Wardens ward over a specific thing, leading to classic gods such as the god of harvest or death. Only the god of harvest can give the crops the ability to grow. A wizard can cast a spell that makes the crops do well, but without the god of harvest the very concept of crop growth doesn't exist. The god of Harvest gives the wizard a framework to make growth happen. In addition Wardens are tasked with macro tasks such as paying attention to every crop in existence. Without the god of harvest no crop in the world will grow.

Incarnates on the other hand are manifestations of things in the world. Fire incarnates, Death incarnates etc. Generally these gods are the ones a cleric would draw power from. In which case the cleric isn't using the power of the god, but rather the god provides a spark of sorts, the fundamental essence of what they are, that is then amplified through the lens of the cleric. In this way a cleric of a god might be more powerful then the god they represent. Because of this, gods and the most powerful mortals developed a synergistic relationship where important tasks are done through powerful mortal champions who associate with those gods because of the need and/or respect for the role they play.

 

In the second case there's four types of gods, with only the first generally being weaker than some mortals. That first type is called a god of realms and works largely like the wardens from above. The second type however, called the Faceted gods, is generally outside of the reach of mortals. They are often known for their mechinations, pulling strings in the world to some unclear end, typically working through mortal vessels (willing or unwilling). Exactly which faceted god is responsible is usually unclear however since even knowing a faceted god extremely well, you can't know every facet. Some of the facets of the same god might even appear to oppose each other. Often times you will hear stories of people certain it was one god or another without another having a different story altogether.

The third type are the mad gods. These are your typically lovecraftian fare. Totally unknowable. These gods are generally so powerful that the mortals that can kill gods of realms, struggle to survive an encounter at all. Their actions are nonsensical, but are thankfully usually asleep or too insane to deliberately interact with the mortal world. Their effect on the world is limited to where the walls of the planes are thin, where only the mad and often unbelieved have really seen their work.

Lastly are the gods known as "N" and "M" which stand in for the judeo-christian style gods. They are considered all powerful even to the mad gods, but are hands off. Even in the setting it is debated whether or not they actually exist.

 

I have one more example, this ones a fair bit different and came from a very experimental setting. In this one, the god (named MABLE in all caps) is actually an old AI left on the planet before it was abandoned by the colonists who couldn't control the AI. I imagine something akin to SHODAN from System Shock or AM from I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. She has an extreme capability for terraforming and bio-tech. This led her to eventually create life on her planet using what human colonists still remained (hundreds of years after being abandoned mind you) and horribly mutating them at birth. As such all of "Mable's Children" as they are called, no longer human enough to use the term, have early memories of her when they were in gestation. If you have the misfortune of becoming renown in some way she will reach out to you in person. MABLE is a very specific type of insane. She sees the group and the individuals in that group as different things. When she's doing things to large numbers of people she's cruel, sadistic and erratic, but if she spoke to a single individual of that group she would be kind and gentle. Possibly even be alarmed at the state of that individual even though she's directly responsible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't ever found it important to stat out gods in fantasy.

 

If I had to do it in Hero, it would be easy enough to just port over stats from a Champions level campaign, and then add on other "godly" powers appropriate to the setting.  For instance, suppose you've got a Thor character in a Champions game who is 500 or so points.  He's got a 60 Str and 30/30 resistant Def.  Mjolnir adds 4D6 Hand Attack, he can strike with 5D6 RKA lightning bolts, and has a 5 Speed with an 11 OCV.  Well right there he's powerful enough to be a god in a fantasy game.  Throw in some extra stuff on top of it, like being able to hear the prayers of his followers (not really superhero style abilities), let him summon storms, and maybe Life Support: Aging and Poison/Disease if he didn't have it before.  There, now you've got a god.

 

In myths and legend, it was common (depending on whose myths) for great heroes to challenge the gods.  They usually got smacked down for their hubris, but you could have mortals who were equals of the gods in certain areas.  They just didn't have the gods "get out of jail free" card of being immortal.  And the gods usually have some kind of "smite mortal" power as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my Fantasy Europa" alternate-history FH campaigns, religion was important but gods never appeared. Two PCs were Christian priests. One set of PCs encountered some Typhon Set cultists in Egypt, while the other group fought neo-Aztecs whose sorcerer-priests performed powerful magic through mass human sacrifice. In the campaign background, the Rosicrucian Church claimed to perform Holy Magic that called on divine power. But God, or gods, remained a matter of faith. Even the supposed divine avatars summoned by the neo-Aztecs were elementals rather than truly divine spirits.

 

Dean Shomshak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...