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DShomshak

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DShomshak last won the day on November 30

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  1. DShomshak

    Gods in RPGs

    In my current D&D campaign I threw out the official D&D cosmology. It didn't work with the kind of stories I wanted. for one thing, the "Magozoic" setting is Earth, 250 million years in the future. (If you want to see the world map, Google "Pangaea Ultima," a geography I admiringly stole from geologist Christopher Scotese.) Instead of a farrago of Outer Planes, Elemental Planes, Positive and Negative Material Planes, and whatnot, there are ten Celestial Planes associated with the Sun, Moon, planets and Kuiper Belt, mystically centered on the Earth; Hell, mystically located at the center of the Earth; and numerous Faywild and Shadowfell pocket dimensions associated with the Earth. People worship dozens, maybe hundreds of gods just in the limited area of the campaign. But theologians know there are only ten true Godheads, or Archons -- one per celestial plane. The gods are masks or manifestations of the Archons, shaped by mortal belief. Gods can seem to be born and die, fightm and do all the things told of them in myths -- but this does not affect the Archons, any more than the fight of two puppets affects the puppeteer. Some people try worshipping the Archons directly, instead of through a god-mask. It doesn't work: They just create a new god-mask that looks and acts exactly how they imagine it. Each culture might create its own pantheon -- usually at least one god per Archon -- but some cultures don't emphasize the thoughts and themes of particular Archons, or focus strongly one one or two Archons. For instance, orcs are very aggressive, so they have multiple gods associated with Mars, but none for peaceful Venus. Pantheons also tend to reflect a culture's notions of power and authority. Thus, human pantheons often take the form of royal extended families, with a fair bet of infighting. The gods of the dwarves superficially resemble a family, with great Balkin as patriarch -- but Balkin the creator makes other gods in its forge: the gods are actually genderless, as dwarves see the artisan, rather than sex, as their paradigm of creative power. Elves worship deified mortals they see as having set transcendent examples of genius and achievement, from Eboriax the Archmage who codified the eight schools of wizardry, to Yapadia, Goddess of Vengeance, a hobgoblin nanny/bodyguard who spent decades tracking down and killing the bandits who slew the family that employed her. Gnomes also worship deified mortals -- eight gnomes who ascended to divinity through more or less absurd means. The Plenary Empire is a multi-species society that largely lets people worship as they please. (This is political prudence, not philosophical tolerance. Fragmented worship, with no state religion, means no zealous religious faction strong enough to challenge the Autocrat or the civil service. Conversely, the policy also seeks to avoid making religious enemies.) One result has been a lot of religious syncretism and reorganization as people identify gods with each other, recombine them in new pantheons, or create new cults devoted to gods that have been separated from their pantheon and re-interpreted. For instance, many cultures have storm-and-war gods. In the Plenary empire, these gods have merged as The Thunderer. Conversely, the cult of Jeduthon Soteira separates that god from his source pantheon to worship him as a figure who grants salvation to those who make all aspects of their lives a prayer to him. And so on. Theology is one the favorite sports in the Plenary Empire, and it's often played full contact. Dean Shomshak
  2. DShomshak

    Gods in RPGs

    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
  3. Incidentally, dog/wolf-people have a surprisingly wide presence in Eurasian myth and folklore. At least I was surprised when I found Myths of the Dog-Man in the University library. If someone wants to e the next Tolkien, this might be a place to start. I like the Erqigdlit's apparently casual acceptance that, yeah, they're cursed. Dean Shomshak
  4. High Fantasy can work with such non-Fantasy intrusions -- LL mentioned Andre Norton's "With World" series in another thread, with the invasion of the technological Kolder -- but that setting was built with such an intrusion in mind. Intrusion from Beyond runs throughout the entire series; it isn't just the Kolder. Even the hero of the first few books, Simon Tregarth, is such an intruder -- an Earth man who came to the Witch World through a magical portal. Dean Shomshak
  5. Hm, that works. And a good example of how to use blanks spots and obscure hints. Heck, if Krim is the Dragon and Kal-Turak has a pact with it, then K-T's relationship with Mordak is a bit like Giacomo Sylvestri's relationship to the Descending Hierarchy: Carefully polite on both sides. And Kilbern can go whistle, because the King of the Gods is not the king of the Dragon. The Dragon would be less of an intrusion on the TA than, say, a Malvan would be because mysterious, ancient powers of evil whose place in the metaphysical system is uncertain is an established High Fantasy trope. Think of Ungoliant in Tolkien's mythos. Dean Shomshak
  6. Daniel Radcliffe is of an age to play James Talmadge, the human side of Black Fang, and has the sort of look I imagine for him. Sir Ian McKellan would be a "duh" for Archimago, whether in spiritual image, flashback, time travel, or just a voice -- and it'd be kind of funny, what with him also having played Gandalf -- but any aging male British Shakespearean actor would do. Or, is Valentine Dyall still alive? (He was the Black Guardian in first-series Doctor Who but wow, that was a long time ago.) Must check Wikipedia. Dean Shomshak
  7. I'll also recommend an article about economic modeling in the November, 2019 Scientific American. Here's the abstract: "Wealth inequality is escalating in many countries at an alarming rate, with the U.S. arguably having the highest inequality in the developed world. "A remarkably simple model of wealth distribution developed by physicists and mathematicians can represent inequality in a range of countries with unprecedented accuracy. "Surprisingly, several mathematical models of free-market economies display features of complex macroscopic physical systems such as ferromagnets, including phase transitions, symmetry breaking and duality." Perhaps the most important result of their modeling, though, is the result of a pure free market with no external force of wealth redistribution, pro or con: If there is any possibility or unequal results in an exchange -- even if "winning" is just the result of a coin toss -- the inevitable result is that wealth concentrates until one ecomnomic actor ends up with virtually everything, and everyone else is left with virtually nothing. Laissez-faire advocates, take heed. Dean Shomshak
  8. On a cheerier note, NOVA recently aired "The Violence Paradox," based on Pinker's Better Angels of our Nature (the phrase is used, and Pinker is one of the talking heads presented). The world is getting better... slowly... so far. But past performance is no guarantee of future returns. As Pinker says, the worldwide decline in many forms of violence does not guarantee that violence will continue to decline; but it shows that continued progress is possible. Less happily, much of the violence in the world today seems to be in direct reaction to past progress, from people who'd rather see the world burn than give up their tribal loyalties, prejudices or caste privileges. Dean Shomshak
  9. On a cheerier note, NOVA recently aired "The Violence Paradox," based on Pinker's Better Angels of our Nature (the phrase is used, and Pinker is one of the talking heads presented). The world is getting better... slowly... so far. But past performance is no guarantee of future returns. As Pinker says, the worldwide decline in many forms of violence does not guarantee that violence will continue to decline; but it shows that continued progress is possible. Less happily, much of the violence in the world today seems to be in direct reaction to past progress, from people who'd rather see the world burn than give up their tribal loyalties, prejudices or caste privileges. Dean Shomshak
  10. Indeed, some of us were naive in thinking "gentle commerce" could tame the Chinese Communist Party and that Russiams could transcend their history of autocracy with speed. I know I was. It's why I curbed my enthusiasm when the Arab Spring happened: We'd seen this movie before. The Fall of Communism and the Arab Spring have not been total failures; a few countries emerged with somewhat better governments that have not completely reverted to brutal authoritarianism. But it's two steps forward, 1 3/4 steps back, with a lot of blood along the way: most notably the crackup of Yugoslavia for the Fall of Communism, and the Syrian horrorshow for the Arab Spring. Dean Shomshak
  11. Ah, I missed that. Since the Turakian Age is part of the Champions Universe, one could invoke forces exterior from the immediate setting to explain how/why the Spearlord and Kal-Turak can get so far without the gods slapping them down. Perhaps the Spearlord is empowered by one of the less pleasant Lords of Order such as Bromion to impose one law upon Ambrethel. Or he could be a renegade Malvan or Mandaarian. Kal-Turak likewise could be drawing on outside forces (it's been awhile, I don't recall if Krim is of Earth or not). But I dislike this approach. The Turakian Age isn't about such possibilities, or such conflicts. It might be logical to ask how Earth of this period interacts with the wider Champions Universe. But I think it would badly compromise the integrity of the setting. Dean Shomshak
  12. For a somewhat tortured simile: It's like Tolkien created a "bank account" of story that other writers have drawn upon. Not so many have returned to the lode of myth and folklore he mined and seriously tried to add to the account instead. Over the years (3e and 5e) I've tried creating several new PC races for D&D. I think I've succeeded once or twice, maybe three times if you're generous. The challenge, I think, is to give a race a distinctive POV through which you can filter a wide variety of characters. Broad enough that players won't just be creating the same character over and over -- this is my criticism of most of the races provided by Volo's Guide to Monsters -- but specific enough that they aren't just humans a funny look and a few quirks and gimmicks. I'm finding it really hard. Dean Shomshak
  13. For a somewhat tortured simile: It's like Tolkien created a "bank account" of story that other writers have drawn upon. Not so many have returned to the lode of myth and folklore he mined and seriously tried to add to the account instead. Over the years (3e and 5e) I've tried creating several new PC races for D&D. I think I've succeeded once or twice, maybe three times if you're generous. The challenge, I think, is to give a race a distinctive POV through which you can filter a wide variety of characters. Broad enough that players won't just be creating the same character over and over -- this is my criticism of most of the races provided by Volo's Guide to Monsters -- but specific enough that they aren't just humans a funny look and a few quirks and gimmicks. I'm finding it really hard. Dean Shomshak
  14. Agreed on the Spearlord. One thing I learned from working on various White Wolf games is the dramatic advantage of setting games in times of instability: Either things are about to explode, or they've done so and people are picking up the pieces. For instance, in their Fantasy game Exalted, the Scarlet Empress has dominated the world for centuries through her control of an Ultimate Weapon, the world's largest and richest country (with the largest and most powerful "conventional" military), and an extended family of magically-empowered aristocrats. Except she vanished five years ago. Her descendants have split into factions so the Scarlet Empire is heading for civil war, satrapies are asserting independence or making their own regional power plays, other supernatural forces are making their own power plays now that the threat of the Ultimate Weapon seems removed, and, oh yes, the legendary heroes of a past Age are being reborn as your PCs. Everything's up in the air. What will your PCs do about it? (It's one reason why I like the Alien Wars setting more than Terran Empire. TE is basically a time of stability; in AW, human space is in a time of dual crisis, both external and internal.) The Spearlord's drive to conquer the world, but rather permissive rule over areas that sit down, shut up and pay their taxes, reminds me a bit of Genghis Khan. A line I heard attributed to Genghis Khan might be apt for the Spearlord's motivation: " As there is but one sun in the sky, let there be but one king for all the peoples of the world." He also reminds me a bit of the Golden General from Bujold's Curse of Chalion, and his sudden defeat and death could have similarly dire and destabilizing long-term effects on the world. Dean Shomshak
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