Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Ponderous Notes on Gods, Religions & Similar Creatures

There's a special conceit in Erce concerning gods - They are strictly for humans (and their related lawful races such as Dwarves and Halflings).

In D&D, it is common to find racial pantheons - The elves have their own pantheon, the dwarves, orcs and oozes and jellies all have their own racial deities.

I am not going that direction, because it's not what I am observing in European mythology as being the case and I think running with this a bit not only plays well into the themes I have set out for Erce, but also makes for some interesting angles for a game world - Curiously, given that I am cripping earth mythology here, I haven't seen much of this in fantasy.

So anyway, in places mythologies like the Nordic and Celtic ones, we see that gods is generally something connected to humans. Other beings like trolls, elves, dwarves, etc don't enjoy their favour or patronage. The supernatural races are as often, if not opposed, then subjugated to the gods. Moreover, some of these races are in fact beings of similar stature to the gods and in direct competition or conflict with them. Ie, the jotuns, though generally on the losing end, are often of similar power to the Aesir - But they are not gods and a big part of that is that they have no real relationship with humanity. Likewise with the Tuatha Dé Danann vs the Fomorians.

A god.

So in Erce, there are classes of immortal beings and gods are just one of a handful of these.  What sets the gods apart is that they are the only Lawful group and, having ascended from humanity, also have a special relationship with humanity.

The Sidhe Lords who rule the wilds are another group (and they are many), as are the Demon Princes of the Nether Realms, the Angels who live in (and as) the Stars of Heaven, the imprisoned Elder Horrors of the Underworld, the Dragons in Erce and even the transcendent, though little-understood, Elemental Elder Gods who made the world.

Not a god.

Also  worth noting is that, save for these Elemental Elder Gods, the gods of Erce are not transcendent beings in the way gods are often envisioned in fantasy. They are, like the Olympians and Aesir, quite fallible and not at all above liasoning with mortals out of petty human desires. You can stumble across an old god in the woods just on a walkabout - If you should happen to cross or insult one when so met, they will fuck up your shit. But equally so, if you are an epic high level adventurer, with just the right kind of bane, a clever strategy and some mythic magic items to amp your lucky dice rolls in the right setting - You might just fuck up the god's shit instead and exact a powerful boon from him in exchange for letting him off the hook. 

Gods may be immortal, epically larger than life and have cosmic world spanning spheres of influence over metaphysical themes - But they have hit dice, AC and personality flaws. And there are definitely beings in the Monster Manual, like the most powerful dragons on Erce (some who have their own cults and territories), that most of them would like to avoid meeting in a fight.

All this also means there are no real 'evil' gods in Erce (with a few insane-in-the-membrane exceptions) - That role is reserved for other cosmic groupings like demons and elder horrors. This also nicely circumvents the question of why a community would ever worship a god that openly self-identifies as 'evil'. They don't, cause those guys don't exist (of course, underground demonic cults and chaos clans abound, but that is not quite the same).

Guys like Morgoth are hard to find in Erce.
In general, playing up lawfulness vs Chaos and setting aside good/evil for a long stretch means I can play with the gods I do have in interesting ways. Some, especially the Old Gods, are not necessarily friendly to humanity. They can be egotistical, demanding, cruel, callous, vain and all the things humans are - and have goals that have little relevance to humanity and vice versa. And certainly some of them can show up as the antagonist of adventures. But 'evil'? Nosirree. These guys are all on the side of Law after all - A man may make war on his lawful human neighbour, but if chaotic trolls showed up, they'd join forces to defeat them first before returning to their own dispute. And so it is as well with the gods.

Up next - A blurp on the three different kinds of pantheons, how they are worshipped and how each pantheon and its adherents interpret the conflict between Law and Chaos.