Sunday, November 17, 2013

A few stray thoughts on gods

Before I get on with the evil gods I want to talk about how gods are handled in most fantasy campaigns. Gods are often too distant to be interesting. Even in high-power campaigns they're kept in a walled garden of unapproachability, as if the only alternative is the party killing them one at a time like twelve-year-olds tearing through Deities & Demigods.

Gods that meddle--gods as characters--have more to offer. In The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, you can take jobs (corrupt, dangerous, and highly thematic jobs) from the Daedric Princes, the game's demon lords. The gods, by contrast, gave you stat bonuses when you pushed the "use" button at their shrines. Consequently I remember half the Princes and their dominions but the only god I can name is Talos, and him mostly because of Skyrim and Jason and the Argonauts. Almost no D&D god is memorable, except for a few antagonistic powers (Lolth, Tiamat, Asmodeus). They're all evil, but what makes them interesting is not their evil, as such, but that they're all physical creatures. They're all characters, not power-dispensers.

Among Yane's pantheon, I like Coth because, as a sort of chained power, he has plot potential built in. Coth wants something, and not just the way gods want to "preserve the balance" or "fight evil." He's a prisoner; his motivations are immediately comprehensible. And as I review Yane's pantheon, the desire to invest the gods with physicality and motivation grows. Tirwein, the elf godling, is easy: he can physically occupy the Forest of White Owls. But (apart from Fanatin, the warding-god of the dwarves, who is uniquely unapproachable) I suddenly want to see all my gods manifested physically, as characters, in the setting: the Lacarni guarding the sea-breezes, Elicca walking from inn to inn, the Iconess physically instantiated in Keimia, and so on.

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