in the Shadow of Greatness


September 12, 2003

WISH 64 :: Deities and Demigods

WISH 64: Deities and Demigods Name three gods or religions that have appeared in games you've played in. Were they good, bad, or indifferent? What made them so?

My personal bias is a tangled thing regarding RPG religions.

My Eternal City game includes a Church of the Unicorn which manifests as more folk belief than formal church, yet through donations and centuries of existance has managed to put up shrines and temples, though never anything as great as a 'cathedral project'. The Unicorn is considered somewhat intangible, mysterious, and an icon of good luck by the members of the Church. This attitude about the Unicorn is often echoed even by those who do not belong to the Church.

The members of the royal family do not participate in the Church. They neither confirm or deny blood ties to the Unicorn. The King holds full authority over his subjects and there is no recognition of the Church as having special distinction under the law.

So it is very much a church of the people, doing charity, good works, and lending some interesting avenues to those thinkers who do not enter the craft guilds.

Respecting that I want a Zelazny feel to my game—this is almost a perfect church. It has influence, hierarchy, and social impact despite being nearly powerless in the face of any PC. Any PC could abuse churchmen or church subplots, or become a strong advocate of same, without really challenging game mechanics or game doctrine. Yet there is also a fine line that could bring PCs into conflict with the King on the place of religion in Amber.

The implication of divine ancestry in Amber also gave rise to the Church of the Sacrificed Unicorn, Deela's creation of insurrection.

In my former D&D campaign, the gods walked the earth. They plotted large events mostly among themselves. They created races that embodied their own egos and plans for the future. The races were a sort of "test case" for principles that the gods could not settle amongst themselves.

Creating sentients became a million year running debate of sorts. The 'winner' would be the set of gods with the most 'successful' race.

The gods were competitive. Some of them cheated. Some were personable. Some were completely so distant to mortals that even talking to them was dangerous.

Two good things came from this long running campaign. At a time when clerics were generic, my gods weren't. Things were personal. Just being a certain race meant you had a tie to greater powers. Some races didn't even believe in religion as a philosophy, but there was still a god that had made them and there was a relationship.

Relationships make story.

More importantly, as the game manufacturers found out down the road, gods aren't half as interesting if they aren't connected to clerics, who are then motivated by something dear to the whole environ.

So some of the PCs cared about specific gods and semi-devine beings and their politics and agendas—even if they never saw them, never met them. Such caring is a good thing, and an alternative to mortal politics and adventure.

Eventually in this campaign, PC actions created a situation where gods no longer interfered directly in mortal affairs. The whole world was changed.

The Tower
A scary god who eventually turned out to be one of the PCs.

Say what? Long story. Short version is:
The PCs were making events rock'n'roll, being quite the movers and shakers. They kept up a steady pattern of affecting large events, sometimes in global fashion. One PC eventually decided that because of the scope of some of the party's enemies, he would have to become a specialist in time magics.

A 'cold war' of time manipulations was going on in the background of world events.

The PC made some incredible breakthroughs in time magics, eventually taking to task a secret council of time mages who had set themselves up as guardians of time. He found the power they had over reality to be "ashcroftian", to borrow a scary idea.

Unrelated to all this, a bad thing happened. The PCs wife was slain on an adventure of her own. In some anguish, the PC used his great abilities to go back in time to fix this misadventure. Except that he ran into a shadowy mage who thwarted his manipulations, resulting in the dead spouse staying dead.

This escalated across months of game. The PC increased his abilities and attempted earlier and earlier time manipulations, to get "ahead of" his opponent. Using more and more power to get an earlier causal effect to cascade to a reality where his wife was alive.

The endgame revealed this: his opponent was the God of Time and Space, who was at the last revealed to be the PC, himself, who having increased his powers time and again in this singluar obsession to 'save' his wife—- had gotten to the end of time and returned then to the beginning of time to achieve the first causal event in mastery of the time flow.

And the God, in order to preserve his ultimate power over reality, knew that he had to thwart his own early efforts to revive his wife throughout time in order to arrive at that first causal moment. If his younger self ever succeeded, the God would cease to exist.

He became his own enemy. The mysterious god known as the Tower.

Filed under : Amber, Game WISH at 12.09.2003