How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby ripvanwormer » Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:33 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:There are canon gods that existed way before their mortal worshipers (like Moradin or Corellon, that created their followers; or beings such as Ao, Io and Annam, that are credited with helping with creation of the multiverse).


This is ambiguous. Certainly, there are people (dragons and giants, respectively) who believe that Io and Annam created the multiverse. In the timeline in the Hellbound: The Blood War boxed set, fiends don't even learn that gods exist for a long time (long before what later editions would call the Dawn War, but still, a long time). The timeline refers to the "powers—godlike beings that've been around for what seems like forever."

On Hallowed Ground leaves it uncertain whether Moradin created the dwarves or vice versa. From page 76: "The dark of it's that the dwarven pantheon sprang from the soil itself, though whether the powers created the dwarves or the people created the gods is still up in the air."

On the subject of the elven pantheon (page 92) the text tries to have it both ways: "Long, long ago, as the multiverse spun and tumbled its way into being, the elvish powers arose from the beauty of the land, their aspects taking on all that was pure in creation. Some of them grew out of the beliefs and emotions of the elves, while others seem to have existed before the elves ever drew breath."

Note all the hedging. The elven gods seem to have existed before the elves first breathed. But maybe they didn't! Maybe the gods created the dwarves, maybe it was the other way around. The gods seem to have been around forever, but who knows? And even if the gods did create mortal races in their image, they might have been born from the beliefs of still older races.

On Hallowed Ground presents both theories as possibilities. The theory it gives the most time to is that gods began their existence as spirits (as detailed in the 2e sourcebook Shaman), and slowly gained power as mortals began to worship them, eventually growing powerful enough to declare themselves gods. The book also suggests, almost as an aside, an alternate theory: that the powers created mortals. "Whether this is true or not, most folks dismiss the idea as propaganda from the powers themselves."

As with issues of morality and ethics, I think it's best to allow for some ambiguity. I don't much care if the gods created the multiverse or not; it's much more interesting that characters within the game will disagree over it, and conflict thereby ensues.

The Forgotten Realms setting tends to put a lot of stock into the myth that Realmspace was created by the sisters Selune and Shar, but this is just the Netherese creation myth and there were other pantheons in the age of Netheril with stories of their own. Maybe after the Dawn Cataclysm, when the Faerunian pantheons merged, the Netherese creation myth retroactively became the "true" one, but there are still other pantheons on Toril—the Maztican pantheon, the Zakharan pantheon, the pantheon of the Shou—with stories that have nothing to do with the gods of Faerun. So I'm skeptical that the origin of Toril is as simple as "Together with her sister Shar, Selûne created Abeir-Toril from the cosmic ether and assisted Chauntea as she blessed the twin worlds with life." What, then, of the gods Maztica and Kukul? Or the Lords of Creation worshiped in Malatra? Or the Celestial Emperor of the Celestial Bureaucracy?

We do know that the first elves to arrive on Toril, the green elves, didn't worship Corellon Larethian, or even know who he was. Instead, they worshiped the fey gods of the Seelie Court. Grand History of the Realms says (page 8) "These primitive green elves worship the Faerie gods (not the Seldarine, which were unknown at this time)." If Corellon created them, why didn't they know he existed until later? Perhaps they forgot for some reason, or Corellon didn't decide to reveal himself to his people until later, but I'm skeptical.

I do not believe that statement that "gods were formed from mortal beliefs" is set in stone


It's not, you're correct. What I said was "this has to be at least potentially true." There's a faction in Planescape called the Athar whose fundamental belief is that the powers are frauds, falsely claiming to be gods when they're actually nothing of the sort. Sure, they can just be wrong, but what fun is that? Even if they're wrong, they might not have always been wrong: perhaps the gods were originally frauds but they made themselves true gods retroactively, rewriting history so that they were the creators of everything. And the beliefs of the Athar might rewrite history again, making gods into frauds once again. Belief is power.

Based on some conversations I had on the old Wizards of the Coast message boards, I like to distinguish between gods, who were created from belief, and the protogenoi, entities who personify basic components of existence. Maybe the difference is just semantics, maybe not.
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby willpell » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:41 pm

zontoxira wrote:Off topic: Why would you play with prepubescent sociopaths? O.o


Because that's the playgroup I happened to fall in with? "Sociopaths" is an exaggeration (and "prepubescent" might also be untrue, it's not really any of my business), but they definitely started out with stronger-than-average murderhobo tendencies, which both I and the father of 2 out of the 3 were uncomfortable with. He actually came up with a way to do a sort of "scared straight" program within the game by having his paladin Fall; it was pretty effective, and they've dialed back somewhat on their plans to straight-up slaughter large numbers of NPCs for no real reason, although I sense they could still use a bit more guidance.

Anyway, my group is probably not the farthest toward this particular extreme of all the groups out there, and so I believe what I'm proposing is a valid theoretical construct, even without having to point to them as an illustration of it.

ripvanwormer wrote:I gave some examples above of things that I think reasonable people might disagree with. I'm not suggesting utter nihilism, but I think it's boring and counterproductive to have the cosmos provide a definitive answer to every moral quandary.


Your examples were decent enough, I didn't have much to say about them. I'd disagree that it's "boring", however; it might not be the most adventure-genic aspect of a setting, but it could be the comforting touch of moral certainty which makes a fantasy universe resonant and appealing to certain player types (even while turning off others). We have settings that appeal to people who enjoy gritty grimdarkness and horror and madness and carnage (Warhammer comes to mind, for instance); the reverse ought to also exist. We have the fantasy archetype of a paladin for a reason; some people want to believe that absolute good is a thing that can exist. I try to facilitate that urge as much as I can while also providing for the possibility of moral relativism to some extent; both are valid escapist alternatives to reality, IMO.

Gods are formed from mortal beliefs, for the most part, and are basically mortals writ large, with both their virtues and flaws exaggerated.


That is certainly one perspective. It might be consistent with Greek and Norse style mythologies, but I hardly think it should be the definition of the entire concept of a deity.

They're no more privy to absolute truth than mortals are (this has to be at least potentially true, or the Athar faction are objectively wrong in their beliefs, which I'd rather not be the case).


I see athars as critics of the gods as they actually exist, not of all possible beings that might reasonably ever be termed gods. They have a "god" of their own, the Unknowable Light or whatever they call it; they simply consider it non-anthropomorphic, uninterested in mortal affairs, and so on. Ao in the Forgotten Realms is explicitly a god, yet if you did a FR version of Planescape, it would make a lot of sense to treat the Athars as devotees of Ao, or perhaps critics who think he wasn't harsh enough on his errant children. That purely speculative diversion aside, the fact that the canon Athars would propose this not-god of theirs as a universal creator indicates that they are by no means actual atheists; they are simply rebelling against the behavior of the pantheon which they are familiar with. (Of note, both Norse and Hindu mythologies feature two sets of gods who are at war, the Aesir versus the Vanir and the Devas versus the Asuras. It would be entirely possible to have the Athars turn out to be pawns of one or more "Aesir" or "Asuras" who are attempting to take over the multiverse and exile the current gods, who in this model are the Vanir or Devas, by first discrediting them in the eyes of their flock. A dubious strategy, but a legitimate one I think.)

Angels are the servants of the gods, and know even less than their masters, though they have free will and may eventually arrive at better conclusions than they were created to have.


That might be what's true in the canon, but it's not how I use the celestials (distinguishing what's an angel and what's an Archon is not exactly my favorite activity). I prefer to think of them as incarnations of the Upper Planes, and thus obedient only to the overall concept of Good (the same force that empowers paladins and ideoclerics).

The mysterious progenitors of good, counterparts of the baernaloths


Dammit, Gary.... :facepalm: (I don't know if Gygax specifically is responsible for this bit of inanity, but I'm kept busy enough swearing at him about the rust monsters and blink dogs and so forth, that I use his name as a general shorthand for anything in D&D which is embarassingly ridiculous. I know some people feel a kindly affection for these stupider aspects of old-school gaming; more power to you if you're capable of such largesse, but I am not.)

might be the ones who set the definitions of morality in place at the beginning of time and perhaps it's not possible to gainsay them. Guide to Hell credits the primal gods Ahriman (Asmodeus) and Jazirian with defining evil and good, though I think of this as just one possible story.


I for one am very much not interested in the idea that any individual or group was allowed to set their biased ideologies into the stone of the cosmic foundation. To me, Good is a teleologically emergent construct of any possible theoretical existence, whose particulars might vary in view of a situation, but which automatically self-defines its correct form within any set of parameters it is given. It can be likened in that way to temperature; the concept of heat does not change just because you have a different material conducting it.

I suppose, and that might actually be Gygax's original impetus in creating an alignment system, but again I'm just suggesting that good isn't always free of conflict, not advocating utter nihilism. I suggested above some non-sociopathic disagreements good creatures might have.


Right, I definitely know that the Good can disagree; it's just harder for me to imagine them ever disagreeing so strenuously that they would declare Total War and kill trillions of souls over some fine point of doctrine. To me, that ought to automatically revoke their Definitional Correctness license.

NPCs in Planescape don't always agree on what good is, or even what law and chaos mean.


In Planescape, Law and Chaos are associated with three factions each


I know all this already, but I'm still looking forward to reading how exactly you write them up. (I'm curious also about the numbering, given that I can't come up with any logic for the other ten factions, or nine if you don't count the Free League. As someone who is fond of tinkering with and revising this faction system for his own campaign world, I'm very eager to discuss this subject at greater length.)

For the Fraternity of Order, Law is categorization. They seek to label and sort the multiverse to identify the laws of magic, government, and nature and exploit any loopholes they find.
For the Mercykillers, Law is justice. Law means that actions have consequences and deviation from the law is followed by punishment.
For the Harmonium, Law is conformity. Law means that everyone agrees on a single truth and sacrifices their own opinions to the greater good.


It's really hard for me to see these options as all equally balanced. The Mercykillers are clearly Lawful Evil from this description, and neither of the other two seems capable of resembling Good to more than the most minimal extent (the Harmonium certainly *think* they're Good, but their actions speak otherwise, just as the Mercykillers' brutality makes it impossible for me to regard them as even approximating Neutral more than occasionally).

For the Xaositects, chaos is unpredictability.
For the Doomguard, chaos is entropy.
For the Bleak Cabal, chaos is the absence of meaning.


I wouldn't have pegged either the Doomguard or the Bleak Cabal as the other Chaotic factions at all; my understanding was that the chaos trifecta were the Xaositects, the Revolutionaries, and the Free League, and that they mostly only differed from each other in extremism. The Free League simply doesn't want to be controlled; the Revolutionaries (whose exact faction name escapes me) actively want to tear down all existing systems of control, and the Xaositects just plain fail to recognize that any such system exists or has any power over anything.

This is all distinct from the law-chaos axis as an ethical spectrum, which is mostly the age-old debate over individual rights versus responsibility to society.


They shouldn't be distinct, particularly not in Planescape, where belief shapes reality.

Technically, anything north of the south pole is the North to someone, but if we're going to draw the line somewhere, the equator seems like the most objective place to draw it.


The planes of Law and Chaos aren't an equator, they're an entire tropical and subtropical zone. There are three planes each for Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos, and four "corner" planes where these forces merge; the three Good planes and the two "corners" flanking them are Upper Planes, but their two "neighbors" are not; they're just closer. Again, my basis for this definition is the mechanics in the 3E Manual of the Planes. Ysgard does not have the [Good] descriptor, therefore Evil creatures do not take a penalty when operating on Ysgard, therefore Ysgard isn't an Upper plane in any meaningful sense. It's in the same cosmic "middle" as Limbo and Pandemonium, just not as far *into* that unpleasant zone for travelers coming from Up Above.

Eladrins are incarnations of good, but they're equally incarnations of chaos. Both are equal priorities.


In a word, that's absurd. Chaos, undiluted by any influence from Good, is pure random force, equally likely to destroy as to create. It absolutely cannot peacefully coexist with the idea that life has meaning and should be preserved. The Eladrins incarnate a philosophy which blends some of the priorities of Good with some of the priorities of Chaos (favoring individual freedom over systems of control, valuing creativity more than innocence, and so forth), but when push comes to shove, they will sacrifice Chaos to ensure the safety of Good every single time, because they couldn't be Good if they were willing to choose otherwise.

Archons are nicer than demons, but niceness isn't better than chaos. Demons have much to recommend them: their passion, their whimsy, their commitment to liberty: even their emotional imbalance, their danger, are virtues rather than vices.


Sorry, while you were saying all that, a demon got bored and ripped off your head, shat down your neck, and is now fornicating with your corpse. :twisted:

Their existence breaks down boundaries that stifle the multiverse. Archons make them safer, but eladrins don't want to be safe: they're creatures of chaos. Risk is as much a part of their being as altruism. Safety diminishes the amount of chaos in the multiverse and kills them just as much as demonic claws do. Archons may be well-intentioned, but demons are chaotic-intentioned, and that's just as important. The only difference is that archons kill them with kindness, while demons kill them with cruelty. The multiverse that archons are trying to achieve is one that would have no place in it for eladrins, not as they are now. Neither group are their friends, but both can at times be on the same side.


As long as demons exist, archons are a resource that eladrins can use against both demons and devils. The reverse will never be true; demons are too dangerous to even try and use for any sort of beneficial purpose. The only sense in which they can be regarded as good or useful is the idea that fighting against them might sharpen your killer instincts in a survival-of-the-fittest kind of way. Archons might disapprove of that, they might try to create a perfectly safe and safety-padded utopia where nothing ever deviates from perfection, but they can be 90% of the way toward their goal, and be less odious to the eladrins than any one demon lord, let alone all of them at once, would be when 10% of the way toward their goal of "everything ceasing to exist forever, preferably after having first suffered the most indescribable agony possible". That is the purpose that the Abyss and its denizens exist to accomplish; it says so quite clearly in Fiendish Codex 1. No compromise, however temporary, is possible with any such objective. Even simply ignoring demons in order to fight archons is more of a gamble than the Eladrins can safely do; as long as Evil the most they can do toward expressing their displeasure with the Lawful Good is to refuse their assistance, and even then they have to question whether they can afford to be that picky, when the stakes of their battle are so high.

The Planescape sourcebox Hellbound: The Blood War actually said that eladrins had little to do with battling any sort of fiend. They ignore the fiends, leaving them to kill each other off or not, as they will, acting only to preserve the freedom of mortals and to defend their own plane.


Well, different sources might say different things, but that business about the abduction of eladrin children is still kind of a big deal, unless you simply assume it hasn't actually happened. It would say a lot about Planescape's eladrins if they didn't react to such an event in exactly the way FC1 described them doing.

I'd argue that 4e eladrins are basically unrelated to 2e and 3e eladrins too.


Pretty nearly so, yeah. The eladrins were originally made up for a freakin' collectible card game, so they probably weren't very well thought out in the first place, but over time they've syncretically evolved into a neat midpoint between the classic Tolkien elf and the mythological Fair Folk - not as purely Chaotic and monstrous as the latter, but more exalted than even the highest of the high among merely mortal elfkind. All three of these races spring from much the same mythological well, and it's fitting to assume that when one "spout" goes left and another goes right, the third one does not end up in the middle, but rises above them both, becoming a race of Good when neither of their "cousins" holds any such high status.

Rilmani, guardinals, and eladrins were invented by Rich Baker for the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II and they admittedly weren't very inspired designs. Metal people, animal people, and elves/faeries: I'd have preferred something more distinctive in all cases.


As I've said, I am satisfied with how the Eladrins turned out (from what I've heard, their appearance in Spelljammer predated any mention of them in the RPG, although I admittedly am only repeating hearsay; even if publication dates bear me out, we don't know what was going on behind the scenes, so maybe Baker had something decent in mind before the cards were printed). But yeah, the Guardinals only work for me if I pretend that they're Native American-style "animal fathers" mixed with some rather pollyanna Furry conceptualization (which suits the way I view Elysia as a plane perfectly), and the Rilmani are just complete garbage. I love the idea that Neutrality gets active advocates, but these are a poor attempt at it. I believe the same book which proposes the Rilmani also has a race of extradimensional mirror-people whose name I forget; these seem closer to the mark overall, just in terms of optics (rather than having their own appearance, they perfectly reflect the world around them), though still having some of the same overall problems, in addition to being designed for a thoroughly different purpose.

The rilmani are fascinating to me, though more because of their culture than their appearance. The aeons are their equivalents in the Pathfinder RPG; they're more interesting-looking, but they serve a somewhat different role and there's room for both.


That's weird, I use the name Aeons for a different, less elfy version of Chaotic Good exemplars, very inspired by Thelema and similar forms of occultism (I forget exactly which new-age guru type, and/or medieval Gnostic prophet, proposed the idea that all true divinities were but emanations of the ultimate archetype of cosmic perfection, but somewhere in this field of study, the word Aeon was used in a very particular context, which I latched onto but good).

Demons and devils are unlike yugoloths because they came later, being created by yugoloths after the emergence of mortal life, while yugoloths were born from primal evil before mortal souls existed.


:roll: I'm sure this is all very fascinating to some people, but to me, it seems extremely silly. I can believe in a sort of primordial uber-fiend, but having them specifically turn out to be canoloths, nycaloths, arcanoloths and so forth, let alone tracing them back to even older and scarier progenitors...it strikes me as a very childish sort of "oh yeah, well this is even awesomer than that, so there!" kind of instinct underlying this creative concept. If I wanted to run with this idea, I'd assign it to some far more conceptual sort of entities, calling them Dreadlords or Dark Ones or something, and the yugoloths would probably just be cast-offs from the other two types of fiends, since they very much seem like an afterthought by comparison to them. (Although an interesting different take, which can't really coexist with these, is the idea that the tanarri, baatezu, and yugoloths all started out as three distinct sorts of evolution, with one being almost entirely reptilian in cast, another heavily using mammalian features, and a third having an insectlike nature, with all three sort of intermingling over the aeons. By this theory, ice devils were probably originally a yugoloth race who settled in a cold part of Baator, explaining why they don't share the tendency towards scales and fangs that we see in the pit fiend, the cornugon, the hamatula, and a lot of the other iconic devils. Similar logic is applied to all the other fiends that don't seem to quite fit the aesthetic of their race...for instance I can very easily see the Arcanoloth as an ex-demon, whose interest in magical lore was difficult to pursue amist the constant turbulence of the Abyss.)
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby ripvanwormer » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:19 am

willpell wrote: it could be the comforting touch of moral certainty which makes a fantasy universe resonant and appealing to certain player types (even while turning off others). We have settings that appeal to people who enjoy gritty grimdarkness and horror and madness and carnage (Warhammer comes to mind, for instance); the reverse ought to also exist. We have the fantasy archetype of a paladin for a reason; some people want to believe that absolute good is a thing that can exist.


I'm not saying that good isn't real, or shouldn't be rewarded or whatever. It's not necessarily "grimdark" to say that there are hard moral questions that don't necessarily have a firm answer that the cosmos conveniently provides.

Gods are formed from mortal beliefs, for the most part, and are basically mortals writ large, with both their virtues and flaws exaggerated.


That is certainly one perspective.


Yes, it's only one perspective. It's something people within the world of the game should be able to believe without being thoroughly disabused of the notion.

The fact that gods require mortal belief to exist seems to be unquestionably true, though, since there are documented instances of them dying without it. There might be exceptions to this rule, though (like Tharizdun, who is mostly forgotten; perhaps the fact that he's asleep means he consumes less energy?).

They have a "god" of their own, the Unknowable Light or whatever they call it; they simply consider it non-anthropomorphic, uninterested in mortal affairs, and so on.


The Great Unknown (or, sometimes, the Greater Unknown). More of an ideal that a being who unquestionably exists, though it seems to grant spells.

I guess ambiguity is my aesthetic. Stating "the Great Unknown is an actual entity that definitely exists" is tedious. The Athar believe there should be something beyond the petty and feuding powers, something worthy of their worship. But they don't know this for a fact.

Ao in the Forgotten Realms is explicitly a god


No. He's something else. Planescape calls his sort of entity an "overpower." Unlike a god, he doesn't require or accept worship and he seems to be a different level of being altogether. He's perhaps the sentience of Realmspace's crystal sphere.

yet if you did a FR version of Planescape, it would make a lot of sense to treat the Athars as devotees of Ao


No. The "FR version of Planescape" is just regular Planescape; Planescape sources like On Hallowed Ground mentioned him, and Forgotten Realms sources like Faiths & Avatars discussed Ao in the context of the cosmology the Realms shared with the Planescape setting. Ao and other overpowers (the
Highgod of Krynnspace is the only other one to be named) have no power beyond Realmspace (or whatever crystal sphere they rule over—Ao has some power over any god worshiped in the Realms, but only as far as the Realms were concerned: Tyr could be reduced to avatar form in Realmspace but the aspect of Tyr worshiped on other worlds was fine).

So, for one thing, Ao is only one of countless similar overpowers, who each act as wardens of the divine within their crystal spheres. So worshiping Ao as "the Great Unknown" would be strange, since what, then, is the Highgod? They don't seem to be the same entity.

Another problem: Ao specifically rejects worship, and cults dedicated to him mysteriously die out, as happened shortly after the Avatar Crisis. So if the Athar tried to worship Ao, they probably wouldn't for long.

Or maybe they could, since Ao has no power over those who live on the planes. But why would they want to? He's pretty clearly a local entity with no jurisdiction or interest in planar affairs beyond his little corner of the Material Plane. In a way, he's a more petty being than the gods are. At least the gods are forces to be reckoned with on the planes. Ao's just a local traffic cop.

(Yes, yes, it's somewhat ambiguous, but it seems clear enough to me).

the fact that the canon Athars would propose this not-god of theirs as a universal creator


I'm not certain that they would, but that seems like a valid theory they might have. They might also view the Great Unknown as an entity that transcends the multiverse; not a creator, but something more like the Pleroma of Gnostic belief, a transcendent reality beyond the phenomenological world created by the corrupt Demiurge, or the Kabbalistic concept of Ein Sof (the unknowable, undefinable Godhead that precedes and stands outside of creation).

indicates that they are by no means actual atheists


I think they range from agnostic to gnostic to atheist to deist to pantheist, depending on the individual. Some are atheists. The Great Unknown isn't a universal doctrine for them, though their factol Terrence is a believer in it. The Godslayers from A Guide to the Astral Plane don't seem to care about the Great Unknown at all.

From The Factol's Manifesto:

"Then, cringing, he asked me the question they all ask just before the final break. 'Are there no gods, then?'

"I pitied the poor berk. 'Well, I wouldn' t go so far as to say that divinity does not exist. Who knows what might lie beyond the veil of our limited awareness? What might the visage of that mystery look like? Perhaps mere mortals cannot fathom it. But, I assure you, this divinity bears little resemblance to the powers who cavort here in the Great Ring."


It would be entirely possible to have the Athars turn out to be pawns of one or more "Aesir" or "Asuras"


Guide to Hell claims they're all pawns of Asmodeus, who hopes to harness the power of doubt to weaken the bonds imprisoning him in Hell, but I discount that.

who are attempting to take over the multiverse and exile the current gods, who in this model are the Vanir or Devas, by first discrediting them in the eyes of their flock. A dubious strategy, but a legitimate one I think.)


The revelation that the Athar are mere dupes of the asuras (though that would be precisely in character for the asuras detailed in the Pathfinder RPG, especially) would be kind of cruel to any Athar PCs in the same way that revealing that, say, Heironeous was definitely a Wizard of Oz-style charlatan would be cruel to a player whose character devoutly worships Heironeous. Some players might be fine with that, but it seems like kind of a dirty trick. It's the same reason I don't accept Guide to Hell's premise that Asmodeus created the Athar.

As I said, ambiguity is my aesthetic. I don't want it to be clearly the case that the Athar are or aren't deluded, which means there's a possibility that the gods are frauds and equally a possibility that they represent some valid multiversal truth. The two possibilities aren't even necessarily mutually exclusive.

distinguishing what's an angel and what's an Archon is not exactly my favorite activity).


Per Planes of Law, archons are eventually promoted to angelic status, so the concepts blur in that case. I prefer the hierarchy from Green Ronin's The Book of Fiends, which identified different angelic and archonic castes with the choirs from traditional angelology.

But yeah, for the most part angels are pawns of the divine rather than independent personifications of good, as eladrins and guardinals are. There may be some exceptions, with angels being born from the substance of the Upper Planes (or even the force of goodness that preceded the formation of the modern Upper Planes) rather than created by the powers. I mean, anything's possible.

The mysterious progenitors of good, counterparts of the baernaloths


Dammit, Gary.... :facepalm: (I don't know if Gygax specifically is responsible for this bit of inanity


This is Colin McComb's idea, from Hellbound and Faces of Evil. Looong after Gary Gygax left the company. But before you dismiss it as "inanity," keep in mind that you're judging based on one context-free line that I wrote. Not best practice if you care about making informed judgments.

The best take on the baernaloths is Shemeska's (Todd Stewart's) Baernaloth Cycle, who wrote evocative short stories for some of the baernaloths known as the Demented (there are other baernaloths, but the Demented tend to be the most active). Each is a primal, multiversal force of evil.

Tellura ibn Shartalan, the Dire Shepherd.
Severeth na-Halastrian, the Wanderer.
Tarsikus ibn Meth-Kultesh, the Book Binder.
Harishek apt Thul'Kesh, the Blind Clockmaker.
Jezifreth na-Harsindrian, the Inqusitor.
Daru ib-Shamiq, the Lie Weaver.
Lazarius ibn Shartalan, the Architect.
Koristal il-Palinthiin, the Proselytizer.
Methikus sar Telmuril, the Flesh Sculptor.
Sarkithel fek Pathis, the Chronicler.

Right, I definitely know that the Good can disagree; it's just harder for me to imagine them ever disagreeing so strenuously that they would declare Total War and kill trillions of souls over some fine point of doctrine.


Well, millions. The idea, I think, isn't that they're warring over mere doctrine. I think the idea is that pantheons can go to war when the mortal cultures who worship them go to war (for example, the ancient Suloise and Baklunish on the World of Greyhawk, or the Aesir and Vanir from Norse mythology). And the angelic hosts serving those gods go to war with them.

I know all this already, but I'm still looking forward to reading how exactly you write them up. (I'm curious also about the numbering, given that I can't come up with any logic for the other ten factions, or nine if you don't count the Free League. As someone who is fond of tinkering with and revising this faction system for his own campaign world, I'm very eager to discuss this subject at greater length.)


I mean, there was a whole book on them, The Factol's Manifesto.

Other good sources include The Mimir and The Lady's Cage. I have thoughts on most of them, but I'm not going to go on and on for thousands of words in a thread that was supposed to be about the Feywild.

But basically:

The Dustmen are morbid Buddhists, combined with the inhabitants of the Necropolis Litharege.
The Godsmen are transhumanists.
The Transcendent League are Zen mystics who listen to the rhythms of the multiverse.
The Free League range from anarcho-capitalists to simply people who want to be left alone by the other factions.
The Harmonium are collectivists.
The Revolutionary League are anarchists, revolutionaries, or Occupy Wall Street types.
The Sign of One are solipsists.
The Fated are Objectivists.
The Sensates are hedonists and Epicureans.

But they're all flexible concepts with a lot of different possible interpretations. The Factol's Manifesto softened some of the more extreme philosophies (for example, introducing the concept of the Great Unknown and making Signers more than absolute solipsists, giving them a more nuanced view that everyone is potentially the center of the multiverse, and capable of influencing it, adding multiple sub-factions among the Mercykillers, etc. Most of the factions have extreme and moderate adherents, including both allies and antagonists among them.

The Mercykillers are clearly Lawful Evil from this description


I'm not sure what you think you can discern from a one-line summary. There are two major sub-factions among the Mercykillers, with one (primarily lawful good) emphasizing mercy and the other (primarily lawful evil) emphasizing punishment.

and neither of the other two seems capable of resembling Good to more than the most minimal extent


As above, each faction has moderate and extreme elements. At their most benign, the Hardheads are just cops trying to keep the peace. Factol Sarin is a lawful good paladin who worships St. Cuthbert. The more fascist elements in Arcadia answer to Killeen Caine, whose activities aren't all sanctioned by the factol.

They shouldn't be distinct


Law and chaos have many meanings. Ethics are only one of them.

where belief shapes reality.


Which is an interesting theme, but an empty statement in itself, and the source of countless arguments among the Planescape fandom because it can mean basically anything you want it to mean. People believe all sorts of things. They have beliefs about ethics, and beliefs about law and chaos, and these sets overlap but belief doesn't make them synonymous. Chaos is liberty, and chaos is change, chaos is entropy, etc. Alignment is mainly about the liberty aspect.

The planes of Law and Chaos aren't an equator, they're an entire tropical and subtropical zone.


The Planes of Law boxed set described Baator, Acheron, Mechanus, Arcadia, and Mount Celestia. The Planes of Chaos boxed set described the Abyss, Pandemonium, Limbo, Ysgard, and Arborea. The Planes of Conflict boxed set described Carceri, the Gray Waste, Gehenna, the Beastlands, Elysium, and Bytopia. The Outlands were detailed in a separate boxed set, A Player's Primer to the Outlands.

So anyway, the "Planes of Law and Chaos" overlap the Upper Planes and Lower Planes. Arcadia is both a Plane of Law and an Upper Plane.

I already linked to the 5th edition Great Wheel diagram, which clearly includes Arcadia and Ysgard among the Upper Planes,

Here's the chart from the 2nd edition Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix:
Image

Here's an excerpt from that source's description of the Upper Planes; Arcadia is listed first:

Image

Again, my basis for this definition is the mechanics in the 3E Manual of the Planes.


Again, that's a limitation of the mechanics there, but we're not confining this discussion to 3rd edition. This thread is about using 4th and 5th edition concepts in a 2nd edition campaign setting, so 3rd edition mechanics really shouldn't be seen as definitive. Even then, the only one defining "upper plane" as "planes with the good descriptor" is you. There's no particular reason "upper" should mean "good." It means what it says on the tin: up. The upper planes are the planes above Mechanus, the Outlands, and Limbo, whether or not they're considered "good" in your game mechanics of choice.

Chaos, undiluted by any influence from Good, is pure random force, equally likely to destroy as to create. It absolutely cannot peacefully coexist with the idea that life has meaning and should be preserved.


Heh, but mostly when we're talking about eladrins, we're not talking about "pure random force," we're talking about balancing the concept of liberty against the concept of altruism. For a real-life example, do we permit hateful and dangerous speech to ensure that more benign speech is also protected? On the chaotic side of the ethical coin, the answer is yes, freedom is all-important and if that means some evil is done in the name of freedom then so be it. On the neutral good side we say no, not necessarily: freedom is nice but it has to be balanced with concerns for safety. On the lawful good side we say absolutely not, freedom is a luxury we can't always afford. Bad things should be banned, and if the same laws are used to ban good things too, well, that's the price of safety. See also the gun control debate, or the health care debate, or the immigration debate, or any number of other issues. Obviously I'm not going to be able to map real world debates perfectly on to a system as artificial as the Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, but this is the general sort of dichotomy it encompasses.

So an eladrin's ethical paradigm includes some tolerance for the wickedness of demons, within limits, because freedom always includes an element of danger. An archon's ethical paradigm includes some tolerance for the wickedness of devils, who exploit loopholes in the laws that archons support, because law always includes the potential for abuse.

Sorry, while you were saying all that, a demon got bored and ripped off your head, shat down your neck, and is now fornicating with your corpse.


Which is to be avoided! Eladrins fight against that sort of thing! Yet demons are champions of chaos: they break down boundaries and allow the multiverse to change, bloom, and grow. Demons are allies in the promotion of chaos, enemies against the promotion of good. And while I said that, archons were promoting stasis and bureaucracy, strangling passions, smothering new ideas in the cradle, their laws providing shelter and ammunition for devils. Ten million eladrins failed to be born, or withered and died, because the cosmic balance shifted too far toward Law. Archons are allies in good, but enemies in the promotion of chaos.

As long as demons exist, archons are a resource that eladrins can use against both demons and devils. The reverse will never be true; demons are too dangerous to even try and use for any sort of beneficial purpose.


They're not supposed to be used for beneficial purposes; they're supposed to be used for chaotic purposes, which they can be relied on to do. Demons are a resource that can be used against both devils and archons. It's not necessarily beneficial, but eladrins aren't solely interested in what is beneficial.

the abduction of eladrin children is still kind of a big deal, unless you simply assume it hasn't actually happened.


It doesn't really matter. The Abyss is a big place without any centralized authority. The eladrin children (who number fewer than 100, according to the Fiendish Codex I) are only a tiny part of it, and it's hard to say all demons bear collective responsibility for Pale Night's crime. Technically it's the obyriths (of which Pale Night is one) who were their target; the tanar'ri are a separate race who rose to dominate the Abyss after the eladrins wiped out many of their former masters.

I don't have any problem with the idea that eladrins and demons come to blows when the demons are "shitting down the necks" of innocents. But demons also oppose devils and archons, and eladrins are much more ideologically similar to demons than they are other fiends. I think it's fascinating to look at these beings not from our human perspective, but from the alien perspective of entities literally formed from these cosmic forces. From the perspective of an eladrin, there's a lot to like about demons, just as there's a lot to like about archons, because "chaos" is every bit as important to them as "good" is. Modrons and yugoloths are abhorrent, and devils worst of all. Demons and archons are allies in some instances and enemies in others. That doesn't mean they have to slaughter archons, but it means archons are their ideological opponents every bit as much as demons are.

Pretty nearly so, yeah. The eladrins were originally made up for a freakin' collectible card game, so they probably weren't very well thought out in the first place, but over time they've syncretically evolved into a neat midpoint between the classic Tolkien elf and the mythological Fair Folk


They should have nothing to do with elves or faeries at all. They're no more related to elves than hound archons are related to dogs, or modrons are related to polyhedron dice. As personifications of the chaotic good alignment, associating them with elves is far too limiting, and does a disservice to chaotic good characters of other races.

(from what I've heard, their appearance in Spelljammer predated any mention of them in the RPG, although I admittedly am only repeating hearsay; even if publication dates bear me out, we don't know what was going on behind the scenes, so maybe Baker had something decent in mind before the cards were printed).


Spellfire, I think you mean, though they were actually from the Blood Wars card game. But I give Rich Baker credit for developing them in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II, since that source included a lot more information than the cards did. I suppose someone could ask Rich Baker if he came up with the initial idea, but I don't really care.

I believe the same book which proposes the Rilmani also has a race of extradimensional mirror-people whose name I forget


The nerra. There's actually an interesting backstory in Tales From the Infinite Staircase in which the Outlands were originally inhabited by a race known as the kamarel, but when the rilmani arose the kamarel fled into the plane of mirrors, abandoning their cities to the rilmani. Perhaps the kamarel evolved into the nerra, though 4th edition has some other interesting ideas about where the nerra came from.

The nerra originated in the 3rd edition Fiend Folio, but the rilmani are originally from the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix Volume II, like the eladrins and guardinals, and they have more castes and more detail (and better illustrations) in the earlier source.

That's weird, I use the name Aeons for a different, less elfy version of Chaotic Good exemplars, very inspired by Thelema and similar forms of occultism (I forget exactly which new-age guru type, and/or medieval Gnostic prophet, proposed the idea that all true divinities were but emanations of the ultimate archetype of cosmic perfection, but somewhere in this field of study, the word Aeon was used in a very particular context, which I latched onto but good).


In Gnosticism, aeons are the servants of the true divine, dwelling in the Pleroma, while archons are the lords of the phenomenological world, the prison universe created by the Demiurge (as described in Ephesians 6:12; the archons are the "rulers" or "authorities," the "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." They specifically rule over the planets, and thus astrology, so it kind of fits that the good-aligned D&D archons are associated with layers of Celestia named after the planetary spheres). I've used aeons to mean celestials who have ascended beyond the six lower Heavens to the Seventh, leaving archons behind as bodhisattvas to guide mortals to similar transcendance.

In The Avatar's Handbook from Green Ronin, aeons are neutral good celestials with a nature theme.

I'm sure this is all very fascinating to some people, but to me, it seems extremely silly. I can believe in a sort of primordial uber-fiend, but having them specifically turn out to be canoloths, nycaloths, arcanoloths and so forth


The uber-fiends are the baernaloths (I've seen people use the infernals from the Epic Level Handbook as a basis for their 3rd edition stats). The canoloths, nycaloths, and so on are their creations, just as the demons and devils are. The General of Gehenna cast off the chaotic and lawful taint the yugoloths had absorbed, which became the primal larvae that were herded into the Abyss and Baator, becoming the oldest fiends (the obyriths and elder Baatorians, probably, rather than the tanar'ri or baatezu, though this is somewhat ambiguous).

it strikes me as a very childish


"The idea that one thing might be older than another thing is for babies!"

The main idea is that the primal forces of Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil are the oldest things on the Outer Planes, and they only began to blend later on. So the neutral evil, neutral good, lawful neutral, and chaotic neutral races are older than the chaotic evil, lawful evil, chaotic good, and lawful good races.

I'd assign it to some far more conceptual sort of entities, calling them Dreadlords or Dark Ones or something, and the yugoloths would probably just be cast-offs from the other two types of fiends, since they very much seem like an afterthought by comparison to them.


The yugoloths, in Planescape, represent "purity" of evil, untainted by law or chaos or mortality. They view mortals with disdain (since they precede them) and concentrate on manipulating the younger fiendish races via the Blood War.

In the Pathfinder RPG, their equivalent of yugoloths, the daemons, are incarnations of the concept of mortality, and each caste represents a different kind of death.

(Although an interesting different take, which can't really coexist with these, is the idea that the tanarri, baatezu, and yugoloths all started out as three distinct sorts of evolution, with one being almost entirely reptilian in cast, another heavily using mammalian features, and a third having an insectlike nature, with all three sort of intermingling over the aeons. By this theory, ice devils were probably originally a yugoloth race who settled in a cold part of Baator, explaining why they don't share the tendency towards scales and fangs that we see in the pit fiend, the cornugon, the hamatula, and a lot of the other iconic devils. Similar logic is applied to all the other fiends that don't seem to quite fit the aesthetic of their race...for instance I can very easily see the Arcanoloth as an ex-demon, whose interest in magical lore was difficult to pursue amist the constant turbulence of the Abyss.)


The idea that gelugons were originally a yugoloth caste is familiar. I almost feel like a 4th edition source might have gone with that (though yugoloths are demons in 4e)? I have a half-memory of some source claiming they began as yugoloth mercenaries hired by Mephistopheles. Edit: Oh! It's in the 4th edition Manual of the Planes, page 104. "Mephistopheles’s great strength lies in his command of the ice devils, or gelugons. These were once a mercenary race of demons akin to mezzodemons, but he entrapped them in perpetual servitude millennia ago, transforming them into denizens of the Nine Hells. Although Mephistopheles permits ice devils to serve other archdevils, they are bound to obey him before any others—a significant bit of insurance for the lord of Cania." Though there are other insectlike devils, like the kocrachon and bone devil (with its scorpion tail), so they're really not that unusual among devilkind.

Of the yugoloth types, nycaloths are roughly similar to horned devils or nabassu in appearance. Ultroloths are simply faceless humanoids. Hydroloths are similar to hezrou or slaadi. Yagnoloths are sort of similar to glabrezu (different sized arms), and marraenoloths are similar to bone devils and babau, so only the lowest castes of yugoloths are insectlike anyway. And there are insectlike demons, such as the chasme.

I've written more extensively about it elsewhere, but I see yugoloths and guardinals as having obvious parallels to one another. The base footsoldiers, the mezzoloths, mirror the cervidals, the winged nycaloths mirror the avorals, the sagely arcanaloths mirror the ursinals, and the ruling ultroloths mirror the leonals. Other castes were created later.

Similarly, there are some strong parallels that suggest the archon castes might have been derived from guardinal castes in some way, particularly if you look at how the archons were originally depicted in 1e. Lupinals and hound archons, leonals and sword archons (which had cat heads in 1e), ursinals and warden archons, and avorals and tome archons (which had hawk heads in 1e).
ripvanwormer
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby willpell » Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:10 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:I'm not saying that good isn't real, or shouldn't be rewarded or whatever. It's not necessarily "grimdark" to say that there are hard moral questions that don't necessarily have a firm answer that the cosmos conveniently provides.


Certainly. But sometimes I'm in the mood for the exact opposite of "grimdark".

Yes, it's only one perspective. It's something people within the world of the game should be able to believe without being thoroughly disabused of the notion.


Sometimes, certainly. Especially in a setting such as Planescape.

The fact that gods require mortal belief to exist seems to be unquestionably true, though, since there are documented instances of them dying without it. There might be exceptions to this rule, though (like Tharizdun, who is mostly forgotten; perhaps the fact that he's asleep means he consumes less energy?).


Ultimately this answer should depend on the nature of the story you're telling.

Ao in the Forgotten Realms is explicitly a god


No. He's something else. Planescape calls his sort of entity an "overpower." Unlike a god, he doesn't require or accept worship and he seems to be a different level of being altogether. He's perhaps the sentience of Realmspace's crystal sphere.


Every source I've ever seen calls him a god. He might be an exception to an overall rule which, properly stated, would indicate that MOST gods require worship to survive, with Ao and Tharizdun being among the exceptions. (This is pretty much the way I'll handle it in Whiteleaf, which has an expy of Tharizdun and a "definite last word" deity roughly akin to Ao, along with two other such overdeities corresponding to the four "corner" alignments.)

No. The "FR version of Planescape" is just regular Planescape; Planescape sources like On Hallowed Ground mentioned him, and Forgotten Realms sources like Faiths & Avatars discussed Ao in the context of the cosmology the Realms shared with the Planescape setting. Ao and other overpowers (the Highgod of Krynnspace is the only other one to be named) have no power beyond Realmspace (or whatever crystal sphere they rule over—Ao has some power over any god worshiped in the Realms, but only as far as the Realms were concerned: Tyr could be reduced to avatar form in Realmspace but the aspect of Tyr worshiped on other worlds was fine).

So, for one thing, Ao is only one of countless similar overpowers, who each act as wardens of the divine within their crystal spheres. So worshiping Ao as "the Great Unknown" would be strange, since what, then, is the Highgod? They don't seem to be the same entity.


*shrug* it was just a fun speculation that I thought might work if I wanted it to. No biggie if it's contradicted by a bunch of canon that I don't especially care about.

Another problem: Ao specifically rejects worship, and cults dedicated to him mysteriously die out, as happened shortly after the Avatar Crisis. So if the Athar tried to worship Ao, they probably wouldn't for long.


Wonder if he and the Lady of Pain have corresponded on the topic....

Guide to Hell claims they're all pawns of Asmodeus, who hopes to harness the power of doubt to weaken the bonds imprisoning him in Hell, but I discount that.


Agreed. That's pretty clearly the kind of plot point that only a pissed-off theist could have come up with. (I view the original "Wall of the Faithless" in a similar vein. "Atheist, are you? Okay, enjoy being sewn into a wall for all eternity, mwahahah!")

The revelation that the Athar are mere dupes of the asuras (though that would be precisely in character for the asuras detailed in the Pathfinder RPG, especially) would be kind of cruel to any Athar PCs in the same way that revealing that, say, Heironeous was definitely a Wizard of Oz-style charlatan would be cruel to a player whose character devoutly worships Heironeous. Some players might be fine with that, but it seems like kind of a dirty trick. It's the same reason I don't accept Guide to Hell's premise that Asmodeus created the Athar.


Right, I wouldn't spring this on a player unless I'd talked through the idea a bit and made sure they were game. I wouldn't necessarily say what my horrible revelation was, but instead I'd ask something like, "so, in playing this character, do you want their faith to go unchallenged, or would you find it satisfying to play out a storyline where they learn that there's something deeply wrong with what they believe?" Many players would answer either way.

This is Colin McComb's idea, from Hellbound and Faces of Evil. Looong after Gary Gygax left the company. But before you dismiss it as "inanity," keep in mind that you're judging based on one context-free line that I wrote. Not best practice if you care about making informed judgments.


True. I still suspect that I'm likely to facepalm at any but the very best takes on an idea this fundamentally questionable.

Right, I definitely know that the Good can disagree; it's just harder for me to imagine them ever disagreeing so strenuously that they would declare Total War and kill trillions of souls over some fine point of doctrine.


Well, millions.


Okay, that clearly makes it no big deal, then. :twisted:

The idea, I think, isn't that they're warring over mere doctrine. I think the idea is that pantheons can go to war when the mortal cultures who worship them go to war (for example, the ancient Suloise and Baklunish on the World of Greyhawk, or the Aesir and Vanir from Norse mythology). And the angelic hosts serving those gods go to war with them.


The question then becomes, if the gods of these cultures genuinely exist, why do they not intervene to discourage their followers from pointlessly slaughtering each other, either over doctrine or for control of limited resources? The deities can just create more resources, and they often know for a fact that both doctrines are true. Imagine if Allah and Jehovah periodically each told their followers that the other's god is a golf buddy of theirs; there'd be far less need for crusades and jyhads. (Of course, perhaps telling their followers to slaughter each other is their version of golf, but that'd be a pretty horrible reality, and would strongly encourage dystheism if it ever became definitely known.)

I mean, there was a whole book on them, The Factol's Manifesto.


I miss being able to buy books....

Other good sources include The Mimir


I should definitely spend more time on that.

I have thoughts on most of them, but I'm not going to go on and on for thousands of words in a thread that was supposed to be about the Feywild.


Starting a new thread for this topic is heartily encouraged.

But basically:

*The Dustmen are morbid Buddhists, combined with the inhabitants of the Necropolis Litharege.
*The Godsmen are transhumanists.
*The Transcendent League are Zen mystics who listen to the rhythms of the multiverse.
*The Free League range from anarcho-capitalists to simply people who want to be left alone by the other factions.
*The Harmonium are collectivists.
*The Revolutionary League are anarchists, revolutionaries, or Occupy Wall Street types.
*The Sign of One are solipsists.
*The Fated are Objectivists.
*The Sensates are hedonists and Epicureans.


This is only half the factions, of course.

The Mercykillers are clearly Lawful Evil from this description


I'm not sure what you think you can discern from a one-line summary. There are two major sub-factions among the Mercykillers, with one (primarily lawful good) emphasizing mercy and the other (primarily lawful evil) emphasizing punishment.


I'm not working just off that one line; I've read some of this stuff before. One such source explicitly stated that the name "Mercykillers" does not mean "those who kill IN mercy", but simply "those who kill Mercy itself as a concept". The faction would later be split into the "Sons of Mercy" and the "Thrill Killers", which pretty clearly indicates that there was not a harmonious constant between the two. But as long as both factions were working together, it's fairly clear that the good guys were at least tolerating the continued excesses of their nastier associates.

They shouldn't be distinct


Law and chaos have many meanings. Ethics are only one of them.


Yes, but they are inextricably linked to the others, or they should be, if all the combined meanings of Law come together to create the plane of Mechanus, and the modron race, and Axiomatic weapons, and so forth.

where belief shapes reality.


Which is an interesting theme, but an empty statement in itself, and the source of countless arguments among the Planescape fandom because it can mean basically anything you want it to mean.


As it should be. :mrgreen:

People believe all sorts of things. They have beliefs about ethics, and beliefs about law and chaos, and these sets overlap but belief doesn't make them synonymous. Chaos is liberty, and chaos is change, chaos is entropy, etc. Alignment is mainly about the liberty aspect.


Chaos and entropy are very distinct concepts. Entropy is more nearly Evil than Chaotic, although the two are distinct (I'm very fond of the idea of ethical Doomguards).

The Planes of Law boxed set described Baator, Acheron, Mechanus, Arcadia, and Mount Celestia. The Planes of Chaos boxed set described the Abyss, Pandemonium, Limbo, Ysgard, and Arborea. The Planes of Conflict boxed set described Carceri, the Gray Waste, Gehenna, the Beastlands, Elysium, and Bytopia. The Outlands were detailed in a separate boxed set, A Player's Primer to the Outlands.

So anyway, the "Planes of Law and Chaos" overlap the Upper Planes and Lower Planes. Arcadia is both a Plane of Law and an Upper Plane.


I guess that's close enough for us to agree on.

For a real-life example, do we permit hateful and dangerous speech to ensure that more benign speech is also protected?


Benign speech is absolutely free to coexist with "hateful and dangerous" speech. The fact that other people are saying things you don't want to hear does not, in any way, limit your ability to speak in your preferred fashion (at least not on the Internet; it's a somewhat different situation IRL, since someone might be speaking louder and making it impossible for you to be heard...technically, page space occupied and similar issues form an equivalent online, but they're far easier to mitigate in thousands of ways, from reformatting text sizes to simply hiding posts you don't want to see). There is no excuse for draconian measures to limit free expression on the Internet.

So an eladrin's ethical paradigm includes some tolerance for the wickedness of demons, within limits, because freedom always includes an element of danger. An archon's ethical paradigm includes some tolerance for the wickedness of devils, who exploit loopholes in the laws that archons support, because law always includes the potential for abuse.


"Some" meaning "very minimal" at best, if there's any sanity to the cosmos.

Ten million eladrins failed to be born, or withered and died, because the cosmic balance shifted too far toward Law. Archons are allies in good, but enemies in the promotion of chaos.


Perhaps, if it is as extreme as that, you might have a point. But I see little evidence that this is happening.

It's not necessarily beneficial, but eladrins aren't solely interested in what is beneficial.


Replacing "solely" with "primarily to the point of near-exclusively" is mandatory, or else they are not even remotely forces for Good. Like I've said before, Good is eclipsed and corrupted by Evil, at least by a factor of 3 or so, and quite possibly to near-infinitude. To quote a source on the topic, "A barrel of clean water, with one drop of sewage in it, is a barrel of sewage, never the reverse". It maybe needn't be quite that extreme, but it should be damn close. If the water is visibly brown, it's probably unsafe to drink. And if you'd ever let a child be murdered, for any reason, it's damn hard to listen to anything you have to say on the subject of morals, ethics, or the "greater good".

I think it's fascinating to look at these beings not from our human perspective, but from the alien perspective of entities literally formed from these cosmic forces.


But the definition of those cosmic forces comes from words in English, whose meaning is defined through the understanding that English-speaking Earthlings have of them. If you found a word in some foreign language which meant something vaguely similar to "Good", but with different connotations unshaped by the cultural forces we're all familiar with, and you said that the Angels and Guardinals were representatives of the cosmic force of That Word, then this argument wouldn't exist. But if they are to be regarded as representatives of the cosmic force of Good, then Good as a cosmic force has to bear at least a "very strong" resemblance to Good as a typical English-speaking Earthling understands it. Thusly, the perspective can't be all that alien.

You might have a good enough imagination that you can get pretty close to understanding the perspective by which, say, a devil operates, in which the very concepts of Good and Chaos are fundamentally abhorrent. But if you're writing a sourcebook on the subject, then you need to be sure that the imagination of your reader is good enough to understand where you're coming from, or else he's probably going to be furious at you for writing that book, in which your devil methodically describes the reasons why it's morally reprehensible to NOT murder and torture children, under particular circumstances which the devil, but not the average reader, understands.

That doesn't mean they have to slaughter archons, but it means archons are their ideological opponents every bit as much as demons are.


Well, there's a big difference between an ideological opponent and a battlefield opponent. You can manage to have a civilized debate with an Archon; he might try to seduce you to the cause of Law, might even try using mind control on you, but attempting to do the same with a Demon will get you killed and your neck shat down. One of these treatments you can walk away from, possibly to get a Disenchant cast upon your controlled mind, a lot more easily than the other one can be coped with using Raise Dead spells (the multiverse only contains so many diamonds, after all).

They should have nothing to do with elves or faeries at all. They're no more related to elves than hound archons are related to dogs, or modrons are related to polyhedron dice. As personifications of the chaotic good alignment, associating them with elves is far too limiting, and does a disservice to chaotic good characters of other races.


Hound archons absolutely are related to dogs; they are incarnations of the fundamental loyalty, courage, and love that a faithful companion has for its human counterpart. And yes, that does mean that their nature speaks more to Humans than it does to other species, who don't have a history of domesticating wolves to guard their homes and herd their flocks. Likewise, the eladrins speak to elves, who are more Chaotic than most civilized races, and oh would you look at that? Arborea is almost entirely the Elf afterlife. That doesn't mean that humans can't go there, or that elves can't go to the part of Celestia ruled largely by the Hound Archon race. But a human who goes to Arborea is probably a lot more like an elf than most humans, and an elf who is drawn to the Hound Archon area is probably an elf who has some affinity toward animal domestication, which his more wolf-loving fellow elves might think was weird or even unnatural.

Spellfire, I think you mean


:facepalm: yes, indeed, I am a stupid person; carry on....

though they were actually from the Blood Wars card game.


Ah, I thought the source I remembered specifically mentioned Spellfire, but perhaps it simply mentioned "the D&D CCG" and I assumed. I had pretty much forgotten Blood Wars existed; to date I don't think I've ever seen a single card for it, although I do know a guy who owns some, somewhere.

I suppose someone could ask Rich Baker if he came up with the initial idea, but I don't really care.


I very much do care. Anyone who knows of a source on this topic, please feel free to chime in.

The nerra. There's actually an interesting backstory in Tales From the Infinite Staircase in which the Outlands were originally inhabited by a race known as the kamarel, but when the rilmani arose the kamarel fled into the plane of mirrors, abandoning their cities to the rilmani. Perhaps the kamarel evolved into the nerra, though 4th edition has some other interesting ideas about where the nerra came from.


Neat! I'm not too fond of the Staircase, as I find it a somewhat cheesy plot device (and for the matter much the same is true of the Outlands, which I explicitly threw out of my version of Planescape). But I could definitely see this going somewhere interesting.

The nerra originated in the 3rd edition Fiend Folio, but the rilmani are originally from the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix Volume II, like the eladrins and guardinals, and they have more castes and more detail (and better illustrations) in the earlier source.


It would be hard to make an illustration that wasn't better than the 3E Rilmani pictures, that's for sure....

"The idea that one thing might be older than another thing is for babies!"


More like "the idea that Pit Fiends aren't badass and radical enough, and there needs to be something way more totally wicked than that, is for 8-to-13-year-olds."

The main idea is that the primal forces of Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil are the oldest things on the Outer Planes, and they only began to blend later on. So the neutral evil, neutral good, lawful neutral, and chaotic neutral races are older than the chaotic evil, lawful evil, chaotic good, and lawful good races.


And what about the True Neutral? Is that older still, or the absolute newest? (Or both!?)

In the Pathfinder RPG, their equivalent of yugoloths, the daemons, are incarnations of the concept of mortality, and each caste represents a different kind of death.


That, I like. (With the exception of the name "daemon", and the use of Pathfinder stats to represent them.) Although personally, I would distinguish between incarnations of Death and forces of Evil, since Death is a very necessary part of the natural cycle, and there's a good argument for the idea that people shouldn't fear it. Evil, contrarily, is just about the only place where you should be talking about "fates worse than death". (The only real alternative is to treat Insanity as a sort of cosmic force in and of itself, distinguishing it from Evil, which in this definition would only apply to essentially sane moral choices that are contrary to a Good which you are sane enough to be capable of recognizing. But there are definite problems with that approach, so I'm not entirely comfortable exploring it.)

Though there are other insectlike devils, like the kocrachon and bone devil (with its scorpion tail), so they're really not that unusual among devilkind.


The osyluth is another possible ex-yugoloth in this model, although it looks similar enough to other devils (particularly in its 5E illustration) that I'm more inclined to think it's a later-generation descendant of such "immigrants". If you line up a bunch of the more iconic and mostly-from-corebook members of the fiendish races, there seems to be a definite continuity to Pit Fiends, Cornugons, Hamatulas, Spinagons, and that race of devils that serve Tiamat and come in the same five colors as chromatic dragons. The Bearded Devils and Bone Devils also seem to kind of fit with this general aesthetic, but the Gelugon stands out like a sore thumb. (And the erinyes and chain devils are a bit different, but I think both of them started out as something other than devils and were corrupted). Likewise, looking at the various demon races, you see an awful lot of furry and bestial forms, and only a handful of exceptions, such as the Nabassu and the Chasme (which in this model might be an ex-devil and an ex-yugoloth respectively; Nycaloths, Yagnoloths and Arcanoloths would be among the handful of cases of this going in the other direction, and of the handful of other yugoloths I've seen, enough of them are insecty-looking to make this theory seem fairly robust).

Similarly, there are some strong parallels that suggest the archon castes might have been derived from guardinal castes in some way, particularly if you look at how the archons were originally depicted in 1e. Lupinals and hound archons, leonals and sword archons (which had cat heads in 1e), ursinals and warden archons, and avorals and tome archons (which had hawk heads in 1e).


That's interesting. I always thought the warden archon seemed like a bizarre standout.
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby Zeromaru X » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:12 am

If the Athar views about gods are true... I guess I'll have to stay away from Planescape and homebrew something more interesting. I find the concept of gods that are made of mortals' will the most uninspiring of all the divine origins. I'm a fan of classical mythologies, and I like gods that are gods, even if they have faults.

willpell wrote:Every source I've ever seen calls him a god. He might be an exception to an overall rule which, properly stated, would indicate that MOST gods require worship to survive, with Ao and Tharizdun being among the exceptions. (This is pretty much the way I'll handle it in Whiteleaf, which has an expy of Tharizdun and a "definite last word" deity roughly akin to Ao, along with two other such overdeities corresponding to the four "corner" alignments.)


I've updated his article in the Forgotten Realms Wiki, so I had to read a lot of sources (including On Hallowed Ground, a Planescape source). And he always stated to be something that is beyond the gods and even concepts such as alignments.

Guide to Hell claims they're all pawns of Asmodeus, who hopes to harness the power of doubt to weaken the bonds imprisoning him in Hell, but I discount that.


But is the Guide of Hell the "true truth", or just another myth. Seeing that this stuff is only from just one source, I see it as Asmodeus' propaganda, not unlike the Cyrinishad.
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby ripvanwormer » Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:16 am

willpell wrote:Wonder if he and the Lady of Pain have corresponded on the topic...


I don't mean that Ao is necessarily killing his worshipers. They just... stop worshiping him.

From Faiths & Avatars:
Faiths & Avatars wrote:Immediately following the Time of Troubles, cults grew up that worshiped Ao directly. These cults appeared suddenly and then evaporated just as quickly when it became clear that Ao did not answer prayers, offer protection, or grant spells to faithful priests.


The Great Unknown, on the other hand, does grant spells to faithful priests, so it seems like a better option for Athar.

The question then becomes, if the gods of these cultures genuinely exist, why do they not intervene to discourage their followers from pointlessly slaughtering each other, either over doctrine or for control of limited resources?


If the pantheons are fighting too, why would they want to?

The deities can just create more resources


Eventually, perhaps, but major acts of creation don't happen very often. Where such powers are enumerated, it's not something gods can do quickly, or often, aside from minor spells that clerics can cast (create food and water, etc.). I'm not quite sure what you're envisioning but generally gods can't just create new lands for their faithful to inhabit at will, and they generally have a pact that prevents them from interfering directly with mortals.

, and they often know for a fact that both doctrines are true.


I would say, rather, that this is never the case. Never ever. Religious conflicts exist. The gods are vague and speak in riddles. Are YHWH and Allah the same god or not? Divinations are unclear.

One such source explicitly stated that the name "Mercykillers" does not mean "those who kill IN mercy", but simply "those who kill Mercy itself as a concept". The faction would later be split into the "Sons of Mercy" and the "Thrill Killers" which pretty clearly indicates that there was not a harmonious constant between the two. But as long as both factions were working together, it's fairly clear that the good guys were at least tolerating the continued excesses of their nastier associates.


Sigh. No, that isn't clear. How boring would it be if a faction didn't have internal conflict? And it's "Sodkillers." And the fact that a group of them decided to call themselves the Sons of Mercy should maybe be a hint that a lot of them thought mercy was a worthwhile concept.

Yes, but they are inextricably linked to the others, or they should be, if all the combined meanings of Law come together to create the plane of Mechanus, and the modron race, and Axiomatic weapons, and so forth.


There's room for a lot of different concepts on the outer planes. Why should modrons reflect every single meaning of Law? They don't; that's why there are other species on Mechanus (inevitables, parai (the 3e Monster Manual III calls these visilights), justicators, moignos, formians, etc.) representing other meanings, and why Mechanus has more than one realm within it. Parai are assimilation, formians are colonization, justicators opposition to chaos, inevitables enforcers of laws, modrons are hierarchy, moignos are mathematics, etc.

There's no particular reason why the existence of magic items that target things associated with Chaos has any greater implication about the nature of those concepts; it's simply how the magic works. If you'd rather have more specialized magic (bonuses that only work in defense of formian colonies, for example) that's certainly an option, but it's understandable that the official designers opted for something simpler and more generally applicable.

I mean, clearly there's no "inextricable link," unless you're seriously arguing that people with lawful alignments are obligated to follow other lawful stereotypes (neatness, rational thinking, even temperament, etc.). Planar entities, maybe to some extent, but there's a reason why there are multiple planar races on Mechanus.

Before I continue, let me emphasize that alignment debates are one of the biggest wastes of time in the world. Alignment is a painfully artificial construct with almost no relevance to real or even fictional people, and it means whatever you decide it means. It can generate some interesting themes, but I refuse to spend any more effort in justifying my interpretation of it. I don't care.

Chaos and entropy are very distinct concepts


Entropy is literally defined as "gradual decline into disorder." Sure, there can be chaotic systems with emergent order that create as often as they destroy, but entropy is certainly an aspect of chaos. There are lawful Doomguard, but they tend to believe that entropy is progressing too fast on a multiversal scale and seek to slow it down (and they're a minority among the faction). Of course, that'd be up to the individual player.

I guess that's close enough for us to agree on.


Good, I guess? I mean, you can call them whatever you want, but what they're called officially isn't a subjective question.

Benign speech is absolutely free to coexist with "hateful and dangerous" speech.


I was defining some possible terms of law-chaos alignment conflict, not soliciting your opinions. Certainly "free speech" isn't a universally agreed upon value. You can place yourself (or your characters) anywhere on that alignment spectrum you like, or define the spectrum a different way (it may well vary as the Overton window changes across societies and eras). The point is that it's a conflict, not that there's a "correct answer" that I was hoping you'd explain to me.

But I see little evidence that this is happening.


Man, I'm just discussing ideas for possible upper planar conflicts. I made it clear (or, at least, tried to make it clear) from the beginning that you didn't have to agree with me. The point is that characters within the multiverse of the game might agree with me, and that might spark conflict.

Replacing "solely" with "primarily to the point of near-exclusively" is mandatory


In fact, it isn't. The point is that there are real trade-offs and meaningful stakes involved in exemplifying chaotic good or lawful good. Both paths involve disadvantages, and if you'd rather avoid those, neutral good is a better choice.

And if you'd ever let a child be murdered, it's damn hard to listen to anything you have to say on the subject of morals, ethics, or the "greater good".


I'm talking about fictional characters in a game, within the context of one of the fakest ethical/moral matrices ever designed. I'm not offering you any of my personal opinions on the subject of morals, ethics, or the "greater good."

More like "the idea that Pit Fiends aren't badass and radical enough, and there needs to be something way more totally wicked than that, is for 8-to-13-year-olds."


Spoken like a true 14-year-old.

And what about the True Neutral? Is that older still, or the absolute newest?


No idea, honestly.
Last edited by ripvanwormer on Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:31 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby ripvanwormer » Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:17 am

Zeromaru X wrote:If the Athar views about gods are true... I guess I'll have to stay away from Planescape and homebrew something more interesting. I find the concept of gods that are made of mortals' will the most uninspiring of all the divine origins.


As I said, it's ambiguous where they came from originally, though one of the main themes of Planescape is that "belief is power," and the deities of the Planescape multiverse therefore gain their power from belief.
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby Zeromaru X » Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:56 am

ripvanwormer wrote:
Zeromaru X wrote:If the Athar views about gods are true... I guess I'll have to stay away from Planescape and homebrew something more interesting. I find the concept of gods that are made of mortals' will the most uninspiring of all the divine origins.


As I said, it's ambiguous where they came from originally, though one of the main themes of Planescape is that "belief is power," and the deities of the Planescape multiverse therefore gain their power from belief.


But is different to say that the gods can gain power from belief or lose it/die if nobody believe in them, than to say that the gods originated from belief. I see "belief" as food. If I don't eat, I can die. Or I can weaken if I'm eating poorly. But I'm not born from the food I'm eating.

Now, certain gods being created by beliefs or being ascended mortals is cool, and interesting concept. But all gods? That's not my thing. I prefer a mix of old, original/primeval gods that predate/created mortals, and a new generation of artificial ones—ascended or created—, to all being just imaginations of mortals.
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Re: How does/could the Feywild fit into the Great Wheel?

Postby willpell » Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:01 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:If the Athar views about gods are true... I guess I'll have to stay away from Planescape and homebrew something more interesting. I find the concept of gods that are made of mortals' will the most uninspiring of all the divine origins. I'm a fan of classical mythologies, and I like gods that are gods, even if they have faults.


While I personally like the "born of belief" origin better than most alternatives, I do think that there should BE alternatives. Glad I'm not the only one. The idea that the gods simply ARE, and can do anything they like regardless of us mere mortals's opinion of them, has some problems, but so does the "born of belief" version.

willpell wrote:I've updated his article in the Forgotten Realms Wiki, so I had to read a lot of sources (including On Hallowed Ground, a Planescape source). And he always stated to be something that is beyond the gods and even concepts such as alignments.


Being "beyond the gods" doesn't mean that he has to not be a god. You could be the single most powerful human being on the planet, utterly beyond the ability of any other human to affect in any way, and yet still be human in every meaningful sense.

ripvanwormer wrote:
Faiths & Avatars wrote:Immediately following the Time of Troubles, cults grew up that worshiped Ao directly. These cults appeared suddenly and then evaporated just as quickly when it became clear that Ao did not answer prayers, offer protection, or grant spells to faithful priests.


The Great Unknown, on the other hand, does grant spells to faithful priests, so it seems like a better option for Athar.


Okay, that's pretty definitive. Too bad, I liked the idea of connecting them, but it sounds difficult to pull off without contradicting the canon.

ripvanwormer wrote:
willpell wrote:The question then becomes, if the gods of these cultures genuinely exist, why do they not intervene to discourage their followers from pointlessly slaughtering each other, either over doctrine or for control of limited resources?


If the pantheons are fighting too, why would they want to?


Because they're Good gods, and thus should oppose the senseless slaughter of even the other's followers, let alone their own?

The deities can just create more resources


Eventually, perhaps, but major acts of creation don't happen very often. Where such powers are enumerated, it's not something gods can do quickly, or often, aside from minor spells that clerics can cast (create food and water, etc.)


That's exactly what I'm talking about. Create Food And Water is a third-level spell. Going by the rules in Deities & Demigods (3.0), a god is generally a 20th-level member of two different classes, and even if one of those classes isn't Cleric, all gods also have the ability to spontaneously cast every spell associated with their domains. Not sure if any domain has CF&W on it, but even if not, that only restricts the casting of over a dozen such spells per day to the stipulation that your god has to be a Cleric type. Higher-level spells can get into stuff like Major Creation and Greater Fabricate, and that's before we look at the rules for epic spellcasting, which could use the Create seed to accomplish (literally) God Only Knows what. This is entirely leaving aside the fact that a god with the Craft skill is allowed to Craft two items per round as free actions, and similar for other skill-related actions. There is no way a god can't feed and clothe an entire poverty-stricken nation in a couple of days at a minor inconvenience to himself. (Perhaps the limiting factor is that the Evil gods will ambush him just before he rests to recover his spell slots for the day; even there, though, you would think a coalition of all the Good gods working together could effectively defend whichever of their members is on Mortal Misery Palliation duty that day.)

I'm not quite sure what you're envisioning but generally gods can't just create new lands for their faithful to inhabit at will, and they generally have a pact that prevents them from interfering directly with mortals.


Nothing other than plot convenience imposes such restrictions, and I'm thoroughly tired of these plot-device tropes.

I would say, rather, that this is never the case. Never ever. Religious conflicts exist. The gods are vague and speak in riddles. Are YHWH and Allah the same god or not? Divinations are unclear.


If you want a world where religious conflicts exist, you can say all this is true, as your prerogative as GM. But I'd occasionally like to see someone explore the alternative. Perhaps even show two worlds colliding, one where this is true and one where it's not - and the latter would call out the former's forces of Good as hypocrites, because they're unwilling to do what is necessary to bring about true Good in their universe.

Sigh. No, that isn't clear. How boring would it be if a faction didn't have internal conflict? And it's "Sodkillers." And the fact that a group of them decided to call themselves the Sons of Mercy should maybe be a hint that a lot of them thought mercy was a worthwhile concept.


Post-schism, sure. Why didn't the schism happen earlier? Like, within a few days of the faction's formation, when it became clear that half of the "force" were utter psychopaths that would give all their principled buddies a REALLY bad reputation?

I mean, clearly there's no "inextricable link," unless you're seriously arguing that people with lawful alignments are obligated to follow other lawful stereotypes (neatness, rational thinking, even temperament, etc.).


If Law (and Good and Evil and Chaos, but Law in particular most of all) is a cosmic force, then it should be pulling all its subsets toward a single pure, perfect form of itself. Maybe this operates on a scale comparable to gravity and entropy, thus that the actual accomplishment of the goal would functionally spell the end of existence as we know it. But yes, I am making that argument in at least the theoretical sense. That's what having Law as an absolute cosmic force means; it has to, or else it's just a random collection of extraplanar lifeforms, whose unifying theme doesn't actually correspond to the word "law" (or similar words like "order") in any reasonable sense.

Before I continue, let me emphasize that alignment debates are one of the biggest wastes of time in the world.


I thoroughly disagree. I think they're one of the most important issues to talk about, even if getting them completely settled is nigh-impossible. We learn so much through the journey; it's possibly the best way to hone our higher understanding of what Reality might actually be, beyond the immediate context of our ordinary lives. As thus, it is a significant subset of the entire apparent purpose of sentient thought.

I refuse to spend any more effort in justifying my interpretation of it. I don't care.


That, on the other hand, is perfectly valid. We live in an entropic universe; I gain energy from the process of arguing such topics, but if you don't, you are more than welcome to walk away from the debate hall. (Of course, in so doing, you inevitably cede the last word to my side. That's just the way this works.)

Entropy is literally defined as "gradual decline into disorder."


Scientists might define it so, for a technical purpose, but in a more common-sense way, it is understood as meaning "gradual decline into destruction". Nobody thinks of entropy as describing the guy who can always find the piece of paper he's looking for in his home office, even though it looks to anybody else as though a tornado just went through the room. That guy is Chaotic in mindset, because he organizes his domicile based around highly subjective impressions, memories, and so forth, which he couldn't possibly explain to someone else well enough to allow them to be duplicated (a key component of Law is that everything needs to be standardized and repeatable, so that it doesn't matter who is performing an action, it must always turn out the same way regardless of the individual). Entropy would not be that guy's messy-looking study, it would be the rats who gnaw on or piss all over his buried papers, rendering them unreadable. But that's the rats' fault, not that guy's. A universe ruled by pure Chaos, with no influence whatsoever from Evil, would not contain forces of selfish destruction such as those rats; it would contain tornadoes, but as long as one didn't randomly happen to hit his house, his system would remain intact.

There are lawful Doomguard, but they tend to believe that entropy is progressing too fast on a multiversal scale and seek to slow it down (and they're a minority among the faction). Of course, that'd be up to the individual player.


There you go. There can't possibly be a lawful Xaositect, unless he's some sort of infiltrator. The other Chaotic factions should be similar in that regard, though taking a different form; in the Free League's case, it's more like a lack of caring whether you're Chaotic or Lawful, which is a Chaotic attitude by default (the Lawful ones are the ones whose doctrine by definition cares about eliminating Chaos; the Chaotic see Law as inherently unsustainable, and thus only oppose it on a situational basis).

I guess that's close enough for us to agree on.


Good, I guess? I mean, you can call them whatever you want, but what they're called officially isn't a subjective question.


That's not what I meant. But I forget what exactly I did mean, so whatever. *shakes hands and walks away*.

Spoken like a true 14-year-old.


:evil: :facepalm: sigh I was so close to having a civilized discussion...somehow, it always ends this way....

Zeromaru X wrote:But is different to say that the gods can gain power from belief or lose it/die if nobody believe in them, than to say that the gods originated from belief. I see "belief" as food. If I don't eat, I can die. Or I can weaken if I'm eating poorly. But I'm not born from the food I'm eating.


True, but you are made up of that food, its molecules slowly integrating into and composing your cellular structure. More notably, you couldn't have existed at a time when there was no food. Thusly, even if mortals didn't exactly create gods, there couldn't have been gods before there were mortals, if mortals are a necessary source of power without which gods can't exist. Maybe the gods created mortals the way a cook creates a meal, but there had to at least have been raw materials, which you could in theory eat straight. Perhaps the belief of animals was sufficient to get the gods started, and they only created sentience to improve the "flavor".

Now, certain gods being created by beliefs or being ascended mortals is cool, and interesting concept. But all gods? That's not my thing. I prefer a mix of old, original/primeval gods that predate/created mortals, and a new generation of artificial ones—ascended or created—, to all being just imaginations of mortals.


And I prefer that any single universe have a single consistent origin for all of its gods (at least unless they are divided into very marked subcategories along the same lines which divide their creation/maintenance methods). To use Greyhawk gods, Saint Cuthbert is one of the first two gods Gary Gygax ever made up, yet his lore lists him as being an ascended mortal. This causes problems when his original foil (Phaerimm or Phasma or whatever his name was) is assumed to have always existed. Does being an ex-mortal make SC more powerful? Less? More dependent on worship? Less? I want there to be definite answers to those questions, at least within a particular universe; I want a mechanical relationship which explains the workings of divinity in a very consistent way. Otherwise, it's frustratingly unclear and messy, and doesn't make the world seem well-designed. (It's only one of numerous factors that can contribute to that impression, of course.)
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