In this dark time, new heroes must arise to claim the crowns of Midgard, and restore the jewels to her scattered thrones...
- Dragon Turtle
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This thread is great!
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- Tim Baker
- Axe Beak
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I like that mortals (at least some mortals) know about masks, because it fuels tension between churches. It sparks the kind of intra-pantheon debates and conflict that mirrors the real world. You could still do this without masks, but they give the GM an easy plot hook to hang these types of events on. You could have factions within a given church that believe a deity is or isn't the mask of some other deity. They could argue and perhaps even splinter the church without escalating to open aggression. It could even lead to interesting intra-party discussions, if the players are into this kind of RP.
There's nothing wrong keeping it hidden from mortals as well, but it would be harder to make that aspect of the pantheons matter in actual play. Perhaps if the PCs are unique in that they learn this secret, it could drive a whole campaign. What do they do with this knowledge? Keep it to themselves? Try to convince churches that are at war with each other over what they view as opposing deities, but are actually the same god? So there's potential there. Or you could simply choose to keep that knowledge as GM information to help drive a world that feels more real, even if the players can't pinpoint what's motivating the gods to act in such a way. I'm less of a fan of that approach, but there's no reason why it couldn't work for your game.
- Black Dragon
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Even the gods don't necessarily know who is whom behind their masks. "Veles spoke the Words of Peace, which compelled the gods to no longer make war openly, and induced them to wear masks, that they might not know one another." Mortals may believe that, for example, Perun and Thor are either brothers or the same deity behind different masks, but no one knows for sure.
Planescape generally left the origins of the gods mysterious. Some are thought to be ascended spirits, some are ascended mortals, while some might be older than the planes.I like this more than Planescape "all gods are ascended mortals" stuff.