The acolyte descended down into the vaults. His oil lamp cast an orange glow, throwing the roughness of the stone walls into sharp relief. He passed through rows of coarse hewn wooden shelves, stacked with scrolls and books, the true treasure of this place. The years of wisdom were horded here by miserly scholars. Finally, near the back of this place he disturbed ancient air, finding at last what he was looking for. Gently pulling the ancient scroll open, he read the words ‘in the beginning’
Here is the Burning Wheel – World Building Question #2. I sent this multi-part question off to my players earlier this morning. It is more in-depth last week, mainly due to how interconnected the answers will be. Last week they established genre and theme. This week we look into the mists that will become our world, and ask “Who or what was there before?” We are developing the god/s of this world. Now, before we get to the questions, let me put this in focus. The gods may not even play out in this world. This question is to give us a starting place for a creation mythology as well as a foundation for the religions of the world. The last of the sub questions will give us insight into how large a part the actual deities will play in the world.
So here are the sub-questions. In each of them, I have tried to ask other questions or give examples to help stir some ideas up.
Is there one god or many in this world? There is a lot of precedent in the literature for a variety of options. A single creator god verses his dark mirror. We could have a number of independent gods and spirits like in Kull and Conan? Do rival pantheons, or a host of eldritch beings that look out upon the world with disinterest and malice in a Cthulhu-like fashion exist?
Are they aspected? In much of the heroic fantasy god (gods) are aspected. We see them in traditional fantasy drawing moral lines along a good/evil axis, but the heroic fantasy/low fantasy genre the gods more often divided along the lines of Law and Chaos. Law represents the light of civilization, and chaos the anarchy that precedes and follows times of Law. Is there a strong division along one of these lines or do the gods fall in different camps on a case by case basis?
Are they benevolent or malevolent? What is the general nature of the god/s? Are they benevolent creators, cruel jail keepers, or cthon horrors?
How active are they in the world of our game? There is a spectrum to deific involvement, both ends are very prevalent in the heroic fantasy genre. Distant gods means they have withdrawn from the world, and their power is not felt. In this case, the religions of the world have temporal power due to their organizations, but not spiritual power to smite down their enemies. A good example of this would be the starting point of Game of Thrones, the Whitecloaks in the Wheel of Time, or Crom in Conan (without the temporal power, because Crom does not need it!).
At the midpoint of this spectrum, we have gods that are interested only in a few of their chosen. At any time, there are but a handful of the truly faithful in the world, and sometimes they can get their gods attention. This is the setting of the later books in the Game of Thrones series and in the Cthulhu setting as well we see this level of involvement at times.
At the far end, we have gods that are powerful and involved in their world. Some of the darker gods like Set, in Conan would work here as well.
Ok, that was it for me this week. Looking forward to seeing this discussion play out and seeing how our world clarifies even more.