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David Johnston2 07-18-2013 03:10 PM

What a "god"?
 
This IS a gaming oriented question; a spinoff from the Loki question. What can the gods be in a game?

1. Purely imaginary gods. Any magic or miracles they seem to grant are applications of arcane magic just like that of the wizards (although they may have "secret spells" that make them seem special), or even advanced technology (which is a relative term. Flash powder is advanced to the right audience)

2. Gods which are products of belief made real by magic. That may mean they can be reshaped by memetic means, or belief may just be their genesis and if people's beliefs about a god were significantly changed, you might end up with two rival gods with the same name with the one no longer believed in beginning to fade unless he can find people to believe in the "real" him. Note however that worship may be primarily important as a method of instilling belief. Strong belief in entities who are not worshipped would also bring them into existence producing boogeymen, demons, and anything generally imagined.

3. Gods who are objectively real entities with supernatural superpowers and no dependence on human belief or worship, possibly with some role in making the world work the way it does. They may or may not like being worshipped, but when they help people, it's like a human rescuing a puppy whining for help. They get no benefit apart from the pleasure of being kind (or cruel). There may be equivalent entities, just as powerful and only not gods in that they have no fanclub. They do not have "spellcasting" clerics (except as before wizards with a religious bent), but may sometimes listen to requests for help. When they feel like it.

4. Gods who are objectively real entities with supernatural superpowers and possibly some role in making the world the way it does. However, they can get _more_ power and possibly an advantage over their rivals by drawing on the worship of supports which lends them magic power.

5. Gods who are abstract and elemental concepts given spontaneous form. They are powerful or weak as their concepts and elements are powerful or weak. Worship matters less than the strength of the concept. Pray for peace but make war, and the war god will be strong and the one you pray to will be weak.

Dalillama 07-18-2013 04:28 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
6) Gods who are objectively real entities which have no supernatural or superhuman powers whatsoever e.g. God-kings like the Roman or Japanese Emperors.

ULFGARD 07-18-2013 04:36 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
It seems good to me, though I might look more deeply at questions of truth.

First, is the god real? If not, then any miracles are belief based with no external reality. If the god is real, then...

How did it come to be? If it was created by man, can man create more gods? And can it be changed by man as man's culture, circumstances, etc., change? Or can it, once created, affect the culture and circumstances of man in some sort of negative (or positive) feedback loop?

If it wasn't created by man, how did it come to be? Is it some sort of "natural" being (part of a "race" of gods)? Or was it created by something else, perhaps a "greater" god? Or, finally, was it spontaneously created, or somehow eternal (or at least extant prior to the creation of the universe/world)?

These answers obviously have a large bearing on how such a god interacts with humanity or other mortal (or even immortal) races. Does the god "need" man? It's much more likely that it does if man created it, that it somehow benefits from worship. Of course, it's also entirely possible that, once created, it is somehow self-sustaining. Perhaps the god doesn't need anything from mortals, but finds worship pleasing or somehow beneficial, and therefore may be inclined to offer something in return. Perhaps the god needs nothing whatsoever, but cares about mortals (or at least some subset of them). Finally, a god could be indifferent or even outright hostile to mortals.

Another question is what role the god played in creation. If it hasn't existed since before creation, cosmology must be very odd indeed for it to have played any role in it, but I suppose it could somehow be possible. But really, the possibilities are none, some, or total. In the latter case, this is a "first" or "prime" mover deity insofar as it is the father of the material world, though what that means isn't necessarily obvious.

Before even considering what power(s) are granted by real deities, another factor must be considered: how comprehensible is the god? Is it "like us but more so" -- in other words just a "person" with immense supernatural power? Or is it more of a personification of a force of nature, a "human" face slapped onto something that is hard to understand without a face. Or is it more abstract still? Or worse yet -- completely incomprehensible?

Once that's known, they go hand in hand with the cosmology. Is there "ultimate" truth, good and evil, etc.? Is there an afterlife? Those can affect decisions as to what a god does for a follower.

All of that is a rough spitball of what I (at least) do when creating a religion, or even considering how to make real world religions gameable in given situations. (Of course, in the latter case, I have to take the sensibilities of the players and myself into account.)

johndallman 07-19-2013 12:40 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ULFGARD (Post 1615051)
First, is the god real? If not, then any miracles are belief based with no external reality.

That question is potentially extremely sticky. Here's an example:

There are a load of people who say they worship god X. Nobody has ever met this god, and he never communicates with worshipers. Other "gods" who are worshipped and can be communicated with say he doesn't exist (the more intellectually inclined ones sometimes add "as far as I know").

Yet miracles definitely occur when X is invoked, and it really doesn't seem that wizards or other gods are doing them.

Is this (a) some kind of "magic" done collectively and unconsciously by the worshippers or (b) a real god who doesn't show himself? Can one always tell the difference?

ULFGARD 07-19-2013 12:53 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 1615449)
That question is potentially extremely sticky. Here's an example:

There are a load of people who say they worship god X. Nobody has ever met this god, and he never communicates with worshipers. Other "gods" who are worshipped and can be communicated with say he doesn't exist (the more intellectually inclined ones sometimes add "as far as I know").

Yet miracles definitely occur when X is invoked, and it really doesn't seem that wizards or other gods are doing them.

Is this (a) some kind of "magic" done collectively and unconsciously by the worshippers or (b) a real god who doesn't show himself? Can one always tell the difference?

Sure, that's fine. But the GM is creating the world. I suppose one can be "agnostic" as the the reality of deities in one's own world. And it doesn't really matter in some games, especially short-term or one-shot adventures. But -- at least for me -- if one is planning a campaign in the hope it will have the potential to go on for years, some of these questions need to be answered. And if the answer is "well, hard to say" then that right there is an essential aspect of the cosmological "truth" of the world. However, a deity that is incomprehensible may manifest in this fashion -- miracles occur with no other explanation, magic that isn't magic happens, etc. In such a case, the existence could well be questioned by the skeptical, and the GM could choose to remain "agnostic" as to the actual existence of a god.

I personally find it useful when world building to answer that question for myself at least, as it leads to consistency down the road. In much the same way as in, say, a fantasy world, I'll decide what the world is shaped like and how closely its physics resemble our own. I.e., is it a flat world? If so, does the sun god actually ride his chariot across the sky every day? Etc.

David Johnston2 07-19-2013 01:14 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dalillama (Post 1615049)
6) Gods who are objectively real entities which have no supernatural or superhuman powers whatsoever e.g. God-kings like the Roman or Japanese Emperors.

Right. Gods who are really just wizards or have advanced technology split the difference betwen 6 and 3.

Dalillama 07-19-2013 02:09 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 1615449)

Is this (a) some kind of "magic" done collectively and unconsciously by the worshippers or (b) a real god who doesn't show himself? Can one always tell the difference?

The PCs may not know the difference, but it's important for worldbuilding purposes that the GM does, because it will determine what can or can't happen. The same effect could also be produced by secret spells, as in case 1 above. Each of those options has important implications in terms of making a consistent world, though.

Irish Wolf 07-19-2013 03:02 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
It could be interesting if the PCs believe they live in a world of (1), but a group of mages trying to back up their own little church through "miraculous" hidden magic accidentally learn they live in (2)... :)

(Imagine your reaction when one day, your fake idol, empowered by the belief of the congregation, begins actually speaking to you.)

Flyndaran 07-19-2013 03:29 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Any sufficiently advanced thaumaturgy is indistinguishable from deism?
Gods don't have to play by our petty rules. With things like reality quakes, modern actions can ripple through time to have made them always exist.

David Johnston2 07-19-2013 07:29 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Irish Wolf (Post 1615496)
It could be interesting if the PCs believe they live in a world of (1), but a group of mages trying to back up their own little church through "miraculous" hidden magic accidentally learn they live in (2)... :)

(Imagine your reaction when one day, your fake idol, empowered by the belief of the congregation, begins actually speaking to you.)

That happened in a Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser story.


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