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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.

Flyndaran 07-19-2013 07:31 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
There's also the god of farce or something like that that masqueraded as a cult's god pretending as an obviously fake "costume" god in a comic strip whose name I can't quite remember.

Anders 07-20-2013 02:26 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
How would you classify Banjo?

Polydamas 07-20-2013 02:37 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Don't forget the Babylonian theory: the gods are powerful beings who eat the smoke of sacrifices. If nobody sacrifices to them, they starve. So after several false starts, they create mortals to feed them.

Emphasizing ritual over belief can be a good way to give your setting a different flavour than those settings influenced by Christianity.

GrimGent 07-20-2013 03:24 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1615585)
There's also the god of farce or something like that that masqueraded as a cult's god pretending as an obviously fake "costume" god in a comic strip whose name I can't quite remember.

You might be thinking about the "fungod" arc ("That's right! It's a real god disguised as a fake one! And you fell for it!") from the obviously quite NSFW Oglaf.

Anders 07-20-2013 05:26 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
What about collective gods, like the Annunaki? They were just a faceless group, and we don't really know what they did. But they pop up in the Enuma Elish.

robkelk 07-20-2013 07:33 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Asta Kask (Post 1615699)
How would you classify Banjo?

Elan believed in Banjo enough that Banjo could grant Elan powers, so this is an atypical example of case #2.

Flyndaran 07-20-2013 08:02 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by GrimGent (Post 1615707)
You might be thinking about the "fungod" arc ("That's right! It's a real god disguised as a fake one! And you fell for it!") from the obviously quite NSFW Oglaf.

Yes, that's the one. Amazing you could understand my poor memory mangled version. :)

David Johnston2 07-21-2013 01:39 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Asta Kask (Post 1615734)
What about collective gods, like the Annunaki? They were just a faceless group, and we don't really know what they did. But they pop up in the Enuma Elish.

It's not that the Annunaki were really faceless. They're a collective grouping of minor, now forgotten deities. At the time, the locals were perfectly aware of who the local Annuna were.

Anders 07-21-2013 05:55 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
But then they transformed into a group of minor deities. What about them at that stage?

David Johnston2 07-21-2013 12:04 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Asta Kask (Post 1616123)
But then they transformed into a group of minor deities. What about them at that stage?

Well of course that's only an issue if gods are actually dependent on belief or worship to survive. In the case of the Annunaki, as city states became an empire and the local Annuna were grouped together, they could be assumed to get a small share of the state ceremonies giving thanks to the whole pantheon major and minor.

However that does bring to mind another category. Gods who need what comes from worship (in Runequest participating in a worship service caused characters to be temporarily low on temporary POW because they were actually tithing their magic power), but are not themselves directly worshipped. Instead they have an arrangement with another god where in return for service, or because that god is a vassal, they get the power second-hand.

jason taylor 07-24-2013 12:52 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by David Johnston2 (Post 1614983)
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.

Aren't most gods cosmic judges and nobles? Mythologies don't seem to focus just on the power(norse giants were as powerful as gods) but on the role.

Anders 07-24-2013 01:11 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1618089)
Aren't most gods cosmic judges and nobles? Mythologies don't seem to focus just on the power(norse giants were as powerful as gods) but on the role.

And keepers of order. Keeping the powers of Chaos at bay is important in many religions. Look at the Book of Job - God justifies his role by his keeping order in the universe (where were you when I...?) and fighting against chaos monsters (Leviathan, Job 41:1-34). Other semitic gods, like Marduk, had similar duties. Ditto Indo-European deities like Odin, Zeus, Jupiter, Indra...

tantric 07-24-2013 01:53 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
If it is really an issue in your world as to which came first, the worshipers or the god, I must direct you to the philosophy of nonduality. When the player asks the question, assume a sage-like poise and answer "nopeti" - which means, roughly, "there is an error in your question such that it cannot be satisfactorily answered", much like "Do you enjoy beating your mother?" Having this as a possible answer to all yes/no questions is also immanently useful in day-to-day life.

JCurwen3 07-24-2013 04:45 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1618137)
If it is really an issue in your world as to which came first, the worshipers or the god, I must direct you to the philosophy of nonduality. When the player asks the question, assume a sage-like poise and answer "nopeti" - which means, roughly, "there is an error in your question such that it cannot be satisfactorily answered", much like "Do you enjoy beating your mother?" Having this as a possible answer to all yes/no questions is also immanently useful in day-to-day life.

What language is "nopeti" from, or did you make it up? I like it, just curious - google only found me something here (http://gaybuddhist.org/archive/2004....%20Love%29.pdf).

Here is the extract from that page:
"Nopeti" literally means "it doesn't come up like this," that is, you think itís a question, but actually itís nonsense, and I canít answer it one way or another.

The question "Do you enjoy hitting your mother?", I suppose, could be "nopeti" if (1) the person has no mother, (2) the person doesn't beat her, or (3) the person has some neurological condition and can't really experience what we'd call "enjoyment".

robkelk 07-24-2013 06:04 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1618089)
Aren't most gods cosmic judges and nobles? Mythologies don't seem to focus just on the power(norse giants were as powerful as gods) but on the role.

That depends on the cosmology. In Shinto (where there is possibly a god for every concept), most gods aren't judges or nobles.

David Johnston2 07-24-2013 06:48 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by robkelk (Post 1618224)
That depends on the cosmology. In Shinto (where there is possibly a god for every concept), most gods aren't judges or nobles.

What are they?

Flyndaran 07-24-2013 09:08 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1618137)
If it is really an issue in your world as to which came first, the worshipers or the god, I must direct you to the philosophy of nonduality. When the player asks the question, assume a sage-like poise and answer "nopeti" - which means, roughly, "there is an error in your question such that it cannot be satisfactorily answered", much like "Do you enjoy beating your mother?" Having this as a possible answer to all yes/no questions is also immanently useful in day-to-day life.

I can't imagine how that wouldn't come off as a cop out translation for "I don't know, and don't care, so you just shut up about it."

Hans Rancke-Madsen 07-24-2013 09:20 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1618279)
I can't imagine how that wouldn't come off as a cop out translation for "I don't know, and don't care, so you just shut up about it."

"I don't think that word means what you think it means." ;-)


Hans

PS. Yes, I know you don't think it means that; I'm suggesting the proper response to someone who uses it like that.

Dalillama 07-24-2013 09:23 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1618089)
Aren't most gods cosmic judges and nobles? Mythologies don't seem to focus just on the power(norse giants were as powerful as gods) but on the role.

Not really, except insofar as it's wise to treat beings that power level as though they were nobles. Tyr, Odin, and to an extent Hel are the only Norse deities who are primarily judges of any sort; the difference between the Aesir, the Vanir. and the Jotun was largely a matter of tribes, although while all of the Aesir and Vanir appeared to have specific portfolios (i.e. being the god of something or other0, most Jotun do not seem to, being merely very powerful beings.

Quote:

Originally Posted by David Johnston2 (Post 1618233)
What are they?

Genii locorum, embodied concepts, spirits of revered ancestors, and probably a variety of other things I can't think of offhand.

Flyndaran 07-24-2013 09:26 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Hans Rancke-Madsen (Post 1618287)
"I don't think that word means what you think it means." ;-)


Hans

PS. Yes, I know you don't think it means that; I'm suggesting the proper response to someone who uses it like that.

To those old enough to remember, those explanations come of as the scene from Dinosaurs the tv series with the one character yelling, "You don't have a clue!"

I understand that such concepts are accepted in some real world religions. But I'm not dealing with that regardless of my personal beliefs about such things. I only mean to reference how it sounds in fully made up cosmologies. Even if I did believe in such things for real life, realism isn't about reality anyway.
If quantum physics was not true and you tried to game a setting with it, I would just as fervently call you a nutter.

tantric 08-01-2013 11:46 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Re: Nopeti (Pali or Sanskrit?)

This was the Buddha's answer to several questions. I was being whimsical, but it is a valid answer and it doesn't mean "I don't know". If nothing else, the Buddha was an excellent logician. He had other ways of telling people to shut up - there's a parable about a man shot with an arrow, which arose directly from a monk who didn't like 'nopeti'.

Flyndaran 08-01-2013 01:48 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1622244)
Re: Nopeti (Pali or Sanskrit?)

This was the Buddha's answer to several questions. I was being whimsical, but it is a valid answer and it doesn't mean "I don't know". If nothing else, the Buddha was an excellent logician. He had other ways of telling people to shut up - there's a parable about a man shot with an arrow, which arose directly from a monk who didn't like 'nopeti'.

I understand that many people believe that is a valid answer. I consider it gibberish. But even if it were the correct answer to reality, it doesn't sound valid in a known to be made up setting, in my opinion.

rust 08-01-2013 02:01 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1622244)
Re: Nopeti (Pali or Sanskrit?)

In Sanskrit it is "na upeti", in Pali it is "nopeti".

As I understand it, the meaning is approximately "indescribable".

rust 08-01-2013 02:18 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1622328)
I understand that many people believe that is a valid answer. I consider it gibberish.

It may seem so, but in my interpretation it is a distinction between "I know",
"I do not know" and "It cannot be known", where "It cannot be known" is a
reaction to questions about something which is beyond the realm of human
knowledge as well as to questions which have no meaningful answer becau-
se they are based on false assumptions.

simply Nathan 08-01-2013 02:22 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
I think that as an "answer" it sounds equal parts arrogant and gibberish.

ericthered 08-01-2013 02:24 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Nopeti, from the original description, almost sounds like the "invalid" response. As a programmer, I can respect that. What number to you add to one to make orange? (to be cliche). What happens when you ask for the address of someone who doesn't exist?

That said, if the question is "which came first, the gods or the worshipers, and someone says Nopeti, they're either copping out, saying 'no one knows, its the way things work', or saying 'there was no beggining', or 'they were created at the exact same time'. (you can use 'came to be' instead of created).

Anthony 08-01-2013 02:30 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1622328)
I understand that many people believe that is a valid answer. I consider it gibberish.

While I'm not convinced by the actual list of unanswerable questions, it is certainly possible to have questions that are fundamentally unanswerable due to being poorly defined, incoherent, contradictory, or paradoxical.

rust 08-01-2013 02:31 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Kenneth Latrans (Post 1622350)
I think that as an "answer" it sounds equal parts arrogant and gibberish.

It is not so much an answer as a statement that an answer based on know-
ledge and/or logic is not possible.

tantric 08-01-2013 09:45 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

That said, if the question is "which came first, the gods or the worshipers, and someone says Nopeti, they're either copping out, saying 'no one knows, its the way things work', or saying 'there was no beggining', or 'they were created at the exact same time'. (you can use 'came to be' instead of created).
Imagine a universe that is completely devoid of sentient life. Where is the only place it can exist? Your imagination. It is by definition unknowable. Now, imagine a sentient being with no universe or external input - also impossible. Thus it is possible that sentience and the universe create each other in a process of interdependent co-origination, because neither one can exist meaningfully without the other.

I'm being whimsical again, because, like the Buddha, I regard such questions as inane. On the other hand, the above is the real answer to such a question as in a koan. The actual logic is nonsense, but if you force yourself to think about it long enough, you'll have a flash of satori, of standing outside of logic and just being, which the actual answer. When a tree falls in an empty forest does it make a sound? The question forces you to think about what perception means without a perceiver and the indefinable difference between subjective and objective reality. Yes, we know that objectivity is a very useful assumption, but it's only that. So is subjectivity, though less useful. What is hard to understand is that there is a third option, which is non-duality. YMMV. Namaste.

On the gaming side, if you're players ask you silly questions, give them the parable of the arrow. If they get something out of it, you've created RPG-do and are eligible for sainthood. In the real world, you have a choice between this kind of double think and divine revelation. Which do you prefer? 'Nopeti' is an acceptable answer ;-)

David Johnston2 08-02-2013 01:05 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1622494)
Imagine a universe that is completely devoid of sentient life. Where is the only place it can exist? Your imagination.

Or you know far enough back in time or forward in time that sentient life hasn't arisen yet or has all succumbed to inevitable entropy.

Quote:

It is by definition unknowable.
Well no. We know a bit about what the universe was like shortly after the Big Bang after all.


Quote:

Now, imagine a sentient being with no universe or external input - also impossible.
Clearly in order for a thing to exist a place for that thing must exist. Of course in a supernatural context that place may be devoid of solid matter much less life until something conjures it up.

rust 08-02-2013 03:03 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1622494)
Imagine a universe that is completely devoid of sentient life. Where is the only place it can exist? Your imagination.

Hmmm ... every universe I imagine can only exist in my imagination, no mat-
ter whether that universe is devoid or full of sentient life. I do not see how
this relates to the real world we inhabit, and for which we have sufficient
evidence that it once was devoid of sentient life.

tantric 08-02-2013 04:17 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
But do you have sufficient evidence that that universe exists anywhere outside your head? How? That the universe objectively exists is an assumption, it must be. It's useful, but it's wrong. Likewise, the idea that it's all in your head is an assumption, and not even useful. There is a middle path between these two assumptions, called non-duality and/or interdependent co-origination, in which an instance of reality requires both an object, whose ultimate nature is unknowable, and an observer, whose existence is dependent on said unknowable objects. Thus we conclude that reality as we understand it arises from multiple sources that cause each other in a recursive loop. Trying to keep this in mind in part of the eightfold path that leads to freedom from suffering. As was said, YMMV. Namaste.

To be more on topic, in my world (Erywhone), there are many supremely powerful beings that might be gods, such as the Sun Dragon, but there are no deity-centric religions as they don't answer prayers. On the other hand, there are lots of philosophical paths aimed at perfecting your Essence (soul, spirit, anima, what have you). When those go wrong you end up with the Yokai (see sig), else you get the Eight Immortals, which I've added to my Penglai area. All of this could be a fairly typical way of doing RPG gods in a Dharmic fashion.

Perhaps it would be good to discuss how different authors do gods in their worlds. Take, for instance, the Ascendants in the Malazan books (which I can't finish, the 9th is killing me). Or the gods in Tepper's Raising the Stones (what would you do if you had a god that *worked*?).

JCurwen3 08-02-2013 09:59 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tantric (Post 1622623)
But do you have sufficient evidence that that universe exists anywhere outside your head? How? That the universe objectively exists is an assumption, it must be. It's useful, but it's wrong.

The assumption isn't "wrong", just, by your own logic, its veracity is unknown, and possibly unknowable. The only safe place to stand here (as with all things) is the stance of the classical skeptic, and reserve our judgement as to what is true.

jason taylor 08-02-2013 10:27 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dalillama (Post 1618290)
Not really, except insofar as it's wise to treat beings that power level as though they were nobles. Tyr, Odin, and to an extent Hel are the only Norse deities who are primarily judges of any sort; the difference between the Aesir, the Vanir. and the Jotun was largely a matter of tribes, although while all of the Aesir and Vanir appeared to have specific portfolios (i.e. being the god of something or other0, most Jotun do not seem to, being merely very powerful beings.



Genii locorum, embodied concepts, spirits of revered ancestors, and probably a variety of other things I can't think of offhand.

The original Germanic was in fact related to godi which roughly means chief(as does the word king; it means kin-head). So yeah the concept of cosmic aristocracy was in fact there.

In any case the thread was about defining gods. So "cosmic aristocrat" is in fact a workable definition and goes well toward distinguishing gods from fays.

combatmedic 08-02-2013 04:28 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1622713)
The original Germanic was in fact related to godi which roughly means chief(as does the word king; it means kin-head). So yeah the concept of cosmic aristocracy was in fact there.

In any case the thread was about defining gods. So "cosmic aristocrat" is in fact a workable definition and goes well toward distinguishing gods from fays.

Sure, but of course that distinction is much blurrier, or non-existent, in some contexts.
Consider the 'small ' gods of the hearth, family, fields, woods, and streams of the Pre-Christian Romans.

jason taylor 08-02-2013 05:05 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Of course. But the OP asked for a definition. I am presuming he does not want it to be "synonym for spirit." Of course we do not know what type of verse OP is making. Maybe in OP's verse their is for instance controversy over what type of spirit constitutes a god.

combatmedic 08-02-2013 05:09 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1622870)
Of course. But the OP asked for a definition. I am presuming he does not want it to be "synonym for spirit." Of course we do not know what type of verse OP is making. Maybe in OP's verse their is for instance controversy over what type of spirit constitutes a god.


I am presuming that as well, which I why I did not suggest that 'god' simply means 'spirit.'
Worship and devotion due the gods, be they 'great' or 'small' may be the key distinction. To use a Roman example, Jupiter is a god. But so are my household gods, and they matter a great deal to me if I'm a true Roman.

jason taylor 08-02-2013 05:10 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by combatmedic (Post 1622861)
Consider the 'small ' gods of the hearth, family, fields, woods, and streams of the Pre-Christian Romans.

Do you mean house-feys or do you mean Hestia who is in charge of hearths in general, or Demeter who is in charge of fields in general?

combatmedic 08-02-2013 05:30 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1622874)
Do you mean house-feys or do you mean Hestia who is in charge of hearths in general, or Demeter who is in charge of fields in general?

I am referring to the various household and minor deities. Romans had multiple names for these beings, but they did not call them 'fays.'
In many cases they used the Latin word for 'god' or 'gods' to describe these entities.

combatmedic 08-02-2013 05:39 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
I'm not suggesting that the OP's campaign setting needs to include 'small gods.' I don't know if that would fit.

I am pointing out that these 'small gods' have been a very important part of several real world traditions.



They could be treated as 'spirits' that serve a 'larger' god and are integrated into its cultus as part of a hierarchy of servant beings.
But they might also be worshipped in their own rites; out in the fields, or the house, lonely spots in the woods, at a crossroads, and so on. The priests or ritual actors might be the heads of families, or the owners of land, or anyone who knew the proper rituals to perform. Even if they have no big temples or elaborate priestly hierarchies, they could be very important to the daily life of the people. Their pleasure or displeasure might have a significant impact on how people get on.

Flyndaran 08-02-2013 06:23 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
The problem, of course, is that religious concepts have little to nothing to do with observable reality. That means things like god, spirit, soul, etc. are not truly translatable.
The most we can do is create our own setting specific definitions.

combatmedic 08-02-2013 06:45 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1622907)
The problem, of course, is that religious concepts have little to nothing to do with observable reality. That means things like god, spirit, soul, etc. are not truly translatable.
The most we can do is create our own setting specific definitions.

Just because you, Flyn, either do not observe these things or cannot make sense of what you observe does not mean that no one else can or has done.


I do agree that culture-bound or setting -specific definitions for 'gods' are useful.
But why stop with what you call 'religious concepts'? We could have a long debate about the meanings or proper usage of all sorts of words, whether they refer to physical objects, human actions, abstract concepts, and so on. In fact, such arguments have come up pretty often. Remember when you disagreed with people about what 'theft' meant?

combatmedic 08-02-2013 07:02 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1615511)
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.

I'm definitely down with some sweet, sweet reality quake action.



Wizrobes masquerading as gods is also cool.

jason taylor 08-02-2013 07:03 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1622907)
The problem, of course, is that religious concepts have little to nothing to do with observable reality. That means things like god, spirit, soul, etc. are not truly translatable.
The most we can do is create our own setting specific definitions.

Religious concepts have to do with human social interaction which is an observable reality. Even positing materialism, they have at least as much reality as "state", "corporation","money","internet" etc. Or as much reality as "elf", "dwarf", "werebeast", etc. All of whom have their own associations.

Flyndaran 08-02-2013 07:42 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by combatmedic (Post 1622920)
Just because you, Flyn, either do not observe these things or cannot make sense of what you observe does not mean that no one else can or has done.


I do agree that culture-bound or setting -specific definitions for 'gods' are useful.
But why stop with what you call 'religious concepts'? We could have a long debate about the meanings or proper usage of all sorts of words, whether they refer to physical objects, human actions, abstract concepts, and so on. In fact, such arguments have come up pretty often. Remember when you disagreed with people about what 'theft' meant?

That was a simple dictionary difference between theft and stealing, not really a conceptual one.
But the fact that no one can definitively prove religious concepts and that no two cultures share them is close enough to them not existing as fully translatable for the context of this thread.
God is not as universal a concept as taking something that doesn't belong to you whatever you may call that.

Flyndaran 08-02-2013 07:48 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1622930)
Religious concepts have to do with human social interaction which is an observable reality. Even positing materialism, they have at least as much reality as "state", "corporation","money","internet" etc. Or as much reality as "elf", "dwarf", "werebeast", etc. All of whom have their own associations.

Vague terms such as those in which nearly everyone has their own unique definition are good similar examples. What is and isn't an elf? Do we go back to the linguistic origins, or try for what modern audiences expect?
Legolas, Puck, Santa's helpers, or Keebler?
I don't think it's possible to create a definition of Elf or god that most would agree on.
I'm not knocking anyone trying to do it. But I think it would be just as much fun to create working definitions for specific settings.

David Johnston2 08-02-2013 11:16 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1622870)
Of course. But the OP asked for a definition. .

"What can the gods be (in a game)" is not actually a request for a definition.

jason taylor 08-03-2013 10:23 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1622950)
Vague terms such as those in which nearly everyone has their own unique definition are good similar examples. What is and isn't an elf? Do we go back to the linguistic origins, or try for what modern audiences expect?
Legolas, Puck, Santa's helpers, or Keebler?
I don't think it's possible to create a definition of Elf or god that most would agree on.
I'm not knocking anyone trying to do it. But I think it would be just as much fun to create working definitions for specific settings.

But the point was that rejecting human social tropes as undefinable simply because you believe them to have no existence outside of humanity is unwarranted. The creations of human minds exist in their minds. Once they are communicated to others they become more sharply defined if perhaps still vague, by the necessity of communication. Gods of course by virtue of their influence on society have not merely literary existence but at least as much existence as states. The fact that humans think them to exist and operate as if they exist makes them at least legal fictions if they do not have independent personalities.

In a way you are sounding like Cordelia's claim that Vor do not exist. Vor exist because Vor claim themselves to exist, because everyone on Barrayar accepts the claim and even Komarrans accept it enough to rebel against it, and that being the case galactics must accept that vor exist. Likewise if gods don't exist as individuals, they exist because poets chant to them and priests sacrifice to them and they alter the existence of society as I note writing this on Saturn's day instead of Frey's day, Thor's day, or Odin's day.

combatmedic 08-03-2013 11:31 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1622946)
That was a simple dictionary difference between theft and stealing, not really a conceptual one.
But the fact that no one can definitively prove religious concepts and that no two cultures share them is close enough to them not existing as fully translatable for the context of this thread.
God is not as universal a concept as taking something that doesn't belong to you whatever you may call that.

No person can definitely prove that he exists, either.

combatmedic 08-03-2013 07:29 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Every human culture has mythology, gods of some sort, religion, and so on....whatever you may call that.
:)
At the risk of sounding like one of those post-modern hipsters; if you are trying to reduce the concept of 'theft' to a brute fact instead of a cultural construct, I don't think it can be done.

Flyndaran 08-03-2013 10:28 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by combatmedic (Post 1623208)
No person can definitely prove that he exists, either.

If you don't believe I exist even if I walk up to you and poke you in the chest, then you are insane. I loathe philosophical nonsense like that.

Flyndaran 08-03-2013 10:30 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by combatmedic (Post 1623401)
Every human culture has mythology, gods of some sort, religion, and so on....whatever you may call that.
:)
At the risk of sounding like one of those post-modern hipsters; if you are trying to reduce the concept of 'theft' to a brute fact instead of a cultural construct, I don't think it can be done.

Zeus is nothing like the Christian god at all. Calling them the same thing insults both their respective believers. I think it was you and/or others that defined religion to be uselessly broad.

combatmedic 08-03-2013 11:19 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by David Johnston2 (Post 1614983)
This IS a gaming oriented question; a spinoff from the Loki question. What can the gods be in a game?

Back to the main topic, I'd add that "the gods" might be computer programmers or AIs running a simulated reality sequence (our universe).

RevBob 08-03-2013 11:52 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1623447)
If you don't believe I exist even if I walk up to you and poke you in the chest, then you are insane. I loathe philosophical nonsense like that.

Quote:

Originally Posted by combatmedic (Post 1623458)
Then you are going to have a hard time arguing any of this stuff with Tantric, for sure.
:)

Riiiight.

'Nuff of that, guys. Let's keep the barrier between RPG-land and Reality a bit firmer, hm?

combatmedic 08-04-2013 04:51 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Consider my part finished. I'll edit/delete.

jason taylor 08-05-2013 09:05 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by combatmedic (Post 1623461)
Back to the main topic, I'd add that "the gods" might be computer programmers or AIs running a simulated reality sequence (our universe).

That is certainly relevant to making a game verse.

jason taylor 08-05-2013 09:20 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Flyndaran (Post 1623448)
Zeus is nothing like the Christian god at all. Calling them the same thing insults both their respective believers. I think it was you and/or others that defined religion to be uselessly broad.

Really yeah, though Greek and Norse mythology are both so much a part of Western civilization that they are taken for granted even by the religious at least among the intelligentsia.

"Insults" is a little strong. However Zeus is obviously not trancendent. In point of fact I rather think he has a distasteful personality. My favorites of the Olympians were Athena and Hestia.

Attempts to make Hellenistic style paganism into an organized religion in the manner of Christianity or Zoroastrianism are a matter of historical record. I always thought Paul's "unknown god" in the sermon at the Areopagus was the God of Platonism. In this version, I believe the Olympians were made into avatars of a monotheistic or pantheistic God but it wasn't worked out before Christianity became more fashionable. Or if it was worked out it didn't matter; Platonism only appealed to philosophers.

jason taylor 08-05-2013 09:29 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Fraser's Golden Bough posited a social evolution from magic to religion to science. Magic he defined as emphasizing pseudotechnology dependent on ritual, and religion he defined as attempts to commune with superhuman spirits. Of course similar rituals are used for the first two simply because ritualism is a type of art and follows patterns. But when used for religion they would be for a different purpose. Religion X lights lamps to remember how their fathers were delivered from the tyranny of the evil Whatevers. Magic Y lights lamps because dark spirits are afraid of light. On this reasoning, the silly DnD style fantasies with wizards looking like mad scientists may have a glimpse of the truth.

In practice of course the evolutionary model of culture is flawed and all three are found in any culture. Not every culture has science in the sense of the scientific method but every culture has technology. It is however useful as a model. In a culture that emphasizes the "magical" though, the gods have weaknesses to exploit. Egyptian priests thought they could enslave their gods by knowing their true names.

Anders 08-05-2013 10:41 AM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1623987)
However Zeus is obviously not trancendent. In point of fact I rather think he has a distasteful personality.

Although there philosophers (Heracleitus, I think, and the neoplatonists) who speak of the 'common Zeus' that the people worship and the Zeus who is behind everything, the ground of all being.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1623994)
In a culture that emphasizes the "magical" though, the gods have weaknesses to exploit.

According to Kaufmann polytheists posit a meta-divine realm with powers beyond the gods' - you can force the gods' hands by certain sacrifices or rituals. There is no such system for a monotheistic religion.

ETA: Kaufmann's thoughts on Monotheism vs. Paganism.

ericthered 08-05-2013 12:25 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1623987)
Attempts to make Hellenistic style paganism into an organized religion in the manner of Christianity or Zoroastrianism are a matter of historical record. I always thought Paul's "unknown god" in the sermon at the Areopagus was the God of Platonism. In this version, I believe the Olympians were made into avatars of a monotheistic or pantheistic God but it wasn't worked out before Christianity became more fashionable. Or if it was worked out it didn't matter; Platonism only appealed to philosophers.

The questions of Platonism strongly affected early christianity. You can see it as influence, or you can see it as christianity answering the questions that were asked, but the schools of thought weren't just pushed out by Christianity, they were absorbed. (at least by my understanding)

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 1623994)
In a culture that emphasizes the "magical" though, the gods have weaknesses to exploit. Egyptian priests thought they could enslave their gods by knowing their true names.

That is an Awesome adventure idea: The quest for the true name of Zeus. Though Hades would be just as fun. Arguably the other gods will act to erase the name from your mind, but you can use their brother against them.

jason taylor 08-05-2013 01:44 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ericthered (Post 1624066)
The questions of Platonism strongly affected early christianity. You can see it as influence, or you can see it as christianity answering the questions that were asked, but the schools of thought weren't just pushed out by Christianity, they were absorbed. (at least by my understanding)

Perhaps all of the above.

Jews at the time weren't a philosophical people, so much as a religious people and their writings tended to deal with custom rather then cosmology. Even where Platonists had to sharp a difference to be incorporated into Christianity they were a good foil.

jason taylor 08-05-2013 01:50 PM

Re: What a "god"?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ericthered (Post 1624066)


That is an Awesome adventure idea: The quest for the true name of Zeus. Though Hades would be just as fun. Arguably the other gods will act to erase the name from your mind, but you can use their brother against them.

Remember that campaign in Vikings where the PCs are recruited by Odin in a feud against Loki? That would work well.

This lever would work best if the gods are divided so the PCs have time. Even if you intend to end with a Klingon style storming-of-the-heavens(another good campaign by the way) you can't have all their powers concentrated to prevent it at the start. Furthermore you have to have some reason for the PCs to try such a thing, and starting off with a god as a Patron works reasonably well.


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