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Old 03-15-2021, 11:00 AM   #1
Anders
 
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Default What makes a god?

What makes a god in your campaign settings? Are they a distinct form of being or is there a spectrum? Can non-gods ascend? Can gods "descend"?

I think I'll be going with "might makes divinity". If something can squash you without breaking a sweat, that's a god. That makes what is a god dependent on the "reference frame" - a dragon may be a god to a tribe of kobolds, but he's not a god to other dragons. But of course, there's a standard reference frame - normal examples of the dominant species (humanity).

PLEASE KEEP REAL-WORLD EXAMPLES OUT OF THIS!
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Old 03-15-2021, 11:34 AM   #2
sgtcallistan
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

The way it's understood in our celto-norse campaign, the Gods were once men (and women) who met the spirit of the world when they arrived to make their homes here.
They found and awoke this 'wolf' who is death, fate, the world, etc. and he gave them powers to inspire, lead, heal, cause growth, teach, upset the usual order, etc. as was their way.
They had been the crew and advisors on a ship that brought them to the Northern lands, now they were exemplars of the several ways that people could aspire to live in.
Many believe that living in the God's ways is more a case of the Gods inspiring us with talents, new ideas, flashes of genius, etc.
Some have tales of actually meeting the Gods (a woman who nearly drowned recalls being in a palace with green walls, surrounded by treasures, for example, or a travelling huntsman recalls meeting with an old one-eyed ship's captain who is seeking a crew).
Then there's the 'well-appointed warrior' with his 'gentle healing sister' someone recalls saving their life both during and after a battle.
These Gods are both real, ideas, and ancient tales.
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Old 03-15-2021, 01:32 PM   #3
ericthered
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Default Re: What makes a god?

I find myself using the term in a few situations:
  • Someone who demands worship. This usually takes the form of a divine God-King or of a powerful being who wishes to rule as a god rather than as a King.
  • Someone who can use worship as a fuel.
  • Someone who has control over large-scale aspects of nature. Most commonly this means the weather, the fertility of ground, vulcanism, and so forth.
  • Someone with large scale senses and a segmented mind that can see far and talk with many people at once, especially if they are immortal.
  • The rulers of pocket dimensions, especially if they are immortal and command extra-human forces.
  • An insubstantial spirit who always was insubstantial, especially ones who always were that and/or who fit one of the above categories
  • Immortality/Invulnerability is not sufficient to be called a God, but it helps.
Lets see what I've got in my game notes (these are mostly ideas for settings and one-shots):
  • Antus the spirit. A nosy insubstantial being who mostly just spied on people and had a little TK. Tried to assume the identity of a local deity whose worship the PC's had downplayed.
  • God-King Bel of Babylon. an immortal God king who can only killed under very specific conditions, otherwise he'll just rapidly regenerate
  • The Godlings of Hapsburg-14, formed out of human sacrifice. They are incorporeal spirits with flight, warp, TK, some supernatural detection abilities, and a power set related to a specific part of reality, such as weather, movements of the earth, healing, or technology
  • Demon lords specifically aren't gods, because they're something else, but some of my Demon Lords would be considered Gods elsewhere.
  • Dislodged "God of Hurricanes": Controls the weather, bounces bullets, has three copies of himself, knows all of the places his name was invoked, gains power through people worshiping him.
  • The 15 Gods of Pharoah-5 are "Mortals" who each bear a "Mantle" giving them Power over an aspect of nature, Some general magic, and a few powerups that make them tougher. The Gods in this case can explicitly be killed, and each of them has firm and individual rule of succession. They some in three courses. The "Big Five" are Pleasure, Prosperity, Wisdom, Honor, and Mother Nature. The Living Five are Birth, Death, Food, Love, and Work. The Geographical Five are The River, The Ocean, The Desert, The Sky, and The Green.
  • Phygus is a Insubstantial spirit that needs souls to survive, and to fuel his power. He rules a theocracy dedicated to him where souls are directed to him via human sacrifice on dedicated altars and through mystically engineered temples. The bulk of his power is in this network, and he generally can't leave it. He can spin off avatars of himself, which range from small insubstanital spirits with TK to very physical warriors, and the avatars can rejoin the main of him. Phygus can communicate with memebers of his priesthood who have undergone a specific ritual. He also has weather control abilities
  • The 40 Realms have Beings who should probably be described as gods. The rulers of each realm have immense control over a pocket dimension filled with elemental servitors. They just reform in their realm if killed, and have a large amount of power relating to their "domains" even in the mortal realm. Key locations can be attuned to each realm. They are highly limited to which of the 10 elements they are aspected to though.
  • The Shield of Lum defines a "God" as an entity that can take mystical alligiance and turn it into physical power. Most of its Gods then rule a pocket dimension and are skilled at manipulating an aspect of reality, like light, the ocean, or forging. There are a few outliers though: The king of the dwarves can channel that same sort of power, and the ancestors of the swamp people as a whole can do it too.
I don't think any of those represents an attempt at a "Big G" God, and most of them are on the lower end of the potential scale.
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Old 03-15-2021, 01:54 PM   #4
whswhs
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

My campaigns don't usually have gods. For example, Tapestry is set in an animistic world that has spirits all over the place, some very powerful (the spirit of Mare, the interior ocean, for example); but none of them are thought of as something that would translate as "gods." (The big, potent ones largely are unaware of sapient embodied beings.)

But in GURPS terms, I tend to use the distinction from GURPS Powers. A being with Divine powers gets them from a god, but is not itself a god. A god is a being with Cosmic powers. That is, gods are inherently supernatural in their own right, using "supernatural" not simply to mean "magical," but as transcending the order of nature.
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Old 03-15-2021, 02:50 PM   #5
Anthony
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

My only requirement for a god is that it's worshipped. Depending on the setting, this will sometimes correlate with actual power of some sort.
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Old 03-15-2021, 03:00 PM   #6
Stormcrow
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

A god is a being that is the personal explanation of why certain things happen in the world in lieu of there being a non-being, physical explanation. In a fantasy world, a god may be real and the cause or governor of these things.
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Old 03-15-2021, 04:04 PM   #7
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Default Re: What makes a god?

Gods in my games aren't people who got powerful and they don't become people in any viable sense. They are qualified as beings that don't act with respect to the wants or needs of mortals. They listen to prayer rarely and respond rarer still. Their motives aren't subject to the judgement of men, only to their speculation. They can't descend to be a mortal any more than you or I could descend to be an ant. They become more or less powerful based on worship and if forgotten to time they can die or more often, if their followers think differently of them long enough they can change into something else, take on new names, new mantles of power.
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Old 03-16-2021, 03:21 AM   #8
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: What makes a god?

Well, it's hard to entirely avoid real-world elements when the setting is directly based on it. Since the only campaign with actual gods that I'm currently contributing to is based on Japan-with-supernatural-elements-resurfacing-completely, the five characteristics of gods can be taken right from the wiki:
  • Two-minded nature: they can be benevolent and helpful, or malevolent and destructive, depending on mood and treatment.
  • Hidden nature: they are not normally visible; they tend to be hidden in sacred places, wondrous phenomena, the world of gods, and the like.
  • Mobile nature: they never stick forever in the same spot, not even a place of worship.
  • Diverse nature: there are many different types of gods, and the types can be found throughout occult literature, with different types having certain distinguishing characteristics and 'purposes' (see below).
  • Dedicated nature: when treated properly (through ritual, speech, contributions &c.), they have a duty to provide some sort of guardianship over their respective domains/places/phenomena.

If this is still stepping too much into real life (is it?), I'll delete this.
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Old 03-16-2021, 06:01 AM   #9
Anders
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

It's not too much for me.
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Old 03-16-2021, 10:08 AM   #10
Michele
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anders View Post
What makes a god in your campaign settings? Are they a distinct form of being or is there a spectrum? Can non-gods ascend? Can gods "descend"?

I think I'll be going with "might makes divinity". If something can squash you without breaking a sweat, that's a god. That makes what is a god dependent on the "reference frame" - a dragon may be a god to a tribe of kobolds, but he's not a god to other dragons. But of course, there's a standard reference frame - normal examples of the dominant species (humanity).
Wouldn't work for me, because this removes any need of the supernatural aspect. A man with a gun is a god for me by this definition, given that I have no gun, no unarmed combat skills, nor any other way to avoid being "squashed".

Gods, normally, have at least some supernatural power or capability, usually a significant supernatural aspect. True immortality is usually one of those. Note I agree with Mr. Stoddard, being a powerful mage isn't the same as being supernatural, in a fantasy setting; magery is just another aspect of nature in a gameworld where magic exists.

Natural beings who have ascended in any way are "godlike", but probably that means they are "demi-gods" or something like that, not full gods, unless it's a god that gives them such a position (and, I'd suppose, also granting them immortality).
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