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Old 03-16-2021, 10:45 AM   #11
The Colonel
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

I've used a sliding scale in the past, including a campaign world with a very definitely Creator who is orders of magnitude above anything else, but has performed a Yazidi style withdrawl (or maybe not, depending on which religion you happen to ask) and is not directly active in the campaign world (as far as anyone can tell). His role is taken by the Eight Judges who he appointed as deputies (or not, depending on who you ask) but are essentially high end angels and not gods.
There are a range of uncreated things that were living in the space where creation now exists - many of them are annoyed at the intrusion and serve as, essentially, Great Old Ones, although some have actually become relatively benevolent and serve as somewhat squirrely minor gods to various religions.
Then there are the "small gods" - mostly sapient, high end spirits, mostly venerated by Shamen and gods only by courtesy. It would be theoretically possible for a powerful mortal to become a small god - powerful shamen, for example, already have a formidable astral presence and trail of spirit retainers and it would not take much for one to leave enough behind after death to remain a major player.
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Old 03-16-2021, 08:51 PM   #12
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Default Re: What makes a god?

In Steven Brust's Dragaera books, Sethra Lavode mentions that being a god is just a job you can achieve (she turned down a chance). To be a god you must be able to manifest in multiple places at once, and be impossible to bind or control.

If you can manifest in multiple places at once, but can be bound or controlled, you are merely a demon.

Note that these are necessary traits, but probably not sufficient.
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Old 03-16-2021, 11:06 PM   #13
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Default Re: What makes a god?

In one of my settings, a god is just a powerful enough spirit to have influence beyond a very small area.

Also, a god is any one of several primordial beings.

Also, a god is one of these three beings. Everything else claimed to be a god is either a delusion or a demon trying to trick someone.

Also, a god is this one specific being that used to be a man but ascended. Everything else claimed to be a god is either a delusion or a demon trying to trick someone.

... depending on who you ask.
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Old 03-17-2021, 05:51 AM   #14
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Default Re: What makes a god?

In two of my settings, there have been clear dividing lines:

In my homebrew fantasy setting, gods grant divine spellcasting. Demons can grant other powers, but unless you can grant spells, you aren't a god. Demons may occasionally set themselves up as one, but they're on the wrong side of the line.

In my version of Greek myth, I created a system where sacrifices gave the gods power. Many beings including gods could grant powers to mortals. But, if you didn't get power from mortals making sacrifices in your name, you weren't a god.

More generally, if one wishes to define what it may take to be a god in a philosophical sense, I've given that thought as well. I have a few requirements:

1) It must be a higher form of being.
2) It must care about the things we do.
3) It must have some power over us in either the current or future life.

1 eliminates "dude with gun" but leaves open ancestors, ascended people, etc. It's very vague, but basically it can't just be some lady with a magic ring. 2 eliminates the disinterested creator. It's a question of relevancy rather than reality. 3 eliminates the powerless observer. A machine which is then trapped by his creation or has since died.

This leaves a VERY wide range.

Consider Charon from Greek myth. He's not human. He cares if we give him a coin after death. He has the power to take us over a river. Not real big on power, but still qualifies.

By contrast, there's Iluvatar from Middle Earth. He created everything. He directed everything that ever happened. The entire fate of the world from the tinyist detail was planned from before the Valar (lesser gods) were created. Gandalf even alludes to this in the book talking about the coincidences which brought the Fellowship together. Clearly not human having created them later. He cares deeply about the fates of his creations despite maintaining distance, and the afterlife is one where all of the Men are brought home to him. So, again it meets the qualifications.
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:29 AM   #15
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Default Re: What makes a god?

My DFRPG campaign is set in a post-theocratic society, where a largely atheistic Union has taken power with the support of guilds of skilled people. The inspiring hymns and anthems of the new union mostly focus on realizing the individual's potential.

Gods in this campaign are defined by the ability to create end results from the belief of a sentient being. (Similar to Terry Pratchett's Small Gods concept with the monk Brutha and the god Om.)

Previous gods were only as powerful as their churches and followers. A human-centric god of the city was once worshipped (and his followers marched out and crushed most other faiths, especially those of demihuman races), but over the centuries the faith fell into exclusivity and decadence. When political power changed hands, the Union was able to overthrow the worshipping caste and entirely obliterate the god's following, erasing all record of his worship from memory. When this happened, the already weakened god ceased to exist, and its name remains only as a disembodied voice in the desolate winds.

Another theme in my setting is that a mortal could transcend and become a deity if they got powerful enough. The dead god's retinue featured one mortal woman, who ascended to become an angelic servitor in myth. Oddly, a surviving sect of the religion worshipped her more than the god, due to the positive humanist aspect of her story, and this caused an actual angel to pop into existence and take the fight to the Union which killed her god.

At a minimum, my definition of a god (for social intents and purposes) is a being that can collect the aggregate worship of its followers and convert that into energy to change reality. One of the main subplots of my DFRPG kingdom is that mortals are starting to apply scientific rigor to the conditions of theogenesis, and if their research can go far enough, they may be able to reliably replicate the conditions that give rise to godhood. With all the societal and political complications that could engender.

I've solicited forum feedback on how to stat this up in this thread here. If you're interested in official GURPS publications with deity builds, here's a list of what I found:
  • The Sad Lost God - Matt Riggsby, Pyramid #3-45: a (very) minor deity left over from the late Stone Age or early Bronze Age.
  • The Annihilator - Sean Punch, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 4 Dragons.
  • A Very Minor God - William H. Stoddard, GURPS Fantasy p.33.
  • GURPS Discworld has deity-relevant advantages and so forth on pp.38, 94-95.
  • Ymir - WHS, GURPS Underground p.5: stats for a protodivine giant. Most of his points are in ST since he's thousands of miles tall.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 03-17-2021 at 07:32 AM.
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Old 03-17-2021, 04:21 PM   #16
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Default Re: What makes a god?

You do know that if you explain how something becomes a god, the players will want to give it a shot don't you?

On the other hand, people wanting to elevate themselves to deity make good antagonists.

What the secret is behind the curtain then that's one thing, what the mortals believe is another: the evil I'm-about-to-become-a-supreme-god conspirators may be totally deluded. That doesn't mean they can't do a great deal of damage in the meantime.

Take a look at Glorantha for a universe where a) people can become powerful immortal gods b) it is a hard process but might actually be doable c) it isn't at all easy and d) there are multiple explanations of what a god is and how you become one and all of them may be right.

That said the routes seem to be:

By conning mortals into worshipping you. The people founding cults may be onto a Good Thing.

By performing complex ritual actions and/or fulfilling prophecies.

By sacrificing others.

By embodying some necessary principle of the universe. (The Invisible Clergy in UNKNOWN ARMIES allow for the emergence and transcendence of new archetypes. The ones chosen don't normally know what's going to happen to them.)

Or of course there are the slightly boring answers:

It can't be done. The Gods were, the Gods are, the Gods will be. (Which brings up the related question: can you kill a God? If you do can you steal their divinity? If you can't are the Gods ever replaced? I have a thing I've been writing for ages about a world where the Theoclasts climbed up to the Heavens and killed the Gods.)

There are no such things as Gods. You might as well try to slay The Balance of Trade or become the Average Man as try to become a God.

The one time when becoming a God was a thing in a campaign I had there be a prophecy and used a variation of the UNKNOWN ARMIES route. The numbers were different but the players eventually became part of a Dragon that was the embodiment of the Age and frustrated the Evil Bad Conspirators who were trying to hijack the prophecy for dastardly purposes.
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Last edited by Michael Cule; 03-20-2021 at 08:27 AM. Reason: Correcting typo
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:10 PM   #17
dcarson
 
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Default Re: What makes a god?

The way a country becomes a country instead of a province with fighting going on is other countries recognizing them as a country. The way a god becomes a god instead of a powerful non god is other gods recognizing them as a god.
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:32 PM   #18
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Default Re: What makes a god?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
You do know that if you explain how something becomes a god, the players will want to give it a shot don't you?

Or take a shot at killing one... which is one reason why all of the "Gods" I've statted up are fairly within PC influence range.
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Old 03-18-2021, 04:53 AM   #19
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Default Re: What makes a god?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
You do know that if you explain how something becomes a god, the players will want to give it a shot don't you?
Sure. One of the classic articles in Swedish RPG history is how to run a campaign where ascension is the goal. I would very much like to translate that to GURPS, but I need to succeed with my Fast-Talk roll against Kromm and Steven.
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Old 03-18-2021, 05:18 AM   #20
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Default Re: What makes a god?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcarson View Post
The way a country becomes a country instead of a province with fighting going on is other countries recognizing them as a country. The way a god becomes a god instead of a powerful non god is other gods recognizing them as a god.
A good point, but it assumes the existence of a pantheon. Even if warring among themselves, gods do acknowledge the existence of other gods. That's not a given in all settings. Believers of god A might deny the existence of god B first of all because that's what their god does.
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