Monday, September 14, 2015

What Role Do Gods Play in Your Games?

Working out some details for my games and it got me thinking about gods.

I am toying around with the idea that the gods are nothing more that super-powerful mortals ala the D&D Immortals rules.  I am even tossing around this idea that the gods loose their powers and fall to the Prime Material.

For example, I was thinking of making many of the goddesses of magic, witchcraft and the like really powerful witches, they have just come to be regarded as goddesses. So Hecate, Wee Jas, and the like.
Doing something similar with the various pantheons also seems to fix a few issues I am currently running into in my world building.

What roles do the Gods play in your games?  Do you use them much?


David Dolph said...

Do I use them? Yes. To me the gods and their magic is as much a part of the fantasy genre as wizards.

How do I use them? That depends on the setting I am using. Usually, they are very powerful human beings that allow some of their power to out to their worshipers. Sometimes they gain power from their worshipers - if no one worships they lose their power and might even eventually disappear.

Nicholas Bergquist said...

I have my super-traditional campaign where the gods are actual gods, but the secret history is that they are really the "prison guards" of twelve ancient Old Ones of chaos.

Then I have my post-apoc fantasy setting where the gods are all dead....but it turns out the gods are really just powerful immortals given divinity by twelve sacred gem stones, and anyone in the world who finds these stones can try to become immortal as well.

My third setting has thousands of gods and hundreds of pantheons....anything goes. However, the big secret is that the gods are actually all artificial intelligences left behind to shepherd the world from their satellites in the sky, and they can create limited material constructs to occasionally interact with mortals.

My fourth and most recent setting has the gods as two factions: the terrifying old gods, ancient star beings who terrorized the world, and the young pantheon of humans who boldly stole the power of the old gods and cast them out. Another variant on the immortals theme.

rjschwarz said...

Gods may or may not exist. Cults truly believe they do and that is all that matters.

rjschwarz said...

I play Legend so there is no Cleric class screwing things up with their God provided spells.

Michael Ruch said...

The game I run has no Gods in it, the Cleric and Paladin worship entities like Nature or Light. But that is because the players are teenage boys who lack the sophistication to play any differently.

The game I play in is very Religious, 2 Clerics, 1 Paladin and now a Shaman make up the party, all of them worshiping different beings. There are a lot of Divine interventions, and much interplay as the characters debate who has the best religion.

You can get away without any Gods or Goddesses if the players don't care or are not sophisticated to understand them. Otherwise, what is D&D without Clerics, Paladins etc. at minimum getting help from their gods?

TheShadowKnows said...

I am pretty "in-your-face" with the gods, at least when I run (A)D&D. They don't show up in person that often, but omens, oracles, and visions are a regular thing. If a PC crosses any god in a serious way, he better have one hell of an escape plan.

(One thing I would personally never do is reveal to the players what the gods "really" are. The gods themselves don't even know the answer to the riddle of their existence, and certainly no mortal could ever comprehend it.)

Timothy Brannan said...

Cool! This is all great. Thanks everyone; keep them coming.

Doug said...

In my game, I have a High God, but most people worship aspects of that god in the guise of saints. So there's a St. Freya, and a St. Cuthbert, etc. Like saints in our own world, mortals could rise to attain sainthood. But they will not be on par with the High God. On the other side of the coin, there are numerous demons and devils worshipped by various cults (Orcus, Tsthogga, or Set, for instance). There is not a High Bad Guy, though.

I lean more towards the Law/Chaos alignment scheme of early D&D instead of the 9-point grid, so the High God represents Law, numerous evil beings reside on the chaos side of things. That kinda makes sense in my world (Law is a heirarchy, Chaos is a free-for-all). This means that there can be evil factions of the High God (since they still work for Order and Civilization), and will hopefully provide a richer dynamic to my players.

2eDM said...

In my D&D campaigns, Gods don't actually exist. Divine casters gain their abilities through the strength of their own personal zeal and belief(your spells don't stop working because the gods took them away, but because on a subconscious level, the priest believes they should be taken away due to his actions). Raise Dead type spells don't actually bring a dead person back to life, but make a new creature entirely based on the memories of the deceased held by those seeking to bring it back to life(hence why people come back a little worse for wear).

Tim Shorts said...

Gods has played a significant role in some of my campaigns. They are a petty and jealous bunch. But I've also ran campaigns where there are no gods to speak of.

seaofstarsrpg said...

The gods are (mostly) dead in the Sea of Stars, slain at the claws of the dragons. Only the Sun -who is the prisoner of the dragons- and the Moon -who is hunted- survive. But they both play important roles in the setting and the Sun still grants powers, and has an officially approved cult, for his worshipers (the Moon grants powers as well, but her cult is entirely proscribed).

Fuzzy Skinner said...

I thought of combining the BECMI-style Immortals with a completely immortal, untouchable set of Gods, but this could turn out to be a bad idea for a number of reasons - not the least of which would be some players expressing disbelief at the actual invulnerability of the latter. "I killed Jorvis with one punch, why can't I hit Mi-Hiem?!"

When I read the Iliad a while back, the one thing I found interesting was the idea of the Gods as fallible and even (somewhat) vulnerable to harm from certain exceptional mortals. I cracked up at the scene of Ares getting stabbed in the guts, literally running crying to Zeus, and Zeus saying (paraphrasing here) "Son, I am disappoint." Some version of this could work in a slightly light-hearted fantasy game, or one where the Immortal PCs basically turn into a bunch of frat boys (and girls).

Tim Emrick said...

In the solo Greek myth-based game for my wife, the gods are real, ranging from demigods and minor nature spirits up through Olympians and Titans. Her character interacts with a wide variety of divinities on a regular basis. The game has been going on long enough, though, that she's being drawn more directly into the conflicts between gods themselves, which makes finding the right amount of challenge to be, well, more of a challenge.

In almost every other game I run, the gods are much more remote. They often provide magic/miracles, and occasional visions or prophecies, but rarely make an appearance themselves. A big part of that is that I rarely run games where the characters are high enough level for an encounter with any kind of avatar (whatever the gods might really be) to be appropriate.

fluerdemal said...

I have essentially two, perhaps three, tiers of deity - one is the "Thirteen Great Gods" which are somewhat ineffable, utterly primal forces of universe. Something between Jungian Archtypes and Platonic Forms in Essence. In power, they scale beyond the Greater Gods of the old 1E DDG.

Then I have the Godlings - which are essentially what you are suggesting. Mortals who have achieved deityhood. These range from Quasi-Deity to Greater God in the old DDG power levels. This group forms many of the cults of the world, but many are associated with one of the Great Gods.

Then there is a third category of "Old Powers" which are beings of cosmic power and ability that were never mortal - the Archangels and Princes of the Fallen, Primordial Elementals and Dragons, etc. These also range from Quasi-Deity to Greater God in power, but there is the also the argument that these are actually just manifestations of the Thirteen Great Gods that understandable to mortal eyes and minds.

I use deities and the like a fair amount - I find them useful. I've also taken the time to detail out my campaign world over the years and have a cohesive creation story and myth as well. Heck, one of my players just became a prophet!


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