Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Societies and cultures:

The Resources available in the DCC#35 Gazetteer are packed with info on history and culture, but (necessarily) there are large gaps left for DM’s to fill.  Thanks to the work done on understanding the nature of the world in such detail, has allowed me to understand the environments where the societies have evolved.  For example, I know from my studies that the zones where the deep ocean currents transition from cold to warm are some of the richest feeding grounds on earth… stable food supply = thriving populations and cultures.  These regions are also at the heart of conflicts between nations, but environment is only half the equation when trying to understand a culture.

Thankfully the folks at Goodman Games thought to include some information on the Gods & Goddesses of Áereth…  of course, by the time they were done there were 78 powers from the Major players all the way down to the Abyssial Pits.  It’s the largest chapter, and in my early attempts to run games in this world… it frightened off many would be players from playing clerics.  A lot of my work over the last couple of years has been streamlining the cosmology.

For starters, I must make an observation about fantasy RP Games in general: they always present clerical magic as “faith in the power of (insert God of choice)” to act on behalf of the faithful.  The fundamental flaw in this paradigm is that there is no such thing as faith in a D&D-style game environment.  The Gods & their power are FACTS of life.  Atheism is an alien concept and those who don’t believe in the Gods, or who fail to give Gods the respect they are due: are thought to be insane, and those who disrespect the Gods are sure to feel their wrath.  The stories of these people would not be filled with allegorical tales, but with historical records of folks who’ve suffered the wrath of the Gods.   

So in my games I have switched to using the word “belief” rather than “faith;” and it is the belief of the mortal races that sustains (and even creates new) Deities.  To me this is the logical extension on the theories set down in the Ecology & Culture guide on how magic moves through the food chain.  In return for the mana of mortal belief, the Gods then return the energy back into the material plane via their respective roles and duties within the “world machine” (as I like to call it) and the acts of the various clergies.

From a more practical “character view,” the story of the pantheon of Áereth is the story of strangers uniting in common cause to create a home for themselves.  As they struggled they formed the same bonds of love and friendship... and enmity;  just like any other intelligent free-willed beings.  In this model, the Deities of the Triad and the Sancturn pantheon play the parts of Parents to the lesser Gods & Goddesses; as well as Grandparents to many of the Demi-gods.  Furthermore, to help players understand how the Deities interact with the characters daily lives I assigned societal roles for the various clergies.  

 For example: Justica & Gorhan and their “son” Thormyr constitute the Imperial criminal justice system; Shul and her son Delvyr maintain the educational systems of the Imperial citizenry; Elyr & Soleth provide the healing and mortuary services, etc.   I find that a well defined sense of purpose goes a long way in helping players RP their characters.  The next post will be a graphic that I put together to show the various social relationships of the Gods with each other.

A solid line represents a consensual union of Gods and the children produced; a broken line indicates non-consensual unions due to trickery or violence, and the children produced.  It needed to fit on 1 page, so the amount of info about the Gods is wrapped up in the best 1-2 word descriptions of their main duties.

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