Bay 12 Games Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

Author Topic: A more interesting theology  (Read 1493 times)

SixOfSpades

  • Bay Watcher
  • likes flesh balls for their calming roundness
    • View Profile
A more interesting theology
« on: October 28, 2018, 03:23:36 am »

   A grab-bag of thoughts for Toady & Tarn to peruse while they're working over Mythgen. Currently, the DF gods are fairly good, but they could certainly stand to have a lot more personality (they're little more than collections of spheres), as well as exposition: Neither the mortals of the universe, nor we the players, can know if the gods actually exist as individual beings, of they're just facets of Armok's power, or if they're all just constructs of their worshipers' collective imagination. I would like to help rectify this, and also make the gods more intriguing & far more dynamic.

Part I: The Gods
   First things first: The gods can't be much fun if they don't exist at all. I would place them right at the intersection between God and Man (they were created by Armok, but also shape themselves to better suit the preferences & expectations of their worshipers), as well as the intersection of Worldgen and Mythgen: Introduce all the gods at the start of Worldgen, but add the relevant spheres only as each successive layer of the world is laid down, and have the gods compete with each other for control of whatever spheres appear to be the most important at the time. Give the deities personality traits: Some are more greedy for sacrifice, some desire to show off for non-believers, some are vengeful, some are afraid of battle with other gods, etc. These traits will influence each god's relative preferences for the different spheres, as well as allow them to form friendships/alliances/grudges with the other gods. Most importantly, let the deities use whatever spheres they happen to possess, which will add a very flavorful layer to the myths dating from the time before time--as well as permanently mark the biomes where the spheres were used. Some deities are driven mad by the conflict and become doomed to wander the earth, while others hide themselves away and become forgotten, perhaps taking their spheres with them.
   As Armok finally creates sentient creatures and history begins, the various surviving deities coalesce around the fledgling mortal civilizations, forming pantheons for their mutual benefit. Each deity now takes (and/or is given) a name and an appearance, which may or may not include symbolic details such as being represented with a specific tool/weapon/garment, etc., or having part of their body maimed or replaced with an animal part. Every individual god still also remembers his own friendships and enmities with the others, resulting from their actions during the time before time, and this will continue to drive their relationships going forward. The tumultuous nature of the Age of Myth is echoed in the divine realm, as the gods are still jostling for spheres in their attempt to consolidate their power and be more easily worshiped by mortals. This settles down as each pantheon gradually stabilizes, yet there are always changes that can occur:
  • Gods can willingly trade spheres between one another
  • Gods can steal one another's spheres, or take them by force or threat of force, or even kill each other outright
  • Gods can hide one or more of their spheres, which temporarily prevents their feeding off of that sphere's worship but also means they don't have to guard it from other gods
  • Gods can happen upon the spheres hidden by another god (or possibly those lost by slain Titans & Forgotten Beasts, if you choose to go that route)
  • Gods can sometimes create copies of spheres held by gods outside their own pantheon (usually at the cost of surrendering some of their saved worship power in exchange)
  • Gods can form new friendships, alliances, rivalries (especially if they both have spheres of similar power in the same domain), grudges, and blood-feuds with one another
  • Gods can form familial bonds, friendships, and romances, even to the point of getting married and having children, with each child getting at least 1 sphere (either inherited, or created)
  • Gods can sponsor certain exceptionally favored mortals by endowing them with one of their lesser spheres, thus elevating the mortal into a demigod
   Additionally, gods (especially gods of travel and trade) can occasionally go between different pantheons, either just for a visit or actually gaining worshipers from among that civilization's citizens. Almost all of the above interactions can happen with "foreign" gods: e.g., a god from a landlocked civilization might have the sphere of Oceans, which of course would be useless to her, so she visits one or more "neighboring" coastal pantheons to try to trade it for something else. These interactions need not be benign: a rogue god from one civ could travel to another to steal a sphere from one of their gods, or indeed possibly even abduct an entire deity (either for the purpose of a forced marriage, or to extort one or more spheres in exchange for their freedom). Naturally, these kinds of hostile acts would almost certainly trigger a war between the two civs in question.
   Gods can also leave their pantheon entirely, for instance a civ that has two deities wrestling for control of the Sky domain might border a pantheon that has no gods in that area, so one god might logically cede the disputed territory in exchange for being the uncontested master in the new land--provided that the other civilization is receptive to their neighbor's beliefs, of course. Roaming gods happen most importantly when a civilization goes extinct, forcing its deities to either find new homes, or starve. The foreigner deities might have to pay a sphere or two to buy the acceptance of their new divine roommates (just as any refugees from the destroyed civ would be lower-status in their new one), but that's only fair. (Homeless gods that are similar enough with already-resident deities might even merge with them.)

Part II: The Spheres
   The charts that I have spoilered here are mostly based on the game's current list of spheres (along with their Parent/Child, Friend, and Preclude lists), with some additions and minor tweaks of my own. They are not representative of what I think the game's final setup should be, particularly in light of the upcoming major revisions to (or even outright additions of) major elements such as the caverns and magic. These charts illustrate only what I think is a good method for organizing a stable theology, upon which the procedurally-generated gods are based.

   List all of your desired spheres, and arrange them into some arbitrary number of Tiers (which sort the spheres by relative power/importance), and another number of Domains (which group spheres of related themes together). Here, I have 171 spheres scattered across 9 Tiers and 23 Domains:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
   Then, chart out how the various Domains interact with each other:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
   This, when combined with the various Friend and Preclude lists, each god's inherent personality traits, and the spheres that they already hold, determines the level of desire that each god feels for each sphere that they have yet to obtain. Clearly, the most powerful spheres in the top Tier would generally be in the highest demand--but also the most zealously guarded by those who hold them. It is in each deity's best interest to collect spheres that are all related to each other, in order to make himself as easy to worship as possible; "For everything related to the sky, pray to Lun Starrained!" is a lot more convenient than "Erib Bronzesilvers the Copper Rocks is the god of minerals (but not metals), crafts, dusk (but not night), trees, and trade." The more focused your control over a particular area, the clearer the image that mortals can have of you. Of course, the obvious pitfall there is that if it becomes common to see just one god per domain, then each pantheon of gods will start to seem pretty much like any other, and a good-sized facet of DF's replay value will be lost. What I hope will be an effective countermeasure is the large percentage of spheres that show up in multiple domains: Every single one of my Domains has spheres from at least 3 other domains in it. Hopefully, this would mean that even well-concentrated gods would be infringing on somebody else's territory, and/or have still other deities intruding on their own. The domain overlap would also likely tempt gods into trying to hold clusters of spheres in 2 or 3 domains simultaneously, rather than monopolizing just one, or scattering spheres randomly. And gods spreading themselves over multiple domains means more interaction--and likely tension--with the other members of their pantheon.

   One last note about the spheres. Two of them are quite unusual:
   * Toady originally set down the Preclude list of which spheres are mutually exclusive with each other (such as Fire & Rivers, or Food & Blight, or Beauty & Deformity), and I think that's a sound plan. But I also think it'd be fun to occasionally throw a spanner in the works with the sphere of Opposites, which has the curious property of subverting the Preclude list, making its possessor god desire to hold spheres that are in direct conflict with one another. So every once in a while, you might get a deity of both Chaos & Discipline, or Forgiveness & Revenge, or perhaps a god of Dawn & Dusk that happens to be in a parent/child relationship with a god of Cycles. The sphere of Opposites should also make its holder feel less desire for spheres that are not conflicting.
   * The sphere of Twins cannot be held by just one god--essentially, it splits its possessor into two deities. It cannot be obtained by any god that did not already have at least two related spheres: Either two complementary spheres of the same domain (such as Fish & Fishing), or opposing ones (e.g., Consolation & Misery). The holder(s) of the Twins sphere perceive a lowered desire to hold any spheres that are unrelated to those already held. Each pair of spheres is divided between the new god-halves, with attention paid to each sphere's Tier so that the resulting twins are (about) equal in power. This can result in two gods peacefully sharing control of a domain equally between them, or two violent enemies whose spheres are nothing but polar opposites of one another, or a love/hate relationship anywhere in between. If the original deity held the sphere of Balance (or it is obtained after the split), it is shared by both. The sphere of Opposites, if held, must be dropped.

Part III: Why?
   The obvious problem of implementing this system is--What's the point? We already have gods who frequently have spheres that make sense together, gods whose names occasionally bear some relation to their sphere(s), and the god of Death (if there is one) is usually portrayed as a skeleton. This is a very complicated plan, it sounds like a hell of a lot of work for Toady, and all for arguably very minor returns. I concede that all of that is true. And pretty much my only reply is Yeah, but it would be bitchin'.
   Greek mythology isn't just about knowing that Hephaestus is the god of labor & invention, it's about Cronus trying to eat all of his children (yet somehow being fooled with a stone), and it's about horny Zeus impregnating every mortal woman he could get his static-clingy-hands on. Norse mythology isn't just about how Freyja is the goddess of love, fertility, & death, it's about how Loki once gave birth to an eight-legged horse, and how Buri was licked into being by a primeval supercow. There's more to theology than just listing off names & powers like an accountant--mythology is about myths, about telling stories. The gods need to interact, with each other at the bare minimum, and if possible with mortals as well. And DF provides the perfect framework for it: In Legends mode, we can read about the hectic free-for-all as the gods battled it out while Creation itself screamed all around them . . . and then as civilizations formed, a small group of them took The Confederation of Treaties under its collective wing and defended them from all comers. In Fortress mode, you could be delighted to find that your civ's god of Metals has given her High Priest the ability to go dowsing for ore--at least until you learn that a nearby civ's god of Birds stole your Sky god's attendant vulture, so, whoops, you're at war now. And in Adventurer mode, you could wander into an unfamiliar church, ask the clergy about their faith, and learn that this civ has a god of Lust but not Marriage, and that the god of Lust has children with two other deities--and because pantheons usually reflect the beliefs of their followers, you deduce that this culture is likely accepting of polygamy and/or extramarital sex. And that's before your adventurer becomes powerful enough to pique the interest of the gods themselves, one of whom assigns you a quest to kill a specific Titan . . . and maybe, just maybe, to claim its sphere for yourself & become a demigod, enabling you to travel to the astral plane & rub shoulders with actual deities. Bitchin'.
   Yeah, coding it would be a lot of work--but perhaps not that much, as the gods behave pretty much like dwarves. Model them on existing traits, preferences, and social behaviors to develop their friendships & grudges. Allow garments & trinkets (the spheres) to be claimed by multiple people at once to make the gods fight over them like Infinity Stones. And replace the gods' physical needs (food, drink, sleep) with spiritual ones (belief, worship, sacrifice). It would provide a very good reason for certain biomes to be associated with specific spheres. And it would be fascinating to see certain events play out in the divine realm to mirror those down on the mortal plane--and vice versa. As always, whether or not this expansion would be worth the labor is for Toady alone to decide, but I hope it's at least worth considering.
Logged
Dwarf Fortress -- kind of like Minecraft, but for people who hate themselves.

KittyTac

  • Bay Watcher
  • Impending Catsplosion. [PREFSTRING:aloofness]
    • View Profile
Re: A more interesting theology
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2018, 03:37:07 am »

Armok will be completely disregarded in the Myth release. But otherwise, good ideas that might be included as some of the possibilities.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2018, 03:39:45 am by KittyTac »
Logged
Don't trust this toaster that much, it could be a villain in disguise.
Mostly phone-posting, sorry for any typos or autocorrect hijinks.

Dorsidwarf

  • Bay Watcher
  • [INTERSTELLAR]
    • View Profile
Re: A more interesting theology
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2018, 07:47:27 am »

I really agree with you that mythgen really has to focus on the stories told, and hence be character-driven by divine interactions (real or merely storied)
Logged
Quote from: Rodney Ootkins
Everything is going to be alright

Azerty

  • Bay Watcher
    • View Profile
Re: A more interesting theology
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2018, 02:25:51 pm »

Theology and mythology is set to be randomly generated. In some worlds, we could see no gods.
Logged
"Just tell me about the bits with the forest-defending part, the sociopath part is pretty normal dwarf behavior."

SixOfSpades

  • Bay Watcher
  • likes flesh balls for their calming roundness
    • View Profile
Re: A more interesting theology
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2018, 07:42:41 pm »

Armok will be completely disregarded in the Myth release.
Along with dropping everything but the "Dwarf Fortress" part from the game's official name, I hope? (Although even that would be something of a misnomer, considering Adventure Mode, but Toady can't very well call the game "Dwarf".)


Theology and mythology is set to be randomly generated.
As I mentioned, the gods can have a healthy amount of randomness in their emotional makeup and interactions . . . but as far as I can tell, the spheres are far less plastic in that regard. For instance, Rain, Lightning, and Thunder flat-out are associated with Storms, and no amount of procedural randomness is going to change that and still make sense. Granted, there is some flexibility: I'm sure there are many possible arrangements of Domains other than the system that I came up with, but I'm not sure it'd be worth the effort of teaching the game to generate one on the fly, every time. It might be more fun to just have a bunch of humans each come up with their own plan how to organize the spheres, and then for each game, the computer just picks one of these templates. So the static framework of spheres keeps everything logical, while the more unpredictable gods keep everything fresh.

Quote
In some worlds, we could see no gods.
Hmm. Realistically, I'm not sure how well that would work. Sure, the "time before time" could easily be renamed to "prehistory", and beings that are "the first of their kind" could simply become the first of their kind to have names, which explains why they have no (named) ancestors--but that still raises the question of how the hell every settlement of every intelligent race all started to keep track of events on the exact same day. Or they all arrived where they are (from some completely different place) on the same day, etc. Sure, by the time the world is 200 years old or so everything's fine, but it's just really awkward to think of Year 1, with everybody scratching their heads & wondering why they can't remember more than a few months back.

But solely regarding the concept of a godless world, yeah, that could be cool. I can also see having god(s) that the mortal races simply aren't aware of, as well as worlds that have no actual deities but the sentients start worshiping some anyway. But I hope that's controllable via a worldgen setting: I've previously supported the idea of giving the player control over how much effect Magic and Technology will have in their world, and it'd be nice to have a slider for Divine activity as well.
Logged
Dwarf Fortress -- kind of like Minecraft, but for people who hate themselves.

KittyTac

  • Bay Watcher
  • Impending Catsplosion. [PREFSTRING:aloofness]
    • View Profile
Re: A more interesting theology
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2018, 08:19:10 pm »

Armok will be completely disregarded in the Myth release.
Along with dropping everything but the "Dwarf Fortress" part from the game's official name, I hope? (Although even that would be something of a misnomer, considering Adventure Mode, but Toady can't very well call the game "Dwarf".)
Nope, the name is going to stay to prevent confusion. Go ask a FOTF question if it bothers you.
Logged
Don't trust this toaster that much, it could be a villain in disguise.
Mostly phone-posting, sorry for any typos or autocorrect hijinks.

Shonai_Dweller

  • Bay Watcher
    • View Profile
Re: A more interesting theology
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2018, 01:07:23 am »

Armok will be completely disregarded in the Myth release.
Along with dropping everything but the "Dwarf Fortress" part from the game's official name, I hope? (Although even that would be something of a misnomer, considering Adventure Mode, but Toady can't very well call the game "Dwarf".)
Nope, the name is going to stay to prevent confusion. Go ask a FOTF question if it bothers you.
Didn't soneone just ask that last month or the month before (or maybe it was an interview question)? I'd quote you the answer, but feeling jetlagged today. Think it was a maybe though, not a no.

Sixofspades:
No God mundane worlds (defined with sliders) are already confirmed. You may not see how that will work, but Toady does, apparently. So, that's good. I think the idea is, they'll still have the myth and it'll be in their artwork and stuff, buy there'll be no "real" links (afterlife, magic, etc).
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 01:10:44 am by Shonai_Dweller »
Logged