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Author Topic: Physical Gods  (Read 6814 times)

NW_Kohaku

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Physical Gods
« on: August 26, 2010, 07:41:48 pm »

This is a spin-off of another suggestion thread where it was originally proposed that unsealing "Hell" should cause a blight upon the land as a corruption from all the "evil" that it releases upon the world.  I disagreed.

We need a world where we have a true polytheistic lack of strong deistic good or evil values.  As I said in that thread:

Well, what I'm generally saying is that this game is one that is largely physical in nature.  It doesn't really have overarching themes of Good Vs. Evil, where only a pure spirit can overcome the power of evil, it's a place where dirty, violent, greedy people who are better prepared and trained beat the crap out of other dirty, violent, greedy people who were reckless and overconfident. 

If there's a "Source of Evil" in the world, it has to be combatable, and combatable in the manner suited to the game - I.E. you have to be able to kill the source of evil in the world by obsidian casting it... And then maybe making a really nice "Heart Of Evil Cabinet" artifact that has images of itself striking a menacing pose on it.

VoidPointer:
Allow me to expand upon this, as a good dose of polytheism is exactly what Dwarf Fortress needs.[1]

You're quite correct, to start with. Polytheistic gods are very different from the Abrahamic God, or really any monotheistic (or henotheistic, but for purposes of this discussion the distinction is trivial) god. Polytheistic gods are not immaterial. They are bound up with the physical, even though they dwell in spiritual realms. When a priest of Baal sacrificed a bull, the idea was that the meat would literally pass upward to Baal and supply him with stock for his larder. When the city of a local god was conquered, that god was conquered (by the god or gods of the conquering city).[2] The gods were even physically manifest in the form of idols, which were literally treated as if they were the god (as, in a very real sense, they were, in fact, the god). One of the kings of Babylon (Xerxes, I think, but don't quote me on that), for example, took all the idols of all the gods of the lesser cities he had conquered and took them to Babylon to help protect it, and this angered the other cities because they would be denied their gods' protection!

This physicality defines the relationships of polytheistic gods to each other and to mortals. In one of Baal's sagas, he defeats Sea, the godly embodiment of the ocean, and makes him his vassal. Sea had no active cult, because Baal wanted Sea to be weak, and sacrifices to Sea would give him supplies, wealth, servants, etc. Similarly, Baal is in the habit of throwing lavish parties to keep the other gods in line and keep himself popular, lest they overthrow him. The gods need worshipers to give them sacrifices, and thus strength and power, and in turn the gods are willing to do favors for those who are willing to sacrifice to them, and make examples of those who do not (“Eh, nice fields you got there. It'd be a shame if Valiant Baal were to, oh I dunno, not rain on 'em this year, huh?”). In this way, the gods' relationship to mortals was half quid pro quo, half extortion racket.

The example of Sea also illustrates something important. In addition to whatever gods are actively worshiped at any given time, polytheistic systems also have gods (usually weak, old ones) who personify the forces of nature (in Greek mythology, the Titans were mostly or entirely examples of these). The “spheres” are not merely things to be associated with, but sometimes living things in their own right.[3] This in itself has potential, in that if a sphere grows too strong in a place, the gods might get annoyed (as they hate, indeed fear, competition from lesser spirits).

This system, as Kohaku mentioned, also basically does away with the idea of any universal morality, as there is no Supreme Being who is the author of right and wrong. Morality becomes “Do as I say, not as I do, or I'll destroy you in the most inventively evil way I can dream up.”[4] This links strongly back to the “protection racket” thing. The gods don't necessarily want to teach you a lesson, they just want revenge for your pissing them off.

And yeah, Tartarus. It's a place where the gods put inconvenient immortals. Not much else to say there.

I can't wait to obsidian-cast a god. And this largely does away with real vs. fake gods: If all the miracles you want is "your enemies are crispy now", a dragon is a perfectly serviceable god.

[1]: Please note that my expertise on this subject is strongest with respect to ancient Near Eastern polytheism; to whit, the pantheon of Baal, Asherah, Moth (or Mot), and so on. This is not a large problem, as the Greek system definitely, and other systems probably, work in the same manner. In fact, Baal can easily be identified with Zeus via the known sagas about him (his area of power, sacred mountain, and rivals largely match those of Zeus).

[2]: Consider Isaiah 36, wherein an Assyrian polytheist argues that Israel will be destroyed because Assyria's god is mightier than the god of the Israelites. His argument is not that said god does not exist, but that he will be conquered like all the other gods.

[3]: This isn't terribly relevant, but I find it difficult to pass up an opportunity to point out that Genesis 1 is not an argument against evolution so much as a refutation of these ideas. The sea isn't some other god that God is in charge of. The sea, in fact, has no spiritual force. It's simply something God made. It's stuff and nothing more, and God is outside and above it, so feel free to toy around with it. Poseidon isn't going to smite you for exploring the Marianas Trench.

[4]: And yes, this is bloody well different from how it works in a monotheistic system, just to head off any snide remarks. It's irrelevant to the discussion at hand, so I won't post it here, but I will explain to anyone who asks via PM.

Which brings me to the point of the thread:
Wouldn't it be terrific if, instead of simply becoming Mountainhome with a king, if you work hard enough, you could actually invite a Physical God to come live in your fortress? 

Or, better, having physical gods attack your fortress in seige mode, and giving you the ability to chain up someone else's god.  I already enjoyed chaining up a Titan back in 40d that was worshipped as a god by humans, and stripping her naked, and throwing her on the other end of a moat with waterfalls for my truly legendary Legendary Dining Hall around year 7 of the fortress.  (Cue "Where's your God now?!")

There's another aspect to this, as well, which is the nature of spheres: If we have player-based ability to influnece what spheres are in power in any one region (if only by temples or the like, although possibly increasing the domain's "War" sphere by killing caravans, and sparking wars would be fun, or increasing "Volcano" sphere by magma-flooding more often) then we can start really playing with not just genocidal warfare, but also holy warfare, potentially against even other dwarven civs.  You can declare the god of warfare, fortresses, and gems to be the only True Dwarven God, and wage war against the followers of all other religions.

This would also naturally lend itself towards having certain creatures, plants, and possibly other strange effects to be associated with different spheres.  If a Gem God is present, maybe lapis lazuli bushes start sprouting underground, for your dwarves to harvest?
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 07:54:40 pm by NW_Kohaku »
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IHateOutside

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2010, 07:47:20 pm »

This would be pretty cool. You could build your very own dwarven mount Olympus! The debauchery and booze would never end.  :D
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Josephus

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2010, 07:49:24 pm »

DwarfZeus wouldn't even have to personally visit anyone. All he'd have to do is send spores flying to every nation- OHMYGOD

The notion of physical gods introduces the possibility of real Demigods (not just souped-up castes).
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Andeerz

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2010, 08:13:33 pm »

...as well as the notion of god-led armies of supernatural (natural in the sense of DF) beings!  Wheeee!
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Neonivek

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 08:26:08 pm »

The question for me is how powerful should physical gods be?

Norse where god certainly could have extreme powers, objects, and abilities but were otherwise mortal.

Or Greek where the gods were nearly unstoppable and could survive being skinned alive, having organs ripped out, and even their heads cleaved in two.

I'd like more advanced pantheons before we get physical gods with minor and lesser gods as well as servants. Having your fortress sieged by Valkyrie or Eihmarjar (dang can't spell it) makes just as much sense as being sieged by the god of fire itself.

This is excluding the already physical incarna gods such as Megabeasts
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 08:48:28 pm by Neonivek »
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2010, 10:05:02 pm »

Hmm... it depends on if we even want it to be theoretically possible for an adventurer to challenge a God.  I know the "Agents of Armok" I modded into the game in order to test committing genocide against HFS are pretty much functionally immortal, except for being so massive that any fall, even just 1 z-level, is instant death with Ludicrous Gibs.

Anyway, speaking of Einherjar, I remember this from a few weeks ago, talking about "mining the moon":

Only if in digging too deep (high?) we find Dwarf Valhalla or something.
And then use the moon to rain lava down on elvens.

That would actually be pretty cool.

A ton of Einherjar made of all the dead dwarves in the history section (priority from your own fort) could rain down for divine retribution for the greed and hubris for defiling the land of the Gods.

You could unseal the lower HFS and the upper HFS at the same time, and watch the double cascade squish your fortress between the two onrushing tides.
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thijser

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2010, 07:33:14 am »

Well we already have physical gods in the form of megabeasts and deamons that took the place of gods. But it might be fun if one of your dwarfs could also take that place.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2010, 11:07:05 am »

Megabeasts don't really "take the place" of Gods - as far as I can tell, people worship dragons as gods because that way, the dragon doesn't eat them.  Worshippers elevating dragons to Godhood status always seems to follow rampages in the town where some of the worshippers were directly injured by the dragon, and started worshipping the dragon after being spared death by the dragon.

So you have things like dragons and titans, which are worshipped as Gods, even though heroes can defeat them in single combat, sometimes even with a single blow. 

I'd rather see something where the sphere system is upgraded, and we get Gods that are directly related to their spheres. 

If we're talking about the stuff VoidPointer was talking about, maybe Gods are born when someone creates an artifact idol, and starts worshipping it.  (Older gods might also be mortals that ascend... maybe even the original dwarven Gods are simply the patriarchs and matriarchs of dwarven society, worshipped to Godhood.) This means that we could tie the powers of a God to their degree of worship, as well as their sphere.  They could, for example, start out with basically being a mortal creature of the type that they are "most often portrayed as", and get bonuses for the degree of influence their sphere has, plus the number of worshipers they have. 

This can also lead to Gods having powers that spread their influence through any land with their sphere, plus having the sort of god-to-god conflict over worshippers.

Of course, then we might want to consider having deities with relationships with one another.  Whether it be parent/child relationships like most of Greek myth, or conquering lord/servant relationships, where a weaker god is allowed to live as a servant, or a lesser partner to a more powerful god, or even just outright drinking buddy gods (Thor and pre-Christian revision of Loki). 

(That way we could have, I don't know, a Goddess of the Mountains and a Goddess of the Sky living together after the Goddess of the Sky defeated the Goddess of the Mountains, where the Sky Goddess plays a front woman, gathering faith, while the Mountain Goddess works on making the miracles the Sky Goddess promises, and they could live together with the Mountain Goddess's great-great-great^92-granddaugther, who's also their High Priestess.)

« Last Edit: August 28, 2010, 02:48:51 pm by NW_Kohaku »
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Mckee

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2010, 12:19:29 pm »

One idea that just struck me about this is that given our current system of strange moods, possession in particular, something could be done to incorporate gods.
So, possibly as well as the actual god showing up at a given point, like a noble (with much different criteria), they could instil power to your dwarves. A strongly religious dwarf could perhaps pray to the god of war (or elf-smiting or whoever) at a dicey moment in the fight and get some kind of bonus, even a minor one to represent a bit of religious zealotry, or a major one, to represent actual divine intervention. Obviously this would need balancing so that it didn't happen too often and didn't do anything too insane.

Another option is having a priest or just devout dwarfs become inspired/possessed and creating something or undertaking some beneficial action.
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jetex1911

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2010, 02:58:43 pm »

What if a god had bestowed the expedition leader, that's you, with the powers of a god?
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2010, 03:09:34 pm »

What if a god had bestowed the expedition leader, that's you, with the powers of a god?

Are we talking about an explanation for the method of control we have over the dwarves in this game, or as a special setup where one dwarf you get from the start of the game is a fledgling demigod?
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Neonivek

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2010, 04:32:57 pm »

Quote
Megabeasts don't really "take the place" of Gods - as far as I can tell, people worship dragons as gods because that way, the dragon doesn't eat them

Naw it is because for all intents and purposes the Dragon IS a god.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2010, 05:10:03 pm »

They're more like forces of nature than gods - gods would theoretically want worship more than to just kill people, sometimes to the point of making humans and elves go extinct.

Regardless, something clearly identified AS "gods" exist in the game already, they just never appear in any way, except as an entry in legends mode, and in engravings.  This thread is about them more than about the worshippable megabeasts or semi-megabeasts.
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Personally, I like [DF] because after climbing the damned learning cliff, I'm too elitist to consider not liking it.
"And no Frankenstein-esque body part stitching?"
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Neonivek

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2010, 08:22:35 pm »

They're more like forces of nature than gods - gods would theoretically want worship more than to just kill people, sometimes to the point of making humans and elves go extinct.

Regardless, something clearly identified AS "gods" exist in the game already, they just never appear in any way, except as an entry in legends mode, and in engravings.  This thread is about them more than about the worshippable megabeasts or semi-megabeasts.

Forces of nature are gods... Hense the vast majority of gods.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Physical Gods
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2010, 10:05:09 pm »

Polytheistic gods are forces of nature given a physical, anthropromorphized form to make literal forces of nature seem like they have consciousness and purpose.

Dragons are basically just hungry beasts that are large and strong enough for people to worship them.
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Personally, I like [DF] because after climbing the damned learning cliff, I'm too elitist to consider not liking it.
"And no Frankenstein-esque body part stitching?"
"Not yet"

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