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    Canonfire :: View topic - The effect of Suel gods on the makeup of the Suel Imperium
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    The effect of Suel gods on the makeup of the Suel Imperium
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    Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:28 pm  
    The effect of Suel gods on the makeup of the Suel Imperium

    A lot of speculation has surrounded how the Suel Imperium worked. Was it evil, was it good, was it corrupt, decadent, glorious, etc. As in most fantasy works, look to the gods to figure out how the society functioned.

    The everyday gods of the Suel city folk are predominantly Lawful: Lendor, WeeJas, Bralm, Fortubo, Osprem. Denoting that the city is well run, organized and productive.

    The farmers mostly worship Phyton, a chaotic good god. Which denotes that the farmers probably enjoy a lot of freedom in their daily lives. They are not oppressed.

    The Suel have three gods of the sea; Osprem, Xerbo and Procan. Which denotes a large sea faring culture. Seeing as the three gods represent Law, Neutrality and Chaos, the Suel see the Sea as both an opportunity and a risk.

    What about War? Well they have two war gods: Kord and Phaulkon. Both of which are Chaotic. This denotes that the Suel probably view personal prowess on the battlefield as paramount as opposed to the organized approach the Oeridian use (Heironeous/Hextor). And note that both Kord and Phaulkon are Good aligned.

    Wrapping all this up together paints an interesting picture, very different from the assumptions of a decadent, oppressive and evil empire bent on world domination.

    Their cities would be well organized, clean, and prosperous. With the mindset of Bralm and Fortubo guiding their craftsmen, the quality and work ethics would be second only to the dwarves.

    Their villages would be happy places with farmers toiling the fields, having more than enough the eat and enjoying festivals.

    Their armies would be more akin to those of the Celts, with personal prowess in battle more important than the machine-like Roman way of making of war.

    They would have many ships plying the seas, looking for opportunities, new islands to explore, new trading partners, and yet with a constant respect for the wildness that the seas represent so as to constantly be trying to improve the design of their ships.

    That is the glory of the Suel Imperium at its height.
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    Richard Di Ioia (aka Longetalos)
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    Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:39 am  
    Re: The effect of Suel gods on the makeup of the Suel Imperi

    Longetalos wrote:
    ...The Suel have three gods of the sea; Osprem, Xerbo and Procan. Which denotes a large sea faring culture. Seeing as the three gods represent Law, Neutrality and Chaos, the Suel see the Sea as both an opportunity and a risk...


    -Procan was an Oeridian deity, but I don't think it changes your overall premise too much.

    Longetalos wrote:
    ...What about War? Well they have two war gods: Kord and Phaulkon. Both of which are Chaotic. This denotes that the Suel probably view personal prowess on the battlefield as paramount as opposed to the organized approach the Oeridian use (Heironeous/Hextor). And note that both Kord and Phaulkon are Good aligned...


    -Certain aspects of Wee Jas and Norebo would have military applications.

    Longetalos wrote:
    ...Wrapping all this up together paints an interesting picture, very different from the assumptions of a decadent, oppressive and evil empire bent on world domination...
    That is the glory of the Suel Imperium at its height...


    -Then later, they started worshipping the baddies, and things changed. or maybe things changed, and the baddies became dominant. Chicken and the egg, or vicious cycle, perhaps. It probably had a lot to do with which noble house was ascendant: Rhola worshipped Jascar, the Neheli Lydia, other patronized malign deities.

    Another consideration is, which deities were more powerful then than they are now, and vice versa? e.g., Ranet is dead.

    EDIT: Took out extraneous material.


    Last edited by jamesdglick on Mon Mar 22, 2021 11:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Mon Mar 22, 2021 10:02 am  

    I've often thought about how the Suel deities might reflect the culture and mindset of the Suel Imperium.

    A few things stand out for me;

    Maritime Deities: Despite the presence of Xerbo, Osprem and Akwamon (if you include him in the roster) the fact that the Suel Imperium, or at least its heartland that became the Sea of Dust, are entirely land-locked implies that the Imperium's lands must have expanded beyond the area of the Sea of Dust or that there was an inland sea (which, based on the size of the area seems unlikely for there to have been one particularly large). If we agree that the Imperium expanded beyond the Sea of Dust (which makes sense for somewhere claiming to be an Empire) then it's possible that the Suel Pantheon today is drawn from a number of different cultures within the Imperium's borders (much like the Romans). By the time of the Twin Cataclysms these various deities had become a cohesive pantheon.

    Osprem is a goddess of ships & sailors rather than the sea specifically so perhaps historically her portfolio included barge & canal workers operating within the land-locked heartlands? When the Suel were forced to migrate, she became reinforced in her maritime role (there probably weren't many Suel migrating by barge or canal!) and her connection to inland waterways diminished.

    Xerbo is the only deity of wealth and by association trade which perhaps implies the Imperium was very dependant on outside resources. Within the region of the Sea of Dust perhaps he was connected to gold-panning in the streams coming fromt he mountains? For a deity so adverse to the land it's hard to see him having much interest in the central hub of the Imperium.

    Trade & Mercantile Pursuits: As mentioned above, Xerbo is the only real deity connected with trade and he hates anything not of the sea. Other possible deities might be Norebo or Syrul. If either of these were the case then Norebo as a trade god implies merchants relying on luck or taking a gamble and perhaps entailing some interesting trade customs. Syrul as a deity of trade gives us a shady mercantile class where guile is almost revered and trade is almost a battle of underhand one-upmanship. It might also denote a massive black market, perhaps implying a system choked with laws & beaurocracy?

    War: Kord, Phaulkon & Llerg are all deities of either strength or combat skills. Llerg seems like an outsider god, savage and feral compared to the fairly refined Suel pantheon which makes me think he was perhaps a popular deity from a peripheral culture in the Imperium or amongst the cultural ancestors of the Suelii. Kord is more about competition and athleticism and less about actual warfare and tactics. Which might add an interesting slant on Suel warfare - full warfare might have been rare with a culture of duels (often wrestling) used to settle disputes. Both Kord and Phaulkon are CG which also implies a less structured military but also one that wouldn't be oppressive. Perhaps the ethical differences between the military and the rulers of the Imperium were part of the reason it never expanded to aggressively.

    To throw a non-canon suggestion out there. Im really keen on Syrul being a deity of war within the Imperium. Interestingly, the early Dragon article gives her levels in monk implying a combative element. I like the idea of Suloise warfare being more about guile & trickery. IMC Syrul is a deity who has fallen from grace, once of goddess of love, war & guile (guile being relevant to both arenas) she somehow became twisted & obsessed with deception.

    Craft & Arts - Fortubo is the only Suel deity of craft and only metalwork at that perhaps reinforcing the relevance of Xerbo and the need for trade imports. I'm not sure when in history he turned his back on the Suel but I wonder what effect that might have had on their society.

    Phyton as a god of beauty may have had a following of artists which might imply a kind of bohemian artistic subculture, where pastoral life was romanticised by the nobility living within the cities. I like the idea of Suel nobles with their country estates thinking their roughing it having a picnic on a rural hillside. Alternatively, an artistic culture inpsired by Wee Jas as a goddess of beauty would be much more traditional and rigid. Esteemed academies, tried and tested styles. I can see a huge cultural clash between Phyton and Wee Jas spilling beyond the arts and into views on love and sex also. To have a deity specifically concerning music indicates that music must have been culturally very important. The Suel Imperium might have a strong oral tradition of passing on knowledge from generation to generation?

    Love & Marriage - With uptight Wee Jas being the more powerful deity when compared to Phyton it's likely love and courting in Suel culture was very formal and arranged marriages seem likely too. Wee Jas & Norebo's trists might also imply the Suel saw love as a gamble and a risk so honouring Wee Jas's guidance on the matter was safer.

    Death: I remember reading somewhere that Wee Jas's ties to death might have manifested or strengthened due to the connection between magic, the Twin Cataclysms and the mass death they caused. I've often thought that perhaps Dalt, as a god of portals, might have been connected to the afterlife somehow but by the Twin Cataclysms he possibly wasn't really in the picture. Perhaps Wee Jas was already the guardian of the souls of the departed and thus when Dalt trotted off it was natural for her to subsume the full portolfio of death. Just a musing though!

    Nature: Chaotic Llerg, Phyton and Phaulkon show the the Suel would have seen a real contrast between wild unpredictable nature and lawful civilisation. Even Phyton is more about mankind turning nature to their will than the wilderness. Llerg always seems like a brooding dangerous god and I can see that many Suel saw nature that way. Bralm is another example of the Suel blending of nature beinding to civilisation


    This is a great topic! Look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts
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    Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:59 pm  

    Awesome thread topic, and exactly the kind of thing I love to speculate on.

    The first thing that comes to mind for me is that most of the Suel during the Great Migrations were thoroughly vile. The Oeridians often prospered against them due to their ability to befriend the Flan and various non-humans (the violence and betrayals many of the Oeridians inflicted on the Flan later in my Greyhawk are another story).

    I think that the Suel pantheon has actually changed somewhat since the glory days of the Imperium. Notably, the 1983 boxed set depicts the Sea of Dust as a basin surrounded by mountains, which as Wolfling pointed out are not exactly conducive to maritime gods like Xerbo. Gods like Kord and Llerg also don't exactly mesh with the Suel's cultural emphasis on learning and academic study, either. They do, however, mesh well with Lendor, the overall leader of the pantheon. Fortubo also abandoned the Suel when he learned they were responsible for creating the derro, which would require a high amount of magic to accomplish, not something that is implied by Celtic-style armies and happy villages.

    Longetalos didn't mention the evil Suel gods like Beltar, Pyremius and Syrul, and the impact they would have on Suel society. Their domains include malice, caves, lies, poison, and treachery. Also note that Lendor and Wee Jas are both morally neutral in alignment and wouldn't be philosophically opposed to working with evil gods if they felt the benefit was worth it. The Scarlet Brotherhood, which I consider the modern nation most obsessed with retaining the old imperial culture, has most of these gods in its pantheon along with Wee Jas and Bralm, who emphasizes hard work and obedience.

    Looked at through this lens, a very different picture emerges of the Suel Imperium. The old Suel Imperium was malicious, tyrannical and racist, with intrigues, double-dealing, murder and magical experiments on unwilling victims being the order of the day for its ruling and noble classes. Most of the common folk wouldn't be much better, eagerly pursuing the war against the hated Baklunish, Oeridians and demihumans. Magic and study were highly prized values, and allowed for trafficking with fiends. That magical prowess was what caused the Invoked Devastation...and it should be remembered that the Suel Imperium struck first in causing the Twin Cataclysms.

    That said, just as the Scarlet Brotherhood allows considerable latitude and self-rule to its modern dominions (which it conquers through subtlety, not open force) the Suel Imperium was also very decentralized. Most of its viceroys wouldn't have been any better than the emperors, nor would their populations, but it's possible that a few dissident Suel found gods like Llerg and Kord as barbaric, athletic patrons against a mainstream culture that, while academic, was also decadent and hateful. Maritime gods like Xerbo might have been later additions to the pantheon by people who managed to escape through the mountains or tunnels to the oceans, possibly aided by gods like Fortubo.

    When the Suel Imperium was destroyed by the Rain of Colorless Fire, gods like Syrul, Beltar and Pyremius receded in influence in favor of the gods that the dissident Suel latched onto. The Thillonrian barbarians were so determined to reject the old sorcerous, intellectual heritage that they developed much more 'he-man' cultures as expressed by Kord and Llerg. Seafaring gods like Procan and Xerbo obviously appealed to the Sea Baron and Lordship citizens who made their living from sail.

    Gods like Phyton who dissident peoples prayed to for help would be taken up by more of the population during the Great Migrations. Morally neutral gods like Lendor and Wee Jas maintain their influence due to their neutrality and ability to work with good-aligned gods as well as evil ones, and their cultural impact of study and knowledge remains among the modern Suel.

    TL;DR: The more goodly-aligned Suel gods, and gods who didn't match the majority's culture, would only be worshipped by oppressed dissidents during the Imperium's glory days. As the Suel fled into the Flanaess after the Imperium's destruction, the dissidents' gods became more popular among many people who abandoned their ancestors' evil ways. The evil gods receded in influence, while the most powerful neutral gods could work with both good and evil and their cultural imprint was indelible. The Scarlet Brotherhood is a major exception, of course, being concerned with reviving the old Imperium and its culture.
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    Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:59 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:



    Looked at through this lens, a very different picture emerges of the Suel Imperium. The old Suel Imperium was malicious, tyrannical and racist, with intrigues, double-dealing, murder and magical experiments on unwilling victims being the order of the day for its ruling and noble classes. Most of the common folk wouldn't be much better, eagerly pursuing the war against the hated Baklunish, Oeridians and demihumans. Magic and study were highly prized values, and allowed for trafficking with fiends. That magical prowess was what caused the Invoked Devastation...and it should be remembered that the Suel Imperium struck first in causing the Twin Cataclysms.



    My gut feeling has always been that the common folk don't have the time to be as invested in Good vs Evil due to the fact they're busting a gut tilling fields, surviving plagues and generally surviving. I'm not saying the the Imperium's commonfolk might not have had that classic Suel supremacy going on or an appreciation of double-dealing but I think there's still space for good-aligned deities to not require them to only be worshipped by dissidents.

    As an agricultural god, CG Phyton probably has the most relevance to the common folk along side LN Bralm.

    Quite often in ancient myths, the events reflect real social changes that occurred in those cultures. The death of Ranet might be culturally very significant for that reason. The wiki implies she was likely somewhat benign in ethos and so having her supplanted by an evil fire deity might reflect a dramatic social change within the Imperium. Perhaps a new Emperor or dynasty ushering in a darker period leading up to the Twin Cataclysms? Fortubo turning his back on the Suel people in disgust implies that they had to cross a line and were not historically so driven to genetic tampering.

    Another thing to ponder is why CG Phaulkon would mate with NE Syrul. The obvious reason is that she duped him but I still like the apocryphal theory that she wasn't always wicked having once been a deity of love, war & guile. Nothing is ever really made of Phaulkon & Kord's relationship with Syrul. Perhaps they remember her before she was twisted?

    Beltar, Pyremius and Syrul are the only evil deities and even Beltar is CE(N). Their portfolios are themed to darkness, murder & deceit. There are in fact as many Good deities as Neutral in the Suel pantheon. Those Good deities are primarily concerned with perhaps the less wild elements of nature (air, wind, agriculture, birds, light, mountains), arts & crafts (music, metal & stoneworking). The Neutral deities also happen to be mostly Lawful and cover the domains of civilisation like law, magic, time, tradition, study, industry, ships, wealth.

    So how did the Suel Imperium end up the wicked place it seemed to be by the time of the Cataclysms when so few of their deities were evil? To me all this points to an ethical shift in the Imperium likely due to the nobility and some event occurring there (perhaps culminating with the death of Ranet). For Evil to become so pervasive in a primarily Neutral & Good pantheon requires subtlety & cunning coupled with the casual indifference of the Neutral deities. Who better than to have been responsible for this ethical shift in Suloise ethics than Syrul, slowly twisting the Imperium from the top down.

    CSL, your Good-deity worshipping dissidents were more likely old-guard nobles than commonfolk who probably got on with life worshipping Good, Neutral & Evil alike. I don't think that the Good-deities could have been suppressed in the Imperium amongst the commonfolk very long if at all, or I'm not sure they'd be still so prevalent today.
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    Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:06 am  

    This was originally printed in dragon (I forget which issue):

    https://sites.google.com/site/trebourne/the-story/history-of-the-suloise

    It's not necessarily canon, but Len Lakofka is the source on the Suel, even more than EG Gygax.

    Notice the struggle between adherents of good deities and evil deities, and that the Suel had an ocean-going capability before SD 1.

    Whether the Suel Imperium was were good and happy, or vicious and treacherous, to some extent depended on who was in charge. After a fight of millennia, the baddies won.
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    Tue Mar 23, 2021 12:07 pm  

    Some of this depends on whether you think Len Lakofka's pantheon of nineteen gods—as given in L4 Devilspawn, these were Awkamon, Bahamut, Beltar, Bralm, Fortubo, Jascar, Kord, Lendor, Llerg, Lydia, Norebo, Osprem, Phaulkon, Phyton, Pyremius, Syrul, Tiamat, Wee Jas, and Xerbo—represents all of the deities worshiped by the Suel in ancient times or if there were additional gods, now mostly forgotten or assimilated into the "Common" pantheon.

    The Scarlet Brotherhood accessory claimed that Ranet, the original Suel goddess of fire (originally mentioned in I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City) was poisoned by Pyremius "during the height of the Suel empire." If true, this means that the "Suel Imperium at its height" also included Ranet. Perhaps there were other deities as well whose only shrines and temples are now buried beneath the dust, their worshipers long dead.

    In any case, of the 19 gods, four of them—Beltar, Pyremius, Syrul, and Tiamat—are outright evil, while another three—Bralm, Norebo, and Wee Jas—are neutral but with noteworthy evil tendencies. Six of them—Bahamut, Fortubo, Jascar, Kord, Lydia, and Phaulkon—are good. Awkamon has good tendencies. Four—Lendor, Llerg, Osprem, and Xerbo—are neutral. Counting tendencies, that's a pretty much balanced pantheon.

    Fortubo is said to have turned against the human Suel in response to their infamies (the creation of the derro in -1219 CY), which would have altered the balance of the remaining pantheon more toward evil.

    If you include Tharizdun worship among the ancient Suel, that changes the balance substantially. The Oerth Journal #1 timeline also has one of the latter Suel emperors declaring himself a god-king.

    The semi-canon UK6 All That Glitters tells us that the Suel (called the Kepta in that module) turned toward evil under the influence of the dark mage Kahoatep, "and the gods were angered," and refused to grant the Suel absolution even after the Rain of Colorless Fire destroyed their land.


    Last edited by rasgon on Wed Mar 24, 2021 9:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Tue Mar 23, 2021 12:35 pm  

    jamesdglick wrote:
    This was originally printed in dragon (I forget which issue):

    https://sites.google.com/site/trebourne/the-story/history-of-the-suloise


    This is from Oerth Journal #11, a revision of the Suel timeline from Oerth Journal #1. It was never in Dragon. I think it's an important work and I use parts of it as a basis for my histories, though some of the canon sources contradict parts of it (notably the origin of the Suel barbarians and the migration of Slerotin's followers are very different in canon).
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    Wed Mar 24, 2021 10:05 am  

    Wolfling wrote:


    My gut feeling has always been that the common folk don't have the time to be as invested in Good vs Evil due to the fact they're busting a gut tilling fields, surviving plagues and generally surviving. I'm not saying the the Imperium's commonfolk might not have had that classic Suel supremacy going on or an appreciation of double-dealing but I think there's still space for good-aligned deities to not require them to only be worshipped by dissidents.

    CSL, your Good-deity worshipping dissidents were more likely old-guard nobles than commonfolk who probably got on with life worshipping Good, Neutral & Evil alike. I don't think that the Good-deities could have been suppressed in the Imperium amongst the commonfolk very long if at all, or I'm not sure they'd be still so prevalent today.


    My own feeling is that, while the common folk are less interested in the cosmic struggles of Good vs. Evil, there is a divergence between the common folk of a land like Furyondy or Keoland as opposed to those of lands like the Bandit Kingdoms or the Great Kingdom. If you were to appeal to the common folk of North or South Province that they had more in common with the common folk of Sunndi or Nyrond than the nobles of their own lands, they'd laugh in your face before they executed you for any excuse they could think of, ranging from heresy to gross slander.

    That said, particularly in a decentralized society like I view the Suel Imperium to have been, I've always believed that temples to evil gods could openly operate in goodly lands and vice-versa, so long as they do not overtly threaten the larger population and/or status quo. Temples to Nerull and Incabulos openly operate in Greyhawk, while Vecna's cult is an open secret. This is because they provide important services in burying those dead who have absolutely no one else to mourn for them, or treating the diseased and safely disposing of their bodies. The priests who speak for them in such communities often emphasize the more positive aspects of their god, such as Hextor's priests focusing on physical fitness and combat prowess to defend against external threats.

    The reverse applies in more evilly-aligned lands like the Horned Empire, Ahlissa, Northern Aerdy and many of the Bandit Kingdoms. Goodly churches are allowed to operate openly in many of these lands provided they don't rock the boat or openly challenge the ruling authorities. Pelorians who stick to treating the sick and impoverished have a better chance of living than Trithereonites who openly defy a tyrannical king.

    So the followers of goodly faiths in the Suel Imperium knew very well to keep their heads down lest they lose them. The Imperium's decentralized nature makes this easier. And I doubt that gods like Phyton, Fortubo or Lydia are inclined to be very politically active.
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    Wed Mar 24, 2021 11:29 am  

    The Suel Empire lasted for thousands of years and in that time Emperors came and went. Some were good, some evil, some neutral, some competent, others useless, etc. Much like the Roman emperors through the history of that empire.

    The actual Suel people would have been more influenced by the gods they worshipped. These gods actually exist, have priests, cast miracles, and directly impact the lives, and souls, of the people. As such the disposition of a given emperor has less of an impact on the population than it would on Earth. The religious mindset would have a much larger say on things.

    A Lawful Evil despot trying to get 90% of his population who are peasants and worshippers of a CG god to behave is doomed. He then turns to the martial faiths to back him up, who are also CG. So none of the fiercest warriors on his side and no peasants on his side. He is effectively neutered as a ruler.

    Other posters talk about the evil Suel gods as influencing things. Sure they might have a minor influence on the direction of the empire but the Suel empire was never a theocracy. No one religion held that much power. The blended pantheon as a whole had influence and each in their own domain. No way the evil gods had enough influence to steer the empire to an overall evil aspect.

    Who are these evil Suel gods that supposedly held such a sway over the Suel that they overwhelmed and corrupted the followers of all the good gods of artisans, farmers, and warriors?
    - Beltar: goddess of deep caves and pits. Yep, her followers are a bunch of morlocks up in the mountains. There are 8 followers of this loser goddess.
    - Syrul: goddess of lies, deceit and treachery. There is a goddess that is the poster child for a bunch of followers who could not work together to change a light bulb.
    Pyremius: god of fire, poison and murder. How many murderers and arsonists are running around in an empire that this guy has a more than a token following?

    There is no way the Suel empire was evil. The gods of weal represent the domains the largest number of the population followed on a daily basis. And the Suel have the kindest of all the death gods so even that aspect is watered down. When they go to war, the soldiers are all praying to Good gods for strength, and the martial priests are right along-side the warriors giving them guidance on how to behave themselves during the battle to get into the afterlife -- which is pretty much a high chance when going to war. No way the warriors are going to be performing evil acts right before they die and have their soul judged by Phaulkon or Kord.

    Sure the history talks about how certain emperors were corrupt and ordered bad things to happen. But the emperor's influence was not that strong in the Suel empire where each house pretty much ruled itself.

    That is probably why the Suel did not handily win against the Bakluni -- the emperor could never get his people to totally dedicate themselves to the unjust and unnecessary war. Most of them disagreed with it and held back their troops, priests and mages. it explains why the emperor had to hire humanoid troops. And it explains the Invoked Devastation. The emperor could not mobilize the empire's resources to back up his mandate so he gathered a cabal of powerful evil mages and decided to talk matters in their own hands since the rest of the empire was not going along.

    Which also explains why Keoland is so adamant at keeping magic controlled. They do not want another handful of power hungry mages to make decisions that could harm the 95% of the population that disagrees with it.
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    Wed Mar 24, 2021 1:28 pm  

    Well, I think "Suel people" and "Suel Empire" are different things. I think the Empire as a government had indeed slid into evil by the time of the wars with the Baklunish, but many of the people were still good.

    As for the gods, it was a polytheistic society and everyone worshiped all the gods to some extent. I think it's a mistake to view the 19 gods as 19 monotheistic faiths. The pantheon represented a world view shared by most of the Suloise people. Everyone, good and bad, was wont to whisper a prayer to Syrul to lubricate social interactions, to Norebo for luck, to pray to Pyremius to fend off poison or to wish death to their enemies, to pray to Beltar to watch over the bodies of the dead (most sources claim Wee Jas didn't become goddess of death until after the Rain of Colorless Fire). The fact that deities murder and lies were among their major deities tells you something about the Suel character.

    I think a fair assessment of the Sulose pantheon has to include Norebo, Bralm, and Wee Jas among the evil-tending deities. Many good characters worshiped them, but that tells us something too.
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    Wed Mar 24, 2021 7:02 pm  

    Longetalos wrote:


    The actual Suel people would have been more influenced by the gods they worshipped. These gods actually exist, have priests, cast miracles, and directly impact the lives, and souls, of the people. As such the disposition of a given emperor has less of an impact on the population than it would on Earth. The religious mindset would have a much larger say on things.

    Who are these evil Suel gods that supposedly held such a sway over the Suel that they overwhelmed and corrupted the followers of all the good gods of artisans, farmers, and warriors?
    - Beltar: goddess of deep caves and pits. Yep, her followers are a bunch of morlocks up in the mountains. There are 8 followers of this loser goddess.
    - Syrul: goddess of lies, deceit and treachery. There is a goddess that is the poster child for a bunch of followers who could not work together to change a light bulb.
    Pyremius: god of fire, poison and murder. How many murderers and arsonists are running around in an empire that this guy has a more than a token following?

    There is no way the Suel empire was evil. The gods of weal represent the domains the largest number of the population followed on a daily basis. And the Suel have the kindest of all the death gods so even that aspect is watered down. When they go to war, the soldiers are all praying to Good gods for strength, and the martial priests are right along-side the warriors giving them guidance on how to behave themselves during the battle to get into the afterlife -- which is pretty much a high chance when going to war. No way the warriors are going to be performing evil acts right before they die and have their soul judged by Phaulkon or Kord.


    Then how do you account for most of the Suel migrants to the Flanaess apparently being hateful, wicked and vile? Isn't the Scarlet Brotherhood the nation that has the most cultural continuity with the Imperium?

    You talk about how the Suel would have been heavily influenced by the gods they worshipped. Leaving aside the fact that this is pretty much universal across all of Oerth, wouldn't the evil gods have had their share of influence on ancient Sueloise society too? You depict them as a bunch of rejects from an '80s kids cartoon who couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. How do they accomplish anything at all, much less have functioning churches?

    Like I said before, the scenario you present comes across to me as though the Suel pantheon has never changed in all those centuries, and the gods all have the same amount of power and influence today that they did in the old days.

    It can be different in your Greyhawk, obviously, but I just can't see it if we consider what vile bastards most of the Suel migrants were in the early days of Suel and Oeridian settlement of the Flanaess.
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    Wed Mar 24, 2021 9:01 pm  

    Longetalos wrote:
    A Lawful Evil despot trying to get 90% of his population who are peasants and worshippers of a CG god to behave is doomed.


    Remember that Bralm is also an agricultural deity and has lawful evil tendencies and a dogma that preaches obeying authority and is fine with slavery.

    For sure, many farmers would have paid homage to Phyton as well, but his worship would have been stronger among free farmers, and there may have been far fewer of them than there were serfs and slaves who only looked to the goddess of industriousness and toil.

    It's also worth noting that the "Suel pantheon" was created with Len Lakofka's Lendore Isle campaign in mind, not the Suel Imperium (which is the real reason there are so many gods of the sea, for example), and it may well have been very different in the centuries preceding the Great Rain of Fire.

    Quote:
    He then turns to the martial faiths to back him up, who are also CG.


    I wouldn't assume every warrior is motivated by religion. Some might be religious, while others would just follow orders from their secular commanders. Especially if you're arguing "the Suel Imperium was never a theocracy," why would the military be theocratic? Many might look generally to the Suel pantheon as a whole. Some would venerate Pyremius as god of murder, and Syrul as goddess of deceptive military tactics. Some, especially orcs and similar humanoids bolstering the human legions, would venerate Beltar. I think many of the Suel soldiers would look to Tiamat, Wee Jas, and no gods at all. While Kord, Phaulkon, and Jascar are all warriors to one degree or another, none of them are true gods of war.

    Quote:
    Sure they might have a minor influence on the direction of the empire but the Suel empire was never a theocracy.


    I don't think we know enough about the Suel empire to state that with confidence. It may well have been a theocracy at times, for example when Zinkman ad-Zol declared himself God-Emperor in Lakofka's timeline.

    Quote:
    No one religion held that much power.


    This may be a bit pedantic, but a god isn't a religion. A religion is a philosophy, a conception of the divine and the afterlife and an explanation for the cosmos. The gods of the Suel are part of Suel religion but individual gods aren't individual religions except in the case of monolatrous or monotheistic worship.

    That said, the various ruling Houses tended to have their own divine patrons, and it may well be that at times individual deities may have dominated the empire.

    Quote:
    Who are these evil Suel gods that supposedly held such a sway over the Suel that they overwhelmed and corrupted the followers of all the good gods of artisans, farmers, and warriors?
    - Beltar: goddess of deep caves and pits. Yep, her followers are a bunch of morlocks up in the mountains. There are 8 followers of this loser goddess.
    - Syrul: goddess of lies, deceit and treachery. There is a goddess that is the poster child for a bunch of followers who could not work together to change a light bulb.
    Pyremius: god of fire, poison and murder. How many murderers and arsonists are running around in an empire that this guy has a more than a token following?


    Instead of assuming these gods wouldn't have many followers, consider what a society must have been like for gods of deceit, murder, and malice to be considered major divinities in that culture. Work backwards from the evidence.

    Norebo: The fact that the god of luck is considered to have evil tendencies is evidence that the Suel believed fate had it in for them, that destiny itself was somewhat malicious—not evil as such, but more hostile than friendly, a denizen of the maddening depths of Pandemonium. The Suel were, perhaps, more cynical than the Baklunish, with their impartial Lady of Our Fate, believing the god who controls the rolls of the dice would sooner backstab them if given a chance.

    Although Ralishaz is said to have evil tendencies as well, Ralishaz dwells on Limbo, while Norebo lurks in darker planes.

    Syrul: The fact that, unlike most other cultures, the Suel believed the goddess of deception was a prominent face of the Divine doesn't mean the Suel all believed lying and deception was fine, but it suggests that lying and deception were a much more prominent part of Suel culture than they were in Oeridian, Baklunish, Flan, or Olman culture. I wouldn't look in terms of how many people considered Syrul to be their favorite god, but instead imagine all the Suel, good and evil, viewing Syrul with wary respect and honoring her in small ways, praying to her before bargaining in the marketplace or complementing their sisters on how she looks in her wedding dress, before leading enemy troops into an ambush, while playing hide-and-go-seek as kids. They know she's untrustworthy and dangerous, but they also think of her as an essential part of society, someone who can't be ignored and who has useful secrets to impart.

    And, of course, those truly trained in deceit might thrive in the political and economic spheres.

    A Suel cult I invented was the Temple of the Dove and the Serpent, which taught that Lydia and Syrul were twin sisters, representing the truth within all lies, and the lies within all truth. A true neutral faith that elevates Syrul as Lydia's counterpart, the other side to her coin.

    Beltar: Where the Flannae earth-goddess, Beory, is a bringer of fertility and rain, the Suel earth-goddess is a demonic figure representing caves, pits, and malice. This suggests the Suel were less connected to the Oerth than the Flan were, more terrified of the world below the world. Consider the heretical possibility that Beltar is Beory, and the Suel just recognize the most corrupted and perverse aspect of a complex and multi-faceted goddess. If she was a major figure in Suel society, perhaps underground cities were common in the Suel Imperium, or underground prisons. Or perhaps there was just one significant subterranean metropolis in the lands of the Suel, and its ruling house considered Beltar to be their specific patron.

    Beltar also may have been the primary Suel goddess of death until Wee Jas usurped that domain from her after magic killed most of the Suel people, and the Suel might have prayed to the Deep Mother to keep and protect their ancestors after they were interned beneath the earth. Beltar might also have been one aspect of a three-sided goddess including Beltar, Wee Jas, and Lydia, the crone to Wee Jas's Maiden and Lydia's Mother.

    The point here is that the Suel might have many different reasons to look to Beltar—she's a matron of necromancers, the mother of demons and monsters, a ferocious beast that many fierce warriors could seek to emulate, the primary goddess of orcish mercenaries and derro slaves. There's no reason to think her worshiper base was small, or limited to a few cave-dwelling hicks.

    Pyremius: Well, first of all, what does it say about Suel culture that they believe the goddess of hearth-fire, Ranet, can be poisoned and usurped by another treacherous deity? It says they believe the divine order is unstable, that attempts at murder are part of the realm of the divine.

    Secondly, poison and fire aren't inherently evil, and though their current god may be treacherous, lots of people still need poison to kill vermin, or work with dangerous alchemical ingredients, or even to brew alcohol. Hearths still need to be kindled, candles and torches still need to be lit, and Pyremius is in charge of those spheres. Thus he can't be ignored, his worship can't be confined to a few pyromaniacs and murderers. Of course, many soldiers, stealthy or not, will see the god of violence as worth emulating in combat.

    Wee Jas: Yeah, she has good and neutral followers, but what does it say about the Suel character that the goddess of magic and love is a stern inhabitant of Acheron, the iron plane of battle and conformity, her nature closer to the Hells than the Heavens?

    Bralm: The goddess of hard labor, obedience, and slavery. Not really evil, but another inhabitant of Acheron. Perhaps a more popular agricultural deity than Phyton, or even if they're of equal popularity certainly a counterbalance to the notion that the Suel believe farmers should be free. What does it say about the Suel that even as Phyton brings fertility to the fields, the patron of laborers, of those who till and toil, is a stern enforcer of hierarchy?

    Tiamat: The dragon goddess of conquest and greed isn't normally considered to be associated with the Suel in published works, but Len Lakofka always included her and her counterpart Bahamut as part of the Suel pantheon. L4 Devilspawn says that the Suel invoke her name before cursing their opponents and enemies. Remember that Lendor is often depicted as a dragon as well.

    Tharizdun: Although He Who Must Sleep Eternally is of unknown origin, some sources suggest at some points in history, the Suel Empire's ruling class was dominated by the nihilistic Doomseers of Tharizdun. The god of entropy's priestly hierarchy may inevitably crumble, but the modern-day Black Brotherhood may have had antecedents dating back to the glory days of the Suel Imperium, and they may at times have had much more power than they should ever have been allowed to have.
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    Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:38 am  

    I agree that the reputation of the migrating Suel as wicked and vile shouldn't be ignored but I don't think it needs to be indicative of the average commoner of the Imperium. My mind turns to Nazi Germany as a good example. The Nazi's committed terrible attrocities but the average German was not in the slightest represented by the ethos of the Nazis. Sure, many went along with Hitler's rhetoric but when the law is condoning this behaviour and saying if you don't go along with it you're a traitor it's amazing how the common person feels in a position to just go along with it. The rhetoric of a persuasive upper class / leader feeding off the fears of the public can also go a long long way to persuade a nation to do things an individual might feel morally uncomfortable doing. I live in the Channel Islands which were occupied by the Germans during WWII. It was a dark time, but there are plenty of stories about the kindness of the average German soldier as there are about the cruelty of the Nazi leadership.

    I think that the accounts of vile Suel are more indiciative of their corrupt nobility & leadership than of the common Suel fleeing their homeland. The laws & example set by such a nobility having become accepted as normal. It's also important to note that the Suel had lost everything and were vulnerable, desperate and homeless. These types of conditions can test even the kindest of people. Coupled with the moral deficit of the nobility it's easy to see how even the commonfolk might turn to what history sees as wicked acts.

    It's also likely that any kind acts of the Suel refugees have been overlooked. Think again to WWII and the Reich. History mostly remembers the wickedness of the Nazis and not the Germans killed for standing up to the government, or peope like the soldier who turned a blind eye when he caught my grandpa smuggling sausages down his trouser leg because his family had no food.

    Also, morality is relative. The average Suel citizen wouldn't have seen slavery as wrong, or even human sacrifice necessarily. The Aztecs didn't consider themselves evil for sacrificing countless captives. Most civilisations that engaged in slavery didn't consider that practice evil. There are still 7 countries where you can be executed for being gay - I'm sure the people of Saudi Arabia don't consider themselves evil or cruel. The benchmark for a nation's morality are their Laws, which are set by the ruling class.

    There were undoubtedly voices in the Suel Imperium that called out slavery as inhumane or opposed any acts of cruelty they saw. Fortubo's tolerance of such things were clerly crossed - but he didn't leave because of slavery or oppression or warfare, he left because his precious dwarves had been genetically tampered with. Interestibgly, LG Jascar wasn't incensed enough by this to leave, nor any of the other Good deities.

    In the Flanaess I think what history remembers as the wicked & vile Suel migrations were more accurately waves of desperate refugees with nothing to lose guided by a corrupt & wicked ruling class who were their best chance of survival. I mean, the Aerdy butchered their way across the whole Flanaess but they aren't remembered a cruel in the same way. It's probably worth noting that much of the Flanaess was under the rule of the Great Kingdom so their historians set the general tone of how the migrations were remembered.

    I think the nature of the atrocities is significant too. There is something more honest about hacking and slashing your way across the map than the kind of dark magic that was left in the wake of the Suel. To the Flan, who were familiar with the wickedness of Vecna, the magic of the Suel was reminiscent of the depradations they had grown to fear compared to the warfare of the Oeridians.
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    Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:39 am  

    I’m just jumping in to defend poor Norebo. He’s Chaotic Neutral. I don’t believe Len ever described him as having evil tendencies, unless that change was made by a later designer.
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    Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:42 am  

    Reading through all these excellent posts has given me lots of food for thought! Rasgon makes really important points about considering the difference between the Suel people and the body of the Suel Imperium. There's also been some talk about how much influence the pantheon might have exerted or not exerted. I think with such pantheons the influence is symbiotic. The deities obviously nudge there followers to promote their ideals influencing society that way but equally the deities that receive the most worship and the most sacrifices are those that reflect aspects of worth or importance to the culture in the first place. The Suel deities are also part of a tight pantheon with many family ties and with a designated leader. Whether these family ties are real or symbolic explanations of historical events is open to debate I guess but as this is a fantasy setting where the gods are real its maybe more likely to be the former.


    The three most powerful deities, Lendor, Wee Jas & Kord represent a society in which the most important concerns are law, history, tradition & magic but one that is also highly competitive and extols the concept that the strong and fittest deserve to rule the weak. Order, discipline, magic & might. Interestingly, only Lendor can calm Kord's berserker rages in which, even as a Good deity, he will attack friend & foe alike. Chaos being quelled by Law. I get the sense of a culture steeped in traditions and rules that values magic for the power and control it brings but a people who are highly competitive against both one another, outsiders and even the natural world.

    Beyond these core three deities, the rest of the Suel pantheon are all lesser deities.

    If we consider concepts the Suel associated as Chaotic - Llerg, Phaulkon, Phyton and Beltar give a sense that the Suloise considered the natural world (the beasts, the wind, the dark places below the earth) a dangerous & wild place that needed to be tamed. Lawful deities, like Bralm, can bring order to the wilderness, taming it with agriculture, Lawful Osprem can be beseeched to placate brooding Xerbo when travelling upon the waterways. Lawful Fortubo & Jascar offer protection against the dark underground. Even Phyton, despite his Chaotic tendencies is about mankind making nature more beautiful - basically a god of landscape gardening. The other Chaotic deity – Norebo, as mentioned by Rasgon, indicates a people that found luck and chance something that could be capricious or cruel (hence Norebo's home in Pandemonium). It's also worth noting that Norebo could take the form of any animal – adding to the sense of the natural world being wild & unpredictable. Norebo & Wee Jas's tempestuous relationship may also be an allegory about how the Suel people saw love – something disruptive if indulged. Kord is another example of how unchecked emotions are dangerous. It's no wonder Wee Jas, a goddess of law has a minor portfolio of love. To avoid the Chaos indulging your passions might bring to the status quo, arranged marriage and formal courting rituals were probably common place. Those that wished to follow their hearts most likely prayed to Phyton who's nature connection makes it clear such behaviour is not 'civilised'. Dalt is an interesting addition to the Chaotic deities. He's not specifically a god of thieves but of locks and portals. I need to put some more thought into his significance but in keeping with the themes of Chaos and instability perhaps he represents more the unknown that is beyond the portal and the key symbolic of delving into things best left secured away? I'm intrigued by the fact Beltar was once a goddess of earth & mining before assuming her current portfolio. To me this suggests a close tie with the underground in the earliest days of the Imperium or perhaps before it. As the Imperium became established Lawful Fortubo and Jascar supplanted her. The pale appearance of the Suel despite living in the subtropics is also intriguing as is the fact the Lerara who dwell underground are mostly albino, a trait common in surface Suel. I can't help but think that there is a clue to their earliest origin there involving the dragon gods and the subterranean.

    Taking a look at what aspects the Suel people considered Lawful and stable, we see not one but two mountain deities, Jascar & Fortubo which speaks of a civilisation that sees the mountains surrounding their heartland as secure, protecting them from the Chaos of the outside world perhaps. I get a sense of a viewpoint much like the ancient Greeks. If you weren't Suloise you were a barbarian, uncivilised & uncultured and perhaps the source of the Suel's superiority complex that made them feel entitled to dominate others. All of the lesser deities of Lawful nature are concerned with controlling the natural world in the favour of civilisation.

    The Neutral deities (those with neither a leaning of Law of Chaos and of whom there are far fewer) show us qualities the Suel might have seen as tools which can be used either way, to uphold Order or sow Chaos; knowledge, music, poison, guile, & murder. To have deities of these portfolios implies they were important to Suel society. Syrul has a leaning towards Law implying that trickery & guile were seen more as a tool for maintaining order than for sowing chaos. Syrul is the only Suel deity who has levels in monk which leads me to connect her to a more martial aspect or perhaps with orders of monks who operated much like the ninja perhaps? We are shown that music was valued highly, more so than painting for example. Knowledge was also clearly seen to be used to promote or undermine order.

    CSL mentions groups of dissidents. There will always be those on the fringe, the radicals and social pariahs. It makes perfect sense that a rigid society and culture like the Suel Imperium would have such groups. Looking at the various portfolios and alignments of the pantheon it makes sense that the key 'revolutionary' deities would be Phaulkon and Dalt supported more moderately or passively by Lydia. These might have been common folk or 'old guard' noble houses who remember a Suel Imperium before it had declined into more evil ways.

    So in a kind of summary, I see a culture with the following traits:

    i) An obsession with controlling the unpredictable world around them and a near reverence of law, tradition, order and hierarchy.

    ii) A reserved people who saw outbursts of emotion uncivilised or traits of the peasantry who didn't know better.

    iii) A people with a pronounced cultural distinction between urban dwellers and rural dwellers and a pronounced class distinction. Life was dominated by the noble houses and their intrigues.

    iv) A highly competitive people who believed that power had to be earned and pushed themselves to excel. You only deserved power if you were competent enough to hold onto it (hence the acceptance of Ranet's poisoning by Pyremius). Competitions of all sorts were common; sporting tournaments, magical tournaments – any form of one-upmanship to prove you were better than your neighbour or rival. But competing via guile and trickery were just as extolled as physical competition – spying, extortion, subterfuge, rumour-mongering. If you left yourself exposed to such things you deserved the consequences. Boldness was favoured over meekness.

    v) A people very concerned with appearance. Deities of vanity, beauty & fitness depict a people who appreciated physical beauty even more than artistic beauty. Pale skin and blonde hair are important to Suel purists now but was that the case in the Imperium? If so, the sub-tropical climate would imply that parasols and staying out of the sun were a part of their culture. The Roman women would bleach their hair and whiten their faces with makeup – this might have also been the case for the Suel?

    vi) A people who valued sport, in particular wrestling and archery.

    vii) An ethnocentric and racist people who considered themselves superior to all others and more deserving of the world around them. If you weren't a Suel citizen, you were a barbarian and practically a savage. The mountains surrounding the Imperial heartlands were like a wall, guarded by their gods, between the Ordered world of the Imperium and the untamed & uncultured wilderness beyond. This superiority contributed to their treatment of those deemed 'barbarians' and thus lesser beings acting as a justification for slavery.

    viii) A lack of deities of war might imply an Imperium that claimed territory primarily through guile, assassination & displays of magical power rather than brute force. Not dissimilar from the tactics of the Scarlet Brotherhood. I agree with Longetalos in that “their armies would be more akin to those of the Celts, with personal prowess in battle more important than the machine-like Roman way of making of war”. The Imperium's armies likely had numerous archers on account of having a specific deity of archery. I imagine their armies favoured long range tactics (magic & archery) coupled with guerilla tactics and assassination to undermine enemy armies.

    ix) In terms of arts, a culture that favoured music and perhaps theatre as well (what better artistic expression of the lie than theatre) but with stone and metal work, especially architecture and sculpture as being the higher arts. I'm not sure whether magic as entertainment would have been frowned on or not.

    x) A culture that relied on and associated wealth and money with external trade perhaps due to a lack of diverse resources in their own lands. (Implied by Xerbo as a god of sea, money & wealth when there was likely no sizeable body of water in the area of the Sea of Dust. Also when most of the other nature deities are chaotic, it's strange that Xerbo is only neutral perhaps implying that the sea was too far away from the Imperial heartland to really be much of a consideration to every day life?). Another consideration that I think Rasgon mentioned is that the Imperium might have had a link to a subterranean sea. Although, if that was the case there would have been more survivors perhaps?

    xi) In terms of industry, agriculture and mining seem prominent and along with knowledge and magical goods may have comprised the Imperium's major exports. Although it's possible they only were able to farm enough food to sustain themselves, importing any surplus. I don't think we know how fertile the Sea of Dust was before the cataclysm. Having a deity specifically of insects might imply a historic problem with locusts but the added portfolio of industriousness may instead imply an agriculture that relied on pollination by bees & co-ordinated labour such as fruit orchards. This tree based agriculture seems to fit with Phyton too as does Phaulkon, a deity who can be prayed to to keep those damned birds from eating the fruit. As described by Longetalos, “with the mindset of Bralm and Fortubo guiding their craftsmen, the quality and work ethics would be second only to the dwarves”. This could also be tied to the competitive nature of the Suel. Although after the departure of Fortubo, how might this have affected their mining and metalworking.

    xii) Views on death depend on whether Wee Jas was always associated with this aspect or not. I like Rasgon's link between Beltar and death, although Beltar is described as having been a deity of earth & mining before her current incarnation. Perhaps Wee Jas is concerned with the soul after death and Beltar with the physical remains.

    xiii) With regards to the structure of the Imperium. As CSL states “just as the Scarlet Brotherhood allows considerable latitude and self-rule to its modern dominions (which it conquers through subtlety, not open force) the Suel Imperium was also very decentralized.” This makes sense but the Lawful nature of the Imperium would also mean that there might not have been much difference culturally between the ruling class of various domains and that the Imperium would also likely maintain authority through fear and paranoia by planting agents and spies to keep an eye on each province. There would also probably be rigid tribute and taxation requirements. I'd imagine that there was little mixing between the Suel leaders of a province and the local 'peasantry'.

    xiv) Suel culture also has a chequered history with dragonkind. Bahamut & Tiamat might have featured architecturally on many older buildings. Their peripheral status in the modern Suel pantheon suggests they lost influence before the Twin Cataclysms but dragons likely feature heavily in their legends and stories.

    xv) By the time of the Twin Cataclysms the Imperium had become corrupt, decadent and wicked. At what point this corruption took root is hard to say but might tie in with either the poisoning of Ranet or the departure of Fortubo.
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    Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:47 am  

    DMPrata wrote:
    I’m just jumping in to defend poor Norebo. He’s Chaotic Neutral. I don’t believe Len ever described him as having evil tendencies, unless that change was made by a later designer.


    To be fair to Norebo, I don't see him as particular evil, just a trickster but his realm is located in Pandemonium (which I never realised until Rasgon pointed this out), a plane for chaotic evil neutrals. It definitely implies a slightly capricious element especially when he's sharing his plane with such luminaries as Talos, Raxivort, Hruggek, Erythnul and the Unseelie Court.
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    Thu Mar 25, 2021 6:32 pm  

    DMPrata wrote:
    I’m just jumping in to defend poor Norebo. He’s Chaotic Neutral. I don’t believe Len ever described him as having evil tendencies, unless that change was made by a later designer.


    In "Presenting the Suel Pantheon" by Lenard Lakofka in Dragon #86, Norebo's alignment is "Chaotic neutral (evil tendencies)."



    Other sources simply say chaotic neutral, but I personally consider Lakofka's Dragon articles more authoritative. I think of Norebo as being essentially the same level as Wee Jas, morally, though chaotic to her lawful.
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    Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:17 pm  

    My depiction of Korenth Zan was heavily inspired by Robert Gould's illustrations of Elric, and so the Suel Imperium as I imagine it was heavily inspired by Michael Moorcock's Melnibone, in particular the 'dreaming city' of Immryr.

    Given the way history developed in the Flanaess (Keoland's very long and proud tradition of humiliating military defeats, Tavish I conquering the Sheldomar Valey with the pen rather than the sword, the Scarlet Brotherhood using secrecy and intrigue to rebuild its empire rather than the Fodder that are expected to die en masse, the traditions of study and academic learning prized whereas the Oeridians respect athletics more) I think the ancient Suel were actually rather lacking in conventional military strength and skill. Rather, their academic leanings made them excellent wizards, and so they used slaves, humanoids, and possibly even magically engineered monsters (similar to the magical experiments the Scarlet Sign allegedly do in the modern era!) as their main military forces, with their own contributions being more magical prowess.

    Remember, the Suel have no formal war god and their most influential deities even today focus on magic and study, not battle prowess or athletics. Kord was revered by some few dissidents who prized physical might, but they were looked down on by their kin. That type of heavy physical activity is for the moronic slaves who can barely drool and walk at the same time, and whose role in life is to thank their betters for the privilege of getting to lick their toilets clean.

    Of all the traits listed by Wolfsire, I agree with 1 through 5, 7, 8, 10, and 13-15. The lowest classes were barely above slaves themselves, and were stuck having to do a lot of the heavy physical labor. The lowest classes would have resented having to do what they'd consider menial work, and would ruthlessly compete to improve their lots in life.

    Dissident Suel existed, of course, being less bigoted and more aligned to good. They had an easier time surviving in the outlying reaches of the Imperium, or they had enough privilege and status to protect themselves. Many of them migrated to the Flanaess after the Imperium's destruction. Some of them so abhorred the academic and decadent society they came from that they went full-on the other way, embracing gods like Kord and Llerg as well as admiring combat prowess and athletics, and they are the Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians we know today.

    Other Suel held closer to their old traditions, preferring guile and diplomacy to open warfare, and emphasizing study over athletics. Unfortunately, they also still carried over some of their bigotry and condescension (as reflected by some Keolanders' 'noblesse oblige', which recipients just find patronizing) as well as the violence and oppression they inflicted on the Flan (although the Oeridians could be just as bad, hence the common Flan saying that Oeridians and Suel speak with forked tongues).

    The Scarlet Brotherhood, of course, is the most similar to what the original Imperium was like. Guile, sorcery and manipulation are prized, while most physical violence is delegated to Fodder, both humanoids and even lower-class Suel, notably the savages recruited from the southern jungles. The martial arts prowess some of their high ranking members display is a curious anomaly, but it may have to do with the study of what scholars from the Celestial Imperium call "ki". Physical prowess is not a virtue in itself, but it serves a useful purpose and helps the study of these strange life energies.

    And, just as my view of the Suel Imperium was so influenced by Melnibone, so too is its ruler influenced by the illustrations I've seen of Melnibone's last emperor. For me, Korenth Zan is not simply the latest in a long line of leaders. He is no less than the Crown Prince of the Suel Imperium, the last person alive who witnessed the Rain of Colorless Fire, who seeks to revive his ancient legacy and the rightful place of the Suel. He literally has all the time in the world to accomplish his goals, as Lendor has granted him eternal youth. He is the puppetmaster that ultimately pulls all the Brotherhood's strings, and who seeks no less than to have every sentient being on Oerth dancing to his command.

    To the Memory of the Lost Imperium.
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    Fri Mar 26, 2021 2:14 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    My depiction of Korenth Zan was heavily inspired by Robert Gould's illustrations of Elric, and so the Suel Imperium as I imagine it was heavily inspired by Michael Moorcock's Melnibone, in particular the 'dreaming city' of Immryr.


    I'd never thought about this connection, thank you, it's really cool food for thought

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Given the way history developed in the Flanaess (Keoland's very long and proud tradition of humiliating military defeats, Tavish I conquering the Sheldomar Valey with the pen rather than the sword, the Scarlet Brotherhood using secrecy and intrigue to rebuild its empire rather than the Fodder that are expected to die en masse, the traditions of study and academic learning prized whereas the Oeridians respect athletics more) I think the ancient Suel were actually rather lacking in conventional military strength and skill. Rather, their academic leanings made them excellent wizards, and so they used slaves, humanoids, and possibly even magically engineered monsters (similar to the magical experiments the Scarlet Sign allegedly do in the modern era!) as their main military forces, with their own contributions being more magical prowess.

    Remember, the Suel have no formal war god and their most influential deities even today focus on magic and study, not battle prowess or athletics. Kord was revered by some few dissidents who prized physical might, but they were looked down on by their kin. That type of heavy physical activity is for the moronic slaves who can barely drool and walk at the same time, and whose role in life is to thank their betters for the privilege of getting to lick their toilets clean.


    Although Kord is not my favourite deity I think you underestimate his influence. He's still one of the three most powerful deities in the pantheon and the grandson of the leader of that pantheon. Even if we assume he was a lesser deity at the time of the Imperium it still means he was held in equal value to deities such as Bralm, Fortubo and Syrul. I agree that magic would be considered superior to physical strength but magic was in the hands of a tiny minority. The only way for the majority to reflect the Suel desire for power and might would have been through things that Kord extolled. I think that Kord's significance to the Suel was more about competing, improving, might, boldness. Perhaps these values were more in keeping with the earlier Imperium.

    I think Kord was also significant for another reason. His rages represent emotion and lack of control, he's a reminder of the perils of indulging these emotions and desires and only through higher principals of learning, study, control (ie Lendor) can they be controlled. Kord represents a powerful part of the Suel psyche and their history as a people (perhaps to as far back as their earliest beginnings as savages). Before their mastery of magic the chaotic gods would have been far more significant to the Suel, as they became more civilised. Just look how Chaotic Beltar, goddess of mining was supplanted by Lawful Fortubo and Kord is basically a god of pioneers. The ancient Greeks held athletic contests to keep their warriors honed but more importantly to channel any aggression in an organised way. I mean organised athletics is basically a modern way of showing national superiority without needing to go to war. It makes perfect sense for the Suel to a) find a way to channel these base emotions into an organised athletic format), b) show superiority and indulge their competitive nature (especially for those without magical ability), c) perhaps even resolve disputes in a non martial way when higher methods of debate and guile had failed.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    The Scarlet Brotherhood, of course, is the most similar to what the original Imperium was like. Guile, sorcery and manipulation are prized, while most physical violence is delegated to Fodder, both humanoids and even lower-class Suel, notably the savages recruited from the southern jungles. The martial arts prowess some of their high ranking members display is a curious anomaly, but it may have to do with the study of what scholars from the Celestial Imperium call "ki". Physical prowess is not a virtue in itself, but it serves a useful purpose and helps the study of these strange life energies.


    I totally agree that the Scarlet Brotherhood is the truest reflection of the Suel Imperium, but specifically in its latter days. For that reason I can't see their significant use of martial arts as an anomaly. When you're a oppressively Lawful nation trying to preserve your ancient culture I don't think you'd suddenly embrace something so radical. Also, the path of the monk isn't something you just dip into as a tool. It's part and parcel with a lifestyle you're devoted to and believe in. I think it's far more likely that the SB monks are a continuation of a well established tradition in the Imperium. Don't forget Syrul has levels in monk, so unless she got some training from Xan Yae after the Twin Cataclysms it implies that these monastic traditions existed in Suel culture previously. It also makes sense that Syrul is held in higher regard than most other Suel deities in the modern SB. I think that martial arts actually beautifully represent how the Suel would treat physical strength. No-one would describe martial artists as brutes but they're undoubtedly physically strong and hone their strength with esoteric elements and strict discipline. They also combine strength with guile.

    I don't really agree that today the Suel gods of learning and magic are more influential. Kord is worshipped far more widely than either Wee Jas or Lendor. I do think that his worship had definitely waned in the late Imperium but not his cultural significance. After the Cataclysms Kord definitely sky rocketed to popularity - they'd need a pioneering god far more than those of knowledge or patience. I also definitely agree though that by the end of the Imperium Kord popularity would undoubtedly have been greater in any colonies beyond the Sea of Dust region.

    I think with Kord's place in the Imperium I think it's important to differentiate between class popularity (the noble classes would undoubtedly look down on Kord's physical focus but the nobility were in the minority, most Suel would not have been magic users of scholars). But also, just because the nobility might not have favoured his worship doesn't mean he wasn't significant culturally.
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    Fri Mar 26, 2021 4:51 am  

    Thinking about it, I think some of the varying differences of views hinge around how we all see the class structure of the Imperium.

    A few models might be;

    i) The Suel were actually quite small in numbers and comprised a small noble class & their Houses that possessed all of the power and managed to control a vast slave population. So a 2 class model of nobility and slaves.

    ii) The Suel comprised an upper and middle-class. The peasantry/working class were non-Suel and/or slaves. The middle-class might have included scribes, metalworkers, architects, farm owners. The slaves did the actual grunt work - farming, mining, building etc.

    iii) Suel comprised all the classes (upper, middle and lower). Beneath the working class Suel were the slaves. The lower classes were the rural agriculturalists and rarely found in the urban centres. I think there is reference to the ancestors of the Suelii being herders?

    iv) A combination of ii & iii. True Imperial Suel comprised the upper and middle-classes supported by slave labour. Some Suel groups existed on the periphery of the Imperium (primarily herders) afforded status because of their Suel heritage (and thus superiority over non-Suel) but whilst not officially a lower class were seen a rustic and less civilised than the urbanites. It's possible these were ethnically Suel groups who were not officially citizens of the Imperium?
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    Fri Mar 26, 2021 6:20 am  

    rasgon wrote:
    In "Presenting the Suel Pantheon" by Lenard Lakofka in Dragon #86, Norebo's alignment is "Chaotic neutral (evil tendencies)."



    Other sources simply say chaotic neutral, but I personally consider Lakofka's Dragon articles more authoritative. I think of Norebo as being essentially the same level as Wee Jas, morally, though chaotic to her lawful.

    What an interesting inconsistency! (Len was nothing if not vexingly inconsistent.) In the same article, he wrote this (emphasis mine):
    Quote:
    Norebo is the patron of thieves and assassins. He does not care for overly lawful actions, but he believes in planning and is a staunch advocate of Neutrality as opposed to Good or Evil.
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    Fri Mar 26, 2021 7:10 am  

    DMPrata wrote:
    is a staunch advocate of Neutrality as opposed to Good or Evil.


    Yeah, I noticed that, but I read it as a "do as I say, not as I do" thing. He advocates for neutrality without consistently practicing it.
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    Fri Mar 26, 2021 8:52 am  

    I don't have my sources with me, so bear with me...

    rasgon wrote:
    ...Pyremius: Well, first of all, what does it say about Suel culture that they believe the goddess of hearth-fire, Ranet, can be poisoned and usurped by another treacherous deity? It says they believe the divine order is unstable, that attempts at murder are part of the realm of the divine.

    Secondly, poison and fire aren't inherently evil, and though their current god may be treacherous, lots of people still need poison to kill vermin, or work with dangerous alchemical ingredients, or even to brew alcohol. Hearths still need to be kindled, candles and torches still need to be lit, and Pyremius is in charge of those spheres...


    -IIRC, Pyremius is the patron of cooks, a profession dedicated to NOT poisoning people.

    Wolfling wrote:
    ...CSL mentions groups of dissidents. There will always be those on the fringe, the radicals and social pariahs. It makes perfect sense that a rigid society and culture like the Suel Imperium would have such groups. Looking at the various portfolios and alignments of the pantheon it makes sense that the key 'revolutionary' deities would be Phaulkon and Dalt supported more moderately or passively by Lydia. These might have been common folk or 'old guard' noble houses who remember a Suel Imperium before it had declined into more evil ways...

    ...With regards to the structure of the Imperium. As CSL states “just as the Scarlet Brotherhood allows considerable latitude and self-rule to its modern dominions (which it conquers through subtlety, not open force) the Suel Imperium was also very decentralized.” ...


    -Lakofka's history makes it clear that adherents of opposing deities (and their philosophies) openly operated even when their opponents were in charge, at least among noble houses. Imagine such a thing happening in one of our 20th Century totalitarianisms. This probably speaks to a lack of absolute power during the Imperium.

    Wolfling wrote:
    ...I totally agree that the Scarlet Brotherhood is the truest reflection of the Suel Imperium, but specifically in its latter days...


    -In one of the canon histories (Reynold's, I think), the Scarlet Brotherhood had to go underground near the end, in the face of other baddies, but still...

    Wolfling wrote:
    Thinking about it, I think some of the varying differences of views hinge around how we all see the class structure of the Imperium.

    A few models might be;

    i) The Suel were actually quite small in numbers and comprised a small noble class & their Houses that possessed all of the power and managed to control a vast slave population. So a 2 class model of nobility and slaves.

    ii) The Suel comprised an upper and middle-class. The peasantry/working class were non-Suel and/or slaves. The middle-class might have included scribes, metalworkers, architects, farm owners. The slaves did the actual grunt work - farming, mining, building etc.

    iii) Suel comprised all the classes (upper, middle and lower). Beneath the working class Suel were the slaves. The lower classes were the rural agriculturalists and rarely found in the urban centres. I think there is reference to the ancestors of the Suelii being herders?

    iv) A combination of ii & iii. True Imperial Suel comprised the upper and middle-classes supported by slave labour. Some Suel groups existed on the periphery of the Imperium (primarily herders) afforded status because of their Suel heritage (and thus superiority over non-Suel) but whilst not officially a lower class were seen a rustic and less civilised than the urbanites. It's possible these were ethnically Suel groups who were not officially citizens of the Imperium?


    -Which source describes Norebo as making his occasional appearances on Oerth as speaking with the accent of a working-class guy of the Imperium? I imagine Wee Jas, regardless of what her appearance at the time might be, as having the manners and accent of an upper-class woman, FWIW.

    Wolfling wrote:
    ...By the time of the Twin Cataclysms the Imperium had become corrupt, decadent and wicked. At what point this corruption took root is hard to say but might tie in with either the poisoning of Ranet or the departure of Fortubo.


    -I generally assume that the Imperium started out reasonably Good, but eventually went down the tubes, like the later (and briefer) Great Kingdom. Like the popular conception of Rome, or Atlantis. I'll accept Melnibone, too.
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    Sat Mar 27, 2021 8:00 pm  

    This is an excellent thread everyone. Although i agree with some posts, disagree with others, i appreciate the fact that most of you agree the concept of the Suel gods being a driving force of their culture and a way we can imagine how the imperium would have been.

    My personal opinion is that since the Suel empire lasted many thousands of years it probably went through phases. There was also a difference between the ruling class and the peasant class in terms of outlook and demeanor.

    The Houses that entered the Flanaess before the Twin Cataclysms were probably more open minded, wanted to explore the world, and have new experiences. Keoland was not formed in a blood bath. Once the Cataclysms hit, the exodus was formed by anyone who could make it to the passes, fly, teleport or otherwise get out of the blast radius. This would include some very bad elements. It would also include a lot of scared refugees who, understandably, think the universe is out to get them so better kill anybody you meet.

    I also do not think the Scarlet Brotherhood is representative of the Suel Empire. The Tilvanot does not have that many Suel. A lot more of them reside in Keoland, in the Duchy of Urnst and the three barbarian states. Since those countries are not at all similar to Shar (nor each other really), it speaks to a population coming from an empire of many colors. And seeing how different the gods within the pantheon are, this could be a way to derive an empire of deep complexity and internal contradictions.
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    Mon Mar 29, 2021 12:57 pm  

    Wolfling wrote:


    Although Kord is not my favourite deity I think you underestimate his influence. He's still one of the three most powerful deities in the pantheon and the grandson of the leader of that pantheon. Even if we assume he was a lesser deity at the time of the Imperium it still means he was held in equal value to deities such as Bralm, Fortubo and Syrul. I agree that magic would be considered superior to physical strength but magic was in the hands of a tiny minority. The only way for the majority to reflect the Suel desire for power and might would have been through things that Kord extolled. I think that Kord's significance to the Suel was more about competing, improving, might, boldness. Perhaps these values were more in keeping with the earlier Imperium.

    I think Kord was also significant for another reason. His rages represent emotion and lack of control, he's a reminder of the perils of indulging these emotions and desires and only through higher principals of learning, study, control (ie Lendor) can they be controlled. Kord represents a powerful part of the Suel psyche and their history as a people (perhaps to as far back as their earliest beginnings as savages). Before their mastery of magic the chaotic gods would have been far more significant to the Suel, as they became more civilised. Just look how Chaotic Beltar, goddess of mining was supplanted by Lawful Fortubo and Kord is basically a god of pioneers. The ancient Greeks held athletic contests to keep their warriors honed but more importantly to channel any aggression in an organised way. I mean organised athletics is basically a modern way of showing national superiority without needing to go to war. It makes perfect sense for the Suel to a) find a way to channel these base emotions into an organised athletic format), b) show superiority and indulge their competitive nature (especially for those without magical ability), c) perhaps even resolve disputes in a non martial way when higher methods of debate and guile had failed.

    I totally agree that the Scarlet Brotherhood is the truest reflection of the Suel Imperium, but specifically in its latter days. For that reason I can't see their significant use of martial arts as an anomaly. When you're a oppressively Lawful nation trying to preserve your ancient culture I don't think you'd suddenly embrace something so radical. Also, the path of the monk isn't something you just dip into as a tool. It's part and parcel with a lifestyle you're devoted to and believe in. I think it's far more likely that the SB monks are a continuation of a well established tradition in the Imperium. Don't forget Syrul has levels in monk, so unless she got some training from Xan Yae after the Twin Cataclysms it implies that these monastic traditions existed in Suel culture previously. It also makes sense that Syrul is held in higher regard than most other Suel deities in the modern SB. I think that martial arts actually beautifully represent how the Suel would treat physical strength. No-one would describe martial artists as brutes but they're undoubtedly physically strong and hone their strength with esoteric elements and strict discipline. They also combine strength with guile.

    I don't really agree that today the Suel gods of learning and magic are more influential. Kord is worshipped far more widely than either Wee Jas or Lendor. I do think that his worship had definitely waned in the late Imperium but not his cultural significance. After the Cataclysms Kord definitely sky rocketed to popularity - they'd need a pioneering god far more than those of knowledge or patience. I also definitely agree though that by the end of the Imperium Kord popularity would undoubtedly have been greater in any colonies beyond the Sea of Dust region.

    I think with Kord's place in the Imperium I think it's important to differentiate between class popularity (the noble classes would undoubtedly look down on Kord's physical focus but the nobility were in the minority, most Suel would not have been magic users of scholars). But also, just because the nobility might not have favoured his worship doesn't mean he wasn't significant culturally.


    When I say the Suel admired scholarship over athletics, I think of a general tendency, kind of how Americans are often reputed as admiring varsity athletics over academic success, and how jocks are seen as being on top of the school social ladder. You have the "beer-drinking man's man" stereotype as opposed to intellectuals who are seen as wimps who drink wine coolers.

    Whether or not that stereotype is accurate in real life, I see it more as being an Oeridian tendency than a Suel one. The Suel are in fact the opposite-people were more inclined to admire academic achievements than athletic ones. This might even be why unarmed martial arts became so popular-the principles of discipline and restraint would greatly appeal to a culture that distrusted excessive emotion.

    I didn't mean that the likes of Wee Jas and Lendor are more popular among the Suel today than they were in the past. I meant that the generally good-aligned gods are probably more popular today, and many of the evil gods less so, than during the Imperium's glory days. I agree that Kord definitely became more popular, because the Thillonrian barbarians' break from their cultural heritage was so extreme and complete that they went in the opposite direction from everything the original Imperium most admired.

    I think I overstated the Suel disdain for athletics and physical strength in my previous post. Athletics could and would be practiced, but they simply wouldn't get the same level of social reverence and support they do in real-life North America.

    I don't agree that there'd be as much of a difference between the outlooks of the upper and lower classes on a lot of issues. A salt of the earth farmer would be as inclined to praise his child showing exceptional scholarship as a high-born nobleman. A nerd dad disappointed in a jock son would be far more likely in Suel Imperial society than the reverse so common in real-life pop culture.
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    Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:16 am  

    Ahhh, yeah that's a really good analogy CSL. I definitely like the idea of working class Suel saving up to try and send a child to receive formal education. "Why can't you be more like your brother and read a book for once".

    It also opens up some interesting ideas regarding wizard apprenticeships. I can imagine a yearly or bi-yearly event (like at the beginning of Willow!) where the local children are tested for magical aptitude with a chance to receive a magical apprenticeship and likely a bunch of bribery & abuse of the system (the local mayor's dumbarse child getting selected etc).

    It also puts Lydia into an interesting position of significance to the lower classes. If her faith functioned in the Imperium as it does today, educating the lower classes, then she'd represent a chance to better yourself. Lydia has always seemed as much, if not more, about the spoken word over the written which makes sense for a peasantry that likely didn't have much in the way of paper. Initially I was thinking that maybe the Imperium's peasantry would have high levels of literacy but actually it makes more sense to have a relatively illiterate peasantry emphasising the class difference between the educated middle & upper classes & the lower class. Control of education to maintain the social hierarchy is pretty commonplace throughout history. Not that you can't be illiterate & also educated of course.
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    Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:06 pm  

    I finally made the time to review the entire thread. It's nice to see so much dialogue over the subject.

    My modest contribution is to remind us of old ideas regarding Suel religions as featuring "mystery cults," and then connecting this idea to a pseudo/quasi-Greek city state vision of the early Imperium, which "evolved" into an empire after the city-states confederated, which occurred in response to external pressures like the organization of the Baklunish Empire, Suf'ang, and/or Zah'ind.

    Contingent on where one lived, therefore, the local cult featured certain gods more prominently within the pantheonic mix. For example, House Rhola's cult may have favored Kord, Lydia, Osprem, Phaulkon, Phyton, Ranet, and Xerbo (which certainly accrued to the benefit of the "commoners" of Rhola's original demesne as compared with other Houses).

    (Which gods would the ancient House Neheli have favored?)

    Also, regarding Osprem and Xerbo, accepting Rasgon's point about Lakofka having created them to suit his Lendore Isles campaign, I nevertheless want the Suel Imperium to have ancient connections to the sea. One way to do this, as many have developed, is to have the Imperium conquer the lands south of the Sea of Dust (i.e., Changöl, Jah'ind, and possibly other parts of Zah'ind), but this seems inadequate to me, so instead I'm envisioning a large inland sea with one or more portals to other parts of Oerth's oceans (or perhaps other PMPs / planes entirely).

    Ok, I'll stop here.
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    Sun Apr 04, 2021 6:45 am  

    mtg wrote:
    I finally made the time to review the entire thread. It's nice to see so much dialogue over the subject.

    Yeah it's been nice to have some good debate on the topic.

    mtg wrote:
    My modest contribution is to remind us of old ideas regarding Suel religions as featuring "mystery cults," and then connecting this idea to a pseudo/quasi-Greek city state vision of the early Imperium, which "evolved" into an empire after the city-states confederated, which occurred in response to external pressures like the organization of the Baklunish Empire, Suf'ang, and/or Zah'ind.

    I'm sure somewhere in the Scarlet Brotherhood book they refer to the practice of shrines where all the pantheon is represented but the deity most revered at that temple or in that area takes pride of place at the top. That would totally tie in with the analogy of Greek city-states that tended to have a patron (like Athene was for Athens)

    mtg wrote:
    Also, regarding Osprem and Xerbo, accepting Rasgon's point about Lakofka having created them to suit his Lendore Isles campaign, I nevertheless want the Suel Imperium to have ancient connections to the sea. One way to do this, as many have developed, is to have the Imperium conquer the lands south of the Sea of Dust (i.e., Changöl, Jah'ind, and possibly other parts of Zah'ind), but this seems inadequate to me, so instead I'm envisioning a large inland sea with one or more portals to other parts of Oerth's oceans (or perhaps other PMPs / planes entirely).


    How big does an inland body of water have to be to count as a sea & is there even enough space for one in the Sea of Dust region? Does it simply need to be salt water? A body of water similar in size to the Nyr Dyv or say the Caspian Sea could fit into the Sea of Dust but would be a fairly dominant feature.

    Either way, we know that in the eyes of the Suel, the sea is connected to business & money. Unlike a lot of sea deities, Xerbo is TN not Chaotic which is also telling when compared to the primarily Chatoic Suel nature deities. He also doesn't give a fig about anyone not of the sea & believes non-maritime creatures do not belong in the sea, only on it. It's also interesting to note that as a god he has minimal spellcasting ability instead being primarily a Fighter & he favours fair combat. It'd be a cool notion to think that Suel marketplaces were traditionally on pontoons built on canals or man-made lakes to ensure the favour of Xerbo.

    Osprem was originally simply a godess of sea voyages & only on 'fair terms' with Xerbo. I feel like Osprem is a prime candidate to be a non-Suel deity incorporated into the pantheon & explained mythologically by her marriage to Xerbo. If she were more LG I'd say she could almost be a manifestation of Trishina or vice versa. Don't forget the lost sea deity Akwamon too, he's another creation of Lakofka's I believe.

    I like the idea of an inland sea of sorts especially as it brings Xerbo closer to home but I still get the feeling that Xerbo's connection between sea & business implies the Suel relied heavilly on an import culture via the sea, from other regions. But the sea to the Suel, even though it its not fickle & destructive it is cold & uncaring about humankind's plight. Therefore Osprem is the middle-woman through whom merchants & sailors turn to for protection because their prayers would fall on Xerbo's uncaring ears but they still recognise that only through Xerbo's permission is this trade & thus business possible. Perhaps Xerbo & his priesthood's neutrality is also seen as favourable when it comes to business. Xerbo cares so little for land-based politics that he can be trusted to have no conflict of interest. Something important for a society that we've already determined seems to appreciate guile & trickery. Xerbo, as a fighter, also appeals to perhaps an aggressive style of business.

    I'm starting to see that the business of trade & politics to the Suel might be handled in quite different ways. Politics (and pretty much everything else) is the arena of trickery & manipulating the law in your favour. Whereas business negotiations regarding goods & objects are blunt yet impartial affairs. Merchants are abrupt & no nonsense & cheating is frowned upon. Maybe this is necessary for a nation who otherwise are known for their guile. "Never trust the Suel unless its the business of coin".

    Black market trade would totally be the remit of Norebo though ... no holds barred & always a risk.
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    Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:08 pm  

    I recall enjoying The Scarlet Brotherhood's assertion of Suloise pantheonic temples and clerics. (The discussion you mention is on page 13.)

    Regarding what qualifies as a sea, my cursory review of a few webpages indicates that there are several kinds of seas and that the one I'm proposing might be characterized as an inland sea or perhaps an endorheic basin (or possibly "cryptorheic," meaning it would outflow underground). (A cryptorheic sea that drains into UnderOerth sounds great for adventure!)

    In terms of size, the Suloise Sea (Sea of Xerbo?) could be as large as the Caspian Sea, or about 25 hexes by 6 (30 mile) hexes and fit well within the current Sea of Dust, particularly if its length ran west to east.

    Wolfling wrote:
    It'd be a cool notion to think that Suel marketplaces were traditionally on pontoons built on canals or man-made lakes to ensure the favour of Xerbo.

    I like that image too, for it reminds me of Tenochtitlan on (former) Lake Texcoco and its echo in Mexico City's Xochimilco canals, and it vis-à-vis Xerbo, it suggests something about being atop water as "neutral ground" between buyers and merchants.

    Regarding Akwamon, I've never used him: the name was too much for me. Reviewing his description again, I don't see what he adds to the pantheon or to the sea gods of the Flanaess. (In contrast, I'm intrigued by the LN–N–CN continuum between Osprem, Xerbo, and Procan.)

    Wolfling wrote:
    I'm starting to see that the business of trade & politics to the Suel might be handled in quite different ways. Politics (and pretty much everything else) is the arena of trickery & manipulating the law in your favour. Whereas business negotiations regarding goods & objects are blunt yet impartial affairs. Merchants are abrupt & no nonsense & cheating is frowned upon. Maybe this is necessary for a nation who otherwise are known for their guile. "Never trust the Suel unless its the business of coin".

    Black market trade would totally be the remit of Norebo though ... no holds barred & always a risk.

    Nice! I can't recall imagining the Suel Imperium in any detail, but this characterization is both distinctive and oddly resonant with the Living Greyhawk Guide's presentation of Moquol . . .
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    Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:56 pm  

    Another thing to consider is that in Lakofka's campaign, the Suel pantheon isn't really specific to the Suel or even Oerth, being worshiped on other worlds under other names. In Oerth Journal #10, in Len Lakofka's article "Tales from the Green Dragon Inn: Leomund's Life," it's mentioned that on the parallel world of Dwaerth, Fortubo is known as Felgar, and on the world of Dyrth, Phaulkon is known as Thax.
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    Thu Apr 08, 2021 8:10 pm  

    mtg wrote:
    Contingent on where one lived, therefore, the local cult featured certain gods more prominently within the pantheonic mix. For example, House Rhola's cult may have favored Kord, Lydia, Osprem, Phaulkon, Phyton, Ranet, and Xerbo (which certainly accrued to the benefit of the "commoners" of Rhola's original demesne as compared with other Houses).

    (Which gods would the ancient House Neheli have favored?)


    According to the Oerth Journal #1 timeline, House Neheli were worshipers of Lydia and House Rhola worshiped "Jascar and other Suloise deities of weal."

    In Roger E. Moore's article "The Orbs of Dragonkind" in Dragon #230, Emperor Inzhelim II of the House of Neheli-Arztin "called upon and gained the direct assistance of the Suel deity Wee Jas herself" in creating the Orbs of Dragonkind. So at least one of the Neheli emperors was closely associated with Wee Jas, although his house, Neheli-Arztin, ceased to exist as a unified house after his reign. His successor was Ubrond Thrideen of Neheli.

    For completeness, OJ #1 tells us that House Zolax, which ruled the empire during the Baklunish-Suloise Wars, worshiped Beltar.

    After the Rain of Colorless Fire, House Rhola in Keoland is more associated with the worship of Kelanen. See Treasures of Greyhawk and Living Greyhawk Journal #4.
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    Wed Apr 14, 2021 10:07 pm  

    Thanks for these points Rasgon. I hadn't read Lakofka & Wilson's chronologies for many years and enjoyed reviewing them. (Also, I had forgotten about the "Binders." Did anyone develop them further?)

    Regarding House Rhola, I had also forgotten their association with Jascar and wonder if the branch that (peacefully) settled the Principality of Ulek and Gryrax might have borne an ancient relic or two from their ancestral religion.

    LGJ 4 not only indicates that Kelanen won Vilharian from Sellanus of House Zelrad after a duel near Cryllor during the Great Migrations but also suggests that the Prince of Swords favored a scion of House Rhola after their founding of Gradsul—which occurred in -368 CY—perhaps by gifting the sword to her/him. (As an aside, this mention of Kelanen upsets / contradicts certain fan-authored backstories for him, like Dargarth's 2001 article, which held him to be Oeridian, more particularly Aerdian, and possibly of House Naelex.)
    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Thu Apr 15, 2021 8:24 am  

    mtg wrote:
    Thanks for these points Rasgon. I hadn't read Lakofka & Wilson's chronologies for many years and enjoyed reviewing them. (Also, I had forgotten about the "Binders." Did anyone develop them further?)


    In "Artifacts of Oerth" by Allan Grohe and Erik Mona in Dragon #294 (Living Greyhawk Journal #10), there's a description of an artifact called the Chalice Everlasting. "In the earliest days of the conflict between the Suel and Baklunish empires, Suloise magi sought to turn the legendary Baklunish affection for the elements against them. To do this, they created four artifacts of surpassing power and infused these symbols of elemental magic with a portion of the spirits of powerful elemental princes..."

    The full list of Suloise elemental artifacts includes the Chalice Everlasting, the Unquenchable Scepter, the Oerthly Plates, and the Tempest Horn.

    My reading is that these were inspired by the Binders in Oerth Journal 1/Oerth Journal 11, but reconceptualized so that elemental magic is confirmed as primarily a Baklunish art, which the Suloise dabbled with only late in their history.

    Personally, I replace the role the Binders play in the Oerth Journal 1/Oerth Journal 11 with the Five Lores described in College of Wizardry by Bruce Cordell, which I think fits very well with the notion of Mages of Power. In that sourcebook, a lost tongue called the Language Primeval, or Aleph, "used verbal components to create magical effects in the same way as letters of an alphabet could be formed into words and sentences. Aleph unlocked exceptionally potent power, and those with the knowledge and skill to use it were exceptional even among other sorcerers... the sorcerers of the previous Age codified the Language Primeval into Five Lores. These Lores were hidden away against the need of possible future generations because it seemed certain they would otherwise be lost..."
    CF Admin

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    Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:20 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    In "Artifacts of Oerth" by Allan Grohe and Erik Mona in Dragon #294 (Living Greyhawk Journal #10), there's a description of an artifact called the Chalice Everlasting.

    Fascinating. I'd forgotten all about this article. Musing over it these past few days, I think that the Suel emperor who dispatched the elemental artifacts to foreign lands might have sent the Chalice Everlasting to the Olman emperor at the ancient city beside (on?) "Storm Lake" (Spanish: Lago de Tormenta; Nahuatl: Atlatlacamaniliztli Axoxohuilli (?))

    N.B. I barely know a few words of Nahuatl. The links to the Nahuatl words above go to a fascinating University of Oregon website that refers to conquistador-era Spaniards' translations.

    rasgon wrote:
    Personally, I replace the role the Binders play in the Oerth Journal 1/Oerth Journal 11 with the Five Lores described in College of Wizardry by Bruce Cordell, which I think fits very well with the notion of Mages of Power.

    I'm unfamiliar with College of Wizardry but like your description of Aleph and its Five Lores, for it makes me think of a meta plot involving the Silent Ones, Scarlet Brotherhood, Zagyg, Iggwilv, Rary, Mordenkainen, etc.—none(?) of who have more than a few phrases of it. (Cf. the Power Word and Symbol spells.)
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:16 am  

    mtg wrote:
    (Also, I had forgotten about the "Binders." Did anyone develop them further?)


    The Binders are almost certainly another name for the Sha'ir from Arabian Adventures. The members of the AOL message board had a high regard for the book and borrowed some of it for the Baklunish nations.
    GreySage

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    Tue Apr 20, 2021 6:16 am  

    LarethTheBeautiful wrote:
    mtg wrote:
    (Also, I had forgotten about the "Binders." Did anyone develop them further?)


    The Binders are almost certainly another name for the Sha'ir from Arabian Adventures. The members of the AOL message board had a high regard for the book and borrowed some of it for the Baklunish nations.


    The Binders are artifacts, not a character class. But the regard you mention is the reason fans largely rejected the idea of ancient Suel elemental artifacts; we've always felt that elemental magic properly belonged to the Baklunish instead. Thus, the LGJ article reimagining them as artifacts created in latter days in imitation of Baklunish magic rather than things created by the Suel at the very dawn of their civilization. The Oerth Journal timelines made them so fundamental that the Suel calendar dates back to their creation.
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