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    Canonfire :: View topic - The Greater Gods in 1983
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    The Greater Gods in 1983
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    Master Greytalker

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    Sun Feb 05, 2012 2:00 am  
    The Greater Gods in 1983

    Hi all, I'm seeking some opinions and felt this might be a good place Laughing .

    I'm currently looking at a possibility of resetting my campaign in 576 (or slightly before) in order to better facilitate a smooth transition to BRP with its very different magic systems. Naturally my first port of call was the '83 box set and I (re)discovered the following line on pg62 in the Deities chapter;

    "In general, the greater gods are too far removed from the world to have much to do with humanity, and while they are worshipped, few people hold them as patrons".

    Would this mean that there are unlikely to be the large temples dedicated to such gods that we often find in published material? I'm thinking particularly about Pelor who seems prevalent in a lot of cities. Lesser dieties certainly seem to be more widespread in GH but, given the line above, the greater gods still seem overrepresented; the possible exception being Rao in Veluna which is explained well.

    Do the greater gods feature heavily in your campaign or not? What is Pelor's position? Is Pelor prevalent because of the mechanical need for healing as much as anything else? How do you guys use these gods?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Sun Feb 05, 2012 5:42 am  
    Re: The Greater Gods in 1983

    "In general, the greater gods are too far removed from the world to have much to do with humanity, and while they are worshiped, few people hold them as patrons".

    I would take that to mean, in general, that the Greater Gods represent monolithic forces/ideologies that the common person does not identify with all that intimately. The Lesser Gods however are more representative of things that the common folk will deal with in their everyday lives. For instance, a commoner living in a large city may very well attend the grand cathedral of Greater God X on holy days, but in their homes you might find a small shrine or token to Lesser God Z that is a more personal patron god due to what they depend on for their livelihood.

    For example, a peasant who relies on hunting for most of his subsistence might indeed attend the local temple of Rao on holy days, but he wears a holy symbol of his patron Obad-hai on a leather thong around his neck and prays to Obad-hai daily for his blessings.
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    Last edited by Cebrion on Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:13 am; edited 3 times in total
    Master Greytalker

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    Sun Feb 05, 2012 6:22 am  

    Thanks, Ceb. That makes sense and is pretty much how I've always run things.

    Some questions spin off from that. Are priests of the lesser gods more numerous because they are required to take a hands on approach to worshippers? Or, do the lesser gods rely more upon "personal" observance as you posit above and so are less numerous? And, what is the role of clerics of the greater gods if they are only thought about on great holy days? Similarly, if the greater gods have few patrons how are the great cathedrals funded?
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:30 am  

    Interesting topic! We were just talking about something similar at the Blackmoor Forum. Early on Arneson divided the cosmology into Greater Gods and Dark Lords. Where did these terms first appear? Are they from Chainmail?

    -Havard
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    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 14, 2012 4:23 am  

    Thanks, Havard. I'm going to register and check it out.

    More forums to keep an eye on Smile .
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:16 am  

    Seems like the thread lives again. Carry on. Cool
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:31 pm  

    Certain gods do seem to fit this description - Beory, Boccob (obviously, after all he is The Uncaring), Istus, and Lendor are all described as distant, aloof or withdrawn. Nerull and Incabulos, those dudes are just spoilers so of course they don't care, although maybe they're just showing us they care in kind of messed up ways. Procan I'm almost tempted to put in the same category, being a force of nature, just like death and disease, but he seems to relish worship. Kord is pretty obviously involved in mortal affairs, as are Pelor and Rao, who seem to really love us, although they show it in different ways. Wee Jas is harsher but still seems pretty wrapped up in mortals also. Ulaa, like Beory is concerned more with nature than people, but doesn't seem as aloof. Besides which, I've always wondered about her being in the greater god club. I prefer her rank as an intermediate god in 3e.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:25 am  

    Thanks for your input smillan.

    Let me ask a question on the back of your comments.

    You've mentioned how the Gods relate to the folk of the Flanaess and raise some good points but, in light of the above, how do the folk of the Flanaess relate to those gods? If the dieties are aloof and uninterested in people do the people reciprocate? Or, do the people chase favour regardless?

    I'm going to write the Dieties chapter of my campaign very soon (a basic rewrite of the '83 set) and I'd like all the help and views I can get.
    GreySage

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    Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:03 am  

    Rao is also described (in From the Ashes) as a god with very little following among the lower classes - reason and serenity aren't qualities that tend to excite people whose primary concern is making sure the harvest does well. He may be the patron of Veluna, but even in Veluna most people are more interested in the lesser gods in their daily lives. Like Lendor and Boccob, he's often portrayed as a deity whose chief attribute is being academic and boring.

    The greater gods in general might be seen as distant ancestors of the current, younger gods, like the protogenoi and titans of Greek myth, important to the cosmos but not as relevant in the present day as the young gods are.

    In Iuz the Evil, Carl Sargent explained that Nerull had many, many worlds on which he was worshiped or feared, so much so that the loss of a single nation like the Horned Society barely registered to him. His counterparts like Pelor and Incabulos are probably the same way - they have to look after too many worlds for Oerth to be of much concern. Mortals on Oerth, naturally, look at them the same way.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:57 pm  

    Ragr wrote:
    You've mentioned how the Gods relate to the folk of the Flanaess and raise some good points but, in light of the above, how do the folk of the Flanaess relate to those gods? If the dieties are aloof and uninterested in people do the people reciprocate? Or, do the people chase favour regardless?


    I would say it varies with the god. The ones I've described as aloof I don't see as having what you would call "active" clergy, intent on spreading the word about his or her god. The ranks of clergy would also be small. The interaction of clerics of Boccob and Istus would be mainly as seers and oracles. The interest of lay worshipers would be in receiving the visions of these oracles. This would be good business and of course you would have some support clergy who are mainly interested in getting rich, and best of all the gods they're getting rich from don't really care. Not to say all their temples are fonts of corruption and wealth. I also don't see highly structured organizations supporting these deities over a wide area. It's more like "the Shrine of the Oracle of Boccob at Greyhawk" than multiple temples over a wide area headed by a bishop or archbishop. I realize some of this may not fit with canon exactly although I bet I could squeeze it in. Regardless, that's how I think about it. Beory I see as being very widely worshiped as the central focus of those who practice the Old Faith, but then I see her as being able to represent different things to different people. Even if she is aloof, people will still pray. Nerull and Incabulos get their share of worshipers from those wishing to avoid their attention, if you know what I mean, although they have a smaller core of devoted secret cultists who make up their clergy and laity. Who knows what motivates those twisted people?
    Lendor, who know what motivates that

    I'm glad rasgon mentioned the Protogenoi, because that's how I see some of these gods, although some of them I see as being descended from Protogenoi-like gods who are no longer worshiped or even alive. For some reason Pelor always struck me as having become the sun god after the original sun god was slain. I've struggled with this, trying to come up with a coherent mythology, but it still eludes me. Maybe better if it remains a mystery.
    Master Greytalker

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    Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:17 am  

    [quote="smillan_31"] Not to say all their temples are fonts of corruption and wealth. [quote]

    Buzzkill. Laughing

    Thanks for the input, guys. Beacuse the campaign is going to be set in the Wild Coast I don't really have to worry too much about changing how many temples there are in the major cities immediately. What you've done is give me a sound basis for planning ahead while the party is isolated away from major cultural centres. Pelor still nags at me a bit and might require a think.

    If you have any further thoughts then please weigh in.
    GreySage

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    Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:24 am  

    Well, Pelor may have many worlds to look after, but his attributes - healing, strength, sunlight, opposition to the creatures of darkness - are very much of concern to ordinary people. To the extent that Pelor can delegate his responsibilities to others, like Mayaheine, Merikka, and the various saints and hero-deities who work for him, he will. Remember that by 1e rules, greater deities only grant the highest level spells personally. That means that the highest level clerics need greater gods as patrons, but it also means anyone who wants to cast lower level cleric spells needs a lesser god as a patron, and first level clerics are all clerics of saints and demigods first. As clerics level up, they prove themselves worthy of the attention of more powerful beings, becoming initiated into the priesthoods of the gods their god serve or ally with until they finally become that impossibly rare thing, a cleric of a greater god.

    For the most part, any temple of Pelor encountered by the PCs will be staffed by clerics of St. Bane, St. Benedor, Mayaheine, or some other subordinate figure except in major capitals.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:13 pm  

    I never got that about the lower level spells coming from lesser powers. Definitely something to think about. I'm all in favor of micro-pantheons of lesser gods, demigods and saints around a greater god, although most people seem to be in favor of simplifying the number of gods.
    GreySage

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    Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:17 pm  

    @ Rasgon

    I, too, hadn't considered making such an official connection between the greater gods and their lesser godly servants. That really is a great idea. Based on the official rules as I understood them growing up, no clerical player of mine ever wanted to serve a deity of less than 'Greater' status because it simply meant that as they advanced in level, they would eventually be denied higher level spells because they worshipped a deity unable to grant the highest level of spells. Now, you have provided a very convenient and believable solution to that problem. Happy Excellent idea!

    SirXaris
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    Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:56 pm  

    In 2nd edition, Intermediate Deities were also able to grant 7th level spells. That also seems to be where the majority of deities were placed in 2nd.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:47 pm  

    It would be neat to see Rasgon's 1E theory of spell-delivery mapped out like a stemma. I wonder who Pholtus' superior would be?

    Re: the gods having many worlds to look after, I like the "Multiplicity of Being" term that was coined, iirc, in a FR or DL novel to explain how a god could be in two places at once (without those forms being aspects or avatars, again, iirc). I'm sure Rasgon knows the reference. It basically explains that Takhisis IS Tiamat and that Paladine IS Bahamut. I'd even argue that many of the FR human gods could probably be "merged" with their Oerth and DL equivalents. After all, the demi-human pantheons are the same world-to-world. I like the idea of fewer gods in the multiverse.

    As an aside: since 3.X did not follow the 1E spell-granting by divine rank rules, the LG Circle of Six attempted to replicate a representation of divine-rank to spell-granting via the number of domains a god would grant access to. In addition to all non-True Neutral gods granting the domain(s) of their alignment, regardless of divine rank, the gods granted access to the following number of domains by rank:

    Hero-god: 2
    Demigod: 3
    Lesser deity: 4
    Intermediate: 5
    Greater: 6

    There are a few exceptions (Aasterinian, a demigod, has 4. Labelas Enoreth, an intermediate, has 6. IIRC, the exceptions were usually racial deities), more than I care to worry about right now and I forget if we grilled the Circle about them (I could probably find an answer in the old Circle/Triad Yahoo! group archives or in the old main LG Yahoo! group archives but I don't have time to look right now), but, in general, this was how LG attempted to reflect 1E's divine rank spell-granting rules. thought some of y'all might be curious about it. I always liked this system for 3.X.

    aurdraco
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    Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:37 am  

    rasgon wrote:
    Well, Pelor may have many worlds to look after, but his attributes - healing, strength, sunlight, opposition to the creatures of darkness - are very much of concern to ordinary people. To the extent that Pelor can delegate his responsibilities to others, like Mayaheine, Merikka, and the various saints and hero-deities who work for him, he will. Remember that by 1e rules, greater deities only grant the highest level spells personally. That means that the highest level clerics need greater gods as patrons, but it also means anyone who wants to cast lower level cleric spells needs a lesser god as a patron, and first level clerics are all clerics of saints and demigods first. As clerics level up, they prove themselves worthy of the attention of more powerful beings, becoming initiated into the priesthoods of the gods their god serve or ally with until they finally become that impossibly rare thing, a cleric of a greater god.

    For the most part, any temple of Pelor encountered by the PCs will be staffed by clerics of St. Bane, St. Benedor, Mayaheine, or some other subordinate figure except in major capitals.


    All of this works very nicely for me; thanks, rasgon.

    I've never really signed up to the Deities granting spells theory in whatever rules edition I was using and I intend to continue that. It's not that I directly decreed that "deities don't grant spells", more that I wanted to leave it open for debate should characters wish to posit their own theories. As a consequence, no one creation myth can be claimed as canon; some characters have taken a stance that denies the gods existence; some divine spellcasters theorise that their own choice of spells honours and furthers their chosen deities' cause in a personal way.

    IMC each divine caster will choose the spells he or she wishes to know and can decide for themselves whether they are divinely granted or not. I'll say little on the subject myself.

    I can definitely see the institutions dedicated to the greater gods being staffed by followers of saints and heroes who were themselves reverers of the greater diety (or a lesser one) and can also see the potential for religious conflict in this as well; which is a good thing for me. The less "certainties" in the system the longer the doors of possibility remain open.
    GreySage

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    Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:31 am  

    SC-Tiny wrote:
    It would be neat to see Rasgon's 1E theory of spell-delivery mapped out like a stemma. I wonder who Pholtus' superior would be?


    The Blinding Light.
    GreySage

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    Thu Apr 05, 2012 7:04 pm  
    Re: The Greater Gods in 1983

    I'll toss in my own perspective, for whatever good it may offer.

    I've dabbled in many different pantheons, including human, demi-human, and some humanoid Powers, both as player and especially as DM. All of you have offered some really interesting and credible perspectives about how to perceive the Powers, whether Greater, Intermediate, or Lesser.

    As reference guides go, I get a hold of anything relating to the Powers that I can utilize in my collection, including the original golden boxed setting you mentioned. This includes the following source guides, which you may find particularly helpful, if you have them, or can find them: From the Ashes, Monster Mythology, Bastion of Faith (especially from a Heironean perspective), The Adventure Begins, Iuz the Evil, The Marklands (gives some good overall information about the Powers and religion in Veluna, Furyondy, and Nyrond), The Scarlet Brotherhood (Suel Powers, primarily), Greyhawk: Player's Guide, and also The Living Greyhawk (with its listings of the importance of Powers for each nation or region).

    In direct answer to your query, I make use of any and all Gods that seem relevant to my game (that being the campaign setting). I have tried to make a concerted effort to have the general populace polytheistic in a way, each person perhaps having one or two Powers they hold in particular favor (typically b/c it directly affects that person, by virture of career, profession, or craft, for instance), but offering prayer to a multitude of Powers as the need or circumstance arises. This holds true for my own priests, in fact, for though that priest may directly serve one Power above all others, that does not preclude respect for and supplicating others (esp. if in the same pantheonic sphere, such as an Oeridian priest paying minor homage to the Oeridian Gods even if he/she directly serves, say, Heironeous).

    I am still 'fleshing out' the intricacies of the various temples, churches, and religious affiliations in my game world, specifically those in the City of Greyhawk and Veluna, where many of my player characters are focused. This includes Pelor, of course, held in highest esteem in the Free City, perhaps b/c there is great need for mercy and benevolence in the poor Old City. As someone else mentioned, Pelor, a Power of Sunlight, can also be seen as a bringer of life to crops and thus, may receive some respect by farmers and agrarians. He is multi-faceted, too, in that he offers Strength (more internal than in the martial or physical sense), and thereby may garner prayer to those who face strife and the like, and need support to get them through those tough times.

    In my campaign setting, High Matriarch Sarana is a tough negotiator to those who need Pelor's healing and necromantic powers IF they are wealthy adventurers (mercenaries and treasure-hunters, mainly, provided they are NOT evil) who can part with coin and/or magical items she can thus use to aid the less fortunate in the Free City, primarily those of the Old City. She is far more giving and understanding for those with more 'noble' and benevolent intentions (esp. if they serve Pelor or some other goodly faith allied with Pelor such as Heironeous or Rao).

    Hope this helps,

    -Lanthorn
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