Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Ins and Outs of Creating Gods

Well, here we are on our first OFFICIAL Wednesday update day. Hello, everyone!
I am currently writing this on my new "elevated" bed. In other words: Hubby and I finally have a bed frame and box spring. YAY! Look at us being adults and no longer sleeping on a mattress on the floor! *Ahem* Anyway....

I did mostly researching this week, and so I don't really have much to show to you guys. I'm hoping to change that soonish. My big thing was to use that digital copy of Demigods and Deities I found last week. It has certainly helped a little. I now have a better understanding of roughly how many gods need to be in my pantheons. I also recently hit a realization that should help me better structure them too.

The book suggests breaking down the most basic character classes available in the Player's Handbook. For those not real big on D&D and other such fantasy games, the basic classes are things such as "Fighter" or "Monk" or "Bard" or "Cleric." You get the gist. Well, the book suggests breaking those classes down in to more generic branches such as "Martial Arts" or "Magic Users" and then come up with roughly three deities that would be able to cover the full spectrum of character alignments for each grouping.

Again, if you're unfamiliar with the term "alignment" it's very simple. Every character in the D&D world is somewhere on a nine-point scale between Good and Evil as well as Lawful and Chaotic. Lawful Good people are like your police force. They defend the people, defeat evil that threatens innocents, and follows a strict code. The exact flipside would be Chaotic Evil which are like demonic anarchists. They want nothing else but unorganized pain and torture of every living being. The more innocent, the better. Then you have seven other alignments in between: Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Good, True Neutral, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Good, and Chaotic Neutral.

Alright, now back to pantheon creation. So, the basic trick is to have three gods with different enough alignments that there is at least one god that a character can pray to given their alignment. For instance, if you have a Lawful Good deity he can be the patron to Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, and Neutral Good characters. The only restrictions is that the god should have at least ONE element on the scale that is the same as the character - which is why Lawful Neutral and Neutral Good can pray to him as well - and that no part of the alignment opposes the characters. This is why no Chaotic characters would pray to him - it's in opposition with the Lawful side of the god - as well as no Evil characters who would have a problem with the god being Good.

So I have my break-down. Essentially it's just easy to have nine gods - one for each alignment category - and then double or triple up somewhere in order to have a god that fits that particular fighting style. For instance, just having one Lawful Good god for both magic-use and melee seems a bit odd. The god would have a fighting preference, and so he should favor one class type over another; creating the need for at least one more deity within that alignment.

It's also suggested to sprinkle in some deities that are patrons to specific races: halflings, elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs, and possibly some patrons to the monsters the adventurers will come up against.

So now I have my ranks by way of alignment, class, and race break-down. How do I fill them, though? I feel weird just arbitrarily naming by way of "This Chaotic Good god will be named Rothbar; moving on." I fear missing something and not having the pantheons feel real, which is weird because the likelihood of my readers ever knowing of their existence is slim. But world building is world building, I need to know all because I don't know how it will affect something.

Well, next up on the "creating gods" docket was to make sure the gods all had control of the main 22 Cleric Domains. If you didn't have 22 gods, it was fine as long as they doubled up. For instance, there are only 19 deities in D&D. What is so important about these Domains? Why were they called Cleric Domains? Why 22 of them? Well, the simple answer there is that the 22 Cleric Domains are the different concentrations clerics could take based on the god she followed; hence Cleric Domains. They're so important because if you are replacing D&D's pantheon with your own and not all 22 Domains are covered by your custom gods then a cleric can't choose that path, and the spells specific to that Domain are lost to your campaign. Finally, I believe 22 was an arbitrary number. The creators of D&D did the basic list that included such things as the four elements, good, evil, law, chaos, life, death, etc. They needed at least one domain for each god. Plus, as I said before, some gods had multiple Domains. Obad-Hai, for instance, is the god of nature and so he was obviously in charge of the four elements.

Alright, so I have at least nine gods that should include the 22 Domains. Not crucial to storytelling, but imperative if I want to use Gyateara as a basis for any D&D campaigns I run; which was the whole reason I started creating it in the first place. The easiest way to organize it would be to group like-domains together and hand them to one god. As I mentioned, Obad-Hai is god of nature and so he can cover four domains just by grouping the elements together.

Now that I know what I need in my pantheon, I now need to figure out who these gods are. My biggest thing was getting all nine alignment options. I had this world set up as "pantheons were gods that allied together during the Divine War." So, why would a Chaotic Good god ally herself with a Lawful Evil one?

I could go down the traditional route by way of Greco-Roman or Norse mythology: they are one huge family either by blood or marriage. I didn't want all of my pantheons - I'm planning on having at least four - to become essentially "Four Major God Families Fighting For Control" in terms of the Divine War. I needed another reason for opposing alignments to work together.

I then had my epiphany: Gods are just divine D&D parties. You have your warrior, cleric, magic-user, and rogue. You have differing alignments. You have some overall goal: a quest, if you will. It works. I'd like to thank the webcomic Order of the Stick for that insight.

The comic's creator Richard Burlew periodically sprinkles in reminders that while the party leader Roy is Lawful Good, his longest traveling companion Belkar is clearly Chaotic Evil. Why do these drastically opposing alignments join forces? For one, Belkar is willing to do whatever needs to be done to complete their quest and/or save their hides; things that a Lawful Good character would never fathom of doing. Therefore, Belkar gets to fulfill his bloodlust and Roy gets out of tough scrapes without having to compromise much. Roy understands that the party as a whole is better having someone being his foil. Belkar, on the other hand, couldn't care less as long as he gets to kill - which he does; frequently. Another reason for this pairing? Teaming up with Belkar is the lesser of two evils. It is better to have him as an ally - and possibly curb his destruction - then it is to oppose him and/or let his bloodlust run free and wild.

Burlew went so far as to demonstrate this point in one of his comics. ***Spoiler warning for 444-strips in.***

I'm pretty sure I'll be using a similar tactic. Sure, I'll most likely have family alliances in at least one pantheon, but I think I'm just going to look at my deities as if they were D&D characters instead. Make them mortal first, if you will. If they were an adventuring party that brought in more allies, how would that structure play out? Would there be love interests? Family? Rivals? How was the opposing alignment recruited? Why? Now that the Divine War is over will these opposing alignments and rivals now feud? I'd be alright with that. Every pantheon - including Christianity's - has at least two warring divine powers. Thor vs. Loki. Osiris vs. Set. God vs. Satan. Nearly everyone in the Greco-Roman pantheon was battling against someone else within their ranks. I'm sure if I went in to Aztec or Mayan or Native American religion I'd find at least one god who battled against another. Even in the D&D pantheon there are a few gods that don't play well together.

So anyway, that's my newest weekly goal. I am going to forget that they are supposed to be deities for a week and just come up with characters like I normally would. I have guidelines to help me form the "right" characters, but all I need to concentrate on is building a campaigning party.

Speaking of weekly writing goals, still nothing with the local writing group I started. Omnibladestrike has once again hit the "self-doubt" wall that has crippled him. So his task is to learn how to keep that inner critic in check so he can get back to writing. Even with the mantra of "Dare to be bad" when it comes to his first draft, he can't shut that stupid critic up. Cyhyr has seen my quandaries as to what the group is doing since we've become dormant, but she hasn't responded to anything I've posted. So I'm not sure what's up with her right now. Ronoxym has gone full radio-silence. I haven't seen him even online since we had our Skype session last month.

I know that Ron and Cyhyr have a convention coming up that they're going to with The Bard. It's a weekend-long LARPing session where they will be in-character pretty much the entire time. I know they were working hard on getting their characters ready for that, so maybe that's where they disappeared to.

That being said, I fear that my venture in to running a local writing group crashed and burned fairly quickly. Sad, really, I thought maybe we had something the four of us could be really excited about. We'll see if I can revive the group. I'll keep you posted.
The real thing that's been killing me though about this silence between the four of us is the fact that Ron seems to have vanished from the internet this month. The forum is pretty much dead because he hasn't been on to role-play. I have no clue how his latest venture in writing has been going. Also, I spent two days this week going back through portions of the collab story we have about Devon and Willow; editing it and practically pleading for him to continue on with the story since he hasn't in nearly two months.
It's driving me BONKERS that this story isn't done, and that I can't even come up with my own ending for it since I have no clue what he was planning for the last portion of it.

I guess that's karma for not updating my own stories; especially What Is Truly Meant To Be which hasn't had an update in a year by now. I really need to start using some of my non-zero days to work on that again...

OH! Before I forget, I want to state that it seems I've had a recent flood of new readers lately, and they all appear to be coming from Why is that, you might ask? Well, it seems dear Ali Luke linked me in her post on the 7th: 17 Ways to Make the Most of Your Writing Time - Even When It's Limited. Apparently Ali has joined the "No More Zero Days" bandwagon, and wanted to thank me for the idea. In turn, I made sure to thank Summer for introducing me to the idea in her blog, and Reddit member Ryan for posting the idea in the first place.

The main thing I wanted to convey here, though, is how friggen awesome it is that *I* inspired my own writing mentor with a way to keep up her writing! I'm so ecstatic about this, you don't even understand! Plus, the fact that Ali clearly keeps up with my blog is awesome. The fact that in inspiring her to ban "Zero Days" from her life - and her wanting to pass that along to her readers - means that I'm inadvertently helping other writers is mindboggling. Finally, I just get such a kick out of the fact that this guy Ryan was trying to help out a guy who was feeling bummed out, and it got so much energy online that Summer wrote about his post in her blog about panic attacks, and then I shared the idea as my own personal motivation for writing, and now all of these writers have this tactic idea. The internet is cooky, and I love it! How else would Max have had Ryan's advice? How else would the WORLD get Ryan's advice? How else would information be handed over to such a diverse set of people? I'm in awe.

Anyway, WAY off topic in regards to writing. So, I'll take that as my cue to finish up.

In order to do so, I'd like to conclude with a few words for my former writing group in case they're reading:

Omni, you really need to figure out what is stopping you from writing. Don't tell me "I don't know" or "I'm not sure." Figure it out. Is it lack of drive? Fear of being bad? Intimidation when comparing yourself to other writers? Do you not have the passion you thought you did? Is it because you can't focus? Are you not in a good writing environment? Is this the wrong story for you to tell? What is stopping you!? Do some soul searching to try to figure that out.

Cyhyr, what's going on? Why the radio silence with you two? Was I right? Are you too busy creating your characters? If so, just let me know and I'll stop bugging. Otherwise, give me some sort of heads up as to why you guys seemed to disappear. I'd understand, I'm just confused right now.


Well, until next week. 

No comments:

Post a Comment