On the Creation of Gods

Yet more for RPG Blog Carnival.

Fantasy worlds and gods seem to go hand in hand; having or hinting at at least one seems to be practically the price of admission.

Now, this is fine. Except for the fact that there’s a lot more variety in the divine than most people give credit for, let alone use. Often, the god being used will be incomprehensibly powerful if not downright omnipotent, and probably maintain distance from the world. Which makes sense, since if gods that powerful were to start messing around in the story, they’d be insurmountable obstacles if antagonistic and seem like they’d just popped out of a machine if they approved of the protagonists. And gaming or writing, that’s not near as much fun.

So let’s vary it up!

In my experience, true gods come in three types of origin: Existing first, being created/born, or being believed into existence. The first are usually the most powerful, and usually credited with having created the world; similarly, they’re also the ones you’re least likely to hear from. The second are quite possibly the most common, and often considerably more involved in the affairs of the world than the first group—consider, for instance, the Norse or Greco-Roman pantheons. The third wouldn’t exist without their worshipers, and as such vary, in both power and tendency to meddle—though they’re likely to meddle just so people remember they exist.

Then you get to two other important traits—power, and knowledge. How much do your gods know, and how much are they aware of? Are they fully omniscient? Aware of what happens within their specific domains? Aware of what’s going on around them? The less a god knows, the more he can be plotted against and the less likely he is to see people deviating from his plans.

What about power? While gods that existed first tend to be if not omnipotent than extremely close, that doesn’t have to be the norm for the divine. For instance, the Exalted world follows an Eastern-esque model of a celestial bureaucracy, with gods ranging in potency from “Near-invincible and perfect” to “can be subdued by a PC’s ferret familiar with a lucky roll”.

Do these gods specialize? Do they represent concepts? Places? Cosmic forces? Do they represent these concepts because they created them? Because they maintain them? Because in some way they are them? If something happens to something a god represents, what happens to the god?

If you’ve got a pantheon (and in general, the more gods you have, the less powerful they should be), you’ll need to figure out how they relate to each other. Including, possibly, literally. Are they related? Were they created by the same individual(s)? Do gods of opposing concepts necessarily have to not get along? Do they clash anyway? Tracking pantheons can get downright kinky—just look at the Greek gods.

How human/equivalent thereof are they? Are they just impossibly perfect? Do they have human foibles, like (again) the Greek gods? If you have multiple sapient races, does each have one god? More? Do animal gods look like the animals they represent? Are they halfway between, either doing the head of one body of another thing like the Egyptian gods do, or talking the anthropomorphic route, or something else entirely? Do they do multiples of the above and shapeshift between them? If you have gods of concepts, do they have a vaguely human appearance, or do you have gods wandering around that look like statues, tangles of thread, tornadoes, blobs of lava? How do the ones that aren’t necessarily human communicate? Do even the ones that look human have their own quirky communication forms?

And those are just the basics; more detail later!

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