Assembled Machina, Where’s My Deus?

Yesterday, I talked about the creator’s reasons why the good (or at least, allied-with-the-protagonists) gods are so prone to not being near as helpful as the ones on the other side. But there’s also the element of in-character reasons for a distinct lack of divine intervention, as UZ started pointing out. Needless to say, this one goes down a whole lot better with both the audience and the entities in-world… okay, maybe not quite so much on the latter. So what reasons does the world give for the gods not being willing to throw in a helping hand every now and then? (Note: most of the worlds in which I find this sort of behavior have a Good/Evil dichotomy, so I’m just going to use it as a catch-all for the average situation.)

Fear of the consequences. Usually in these situations, Evil outnumbers and outguns Good, except for That One Speshul Person/Those PCs but they’re a bit of a vexing factor anyway, so Good gods cannot intervene directly because if they do that’s an act of war and will be met with overwhelming force, whereas Evil can do whatever the heck it wants as long as it at least pretends it’s not actually intervening. “I didn’t throw lightning bolts at that guy, I was showing off my juggling and I missed, like this.” All calling them out on it gets is another fried hero as part of the demonstration, and starting a fight only ends badly. If there’s a Big Divine Referee up there somewhere, they’re probably more interested in the letter of the law than the spirit.

Respect or disgust for human behavior. Nine times out of ten, That Free Will Thing gets involved; I rarely see a good god who is not either concerned for the free will of those random mortal-type things or so disgusted with it that she’ll be an antagonist by the end of the story arc. On the other hand, there’s the “Why should I help them?”, usually couched in terms of the beneficial effects on the mortal-things if they have to muddle through themselves (though whether it’s “this will teach them to stand on their own” or “this will teach them not to be such jackasses” is another question entirely).

The god’s own limitations. In some cases, this is an explicit inability to do X, Y, Z or Q due to the constraints of a god’s portfolio. In others, the constraints are on the god itself—it’s sealed somewhere, unable to act where it matters, stuck in an agreement that literally binds it, you get the idea. Or it might just be a case of insufficient power level, whether from personal weakness, having a rather low-powered domain, or just not being prayed to enough. Sometimes, it’s several of the above at the same time.

Divine politics. This dovetails with the fear of the consequences, but isn’t limited to the simple matter of fights. There are alliances here, there and everywhere, and doing the wrong thing throws them all to whatever the local inferno-analogue is, one way or another. Allies to keep on their side, enemies to keep off their back, neutrals to keep out of trouble or recruit, people who aren’t so much on someone’s side as just playing the game to see how much trouble they can cause and/or amusement they can give themselves to watch out for, you get the idea. Red tape and social games are messy!

Distraction. The god’s busy, leave a message. What the god’s busy doing can vary, anything from solving bigger problems that actually require a little bit of divine oomph to playing celestial tiddlywinks.

Disinterest. Just because a god’s technically not opposed to mortal-things doesn’t mean it really cares about interacting with them, let alone going out on a limb for them. Or maybe it just doesn’t understand what it is they want, so it’ll do the equivalent of picking an insect up and giving it an infinite walking space to wander around on, but not something useful like the equivalent of providing a little extra food here or laying a stick across rushing water to cross there.

End result: Inactive (or only subtly active, which can be more fun) god, unimpeded storyline.

4 comments

  1. UZ says:

    There always seemed to be something a bit off with the G vs. E business here.

    Evil God: I take a personal interest in the doings of mortals, and sometimes help the ones I like.

    Good God: I cannot be bothered with the affairs of meaningless insects.

    ???

  2. Brickwall says:

    Blame modern religion.

    Also blame Star Trek. They have that Prime Directive and whatnot.

  3. Ravyn says:

    UZ: ….okay, yeah, point. That one was supposed to be more nonintervention in general. I think. *tries to remember if she’s actually seen cases of the “Good” god pulling a stunt like that*

    Brick: Yeah, ’s good having something to point a finger at.

  4. UZ says:

    Zeus gave Perseus a bunch of stuff, including a shield that was (or would later become) the Aegis. But then, by the standards of divine intervention in that story, giving him a magic sword, shield, horse, hat, &c was pretty restrained.

    Would the Story of Job be a help here?

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