Gods and Alignment

Something I’m considering for my next campaign is largely divorcing gods and the like from alignments altogether. Basically, the more powerful the god, the less the god is aligned.

The idea here is that to gain full power over something, the god must encompass all aspects of it. This would preclude having an alignment. If you want to become supreme god of magic, you have to accept the good and the evil, the lawful and the chaotic, of all of it. Trying to reject part of it precludes true mastery.

Lesser gods might have greater interest in the mortal realm, and considerations of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. They may still have strong alignments, and tend to be fairly meddlesome. This is why demigods and the like are ‘as powerful’ in the mortal realm as the greater gods — they actually get involved, and care about particular results.

As they gain in power (lesser gods) they tend to lose some of their attachment. This may be ennui, in an effort to embrace more of the portfolios, or a side effect of doing so. By the time they become intermediate gods they’ve lost more specific interest.

This setting would assume that elemental and primal forces are greater than alignment, of course. The gods of magic, war, and death are not good, not evil, not lawful, not chaotic. They just are.

Their greater servants (other gods) are more interested in specific goals. I picture greater gods largely being part of the fabric of the universe, the intermediate gods being goal-oriented (with respect to the portfolios), lesser gods working with an eye toward preferred results within that, and demigods actually doing the work.

So, you might find that the greater god of magic provides the mojo for, well, everything. An intermediate god works to encourage development and use of magic, and its importance to mortals (in order to increase the influence of the portfolio). The lesser gods work to develop specific aspects of magic (a good one might focus on healing, an evil one on necromancy, whatever), the demigods actually interact with the mortals to make it happen. Or not.

So, the power of a god with respect to a particular mortal is about the same regardless of degree of power of the god. The greater the god, the more power it has personally, but the farther it has to be spread and the less actual interest the god has in that mortal. A demigod maybe objectively much weaker than the greater god, but he’s about as powerful to a mortal he interacts with as the greater god because he’s got more interest in working with the mortal.

Of course, it could also be handwaved that the power of the gods is so great that they can easily fuel the power of all their followers regardless of power relative to that of other gods. I like having an explanation, though.

What is the Base of Godly Power?

When I first raised this thought, I was asked,

One question comes to mind: What is the base of godly power? You said, that it derives from the portfolio. So I assume, that the god of lying will gain a little power, if some mortals lie. But what of the direct veneration from mortals? According to your concept a lesser god would be much more active, … and would gain more veneration due to her active role? Would this result in gaining power? Would the power of the greater god decrease, because of the increase of another? If this would result in an up-and-down, no deity could afford to stay neutral.

There are several possible parts to this. Zero or more of them may apply.

  1. Lower gods do it because they are required to by their liege gods.
  2. Portfolios are a greater source of power than worshippers, but are much harder to master. A lower god may find it easier (if less efficient) to gather worshippers than to master a portfolio, especially if the premise is correct that you must surrender interest
  3. Feudalistic — lower gods gather worshippers and pass the power up to their liege gods, the liege gods pass back portfolio access. This one stands a good chance of being true.
  4. When a portfolio (or part thereof) is mastered, the god receives power from all mortals who act in that interest. The god of magic gains power from all magic, the (lower) god of necromancers gains power from those who use necromantic magics, etc.
  5. Gathering power from worshippers is largely passive, governed entirely by mortal actions relevent to the portfolio. The god of murder gains by all murders, whether committed by his worshippers or not (though his worshippers are likely more inclined to commit murder than nonworshippers). Lower gods have goals among the mortals and use worshippers to work toward those goals; greater gods don’t need this as much because they acquire power from all who work within the portfolios, regardless of goals

The last two might be just different ways of saying the same thing.

Anyway, I can see several reasons why the greater gods don’t need to actively encourage worshippers — to themselves directly, at least.

2 Comments

  1. hadsil

    I remember reading once something in 2E that justifies point number 4/5 that always stuck with me. I was reading about an example god of Hate. Hate wouldn’t necessarily be evil. Hate would get its power from all hatred, and that includes the most holy of paladins and clerics and their hatred against evil. Hate just exists.

    • I don’t recall either where I first saw the idea, but I agree that it sticks. I think this is because it makes a fair bit of sense, in that the True Powers must, by definition, include all aspects of the power (domain, portfolio, etc.). It’s difficult to come up with one that has no positive or negative elements, thus it seems reasonable that they are overall neutral.

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