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  1. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    What to expect when gods walk among men.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Fervidor, Jul 20, 2020.

    So I'm trying to collect my thoughts regarding the gods of my setting.

    I specifically want them to be of the very physically present type: You can actually meet them and talk to them in person. They don't do that Mount Olympus thing, either, where they keep themselves distant and only reveal themselves in special situations. One of them runs a tavern, as sort of as a hobby.

    They're immortal, have been around for all of recorded history, and while they are weaker than they used to be they are still considerably more powerful than most mortals. They are also on average very intelligent and enlightened by human standards, extremely patient, and inclined towards philosophical pursuits. Though, they tend to get very fixated on subjects they find especially stimulating. Due to their different perspectives and priorities, they can sometimes come across as slightly alien to mortals. But still, they're essentially people.

    They have no particular desire or need to be worshiped, but have historically acted as a de facto ruling class. In the current era of the setting they much more humble and mostly either act as advisors to the mortal folks or have "retired" to pursue personal interests. For the most part they don't particularly align themselves with mortal nations or factions and are in practice considered sovereign entities who don't answer to anyone but themselves. (They have an internal hierarchy of sorts, but it tends to be fairly casual and informal. Sort of like a large family.)

    While generally benevolent, they are very hesitant to directly interfere in mortal affairs since things turned out very badly last time they called the shots. However, if they do decide to put their feet down they still command enough respect to strongly influence the decisions of mortal rulers and dictate the terms of whatever matter they feel concerns them. Basically, mortal authorities try to stay on good terms with the gods as much as possible.

    Anyway, I'm trying to think of ways the presence of these gods could affect the world. Like, atheism basically isn't a thing, for obvious reasons - that would be like someone in our world deciding they don't believe in elephants. Could happen, but would be sort of silly. Religious conflict is pretty much unheard of since the gods tend to handle disagreements among themselves in a more personal way, and can just tell their followers to chill out if the theological debates get too heated. I also don't think there is much in the way of serious racism, sexism, homophobia and so on, since the gods would have put a stop to that pretty early on. (That isn't even them being all enlightened and rational: They can't even really grasp the concept of people hating and oppressing each other over such superficial differences - it's completely alien to the way they view things.) Same goes for slavery and such.

    So, yeah. I'm just wondering if there may be any other potential consequences I have overlooked or failed to consider. Let me know what you guys think.
     
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  2. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    Uh...it basically sounds like X Men meets social class structure.

    To me, a "god" is a being that is fundamentally different from a person, like being immaterial rather than physical and that kind of thing. A really powerful person is not a god. Also, I don't really know how you could have a religion with a god that doesn't want to be worshipped. It just sounds like doing things just because a certain class of people is more powerful and they say so.
     
  3. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    I will comment on this as I see a missed story/world opportunity here.

    The definition of Atheism is sketchy as it encompasses multiple philosophies and attitudes. Reducing it to a "does not believe gods exist" means you ignore all other incarnations. Of which there is one I would like to talk about.

    Sturm & Drang in Germany was pretty much the early winds of romanticism, nationalism and liberalism. One of its most important works is a poem written by Goethe: Prometheus. It is a major work in atheist literature.

    I honour thee, and why?
    Hast thou e'er lightened the sorrows
    Of the heavy laden?
    Hast thou e'er dried up the tears
    Of the anguish-stricken?
    Was I not fashioned to be a man
    By omnipotent Time,
    And by eternal Fate,
    Masters of me and thee?


    This poem reflects a sub-type of atheism called misotheism. It portrays a full acceptance towards the existence of gods, /but/ also a denial of their power or influence.

    The characters of Prometheus and Lucifer are both misotheists.

    I precisely quoted the above portion because it can be very well applied within your world. Man is a free cresture unwilling to accept unjust rule. And there is nothing more unjust than beings of immense power lording over man. The only right conclusion is that there would be people actively trying to murder the living gods in the name of freedom and liberty. These would be your misotheists - to say, the atheists of your world. Not denying the power of gods, but denying their divinity.
     
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  4. Leleluv

    Leleluv Member

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    I have to agree with GraceLikePain. Your idea is great and unique, but I don't think power and immortality are enough qualifications to justify a species as 'Gods'. This can be open to debate of course, and I like to consider all sides of a coin before settling on an opinion, so I'll raise two possible arguments.
    One point can be that Gods are just simply immortal beings with extraordinary powers over nature and scientific phenomena. An opposing point to that is that there are plenty of fantasy races that fit that description and are not classified as Gods, and instead are just considered a species with power and intellect higher than humans. I argue the former side since you say that your deities are essentially people, but I think you can pass them off as Gods if you emphasize the qualities that make them divine. It sounds kind of hard as you say since they don't like to be worshipped and live their lives basically as wandering philosophers and scientists. Right now they sound too similar to humans, except for their level of tolerance and openness to mortal flaws for which I love.

    I would also argue that you still can incorporate atheism. Your characters may be Gods, but since they are painted as being very similar to humans and carry a low standard of godly power, you have the option to create a faction of people that can claim that they are not divine beings at all; just creatures that are superior in power compared to their race.
     
  5. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    I have to respectfully disagree here. They don't fit the definition of the Abrahamic god; but are /exactly/ what Hellenic gods were.
     
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  6. Gladiolus83

    Gladiolus83 Contributor Contributor

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    Norse gods, too.


    And, Fervidor, I think your idea is fine just the way it is.
     
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  7. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    Shaking my head here at the Indo-European parallels. Hindu gods too, as well as Slavic, Romuva and Celtic ones. Even Egyptians.

    In fact, I would say the unusual/unordinary is the abrahamic perception of a deity.

    Damn you Akhenaten.
     
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  8. ruskaya

    ruskaya Senior Member

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    I love your idea! What I am unsure is why you need the gods to be there. What I mean is, are the gods among humans curious about human nature and explore it (i.e.: one god runs a tavern)? Do they test or play with humans to see how they react? That is my take about what a god among humans could be.
     
  9. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    They sorta are fundamentally different, though. I just don't want that to be immediately apparent. Like, my main character initially thinks they're just some race of immortal super-humans, and is a little bit shocked to find out they're a bit more than that.

    See, they're not even made out of normal matter - their bodies basically consist of very dense magic and are not fixed in a definite form. Originally they were these giant nebulous Lovecraft-type monster things that didn't even remotely look or behave like humans. They just spent so much time interacting with mortals that they started mimicking them and display personalities that mortals could relate to. To a degree, that's actually more of a performance than representative of what they really are.

    It's just, that doesn't really make sense in this context because the word "god" doesn't really have any other connotations to these people. They don't have any alternative definition of godhood since the gods have always been present. It's really more a linguistic matter than anything.

    Suggesting that there is some other, theoretical definition of what a god should be and therefore the gods should not be considered gods would probably get you a lot of odd looks. (And then the actual, literal god tending the bar would chuckle and go: "Yes, well, as far we've been able to tell, that isn't the case. Also, I think maybe you've had enough to drink now.")

    Right, but you know what I mean.

    It's just, I'm not sure how you can deny the power and influence of the gods when that power and influence is pretty self-evident. Isn't that just being in denial?

    Right, but at that point we're getting kinda political because "beings of immense power lording over man" would also include kings and other nobility, the aristocracy or just very rich people. (Especially since in this setting there tends to be a correlation between social standing and magic power, the ruling class tending to be descended from particularly accomplished heroes.) And those guys tend to do a lot more lording than the actual gods do.

    Like I said, the gods are pretty much the first to agree they should probably leave the mortals to decide their own fate as much as possible.

    And even back when they did do all the lording, it was really more like the mortals going: "Hey, you guys are clearly way more powerful and wiser and perfect than we are, so why don't you become the lords of this world and we'll just do whatever you tell us to?" And the gods were like: "That does make sense, and I can't see any way this could possibly go terribly wrong. Okay, so I'm thinking we start by building an enormous tower right over there..."

    Those were... simpler times. Everyone was a lot more naive back then, including the gods.

    Yes, that's pretty much what I was going for. I like the old school style gods, they're more personal and relatable.

    Thank you, but I was actually wondering if you guys can think of any potential ramifications of having these physical gods that I haven't considered.

    Like, Lazaares's point about the atheism thing is a good example. I still don't think it would be much of an issue, but that is the sort of thing I want you to bring up.

    Well, they do somewhat factor into the plot of the story, a couple of them being very important. That aside, I sorta don't see the point of gods in fantasy stories who are still these distant, abstract ideas that may not even be real. Like, magic and dragons are okay but objectively real, active gods are somehow too out there? I guess I just wanted to do the exact opposite of that.

    Sort of. They find mortals generally fascinating, and they're very prone to fixate on stuff that interests them. They're ageless beings who don't really have many physical needs - they don't need to eat, sleep, procreate, etc - so they're mostly concerned with mental and emotional stimulation. Essentially, they interact with mortals and imitate them because they think it's fun.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2020
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  10. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    I guess my suggestion, after reading all this, is to figure out people's reactions to them. People resent being controlled. Or is there a reason why everybody decides to go with the ideas of these gods? If they're like the Greek gods, then, well, I can't see anybody really taking them too terribly seriously and/or being annoyed with them all the time.
     
  11. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    True, but they also appreciate guidance.

    Well, everyone doesn't, necessarily. Mortals can still disagree and argue with them - the gods even sorta encourage that. And everyone pretty much agrees they are capable of making mistakes. But they're still widely respected for their experience and wisdom. Plus, they tend to be very charismatic and adept at simply convincing people to go along with what they want.

    Well, I don't want my gods to be too human. They're like people, but grander and more transcendent. If they have flaws it won't be something as basic as being a philandering pervert or having an explosive temper or suffering from obsessive jealousy. They're sort of beyond such things.

    There may be gods whom mortals find a bit hard to understand or take seriously, since they can be kinda eccentric, but as a lot of the traits they display are performative such behavior may as well be a sort of elaborate ruse to get people to underestimate them and let their guard down before the god goes full Yoda on them.
     
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  12. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

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    Some potential things I could see happening in this world,

    Cults forming that deny the godhood of the gods and instead view them as evil deceivers who are distracting the people from the existence of the true gods by pretending to be gods. This really depends on what the creation myth of your world is. Creation myths are important catalysts for new religions and if your gods can't adequately explain how everything came to be there will be alternative religions forming. Also conspiracy theory mindset will basically make it so certain groups will blame the gods for all the wrongs of the world and refuse to trust them.

    Another aspect to consider along these lines is that certain people like the comfort religion brings and if the gods aren't meeting the needs of these people, cults will be formed. If the gods are not a monolith and some do enjoy being worshiped or having power over others, then these gods will attract followers like flies to honey. This could easily escalate into a war between gods as philosophies clash, with humans caught in the crossfire. If the only way this war ends is by killing or imprisoning the power-hungry gods this could create future divisions where some gods disagree with the sentencing. Possibly leading them to try and free the imprisoned, now vengeful, gods, or pursue vengeance if those gods were killed.

    Basically I feel like it would be human nature to either worship and rely upon the gods or hate them and want to find some way to kill them. Of course some people will be okay with living alongside the gods, though they might resent that the gods play by different rules than everyone else. Also if there are different mentalities among the gods, that could easily escalate to open conflict to potentially disastrous effect.
     
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  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    What this immediately makes me think of is a famous sports star owing a bar or club. Does the god work in the bar and talk to patrons? I would assume so. If so, they might treat him the way people would act if Joe Montana or somebody was serving them drinks. Some might hate him, some shower him with adulation hoping to receive some sort of grace in return etc.

    Are they the gods of anything? I mean like death and rebirth, storms, beauty, war etc? Usually that's what gods do, but then that's because they were created to explain those things or to mythologize them. If gods were real physical presences it could be very different.

    It's strange to think of a pantheon where the gods aren't petty and vengeful. But these seem to be very rationally conceived gods. Often they personify the adage of power corrupting, or at least going to their heads.
     
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  14. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    I covered this in a previous post: It doesn't make sense to claim that the gods are not the "real" gods, because the gods are in fact the standard by which the people of the setting define what a god is in the first place.

    Well, the creation myth is really more of a historical account, since the gods still sorta remember it. Basically, some time after the world formed, the first Folk (humans and other mortals) "fell from the sky like stars" while the gods "rose up from below." This below is understood to be the source of all magic, the heart of which is the lowest plane of reality. Magic, in turn, is theorized to be the creative force that causes reality to exist in the first place.

    Granted, the gods can't explain what is generating all that magic or what caused it to come into being. But that's actually a pretty common way for many polytheistic creation myths to start off. Compare the Norse one, where Muspelheim and Niflheim already existed to begin with, before the gods and giants started appearing in various very implausible ways. Nobody rejected the gods just because there was no adequate explanation to how it all got started. Probably because ontology is brain breaking stuff when you think too hard about it.

    Even in mythologies that did have some primeval creator entity, that guy often just floated off somewhere never to be heard from again, because he wasn't as important as the gods who made the crops grow or threw lighting bolts at you.

    This actually did happen. It turned out very badly and is the main reason most of the remaining gods decided they should keep a low profile and not meddle too much in mortal affairs.

    That seems rather extreme.

    I think the gods would probably point out that they didn't make those rules, and that society was a mortal creation. If anything they have more respect for mortals who act according to what they personally think is right, rather than by what others tell them they can and can't do.

    He probably has to put up with some of that. Though, I think his regulars at least are pretty used to him, really, since he's one of the more casual ones. I've been trying to work in an early scene where one of them, who's this experienced adventurer, is bragging that he is "almost as hard to kill as one of you guys" and the god just goes: "Sure you are."

    Well, you know how I said earlier they are prone to getting fixated on stuff they find interesting? That's how they become "gods of something." Like, a god of agriculture is just really, really into farming and has been obsessing about it for like ten thousand years. So it's part sheer experience, but it also sorta becomes a part of their nature on a metaphysical level. Since gods are made out of magic they can alter reality in their intimidate vicinity and this is easier for them to do with stuff that falls within their domain. Nature-inclined gods may cause flowers to spontaneously appear around them, or a god of cooking might cause food to taste better and be more nutritious just by being in the room.

    This ties in with the concept of Divine Attributes, which is when a god gifts part of their essence to a chosen mortal champion. This basically makes that mortal the rough equivalent of a demigod or saint, and empowers them with magical abilities corresponding to whatever that god specialized in.

    Well, you know, that kinda strikes me as a bit misanthropic for my taste, if the implication is that those traits make them more relatable to humans. But also, I just don't think it would be realistic behavior for a bunch of ancient immortal spirit beings who are free from most human needs and have limitless time to contemplate life. Or maybe that's just me being an idealist.
     
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  15. Leleluv

    Leleluv Member

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    I'll admit, I wasn't even thinking of other god classes. I was thinking on the lines of more all-powerful omniscient gods, so your right. Thinking on those lines Fervidors gods do fit the bar.

    I'm just curious (or a bit confused) is there other cultures in your world, or are we talking about a specific group of people that dominate most of it?
    I think its a matter of perception. There will always be people of differing standards and philosophies, who may not find satisfaction in the principles of their society. Sort of how like paganism was born (damn it, I'm still thinking of Abrahamic Gods. Sorry, I'm low in the knowledge of everything else besides Greek, Roman, and Egyptian). There was strong evidence (although you can argue if it was direct or not) of there being a God, but people still made their own deities and diversified, even if they had no evidence of their own to back up their god's existence. Of course, you don't have to create other opposing cultures. Your book should only include what's relevant and not just a bunch of world-building. I see that since your gods have an undeniable existence/presence, it would be hard for the people to ignore them even by choice.

    EDIT: Also, there's plenty of books where people follow only one religion because the Gods are explicitly present. In those stories, there's no one saying that they don't exist, rather there are people resisting their power and influence.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2020
  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm used to thinking of gods as primitive explanations for natural processes and human nature. But a pantheon of jealous vengeful deities sure would be more dramatic than a rational, enlightened one. :p

    Though maybe the drama comes from the humans in this story world?
     
  17. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Oh, that. Well, there are different people and cultures, sorta, but there is effectively only one language. See, my main character is from our world and ended up in the main setting Narnia-style. I wanted there to be an actual justification for how she can understand what everyone is saying without having to learn an entire alien language.

    The story goes that Marya, the Goddess of Magic, was one of the most powerful gods and also the one most fond of mortals, which made her very popular. So all the various Folk came together and cooperated to build a huge tower in her honor. To show her gratitude, Marya then blessed the Folk so that they all spoke the same language. Or, more accurately, she made it so that everyone in the world would automatically understand each other, kinda like they all had those Star Trek universal translators.

    Because of this, there's a fairly high degree of cultural homogeneity among these people. (Since I believe language and cultural identity is very strongly correlated.) Though there are still some differences in terms of attitudes and styles, minor stereotyping between the Folk, and so on. On the other hand, there are no linguistic misunderstandings or meanings getting lost in translation: Words always mean the same thing to everyone.

    That would be the misotheism Lazaares brought up. Though, even if that occurs, I'm not sure it would bother the gods too much since they don't actually demand subservience. At most they might disapprove of a general hostility towards all gods on principle - being opposed to the concept of gods - since they would find that irrational.
     
  18. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    People believe alot of things when the evidence directly contradicts it.

    I suspect you would have the conspiracy theorists claiming these 'gods' are really government plants to keep people in line or some other bullshit. On the other side, regardless of them wanting worship, they're going to likely have it. I can see the gods bitching about televangelists who claim to speak for them.

    I can see the gods themselves being carefully paranoid about what they say unless they want to influence people, or have it taken out of context.
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    What is your actual story about? I think that will help you get a handle on these godlike beings. Is the story going to be ABOUT them interacting with humans? Who will the POV characters be, etc? Human, god? Both?

    I think once you get going with actually writing the story, the characteristics of these beings will start to become clear. Get them actually doing things. I'd say try not to spend too much more time 'planning.' You not only won't get much done, in terms of writing, but you risk painting yourself in to a corner, in terms of what your story can be.

    If you make too many can/can't rules for these gods ahead of time, you're going to hamstring your story ...which, after all, is Fantasy. You can do whatever you want, and nothing is set in stone, certainly not from the outset. Throw these beings into a situation, give them a dilemma and see how they handle it—and go from there. They might surprise you a lot! And that's good.
     
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  20. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    That's one way to put it. For one, it's pretty heavy on the action: People punching each other very hard, duels with magical swords, stuff exploding and so on.

    Then there's characters interacting and dealing with personal issues, intrigues and scheming among factions, conspiracies and mysteries and general weird stuff. Also treasure hunting, because I love treasure hunting stories.

    I just don't really like writing about awful people causing trouble for others - even my villains tend to be relatively respectable.

    I'm imagining someone trying that only for the god in question to materialize in the middle of the broadcast and immediately hijacking the sermon. (Probably having a lot of fun with it, too.) If you think about it, people mostly get away with that sort of stuff in our world because our gods don't do that.

    Anyway, I don't think they are really opposed to religion, they just don't demand it. It's probably something like the way a celebrity might view their fans. Mostly flattering, though there may be some obviously crazy people in the bunch as well.

    Possibly. Depends on how public they are, I suppose, and how much they actually care.
     
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  21. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Depending on exactly how powerful the gods are, might people not feel a little uncomfortable with the implications. Even if they aren't so powerful they inherently warp free will, in the way of the Abrahamic god, it might make some people uncomfortable knowing these powerful exalted beings could totally change things if they wanted to. Even if they do more minimal things, the implicit power of their actions and the consequentialness of the very decision not to do more would give them a fairly large amount of responsibility for single beings that don't hold formal leadership positions.
    You should probably grapple with that, or at least glance at that as a topic of thought.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020
  22. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I would think the best way to analyze this would be to think of a human analogue and go from there. I imagine in some cases, it'd be like a principal walking around a school full of children. He can drive a car, open any door in the school, and can even expel you, while your spitballs pose him no threat. Just like how the god can fly to the moon, open any door in the world, and smite you from existence while your nuclear weapons pose no threat.
     
  23. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Well, the simple answer is that it's basically a superhero story set in a fantasy world, by way of D&D-style dungeon diving. (The idea being that a D&D type adventurer party can be analogous to a superhero team.)

    Thematically speaking I suppose it's about power and whether or not you can use great power responsibly while still doing what you personally feel is right. Also, finding your place in the world, the power of friendship and camaraderie, and some metaphysical stuff about identity.

    Not specifically, though the gods do feature into the plot and a couple of them are very important.

    Otherwise I suppose they mostly serve to caution the heroes about hubris and how fragile the world can be.

    Mostly human, though one of them is one of those chosen divine champions, and the main character eventually becomes one as well. Aside from making them stronger, it also serves to bring them closer in status to the gods, and thereby less beholden to the rules of society. The idea is that those gifted with divine power have more authority to control their own fates.

    I know, I know. It's just that talking about it helps me stay motivated, and I currently don't write much regardless due to anxiety issues and a sort of malaise I have difficulties managing. So I figure if I can't write I might as well talk about the story I'm supposed to be writing.

    Again, they are really more like old school polytheistic gods. They're generally much stronger and tougher than the average mortal, can use personal short range magic without tools, alter their forms, move very quickly by turning into streams of magic, and are almost impossible to kill since their bodies simply reform themselves.

    It is possible for exceptional mortals to challenge them, due to magic being very common and powerful artifacts having the potential to even the playing field. Basically, the strongest humans are closer to the gods in power than they are to the weakest humans. Individuals able to fight a god one on one are exceedingly rare, however.

    Put like that, I guess you could say that more generally the gods are to mortals what an adult is to a child: Stronger, more experienced and commanding more authority, but also considering themselves to have certain responsibilities towards said children.

    And, technically, a group of well-armed and determined older children could potentially defeat the adult, but there is sort of a general agreement that things shouldn't have to come to that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020
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  24. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Nothing wrong with that, of course. But writing is a totally risk-free activity, provided you don't show it to everybody, or even let on to people that you ARE writing. It's a great way to escape from personal troubles, really. And there's nothing so satisfying as reading today what you wrote yesterday. Even if it's not very good, you can usually see ways to improve it. And this leads to more writing, etc.

    Just don't fall into the trap of showing people what you've done, until it actually IS done. And you don't have to have it all figured out beforehand. But the difference between daydreaming (which is fun and can have its own rewards) and writing is that you actually have to write. As in, sit down and write. But you don't have to show anybody what you've written. In fact it's a good idea not to! At least not till you've worked on it yourself for a long time.

    If you are never satisfied with what you've written, you never have to show anybody. So there is no risk at all. Not even time. If you're spending time thinking up story possibilities, you could spend some of that time actually writing them down. The satisfactions are totally different.
     
  25. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2020
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    363
    Location:
    Sweden
    It's not a matter of lacking confidence, though. If anything I have always tended towards overconfidence when it comes to my writing. This a lack of energy, a seemingly physical weariness and terminally low motivation, ruining my focus and making me even more prone to distractions then I used to be. I know I can write, and I would probably do a decent job, but it's like my spirit isn't strong enough.
     

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