Saturday, May 14, 2011

Godmodding: Things I Find Creepy About D&D

Like prostitutes and Eskimos, D&D has some things you just don't want to get in it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Everybody likes sex, but most of the time it is best kept to C://Users/Ettin/Documents/CleverHiddenFolder/DinosaurSmut like everyone else.

A while ago I slapped together Valen, a love goddess, because I happened to need one for a few bit parts. Not long afterward it came up in a game of mine, and this happened:

Player: What's she a cleric of?
Me: Valen. She's the local goddess of love and beauty
Player: So she's a sex goddess.
Me: ... No, she's just a goddess of
Player: Sex.
Me: ...
Player: (Strokes flourishing neckbeard sagely)

Sex and D&D are somewhat intertwined, but in a behind-the-scenes way, like the way your spleen is part of your body but you don't take it out and show it to everyone. Whenever I read something like Ed Greenwood's orgy adventure, or this real post someone actually made on the Internet:

Now we have given our NPC a present, lets give them a past. To complete the picture of any NPC, I give them a sexuality. This fleshes out the character, as any living creature has some sort of sex life. Following the example, Drazar's fetish is Gay. I remember to note that nosy players poking around at night in the smithy will hear him quietly massaging his prostate with the handle of his +1 Hammer of returning. This acutally came up in an IRC game I ran- once the Rogue found out what Drazar was doing, he felt that he should respect the character and not steal a weapon that was steeped in history out of respect of its owner. I wager that he would have thought nothing about killing the smith and taking his belongings otherwise

It's acutally an epic DM secret- when creating any hero or villain, think to yourself "How are their sexual appetite's satisfied?". This instantly adds a layer of depth to the character with little effort. One recent villain I created was a druid who controlled wurms. I chose it because I thought wurms were cool, but could not justify his use of such creatures when he had more powerful entities at his disposal. In a masterstroke I realised while looking at the image for the Century wurm (Fiend folio) that I could justify his actions by implying that they appealed to a primal sexual festish- cock vore. Once the players found his diary and why he had attacked them using such creatures they were all to happy to desecreate his grove and corpse. The paladin almost fell due his treatment of Balthazar the Wurm king, but I let it slide *Sweatdrop*.


I get really, really uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, most of my games are online these days, which means one of my players could very well end up being the sort of lad who openly wants to play a "drow shota" or roleplay an intense desire to be spanked with a frying pan. So if I want a goddess of love, we're going to have to divorce it from that kind of love.

At least in public.

So!

Developing Valen

Valen started as a fairly standard love deity. I have yet to see one which wasn't eerily similar to a lot of the others, and probably red-haired too. Unfortunately one of her original inspirations was Sune (or was it Sharess? I always got those confused), which I have since realised is vaguely connected to Ed Greenwood, so now we're going to redo that shit.

What else can you do with a love goddess? Well, she was a goddess of love and beauty, so there's that. There are more beautiful things in life than bodies, like sunsets and Eskimos, or art and music. So to protect her from neckbeards, she's the bard goddess.

She has come up in a few more recent games. A player of mine is a bard who worships her and associates with the Hopesingers, a group of bards and other classes with ranks in Perform who are trying to change the world through song and benefit concerts. She has had a few paladins as well, which is pretty neat. There's also been Polyquet, a ghaele follower who once described something as "like, totally mondo", which tells you everything you need to know about her.

What else can we do? Let's look up real-life love gods!

  • Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. Kind of a bitch. Seems to be designed to give neckbeards erections. Damn it. Relationship with a war god is pretty interesting though. So is spawning from another deity's balls, but not for the same reasons.
  • Venus, who like most Roman gods is a Greek one with the serial numbers filed off. Not very related though. Possibly related to Friday, which was a song I actually thought was decently mediocre. Ceasar claimed to be related to her. Definitely probably lying.
  • Through my brief research I found out there was a Roman goddess called Cloacina. This is the most unfortunate-sounding goddess I know of. I must make a note of this.
  • The Norse had Freyja, a goddess of love, beauty, fertility, some kind of crazy Norse magic, war and death. She rides a chariot drawn by two cats, because she is allergic to horses. May be connected to valkyries. Will probably be killed by a giant wolf or something.
  • The Babylonians had Ishtar. Love, war, et cetera. Possibly a bitch. Her cult had prostitutes. Let's avoid that part.

For some reason I am now imagining bards as war reporters.

Putting this stuff together...

Valen!

During the early ages of man, when the first great cities had formed, the god of civilisation looked upon the work of Man and remarked thusly: "Though I am duly impressed by your efforts, I am Wary; for the work of Man yet pales compared to that of the Gods." The ancient city of Bragropolis heard his words, and replied in kind: "Oh yeah? Watch this."

The bards and artists of Bragropolis banded together and laboured for four hundred nights, and painted the god a daughter. As a song breathed life into her, Valen stepped forth from the canvas.

She was happily taken in as a daughter, though Bragropolis was warned to stop being such smartarses. Since then, Valen has inherited the portfolios of love, beauty and creativity.

Valen appreciates lovers, good art, good music, good food... actually, there isn't much she doesn't appreciate. Her followers see her as a muse, or a heroine, or a lover if they're a little weird. In older times, she was seen as a goddess of war (and the art of war, ha ha) as well, but after a phase a couple centuries ago where her followers started telling people to make love instead and stick flowers on people's crossbows other war gods become more popular. She still retains a few war-minded followers, though, particularly in bards who seek out great battles to compose songs and stories about them, and though she is not martially-minded she stresses that this doesn't make her an idiot. Her followers, particularly her paladins, are free to punch evil in the face.

Valen is most popular in human lands, but was quickly adopted by the elves once they encountered humans and has since risen to prominence in their pantheon, though they tend to associate her with flowers. She has a slightly higher proportion of non-human races than most human deities, as she can easily appreciate the beauty in, say, an orc, or a goblin, or an Eskimo.

Valen is considered a friend to almost every good- and neutral-aligned deity, and even the evil ones have to admit she's sort of nice. Her greatest enemy is Malcanthet, the Queen of the Succubi who has hated Valen since they accidentally showed up to a failed attempt at a pact between the gods and the demon lords wearing the same dress.

She also has several "daughters", the most prominent of which is Seokore, but as she has yet to form any long-lasting relationships of that sort it is likely she created them from art and music.

The details vary, but Valen is usually depicted as a beautiful young maiden of any race or ethnicity (usually human) with a long mane of brown or red hair and emerald or heterochromic eyes. She wears flowers in her hair, expensive jewellery and loose, bright clothing. She is usually carrying one or more symbols of creativity - musical instrument, a theatre mask, or a paintbrush and palette. Sometimes, though, she has a rapier.

Bam!

Since I have yet to run a long-lasting 4E game despite my fear that sticking to 3.5 would make me a grognard, Valen has the Charm, Good, Luck and Protection domains, and of course I'll allow any other arts-themed domains. War might be possible, depending on how the cleric worships her.

And now I must go! Next time: More gods, or possibly complaining about a few things that have been bugging me. Who knows!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Godmodding: Paiia

This month's excuse for a late post:

My Little Pony marathon.

A really long marathon.

So, I've been bouncing around a few ideas for posts over the last few weeks as I play Portal 2 and squee over ponies, and I've decided that rather than worry over them for days I will post as many as I can.

So, a while back I made a couple of posts about religion in my eternally-in-progress homebrew setting, and the pantheon I've been trying to set up. I've decided to put some more work into it and post about it, in the hope that

a) The process might make a good read;
b) Someone might point out something which blows that I've missed.

I got a couple of pieces of advice from the last two posts:

Study real religions and see what they do, instead of copying D&D and D&D clones, if you want to be unique.

This is actually a good tip, though I don't agree with the last part. Copying is copying, using real life just improves the quality of your sources. Then again, that is just me being an asshole on the wording, isn't it? Don't listen to me, listen to this man.

tl;dr, but I did skim through enough to say this: you've got a moderate to severe case of Lovecraftian Naming Syndrome. Srsly, Yzzyx? I love Colossal Cave Adventure as much as the next person, but (...) The only cure for Lovecraftian Naming Syndrome is spending half a decade learning linguistics or spending 5 minutes looking up the names of people and gods from extinct civilizations and then mashing the letters around. Then again, what do I know?

This one, not so much. The only lesson here is that if you don't read posts before you comment you'll end up looking silly, because the post containing the one name Anon here took exception to was also the one which contained Seokore.

So, yeah. Two pieces of advice there, actually. Be careful with your naming, using "tl;dr" seriously is for chumps.

Anyway, today's deity.

Developing Paiia

Paiia's origins were less than noble, but a fine way to make a deity on the fly if you have to. This is how it went down:
  • I liked Pelor, in a sort of all-purpose good deity way, but did not find Pelor himself interesting.
  • While flipping through Deities & Demigods years ago I thought Taiia, a different four-armed sun god, looked kind of cool.
  • I made Pelor a four-armed woman and mashed their names together.

Bam.

That was a good start, anyway. I needed more.

First... Pelor fit in Greyhawk because, well, it's Greyhawk. When you think of it you think of a charming 70s/80s fantasy setting where everyone worships Gary's friends' characters and bad guys can be the kind of unbelievable fuckbears who fill dungeons with deathtraps and other traps that turn you into a naked girl. Somehow Pelor is an icon of D&D to me, which is why I don't really want to use him here.

So, I need something that fits into Otherworld. That isn't too hard, because it's my setting, so I sketched out an idea of what a sun god would be like:

  • Should be fairly important, which is common in mythology as far as I know. The Sun is one of those things it's hard to ignore.
  • Looks forward to each new day, treating it as a chance to ditch yesterday's problems and start a new adventure.
  • Since I liked the parts of Pelor about searing your enemy's face off and smashing evil undead into sad little piles of ash, I kept that part.
  • While I was there, another setting I used to run used a deity of prophecy as the principal "human" deity. Since I quite liked that one and prophecy seems like a good portfolio for a goddess who always looks to the future, I threw it in.
  • Later, I heard of Sarenrae from Pathfinder, who is associated strongly with redemption. Since that fit nicely, once I was done being surprised that Pathfinder has something which wasn't printed by Wizards of the Coast already I threw that in as well. (EDITION WAR SLAMWICH!)

I have a rough idea what I want to do, but it could still use work. So I look up sun gods.

  • The Norse had Sol/Sunna, who was prophesised to be killed by a wolf during Ragnarok. I am pretty sure this is what happens to everyone in Ragnarok though.
  • The Romans had Sol, who was blatantly stolen from the Greeks in clear violation of copyright law. I am pretty sure this is how the Romans did everything, though. Had bitching Christmas parties, was associated with the moon goddess, later became Sol Invictus and was portrayed as a companion to the Emperor in what I can only assume was ancient Roman self-insert fanfiction.
  • The Greeks had Helios, who carried the sun around in his chariot (his big, hundred-times-the-size-of-Earth chariot) except one time he let his teenage son Phaeton borrow his celestial car and the kid wrecked it so bad Zeus shot him in the face. This is the sanest story in the Greek pantheon.
  • Helios was heavily associated with Apollo, god of light and prophecy and a lot of other things that aren't relevant. Greek gods had massive resumes.

At the moment I'm still unsure whether Paiia has a sister, but I feel this is enough to go on.

Paiia!

The sun goddess Paiia is one of the oldest deities around. In the early ages, curious of the fate of creation, she plucked a star from the sky and compressed it into the Third Eye of the Cosmos, which sees all futures.

And then the Eye predicted things she didn't like.

Paiia didn't take that sass, though. Instead, when it predicted a disaster or great triumph for the forces of evil, she set out to do something about it. When it predicted that Asmodeus would trick one of her greatest priests into committing an atrocity, she slipped him a warning note. When it predicted that her demise in the distant future would come at the hands of a monstrous demonic wolf, she killed it and hid the body. When it predicted she would lose her keys she made a spare set.

So far, Paiia is winning.

To her followers, the sun goddess Paiia represents the warmth of good, compassion, and healing. She's a goddess of prophecies, but urges her followers to make their own destinies - each sunrise heralds a new adventure and a new beginning. Planning and foresight is great, but you must back it up with action. Paiia is a fan of redemption - it's a new beginning for everyone - but is never hesistant to redeem evil's face with her fist.

Paiia is most popular among humans, especially in the older lands of Aldanath and Kaldoria. Sects of hers can be found almost anywhere humans reside. She also has a number of dwarf followers in mountain communities who like the cut of her jib, and almost any race which lives near humans can be found within her ranks if you look hard enough.

Paiia has allies in most good-aligned deities and is willing to talk with anyone, usually to barter for her services while she tries to convince them to change their ways. On the other hand she's never afraid to give bad news and will give vague or even wrong answers at times, usually to evil beings, to further her own agenda or just for fun. More gods seek her out for company than her services.

Paiia appears as a golden-haired woman with four arms. In her lower left she clutches the Third Eye of the Cosmos, a shining white orb, and in her lower right she carries a flaming sword. She can summon a blazing light from her hands, which can hurt or heal as necessary.

She also throws bitching Christmas parties.

Bam!

I've written out a bit more, but I won't bore you with the details. She does have the Good, Healing, Luck, Knowledge and Sun domains, because I still haven't gotten around to converting to 4E yet (and some of my current players aren't fans, I believe). Other than that it's mostly details about her servants (like Unforgivement, the ancient intelligent glaive who insists that was totally a word five hundred years ago), holy texts, et cetera, and it's best to not set them in stone until I need them.


That's all, for now. With any luck, I'll churn out a few more of these (and possibly improve this one) over the next week.