Monday, 12 December 2011

Better The .... Gods (Manual Entry)

This week I am continuing to talk about the Althéa Campaign in general and the Better The Demon series of mods in particular. As some of you may be aware, this campaign is the continuing adventure of my D&D days, from its original idea in 1989. Therefore much of what I have written below is simply a moving of pen and paper material into the NWN2 format. If you don't mind seeing a website that is still very much in development, then you can find additional information to what I am about to write at this site: The World of Althéa. (Click on each of the books at the top of the page to navigate to the different sections.) Please bear in mind that the site does not receive much attention compared to this blog, and so will only be updated when I have more time. The material that is currently there is mostly copied and pasted material from my pen and paper days that may need editing. However, there are one or two new bits that I have added to test that I had it working.



Without further preamble, this week I show you the manual entry relating to the gods of Althéa and how the players can expect their relationship to them to work when they enter the game world. Please leave any comments relating to this topic or any other you may read in your travels, and I will answer when I can.

The Gods of Althéa

New Gods: With a new world, comes new gods. Some gods (especially for the non-human races) may remain unchanged. (They were kept as such within the Althéa Campaign.) However, all the human gods will be different - and subject to which god your PC has when they enter the world, they may find the god changed to one appropriate to Althéa, or have their deity name labeled as “Uncertain/Searching”. If you are creating the PC from new, then you will be given a choice of valid gods from which to to choose. (See an example of some in the image below.) If the PC is imported, however, then a check is made to ensure no invalid faith enters the world. If you are playing a cleric, the game ensures you enter with a valid faith (rather than "Uncertain/Searching”) and provides you with an appropriate holy book, which is required to learn spells when resting.

MP Alignment Restrictions: If a MP game is underway, then it is possible that the current party of players has already committed themselves to either a good or evil alignment. If this is the case, then the newly entering PC will have their alignment changed to that of the party, which may mean clerics being out of favour with their god and unable to pray for spells. Therefore, make sure your PC’s alignment matches that of the party leader in a MP game to be sure of having access to spells.


POLL: Freewill v Predestination

And while we are on such a topic, why not give your vote on the latest poll; bearing in mind that some may think they had a choice, and others not. ;)

Very basically, the poll is asking whether you believe if everything follows a predestined and determined path - whether because of the laws of nature or an intelligent design or whether the universe is purely chaotic in nature where man is free to make a choice.

26 comments:

Shaughn said...

New gods are always fun.
Will the searching faith be able to find a god to worship at some point or is that a fixed? Are you going to add a description or domain information to the gods? Other than the origin I wouldn't know much about Boran. Also are the deity icons for Talleth and below place holders, or are they lesser deities (all having similar icons) when compared to the top four?

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Shaughn,

Thanks for your post and observant questions. :)

Changing faith requires a PC to find a holy book about the god in question. When they read (use) it, the player is offered to change the faith of the PC to the new god/faith. There is normally a restriction according to the PC's alignment as to which books (gods) they can read. i.e. A good PC cannot use an evil god holy book and vice versa. However, if a PC has (by their actions) changed alignment, then they will, of course, have to find a new holy book (different to their original alignment) to allow them to use prayers again.

Currently, I have no intentions to limit or describe any preference of the gods to any particular domains. i.e. Clerics can choose to specialise in any domain (and only be subject to any limitations according to alignment?)

I have been wrestling with the idea of how much info to include about the gods, as it is the sort of thing that some people will love to read about, whereas others will totally ignore. At the moment, the only real differences that the player will learn about them will be through play, via encounters and other potential literature they may find. If, however, players find such material lacking, then it may be something I would spend more time adding background in future modules.

Your second point about the icons is correct - The less detailed icons represent the lesser gods. The greater gods have icons based upon their constellations (many stars), whereas the lesser gods have only one star representing them. The stars are also coloured blue, green or red according to their level of importance.

If there are any other considerations you feel I ought to consider regarding this, please let me know.

Lance.

Kamal said...

I'd prefer lesser gods still having unique icons. Worshippers of the lesser gods would still have symbols of their faiths, since the lesser gods are important to them.

Did you edit this post, I thought I'd initially read a section on changing your god ingame via reading religious books?

Kamal said...

I voted "other". Predestination without proof of such is indeterminate from free will for the person inside the system.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

While there are no offical recognised symobols for the lesser dieties at this time, that is not to say this may change in the future ... if, for instance, one of the lesser gods begins to become more active. For example, there is a lesser god called "Dragnol" in my campaign, whose followers are called, "Brothers of the Inverted Pentacle". At the moment, their symbol is represented by the single red star that inhabits the night skies. It may be, however, that their own "Inverted Pentacle" takes greater prominence than the current symbol. Such is the way of the World of Althéa.

I believe you may be recalling a long past entry about gods and books that I made probably over a year ago. (Good memory!) In the end, I changed the format of faith within the game to cater better for "party alignment", which takes on a greater importance in the game. So, while books are still involved when needing to "pray" for spells and to establish a new faith, it is the "changing of heart" that takes place *before* any book is required to learn more about that faith in the first place. i.e. You come to faith and acquire the book to learn and study it as opposed to find a book and change faith by it. OR .. to put it yet another way, your actions demonstrate your heart and intentions, which also guide you to a work of faith that complements it. OR ... your alignment determines your choices of faith rather than a book changing your alignment. However, that is not to say a PC *might* have the possibility to change faiths (via reading a book) as long as it is within the same good/evil axis as their former faith. i.e. As long as they stay in a good or evil faith, they may be able to change faith by reading a holy book.

"OTHER" I did wonder if someone might argue from that point, and is why I included the option. I also concluded that some may argue that we do have freewill, but that it is strictly governed by God, which may come under "other" rather than pre-destination. :)

Thanks for commenting. Do let me know if you think there is something else I should consider with respect to the gods idea.

Lance.

Eguintir Eligard said...

predestined.

Create a perfect clone of yourself, place it in a perfect clone of reality, and you will act the same, every time.

"All the word's a stage..."

Kamal said...

When you have an omniscient God, do you have free will? An omniscient God knows the outcome of your decisions, it's a pre-requisite of omniscience. Your choice is false, as the outcome is known, even if you don't know it. So if you believe God is omniscient, you must believe in predestination.

In pursuit of the answer of whether we have free will, physicists have investigated whether quantum effects can influence brain processes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mind

Currently, science seems to be on the side of predestination, that with sufficient information, a person's behavior would be 100% predictable.

It may be that only God is capable of knowing what would be sufficient information, thus my response.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi EE,

Thanks for your comment and vote ... :) Is your conclusion from a "designed" aspect or purely "science"?

Hi Kamal,

Now this is the very deep topic that I find fascinating. Personally, as you probably already guessed, I believe in predestination as determined by God ... with a proviso that He did in fact create us to have a freewill.

And as you stated, as God is omniscient and, what I believe to be, all powerful and in complete control, then it does beg the question how this freewill is exercised? The answer, as I understand it, is that God does allow man to use his freewill *if* it serves God's purposes. (All other times, God takes control of the situation.) Ultimately, however, God is still in control of how those actions come to pass, but in a way that allows Him to be in control but also NOT the author of sin (which has come about by man's freewill).

It gets really interesting when you consider the Fall of Man. i.e. God knew man would fall (even allowed it to happen as part of His "Plan") so that His son could remedy the situation. I believe you may already be aware of this from the way you have spoken in the past. In many respects, our "beliefs" are very similar. (I hasten to add that there are many people who would call themselves "Christians" that do NOT believe as I do, which seems really strange, until you consider the bible speaks about the "elect" - another heavy topic well worth discussing.)

I will check out that link. Many thanks for that!

It's great to see people considering this really heavy topic!

Lance.

Tchos said...

Another vote for "other", because the idea of free will is not well-enough defined.

If "free will" means the power to act outside the bounds of physical laws by sheer will, then no, I can't say I think that exists, and so I would tend toward predestination.

On the other hand, we cannot say if things are entirely predestined, due to indeterminacy, but I doubt that level of scale has any real impact on an individual's choice, either.

I think we need some more detail on the definitions under question here.

Tchos said...

And by "act outside the bounds of physical laws", I mean "make a choice other than what you would have made in the absence of free will".

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

Great to hear from you. Welcome!

Yes, the topic does start to become very detailed and specific when looked at closely. However, as one simplified exercise example, do you think someone has the "freewill" ability to choose the colour of their car, or is the choice they make "predestined"?

And by "predestined", does one believe "predestined" as in governed by a greater being, or simply as a result of "cause and effect"?

Lance.

Tchos said...

A person's colour preference is generally not a spur of the moment choice between two things with no weight behind either. My selection would be based on the tastes that were shaped over the course of my past. I would say that personal taste is not "will" at all, but acting in accordance with one's nature. For instance, I might never choose a green car because I've always had negative associations with green cars. One's nature, of course, can be changed at any time with other influences. With enough positive associations I might choose a green car at a different time, but at that particular time, I think it's safe to say that I would not wish to. You can call that determinism.

I was already concerned, on reading some of the other comments after I had already posted mine, that this discussion had too much of an evangelistic flavour for my tastes, so perhaps I should excuse myself from further participation.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

I hope you are still around to read and respond to this post. It would be a great shame to not hear from you again. However, this is a great example of something that really does test the "freewill" v "predestination" idea, and that is whether you believe you have "freewill" to continue the discussion or not, or whether it has been "predestined" for you to continue or not? How does that challenge your viewpoint and response?

And, to put your mind to rest, a part of the thinking behind such is to examine whether people believe they have any "control" over what happens to them and their actions, irrespective of their personal beliefs. It just so happens that one cannot avoid the concept of a God when talking about such ideas. That is also why I raised it in this blog post to do with gods and faith within the game. There are some (like Kamal and myself) who recognise the idea of intelligent design, but I also like to hear other people's understanding of such.

The car colour example was just a simple approach to a complex idea, but one that allows us a way of exploring the idea in more depth as we consider other examples.

It is true that I personally believe that one can only do something if predestined by God. This same argument means it is *impossible* for me to ever "evangelize" to someone because I believe only God can determine what somebody believes!

This does, of course, raise some very interesting dilemmas in thinking, in that (as I say above), do you believe that you are refraining from participating through a choice of freewill, or because of some predetermined history to your makeup?

In any respect, it would be great to hear from you again, but, from *my perspective*, I believe you may not if it is God's will that I should not ... if you see what I mean.

Lance.

Tchos said...

It doesn't challenge it at all, and is in fact very well-trod ground that I don't want to revisit at this time. Such ideas are not novel to me.

Do I have control? For that, we need to define "I" and "control". But I don't think I want to continue. My description of the preference of colours was also heavily simplified and prone to misinterpretation because of a lack of definitions, but instead of probing them for greater understanding between us, now I'm sitting here addressing yet more issues, like the assertion that discussion of a god is necessary in cases like these, whereas I see it as the exact opposite. Not only is there no reason to bring such a being into a discussion of human volition (where it breaks one of the earlier definitions), but it hopelessly muddies the waters, and makes it impossible to come to any real understanding, since one side is trying to work within an established framework while the other feels free to invoke a wild card that can do or be anything and is the exception to every rule. It's futile to try, especially if my opposition takes a Calvinist perspective, which is what it seems like you have from your statements here.

So, I'm not going to continue, and that choice is due to my past experience, knowing that such discussions tend to pile up misunderstandings of each other's positions rather than enlightenment, spiraling out of control as it's already doing here.

You wanted to know my perspective, though, and I'll put it here as succinctly as possible: At a fundamental level, no magical force breaks the laws of nature in order for me to make a choice (asserting that one does only pushes back the question of agency to wondering how and why that hypothetical force makes the decisions it does, and how it can, or whether it's even possible). In that sense, my choices are determined. On the human level, I appear to make choices, and thus I act as if I might possibly make a different choice than the one I make at any particular time. In that sense, I have what some call "free will". I take responsibility for my own actions for good or ill, because whether or not I had the ability to choose, I was the one that did it. Ah, but that's yet another issue -- that of personal responsibility. See how it spirals out of control? I'm guilty of it as well.

Anyway, I'll make my exit as gracefully as possible after all that. To be honest, I'd rather play some games.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

I agree with what you say, even if we have different "beliefs" of perspective and approach, especially in the respect of such conversations "spiralling" into an area of difficulty, and where a common language breaks down.

Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, but I wanted to be clear that while *I* need to bring God into the discussion (from my own understanding), I did not expect *others* to *have* to do so. In fact, I did want to hear from people who felt they did not need to, like yourself, so I could try to understand their perspective of "gods" from their gaming aspect. How do people like yourself perceive the gods in games? Super beings only? ... or like real world comparisons, where one does compare freewill v predestination?

To me, I find it hard not to do so when talking about it at such a level ... and I do find the whole topic fascinating and it always seems "novel" to me (corrected an error here) ... although I do certainly have to drop the subject to do something more mundane just to keep me sane from time to time!

Personal responsibility .... may I ask if you could continue your comments here? ... I know you say its spiralling out of control, but I believe we can keep this sane and in control if we try. :) It's true that I do come from a Calvinist perspective, but I don't want that to stop you from ever sharing your understanding of such interesting views.

After all, the topic must have sparked some interest for you to comment in the first place. I would be interested to know why that was the case? Purely from a game designer and a fellow game player, what made you interested in the post to comment? Is it something you have studied, or have taught?

No harm in talking if we respect each others views, right?

Even if you do not respond this time, it was great to hear from you, and I would like to hear from you again on any other topic I post about ... or even any you would like to discuss. After all, that's what is good about blogging!

Lance.

P.S. I am off to bed now, so there will be no further response for a while. I promise to respond if you do reply though.

Tchos said...

All right, since you really seem to want me to add more, here's a brief response. When I say it spirals out of control, I don't mean into areas of difficulty, but in an ever-growing breadth of points to address. I struggled in the previous post to keep my word count down, without even touching on all of the things that were said.

For a real discussion of matters like this, to have any hope of a resolution, what two people need to do is to write out definitions of all their terms, and lists of points that need addressing, and then focus on one point at a time, not moving on to others until each is settled between them. It's a long-term project, and best done privately, so please forgive me for not embarking on a discussion of personal responsibility.

I will answer the simple questions, since you're asking about things that are purely personal:

What sparked my interest? As a gamer, I read game blogs. This was the first of yours that I read. Your initial question was posted as a poll, which was easy enough to contribute to. That's why I spoke.

How do I perceive gods in games? In games and other stories, gods are whatever the author successfully portrays them to be. If an author describes a world of magic and gods, why would I say "That's not really magic/a god"?

Also, I recognise a wide enough variety of gods in real-world religions that I do not restrict the word "god" to necessarily mean a demiurge/creator-being, or necessarily one having unbounded power or knowledge. In some religions, if they have a creator of the universe, it isn't necessarily the most powerful of the gods (even some forms of Christian gnosticism have this element).

I do not downgrade a story's gods to "only" super beings. On the contrary, I would say that many modern superheroes clearly qualify as gods, under the same criteria that the majority of religions throughout history use/used to describe their pantheons. Most gods in stories and games are like these gods, and not inscrutable singular abstract gods such as in post-Reformation Christianity. If an author of a story states that a god is controlling the destiny of a mortal, as Athena did to Telemachus, then that's what I accept is happening in the story. As long as a story establishes rules and does not contradict them, everything is fine. Does that answer your question?

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

Yes, that mainly answered my questions. :) Although I am still intrigued by your "personal responsibilty" comment. If you ever have time and inclination to discuss that one more, please email me at theworldofalthea@live.co.uk - You have piqued my curiosity. :)

Although, I agree that to take this conversation further here would require a lot more time and is one that, while I enjoy, can overtake one to the point of not being able to accomplish much else. I have found that experience anyway - even with others who agree with each other on some main points.

One point I am still interested in is your background in such a topic in general. It sounds like you may have studied and looked into this ... or is it just from a worldly experience?

Anyway, email if you would like to have the occassional conversation about it (as I say, it's something we can take time over just as a side interest if you like - nothing to get ourselves too deep into to the point of distraction though) ... BUT, please do stay around and keep commenting on the blog in general. After all, I use gamer feedback to help decide what makes it into the module or not.

Speaking of which, are you a NWN2 player? If so, I hope you are still around by the time I finish this first module at least. :)

EDIT: I just followed a link to your blog, so I have a bit more info regarding that now.

Lance.

Tchos said...

I'll have your email address for reference. Sometimes it's good to have such discussions.

As for my background, I'm not entirely comfortable revealing too many personal details, and prefer my words to be taken on their own (and there certainly are a lot of them!) I don't know your background either, but I would not ask it of you, because I trust that what you say is what you think.

I do occasionally mention areas of my studies in my blog, so that's no secret, and yes, I'll go as far as to say that matters of history, philosophy, religions, and folklore are special interests of mine, and part of a lifelong scholarly pursuit, both formal and informal.

Eguintir Eligard said...

Gods rule mortals drool.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

I don't mind sharing most things about myself - if there is anything you want to know, just ask. Sometimes, I find it hard to gauge what other people like to talk about or not. I only ask others what I would expect them to ask me. :) I dare not type *everything* I think, because I don't always know for sure if I have understood something or not. However, you can certainly trust my integrity, even if my words are not good enough to explain what I am trying to express.

I guess I will have to read more of your blog then if I am to try to understand your approach to life some more. However, if you are ever inclined to go into more detail, (which does sound interesting), then you have my email address, and I would treat all such communication as private between us.

Lance

Hi EE,

Now, with respect to the "mortals drool", would that be "freewill" drooling, or "predestined" drooling? :)

Lance.

Tchos said...

Oh, I wasn't suggesting you go read my blog, if that's what it sounded like; I was just saying that since I've given away that much information elsewhere, I'd also give it away here, and I did. :) But yes, I do tend to pontificate in my blog on the subtexts and implications of games I play.

I consider myself "neutral good", if that helps.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

No problem! :) I did not read it that way, but recognised that reading your blog may help me to learn more anyway. :)

I know what it's like when you start having to repeat write stuff you have already written. I have just done the same in an email to a friend about the differences in our beliefs and the view of Calvinism. It can be very tiring.

I suppose I would be considered "Lawful Good" in the sense that I follow the law of God and not men though (except where they agree with the law of God).

Your saying "neutral good" does actually help explain quite a bit, as it suggests (correct me if I misunderstand you) that you do not believe any real law/chaos axis exists .... and is why predestination can exist without any meaningful justification for such? Although, I am taken back with the "good" aspect, as I would have thought you to be true neutral under the current debate?

Oh! There I go again! I cannot help but find myself digging into the way people think about these sorts of things. Forgive me if I have read too much into it, but also, feel free to carry on the conversation if you like. :)

Lance.

Tchos said...

No, that's actually not what I meant by neutral good. My basis is how it's defined here.

My further interpretation is that those who are lawful good do good things because it is the law, and if it conflicts with their personal feelings, their personal feelings must be wrong.

Those who are neutral good do good things because they personally think and/or feel it is the right thing to do, and if it conflicts with the law, then the law must be wrong.

Those are my definitions, and I realise that the alignment system has myriad interpretations from gamer to gamer. I use them here to apply only to behaviour, and not to beliefs.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

Ah! I believe I understand now. Your last sentence clarified my perspective of your earlier comment by saying it was to do with behaviour rather than to do with belief. That is where I struggle, because in my mind, *behaviour and belief are tied together!*

From a gaming perspective, as you rightly say, there are many interpretations of how alignments should be played. For instance, if I played a LG alignment, I would not follow an evil law because it was conflicting with my "good" part ... if you see what I mean. This also explains why I disallow some alignments in my campaign because they do not (in my gaming rules) make sense. e.g. It is impossible for a PC to play a True Neutral alignment because (as much as they may sway across all axes), I do not consider it a viable option to maintain as a player.

Interestingly enough, yesterday I spent some time writing an email about "feelings" with respect to beliefs (real life) with a fellow Christian. In this respect, I agree with you that if there is a good law that conflicts with ones feelings, then the law is right and personal feelings are wrong. I must stress, however, that because most of our real laws coincide with the laws of God of the bible, then most of the time, they agree with one another. However, there are times (like when they introduced Sunday Trading in this country), I had to diagree with the law because I believed it conflicted with God's law.

So, the problem I have is recognising many players may not associate a "law" with a "good" or "evil" association according to the "god" that made them. Of course, I recognise that non-believers will not make this association, and is part of my interest in other people's reasoning. e.g. Words like "conscience" take on a different meaning between thise with a belief in a god or those that do not.

I could ramble on for ages on this, but stop now to allow you/others to comment if you want.

Lance.

Tchos said...

I will leave it to the aforementioned others, as I can foresee no positive outcome in addressing your new statements.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tchos,

Surely any comments you leave are your "positive" response? As long as they are not offensive, I welcome your definitions. :)

Please, accept my own responses simply as my own comments, all be it biased, in the same way I will accept yours from your own bias. Yes?

Either way, thank you for all your responses to date and please leave comments again in any future posts.

Lance.