Sunday, August 11, 2013

Of Matters Divine and the Three Alignments

Tonight after pain keeping me from sleep, watching Excalibur of all things, somehow shotgunning all three Pathfinder bestiaries in a single night, and revisiting previous discussions with my brother, I think I might have finally cracked some things that have been weighing on my mind.

Gods: Both Law and Chaos have gods. Gods have a physical presence in the world. They are possible though difficult to take down (and it's harder still to bring down a god permanently). They are certainly beings of enormous power, but are neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

Law: The gods of Law are reasonably consistent in form and power, and not entirely unlike the mortals that are their charges. Some mortals believe the gods of law created the world, others believe they created or bestowed sapience and free will on mortals, others believe they are merely self-appointed guardians of it. Not all lawful gods are nice or good, but many are at least one or the other. The ultimate goals of law are the continued existence of the world and the flourishing of civilization. To be lawful can mean to be cooperative or individualistic, to be rigid or flexible, to be authoritarian or liberated, but ultimately all Lawful beings wish for life as we know it to continue existing in a recognizable form.

Chaos: The gods of Chaos are more protean and singular than their opponents, though generally they have icky tentacles and slimes and things like that and are just nasty all around. Few wander free. It is possible that they are more powerful than the gods of Law, but as they are both rarer and unlikely to present a united front they are dismayed in their efforts to unmake creation. The ultimate goals of chaos are to reduce mortals to savagery or worse and to reduce the world to a blank slate the gods of Chaos may do as they please with. To worship chaos is to be destructively insane and evil on some level.

Neutrality: Neutrality is the alignment of nature. There are no neutral clerics or neutral gods. There is only the land, and The Dragon, and the druids. Unlike the gods, the Dragon cannot be said with certainty to exist (some even believe it to be more of a metaphorical being than a literal one), except inasmuch as the land and sea that its being suffuses is clearly real. Neutrality cares for life, but has no special allegiance towards civilization or to the mortals that make it up, seeing them as things that can (and indeed must) gradually change and adapt like any other thing that wishes to endure. There is a tendency towards belief in natural selection in Neutral philosophy. Neutral people see the Dragon as both creator and creation, the world and its maker are one to them. They teach that the world is defined by the interaction of opposite forces which exist in concordant balance. While they bear Law and civilization no ill, will they also hold that the Dragon maintains itself regardless of the comings and goings of mortals and gods alike (so long as they do not attempt to conquer it outright), and that Law has an overinflated sense of its own cosmic importance. Druids by and large do not show Chaos such tolerance, as the gods of Chaos have proven time and again that they have no regard whatsoever for the Dragon.

Unaligned: Most people are not in fact aligned with anything bigger than themselves or their friends and family. If the gods were to make war, Lawful beings would fight to protect civilization and mortal life, Neutral beings would fight to protect the world and the Dragon, and Chaotic beings would fight to eradicate all other things, but unaligned people would keep their heads down and hope that whoever survives the battle would just let them live their lives. Unaligned people tend to worship whatever gods or spiritual powers hold sway over the place they are in, whether that means singing hymns and passing around a collection plate at a lawful church once a week, or offering Cthulhu space in their dreams before a sea voyage.

Clerics: The very fact that they are not omnipresent is why the gods of Law and Chaos imbue representatives among the mortals, to go where they are not, see what they do not see, and act when they cannot act. The clerical orders of Lawful gods are set up not unlike a sort of feudal system, in which divine authority is delegated down through the ranks, along with the knowledge of magic necessary to fill the needs of a cleric's station. Adventuring clerics, then, are the knights-errant of this system, taking on more power and responsibility as their prove themselves. Many gods of Law emphasize that a cleric's fealty must be as much to the people as it is to their Lord, though others demand absolute, jealous loyalty to themselves. As to the gods of Chaos, they seldom form a hierarchy. Instead each Chaotic cleric is directly the servant of his god, granted power in exchange for the sacrifice of lives to feed their master's horrid appetite or quests undertaken to hasten their awakening. Chaotic clerics are encouraged to take all they can and keep for themselves what the gods do not demand for their own.

Druids: Holy people of Neutrality, known as druids, seek to exist in harmony with the Dragon. Druids are highly individual, though they afford wary respect to more powerful ones than themselves. Most druids are solitary, but not truly hermits, as they periodically enter settlements or tribal communities to attend to whatever matters they feel merit the visit. They view their magic not as a reward for service to the Dragon, nor a tool to do the Dragon's bidding, but merely the natural consequence of existing in harmony with it. Magic is an intuitive thing for druids, they just know it when they do it.

NEXT: Astral beings and those who serve them, Arcane Magic, and maybe Witchery


Anonymous said...

I posted my thoughts on this subject just yesterday. A slightly different take of course but along similar lines. You expressed yourself better than I did especially in regards to Neutrality. I might be stealing a few bits-sorry.

Edward Wilson said...

I like your explanation of why there are clerics/why the gods grant powers to mortals. If they're not omniscient then it's really handy to "deputize" some mortals.

ProfessorOats said...

It seems like every fantasy setting has druids worshiping one god that represents Nature. I'd think monotheism would be a better fit for Law. I like my druids to be polytheistic pagans, with knowledge of which god controls what so they know who to sacrifice the virgins to

Law can be either mono- or polytheistic, though the latter might require a tightly established pantheon. Chaos is a myriad of mad cults on the fringe of society, each fiercely dedicated to serving some ancient and long-forgotten evil

Rachel Ghoul said...

The Dragon isn't meant to be a god, more of a metaphorical embodiment. Have you seen Excalibur? I was riffing on that.

Rachel Ghoul said...

Unknown said...

The Dragon. That's a fantastic riff. I've stolen the Privateer Press Devouring Wurm and Dhunia for neutrality. I also brought in the "Unaligned" alignment from 4E. Fits the outlook of an awful lot of people and beasties. .