Sunday, April 10, 2011

[From A to Z in Kalamar] Joto II

What would you call somebody who refused to believe the existence of the gods, when their followers are all over the place using powers which should tell all and sundry that the powers they follow are the source of them?

Let's take a look at King Joto II of Shynabyth. He wages a long and bitter war on a nearby theocracy and don't tolerate any religion in his realm. Quite an odd fellow in the polytheistic realms of common rpg fantasy. Consider that the majority of my readers are from the US, another realm where the refusal to accept the existence of a god probably will forever lock you out of higher office. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but in the western world, the US is about as religious as it gets. King Joto would be odd even there.

But, imagine he is right?

No, I'm not going to make this an issue about American culture, but investigate an uncommon twist in fantasy rpgs. Let's for a moment consider that the king is right. This could happen in many different ways.

The first way would of course be that the divine magic is nothing but arcane powers in different garb. Lots of fancy robes, mitre and other garb it is. Then the question is why not everyone can wield all kind of magic? Maybe it's just a question of training. I could see interesting campaigns happening when the players find the ancient way to unify all the forces of nature. Eh, magic, I mean.

The second way could be that in the realm of Shynabyth the divine powers are just imaginary, and their powers useless. Is there a anti-magic aura radiating from the king himself? Ars Magica, a game I usually am not that fond of, had this idea about how arcane magic didn't work around people of strong and pure faith. Now, imagine something in the same vein, but opposite in effect. Is it a curse, or a blessing? What would happen should the king meet his end? Would divine power suddenly start working? Would it seep back into the culture?

The third option, just to pick some, could be that all those powers are really psychic powers channelling the inner energies of the caster. Both Tunnels & Trolls and Talislanta have wrought their worlds of fantasy out of that mould. Talislanta is actually the only fantasy rpg that I know of where the very existence of the gods is undefined.

Now, how could you use this in your game? Just imagine an idea out of option two up there! How would you win that war against the theocracy? By extending that aura of non-belief into their lands, of course! Back in the 2nd ed era there was at least one Planescape adventure where the player characters could make a village slide into the abyss by furthering the idea of chaos! I see opportunities like that here.

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