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What is a god to you?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Astner, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. Astner

    Astner Guest

    This topic strictly refers to works with actual deities.

    What – in your work – constitutes as a deity? Is it someone with superhuman capabilities or is it an omnipotent entity, or maybe two? Can someone ascend to – or descend from – godhood?
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    An omnipotent entity (or multiple entities) who are at work in the world, whether by creation or maintenance of what is there. A person in my works cannot achieve godhood, nor can the gods become mortal, although they can and do die and/or get reborn. My vampire novel utilizes the Crone Goddess from Celtic mythology, and implies the presence of other gods/goddesses as well; the deities in my newest WIP about intelligent wolves are invented by me. In my wolf story, the Moon goddess is destroyed by the stronger deities of Light and Darkness, since she usurped the night unrighteously. I'm still tinkering with the implications and consequences of that; I may have her only injured and weakened, not destroyed completely.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    In my latest WIP the Gods are really aloof and there are about 30 of them. Many of them are voluntarily tied to groups of people or places. The God of the MC is only going to give her a hint about what to do - a gut instinct that she learns to trust. None of the Gods will be able to interact directly with humans as they would be too much for their minds. I can't really think of a better analogy than they would bend space-time and warp reality. They are effectively omnipotent but with the same restrictions - if they get to involved the world goes more than a little loopy... .
    So it sort of goes without saying that there is no cross-over between them and humans.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I like the idea of ascension. Glen Cook and Steven Erikson have done interesting things with that. The gods tend not to figure directly into my work. It isn't clear whether they actually exist or people just worship invented entities.
  5. mbartelsm

    mbartelsm Troubadour

    I have two kinds of gods, higher and lesser gods.

    Higher Gods: There are seven higher gods (one for each element of nature), they are the creators of the universe and together they are omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, but when they are separated they can only control their respective element.

    Lesser Gods: lesser gods are powerful deities though very far from being nearly as powerful as a higher god.

    Higher gods are immortal any way you look at them while lesser gods can only be killed by a higher god.

    There is one other powerful being that may be considered a deity, these are the immortals, they are seven people assigned by the higher gods to communicate their will on earth, each one of the has complete understanding of their element but only limited power (still much greater than that of any mortal)
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    I do not have any kind of gods, goddesses or deities in any of my Fantasy worlds.

    All of my different cultures of Mages have terrible powers that would be considered god-level by the standards of many other Fantasy worlds, but they consider themselves just that, Mages... They don't go around saying that they are goddesses even though they can warp unlimited realities, and the common people consider them just Mages as well.

    The highest level of power that a few of them can have is omnipotence indeed, but still, the word goddess or deity never appears in my stories...

    For me, a true deity should be something like an omnipresent and omnipotent presence without a personality and not Mages that are twisted, treacherous, violent, sadistic and wicked.

    In my worlds, common people cannot become Mages and the Mages cannot become people.
  7. My gods are basically very powerful beings. The are widely travelled, but not omnipresent, but they are all knowing. They can die, and many have been, or SPOILER, will be killed in a terrible war.
  8. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

    As supernatural beings grow in knowledge and power they "rank up". At some point they are considered a 'King', and it is assumed there is at least one level above this, a God. (this being the ambition of the villain.)
  9. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    Whatever the local cultures think is worthy of worship. In one setting, magic is God, in the sense that people worship magic. In another, a river is God, in the sense that people worship the river. What the worshiped being would think of this, or whether the worshiped being is even capable of thinking and responding to prayers, is somewhat beside the point.

    (Incidentally, it's magic, not the river, that isn't capable of thought. After a botched immortality experiment, the river is now where people's souls go when they die in that region, and together, they can do some amazing things on behalf of their descendants.)
  10. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    In one work, my gods are just names. No manifestations, no magic, just miracles attributed to them, and powerful men using them as tools in political games.

    In another, my gods have very definitive powers, they are sometimes powerful other-worldly creatures, and sometimes humans who have transcended, being unrecycled in the circle of life and death.

    I think gods play an important role in fleshing out a world, and when gods are immortal beings with untold powers, things can get tricky, so I tend to limit their power.

    In one novel, I have a goddess manifest and give a MC a secret, saying in fear, "I shouldn't be telling you this, because I too have to be careful whose affairs I meddle in."

    So I personally prefer gods who have weaknesses, fears, and motivations similar to humans' own, but that;s just my preference, because I never truly bought into the whole immortal omnipotent being concept. Who knows, maybe I ought to try it once, step outside my comfort level.
  11. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    In my work in progress, the "deity" is basically a being that embodies all the things that makes up a culture. There is only one "deity" but the form he/she/it takes is completely dependant on the culture. To the main character; who is a bit of a heathen, she resembles his mother somewhat (she died when he was young) since it's a form that is familiar to him and comforting to him as she guides him with what he needs to do. I imagine them somewhat as having multiple personality disorder. :D

    To another culture, they might appear as a "omens" (a red/orange sky, strangely striated clouds, a cool breeze in summer etc.) and perhaps to a third culture they are an intelligent cat that walks among the people taking whatever form they choose and keep themselves aloof from their followers, though always leaving "miracles" in their wake.

    Whatever form they take, they are immensely powerful;beyond the scope of human(oid) understanding. Generally though, they are limited in what they can show; they are only as powerful as the culture percieves them to be. For example, if Culture A believes their god can raise the dead, it is occasionally used as a miracle or "gift" to worthy followers. Culture B may not believe that their god can raise the dead, and is more cruel and thus the "deity" conforms to fit the perceptions of their worshippers with random acts of cruelty to "reaffirm" their fear of said "deity".
  12. Zander

    Zander Dreamer

    I would say a god is basically a powerful being, and just that. Noticeably more than human, in terms of longevity and or power and or durability, but not necessarily an omni-god, though it could be that too. In various pagan religions gods seem to be able to be punished or killed by men, and do not wield infallible, if great, power over them. Their plans can be thwarted, etc.
    But I don't think that alone is enough to qualify as a god, I think some form of superstitious recognition of their power and subsequent worship would be necessary-the godhood being in the perception as well as the fact.
    Sorry if this is vague.
  13. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    No question, gods' influence on the story has to have limits-- after all, our name for some kinds of heavy-handed writing is still *Deus* Ex Machina. And it is less likely to be limits in raw power (yes, there may be things some gods can't do, but how often does a human really need the sun put out rather than a quick concealing fog?) than in the god's willingness or wisdom to use it.

    The first one is probably key; if there are several gods that are in any way opposed, everything would have to come back to some kind of truce or shifting political game that stops them from competing too directly and destroying their sandbox. (The simplest example of this might be in Charles de Lint's Riddle of the Wren (or was it Harp of the Grey Rose?) when the world is almost destroyed because someone picks up a primal sword of a good god and starts to summon that god-- and an evil god ready to balance him.) Or even if the gods aren't enemies, there's the question, key to everyday religion, of how much help is really good for humanity.

    Or maybe it is the second, maybe a god is only so wise and has certain biases. After all, if a "god of war" used to be a brash human warrior, or else created war out of his own primal brashness, or somewhere in between, he'd have that bias for action built in-- in fact the question might be whether godhood makes you more wise or more rigid than human. But gods would have to have limits to their wisdom or there wouldn't even be several of them-- unless the pantheon is one god with several faces, or several gods with different tastes but perfect unity, who just know the hero isn't ready to know that yet.

    This I really like, taking expectations and really making them manifest in specific, contrasting ways-- better yet if part of the story plays that up, such as a faithful follower of one side who's drawn to another because only they can raise the dead. And it works whether the beliefs are "creating" the gods and the forms they take, or "powering" them and helping the gods act in different kinds of ways, or if it's the gods who have different powers or preferences and raise their people within those. Or any combination or back and forth... what happens if a culture that sees beyond death loses its trust in divine mercy? do they simply go to another god, or do they change the god they have?
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    In my universe, there is only One God: the Worldmaker, who also goes by a plethora of other names. He's a benevolent omni-being, because I can't see how a petty, selfish, "god" driven by human passions would ever be worth worshipping. Having an omni-being doesn't have to create plot holes and DEMs if you're clever about it.

    The Worldmaker is all powerful, but he's also a community fostering type. He could do everything himself, but he prefers to delegate certain tasks to created beings (who ARE capable of failure) because he likes to get others involved. Why create people if you're not going to let them feel included? He will act if the problem is too big for humans to handle, but he just shrinks it to a manageable size instead of solving it for them entirely.
  15. For me it varies depending on what exactly I'm trying to accomplish. Gods can be invisible, spiritual guiding forces or physically powerful, immortal beings with an abvous presence, or maybe something a lot more abstract.

    In general, though, I'd say "god" is more of a job description than a class of being. The be a god or a goddess, you simply have to be a spiritual, immortal being who rules over and/or embody some aspect of nature or reality (Or all aspect, in the case of omnipotents) and there needs to be an element of sanctity and holyness, that is to say "to be considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion, or inspiring awe or reverence among believers in a given set of spiritual ideas."

    It isn't really a matter of power, though, so in many of my settings it's perfectly possible to be above god level.
  16. Agran Velion

    Agran Velion Minstrel

    A god is a tricky term to define. Since we're working with imaginary worlds, there's no limits to what we can do when we create the beings. We can have a deity who with a snap of his fingers could create storms, burn cities, and grind mountains to dust, but also be deathly afraid of cheese.

    In my opinion gods can usually be broken down into a pantheon style group and omnipotent beings. Usually for the pantheon gods, every god has a specific power (or territory, element, etc). These gods are usually 'weaker' than the omnipotent ones and can even be (if not killed) trapped, exiled, or stripped of their powers. The pantheon gods usually have clear personalities as well, the god of war is angry and aggressive, the 'head' god is like a father, the wife of the head is kind and caring, etc. Naturally, such gods would be like Greek, Roman, and I think Hindu (I'm afraid I don't know much about the latter).

    The omnipotent beings usually work alone. One created the universe, watches over it, etc. It usually seems to lack a specific personality, but occasionally can be a loving protector, or barely sentient. These usually have far more power than the pantheon, capable of destroying not only the world but all of reality with a single thought. Omnipotent deities are more like the Abrahamic God, who is said to be all powerful and all knowing.

    For my world, I use a slight mixture. There's a 'Creator' (like Mindfire's Worldmaker) that is, far lack of a better word, omnipotent. But he isn't seen or heard of much, his last act was the creation of men before he left. In his wake, his servants watch over humanity and try to help guide it, but their actions are up to them. However, the best of his servants (Saints) could be likened to the Pantheon, in that most have a specific 'area' of humanity they watch over, and they are all very powerful.

    -Naturally, all the above is my opinion, and your mileage may vary.
  17. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Religion/divine power or religious orders don't play a big factor in the story truthfully. The MC has a dream of meeting an ephemeral figure in the woods, resembling his mom in many ways and seemingly wise beyond her years. She shows him visions of things that may happen if good people like him simply stand aside.

    Across my world are places that still retain some of the deity's power from the moment of creation, they are watched over by servants of the deity; whether animal or human and protect this sacred places. With the right (or wrong) sort of knowledge, anyone capable of using "magic" can use or abuse that latent power until it's completely depleted (it takes A LONG time to regenerate). one of those places is being corrupted by the chief antagonist and she gives the MC the power for safe-keeping so it can't be subverted anymore. He will eventually have to return it, but just carrying it will leave a "stain" that will permit him to continue using magic even after it's gone. He will be a new breed among his culture, who don't use magic and who don't have a god... so he'll become both the religious and magical leader.
  18. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Hmmm.... Let's see......

    I'm going something of a non-traditional way with my setting. Basically, the high concept is "Fallout meets Final Fantasy." In it;

    1) Gods, spirits, and so on in my story are essentially powerful magical computers / AIs. The difference between God and Spirit is largely academic.

    2) Before the End of the previous age, there were techniques to make gods, however now they are (mostly) lost.

    3) Even without those techniques, a god / spirit can be born whenever a large enough amount of thought and magic come together.

    4) Each god needs one or more physical "anchor" to the world, the god can't be truly killed until all these anchors are destroyed.

    5) A god, even with enough anchors, can't really affect the world much, it needs a priest before it can do anything.

    6) The priest makes a contract with the god. Once the contract is made the priest can summon the god or a servant of the god to do magic or fight for them. Naturally, it takes more power to summon a more powerful god. If the priest is killed or knocked out, the god is unsummoned.

    7) Um.... I wanna work in the saying "Mortals have Will, but Gods have Purpose" in there somewhere, don't really know how.......

    8) Yes, I played Final Fantasy X, why do you ask?
  19. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    In my WIP I made the following list of bullet points for gods.

    Gods exist.
    Gods have personalities.
    Gods can communicate with anyone, anywhere.
    Gods are able to do magic with or without manipulating the aether.
    The magic of the gods is magnitudes more powerful than that of elves and mortals.
    Magic and enchants done by gods do not expire.
    Gods benefit from or enjoy being worshipped.
    Gods can chose representatives among the elves and mortals and lend them their powers.
    Gods can create life – up to and including entire new species.

    To sum it up in one sentence; "gods are omnipresent immaterial beings with near infinite power unrestricted by the laws of nature"

    I should probably be pointed out that not all existing gods are worshiped and not all gods that are worshiped exist.

    For the more detailed description, check my wiki page at Gods - Odd Lands Wiki
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  20. mbartelsm

    mbartelsm Troubadour

    Since DEM has been mentioned a lot I think I will add something.

    In my world gods go by a simple principle:
    Leave the possible to the mortals and the impossible to the mortals for their Will is more powerful powerful than any god.
    Gods are only an entity that represents the creation, besides, they are always working, creating winds, earthquakes, waves, etc. they have no time for the requests of the mortals.

    PD: DEMs can always make the plot a bit more interesting if it creates more problems than it solves.

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