Saturday, September 24, 2016

Divinity in Ánemos and a Spirit Generator

In my home setting, Ánemos, I have borrowed Arnold K's ideas of divinity and god-hood. In his post about pre-world religion history in his own magnificent setting Centerra he plays with the what makes a god divine. Is it their immortality? Their omnipotence? Worshipers? Mythology? A system of morailty? And he asks the critical question, what happens if a god is lacking one of those elements? I found this all so compelling I had to see how it would operate in play...

Gods are finite, their reach extends to the shores of their islands, their influence extends only as far as those that sing their praises wander, and their mythologies are dim histories of a half remembered past.
Probably a God

The Spirits on the other hand are both even more extremely local and universal beings. Since each straight and passage is undoubtedly part of the same Sea, but also undoubtedly distinct from each other, so are the Spirits all the fragments and sums of the same wholes. They exist in a reality closely linked to our own, indeed they seem to be the very heart and soul of our world, but it is clear that they have a Realm and affairs of their own. Clerics and Druids, with sufficient training and an able teacher can even learn to journey to the Spirit Realm…

The Spirits do not care for the thinking races of the world, they prefer to defend their haunts and carry out their opaque wills. Woe be to the woodsman who enters a Spirit’s forest and fells a tree without asking first, or the engineer that would damn a stream without sacrificing his best goat and offering a song of praise every year at the beginning of the dry season.

People do not worship the Spirits, they appease them. Worship is for a God, fear is for a Spirit. Who knows if the Spirit will be satisfied by your supplication? It may prefer to devour you instead. This is a primary reason that so much of Ánemos is untamed wilderness; the Spirits of these places have not yet been killed, domesticated, or expelled. To move the Sea and wake the Wind sacrifice is often asked from the Spirits, and the Spirits love to see the blood of mortals spilled. Even greater acts require great sacrifice, and with enough at stake who is to say where the bounds of possibility lie?
Definitely a Spirit of the forest's decay

Generating and Striking Deals With Spirits

In play Spirits can be used any many ways: as antagonists (all of our food turns to ash!), as conselors and informants (oh great spirit of the stream, who killed these men?), as quest givers and rewarders (bring me all the wine you can find and I'll give you my blessings), and great random encounters. So I made some tables to generate Spirits on the fly.

Spirit’s Domain…: 1d12
1: Wind, especially the weather
2: Water, the tides, currents, and rivers
3: Earth, especially land formations
4: Fire, especially volcanoes
5: Life/Vegetation
6: Death/Decay
7-8: Ancestor
9-12: Roll twice and combine!

Spirit takes the form of…: 1d12
1: Reptile
2: Amphibian
3: Bird
4: Land mammal
5: Humanoid
6: Elemental
7: Fish/Aquatic Mammal
8: Vegetation
9: Insect
10-12:  Roll twice and combine!

Spirit is generally…: 2d8, take both
1: Hungry
2: Lethargic
3: Chatty or lonely
4: Angry or vengeful
5: Timid or cowardly
6: Curious
7: Greedy
8: Helpful

Angry river Spirit
Example from my last session:
The party was checking out an island and asked if the locals knew anything about the islands Spirits they pointed them to the forest where they harvest timber for ships and make annual sacrifices to the Spirit of the Forest. So I knew I wanted a vegetation-ish Spirit, I rolled a 2 (amphibian) for form, and a 5 (timid and cowardly) and a 6 (curious) for temperament. So I have a forest amphibian Spirit that is both a coward and curious. So has the party cleric calls out to the Spirit many frog eyes appear all around him and a small voice answers his questions.

Basically just take the results and make it super weird.

Convincing the Spirit to Help:

Now in order to add to their depth you need to give players a way to concretely interact with the Spirits, so I borrowed Joseph Manola's excellent post on this topic (note, I changed very little, pretty much all of this is from Joseph):

Spirit likes this offering best: 1d5

  1. Food: Food offerings can be burnt, buried, thrown into water, or just left by a shrine
  2. Drink: Libations of alcoholic drinks are poured out into water or onto the bare earth. 
  3. Praise: Prayers, chants, and songs in honor of the spirit and/or shrines and temples are raised in its honor.
  4. Blood: Blood offerings are poured out onto the earth or water, or spilt across the spirit's shrine. If an animal (or person!) is killed to provide the blood, then their body is burnt or thrown into water to feed the spirit.
  5. Wealth: Coins or precious objects are thrown into water, buried in the ground, or heaped up around the spirit's shrine.

How picky is the Spirit?: 2d4
2: Amazingly picky. It will only accept offerings of one, very specific kind: the blood of a black ram with curly horns, for example. It isn't interested in anything else.
3: Fairly picky. It has one, very specific, kind of offering that it prefers, but it'll accept something similar (e.g. the blood of any black sheep) as long as the offering is made a bit bigger to compensate.
4-5: Mildly picky. It has one sort of offering that it likes, but that category is fairly broad: sheep's blood, for example. It will accept something vaguely similar (e.g. the blood of any animal) if the offering is made larger to compensate.
6-7: Not very picky. It will accept any offering of the appropriate type (e.g. any kind of blood).
8: Not picky at all. It will even accept offerings of different kinds (e.g. food instead of blood) if the offering is enlarged a bit.

"Letssss strike a deal"
Suggested Favor to Offering Rate:
Minor Favor (e.g. asking a forest spirit for permission to go hunting in its woods): A crust of bread or a few grains, a few drops of blood or wine, a brief prayer, a scrap of copper or brass.
Small Favor (e.g. asking a river spirit to protect your boat from the dangerous rapids downstream): A handful of grain or a small piece of meat, a cup of blood or wine, a long prayer, a couple of pennies.
Moderate Favor (e.g. asking a storm spirit to please stop raining for a few hours): A whole meal's worth of food, several pints of wine, the blood sacrifice of a small animal, hours worth of sung prayers, a piece of silver jewelry.
Large Favor (e.g. asking the disease spirits to leave your tribe alone this summer): A banquet's worth of food, a whole barrel-full of wine, the blood sacrifice of a large animal, the building of a shrine accompanied by several days worth of prayer-recitals, a piece of gold jewelry. 
Huge Favor (e.g. asking the ancestor-spirits to back you in your attempt to become king of your people): enough food to provide a lavish banquet for several hundred people, hundreds of barrels of wine, the blood sacrifice of dozens of large animals (or a few humans), the building of a temple accompanied by lots of prayers and praise-singing, a small fortune in gold and gems.
Epic Favor (e.g. asking a river to permanently change its course): The blood sacrifice of hundreds or thousands of large animals (or scores of humans), the building of a large temple accompanied by continuous prayer-singing performed by teams of singers in rotation, a large fortune in gold and gems. Food and drink sacrifices at this level must always be of some special kind (e.g. bread baked with magical grains); no amount of ordinary food or wine is ever going to persuade a spirit to perform a favor of this magnitude.

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