Gods and their servants and "The law"


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So we're in an advanced setting, with fluff and description indicating that more advanced forms of government and commerce are in place, attending to the interplay of numerous species and the like. Laws too.

But religion in the setting is different than in real life. You have churches and megachurches and church corporations (sorta) too in real life. What you don't have? Actual gods and divine/etc servants that can show up.

So how might Starfinder setting deal with that? If Abadar's herald shows up and smites the f*+$ out of things in the free market because some corrupt secret influence was trying to mess with his godly domain/purview, how do the 'authorities' respond? Sure they can make complaints if AbadarCORP does something, but the Lawgiver and a small army of Inevitables showup and punish? How does that get reconciled?

Or when (if) a demigod showed up would it be kinda a "We hope Superman follows the intent of our laws, and doesn't kill us all" thing?

I know we have classes and alignments that can go "We don't by your laws, we follow our own codes" but then they're also vulnerable to consequences of their choices. But Lawgiver shows up and wreaks s&~% what sort of investigation/legal consequences could you even do? etc etc


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The Lawgiver would probably work within the established rules, and contact the local ruling entity directly to make their displeasure known. o wo They might also have a previously-signed agreement when the first Church of Abadar was started, detailing what the church and its agents are allowed to do as part of their payment for services rendered (i.e. divine-backed banking services).

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I'd say Abadar in particular is likely to work inside the system. As in, the authorities receive a sternly worded amicus brief explaining his position on an issue.

Desna on the other hand has been known to break the rules in the name of Good, and get into trouble for it.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In a lot of cases, the Church of Abadar would *be* The Authorities, or at least part of them.

Overall, the best analogies would be "Branches of Government" ( for those religions integral to and approved by a given culture ) or "Diplomatic Relations" ( for those religions less so ). Those religions well integrated into a particular society basically have a quasi-state or actual-state function, even if there are perhaps rules and customs defining jurisdiction more narrowly. Those religions not well integrated are like foreign governments or corporations- what they can do and not do is largely defined by how good of a relationship the government wishes to have with them.

Going god by god, my guesses:

-Iomedae: Only rarely a part of government, but the only places where its not present as an active foreign entity, are places where its present as an active crusading force for good
-Hylax: Part of the government in insect societies
-Sarenrae: Either part of the government or a friendly foreign entity nearly everywhere
-Yaraesa: Part of the government on Castrovel, an active foreign entity everywhere else
-Desna: Almost never a part of government, but always present
-Weydan: Never ever part of the establishment, and not publicly welcome in places that are not both free and just
-Abadar: Part of the government always, except in places where the society is antithetical.
-Talavet: Part of the government anywhere the Kasatha live, a minor foreign entity elsewhere
-Pharasma: Never formally part of the government, always active and involved
-Triune: Major governmental presence on Aballon, lesser governmental involvement nearly everywhere else
-Elioritu: Kind of insular wherever its present, fairly neutral even as a foreign entity
-Ibra: Not really insular, but not really politically active. A neutral foreign presence nearly everywhere
-Besmara: Only an open presence in the most lawless outlaw societies, where her church may actually count as Part of Government, sort of. Otherwise not a public presence.
-Oras: An active foreign entity in societies that are tolerant of mad science, otherwise either neutral or outlaw
-Zon Kuthon: Only a part of government in places where it actually controls, otherwise tolerated at best
-Damaritosh: Part of Government in Vesk territories, otherwise an active foreign entity ( if distrusted )
-Grandmother Rat: An active 'foreign' entity in Ysoki society and places where the Ysoki are a major part of the populace, otherwise outlaw
-Urgathoa: Part of Government in Eox ( and probably other undead-dominant societies ), otherwise usually outlaw
-Nyarlathotep: Outlaw everywhere, save for openly Old One Cult societies
-The Devourer: Outlaw, everywhere


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I think Metaphysician's guesses are interesting.

The way I've played it in my game so far, the various Churches of the Gods are not formally part of the government (or law enforcement) but must be listened to very carefully by those that do either, since their divine portfolios undergird the workings of the universe. Their power derives not so much from the law as from "embedded-ness." It's much the kind of power that oil and energy companies and software and social media giants have in our world, but magnified. Most of them therefore probably have possessions where they're effectively "the law" or "the authorities," but their main power is more diffuse.

The most immensely powerful and important entities are rarely seen directly, but are present almost everywhere:

- AbadarCorp wherever there's a credstick or a commercial transaction that expects to be legal and above-board,
- The Church of Triune wherever there's drift travel or high technology,
- Oras anywhere there's genetic manipulation or experimentation (potentially a big deal in this setting as it could tie directly into food supply),
- Pharasma anywhere people conduct funeral rites,
- Sarenrae as a general voice of ethics and the benevolent aspect of the stars, and wherever people need healing, medicine or redemption.

The works of these Churches are almost omnipresent in "civilization" but I figure most of it happens out of the limelight. It's manifest through intermediaries or influence rather than direct formal authority, and/or direct formal authority derives from systems they design. (You don't have to go to a Priestess of Pharasma to get your funeral rite designed for best access to the Boneyard and its psychopomps, for example, but there's a good chance whoever is conducting it did.) If they have to intervene directly or publicly in a situation, something is going horribly wrong.

A worthwhile question here: how do civilizations not of the Pact Worlds perceive or access Triune? Are there multiple Churches of Triune, or beings analogous to Triune, serving powers like the Azlanti, or the Dominion of the Black, or the Shadari Confederacy? I imagine the priests of Triune functioning so far below the radar normally that people barely notice them, despite or perhaps because of the ubiquitous nature of their service and the seemingly-disinterested nature of their deity.

Other deities have more niche mandates, because of narrower portfolios (like Damoritosh) or because of vast portfolios that attract only niche groups (like Yaraesa, Ibra or Hylax):

- Urgathoa anywhere the undead need governance (or for any business that makes a living from hedonism and self-indulgence, a trait of which going undead to acquire "immortality" seems to parse as the ultimate representation),
- Lao Sho Pu everywhere someone has to hustle to survive,
- Besmara wherever they make a living from piracy (or among those who know themselves to be considered "monsters"),
- Desna wherever travellers seek guidance or protection,
- Weydan wherever explorers hope to do good by their endeavours,
- Iomedae pretty much wherever there are Golarian humans in search of protection and justice,
- Talavet wherever storytelling and tradition are important (originally in the specifically Kasatha sense but probably spreading beyond them by now)
- Eloritu among pursuers of esoteric knowledge,
- and so on.

Most of these are hard to outlaw even if known to be "evil," because outlawing them would just turn their worshipers in more dangerous directions, so even Urgathoa and Grandmother Rat have a kind of taken-for-granted "embedded-ness" in daily life. Faiths and philosophies that serve abstract forces rather than deities are the same way; the Green Faith is a big deal on Castrovel.

There are a few deities who of course represent forces inimical to the life served by other deities, like Zon-Kuthon or the Devourer or the Outer Gods. These are mostly anathema in normal society, but even the cults of the Outer Gods -- weird and malevolent as they are -- are allies-of-convenience for the Pact Worlds and can't be actively proscribed in most places (though there are surely specific settlements and nations that do so).


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Eh, I wouldn't exactly call the Outer God cults "allies of convenience". Aucturn is more a matter of "Its on our doorstep and we have no way to get rid of it. . . and trust us, we tried". I'm pretty sure that openly worshiping the Outer Gods basically anywhere in the Pact Worlds is tantamount to declaring "Please come kill us, we are an existential threat to civilization".

That said, yeah, even most of the evil deities still have some degree of tolerance. I'd stick Zon-Kuthon in this category, mostly because of his long established relationships with other major deities. He was one of the forces maintaining the bindings on Rovagug, after all. This doesn't mean open Kuthites don't get a *lot* of hairy eyeball in most civilized spots, but until they start torturing unwilling parties, they get tolerated as "weird and dangerous, but not *intrinsically* criminal". Of course, most Kuthites ( and Kuthite organizations ) not willing to abide by a minimum standard of decent behavior? Probably don't openly move about in places where this would be an issue.


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Metaphysician wrote:

Eh, I wouldn't exactly call the Outer God cults "allies of convenience". Aucturn is more a matter of "Its on our doorstep and we have no way to get rid of it. . . and trust us, we tried". I'm pretty sure that openly worshiping the Outer Gods basically anywhere in the Pact Worlds is tantamount to declaring "Please come kill us, we are an existential threat to civilization".

It is explicitly stated in the core book that Nyarlathotep avatar Carsai the King of the Black Citadel fighting the Dominion of the Black in Aucturn has raised his status to some kind of cult anti-hero, becoming increasingly popular in the media across the Pact Worlds. This "has significantly increased the worship of Nyarlathotep and the Outer Gods in the Pact Worlds", by SF core book page 461


That's what I was referring to, thanks for unearthing the specific citation.

Of course that sounds like the kind of gross folly that could easily become subject matter for a campaign...


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He can have cult outlaw anti-hero status and still be hilarious illegal. In fact, the two would tend to reinforce each other.


Be a harder thing to square given that Aucturn is a self-governing Pact Worlds protectorate that is defensively deploying Nyarlathotep worship against something worse. Again, I'm sure there are plenty of jurisdictions where the Outer Gods are frowned upon, or manifestations of their worship that have to be stamped out, and that it's an engine of conflict. But I doubt his cult is proscribed in any general sense.

This does invite the question: what out there is worse than Nyarlathotep?


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Are you sure you want the answer to that question?


Not... really... :D

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Losobal's example might not have been the best.

But what about Pharasma and Eox?
If the Steward of the Skein were to appear on Eox and start destroying undead, what happens? I know, unlikely but still possible.

Since Eox is a Pact signatory, how do the Stewards enforce the law on a powerful outsider and direct servant of a Goddess?


I actually raised this question regarding Eox, and my personal opinion is that Pharasma has to be kept in check or at the very leasty her servants. Eoxians would be protected the same as any other species of the Pact Worlds, and attacks against them by Pharasmins would be viewed as terrorist actions. Which would go about how you expect.

I would expect Pharasmins to be plotting and planning long term goals to deal with Eoxians in the event that they ever cease to be protected by the Pact, but not taking direct observable actions since that would ultimately cause ramifications for the rest of the religious lay folk (similar to the ramifications that are unjustly thrown on Muslims due to the actions of some extremists who claim to be Muslim).


Lord Fyre wrote:

Losobal's example might not have been the best.

But what about Pharasma and Eox?
If the Steward of the Skein were to appear on Eox and start destroying undead, what happens? I know, unlikely but still possible.

Since Eox is a Pact signatory, how do the Stewards enforce the law on a powerful outsider and direct servant of a Goddess?

Depends on the thing's power grade.

Anything with CR 20 or less can be fought with mortal means, it's just more and more challenging to do so, and you need more and/or better trained personnel and equipment. For Eox especially, nuking the thing from orbit will tend to hurt it a lot without bothering the local populace, but there are advanced murder-tools available to the Stewards.

Above CR 20, the answer is to pray. Bust out your high-end Mystics of deities that will agree to stop the target, and use their connections to their deities to pray for assistance powerful enough to cope.


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Claxon wrote:

I actually raised this question regarding Eox, and my personal opinion is that Pharasma has to be kept in check or at the very leasty her servants. Eoxians would be protected the same as any other species of the Pact Worlds, and attacks against them by Pharasmins would be viewed as terrorist actions. Which would go about how you expect.

I would expect Pharasmins to be plotting and planning long term goals to deal with Eoxians in the event that they ever cease to be protected by the Pact, but not taking direct observable actions since that would ultimately cause ramifications for the rest of the religious lay folk (similar to the ramifications that are unjustly thrown on Muslims due to the actions of some extremists who claim to be Muslim).

Those extremists who claim to be Muslim are Muslims. The breadth of Muslim theology allows for both violence and peace, depending on which passages & teachings one prioritizes. This is true of all the major religions, as news and history have shown.

Pharasma's theology also seems quite broad, allowing for priests to have chaotic, lawful, good, or even evil dispositions. As you note, mainstream Pharasmin authorities would likely be plotting and planning anti-Eoxian schemes already. Being anti-undead is a fundamental doctrine, so it's not hard to imagine a radical chaotic Pharasmin losing patience or an evil one manipulating his followers into performing egregious actions. Heck, a good one of the PF mindset that all undead stem from evil necromancy (so are irredeemable) might make an easy foil for a hardcore evil leader's persuasion.
Yes, they would be ruining the Pharasmin brand, or would they? They might think they're redeeming it by putting anti-undead views back in the forefront. They might think the mainstream church has gotten too soft with its focus on funerals or corrupted in its complacency with Eox. They might think they're the only real Pharasmins.

In PF at least, a god could withdraw its power from its wayward followers, but in SF it's nearly as tricky in the real world. This allows for another layer of complexity upon those mentioned above.
Reality proves a bit too informative on militant fringe elements...and writing such adventures might touch on too many controversial issues.

Essentially, Pharasmins are religious bigots. All the weighty issues of rights, citizenship, and personhood come to the fore, as does the question of "What is the meaning of unlife?", a question left to the designers or homebrew GMs as that relies on matters of essence, culture, and needs. Are the Pharasmins justified? Is their bigotry tolerated only because of their other social functions or because they reflect a mainstream opinion (fear)? And how about the Eoxian factions & internal squabbles?

I could see a major campaign arc revolving around such conflicts and the social & moral ramifications.

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I've always admired how this issue was handled in the Dragonstar setting. Long story made short, the most prominent interstellar civilization in that setting was created by (and mostly designed for the benefit of) dragons, with both the Good-aligned Metallic Dragons sharing power with the Evil-aligned Chromatic Dragons. Toss into this civilization the other fantasy-world staples like intelligent Undead, half-demons, half-celestials, a pantheon of gods, and so forth... Along with readily available magic spells that could Detect Good & Evil with 99.99% certainty.

Well, since its hard to have a stable civilization when any randomly overzealous Paladin can Detect Evil and then Smite the local governor because he happens to be a LE Drow... Yeah, that'd be bad.

So the powers that be in the Dragonstar established what they call the "principle of active morality." People are to be judged by
their actions, only, not what is in their minds/hearts/auras/whatever. You can still use your telepathic mojo or divine prayers to scan people for Good or Evil... But unless that Vampire actively tries to harm you or a third-party, you cannot simply slay him just for being a Vampire.

We haven't been given a whole lot of information about the political and legal structure of the Pact Worlds. But, given that a cabal of undead sorcerers act as the governing body of one major member world and the priesthood of the god of law are simultaneously the CEO and board of directors of a major interplanetary conglomerate... and that representatives from both of these groups are repeatedly called some of the most savvy politicians in the Pact Worlds. Well, I think its safe to assume that something akin to the "principle of active morality" is in place.

(I'd really love to learn more about the Pact Worlds' government structure, but I'm a politics wonk. I find exploring a fantasy government equally as fun as fighting dragons. Most people, apparently, think this is weird.)


Batgirl_III wrote:
(I'd really love to learn more about the Pact Worlds' government structure, but I'm a politics wonk. I find exploring a fantasy government equally as fun as fighting dragons. Most people, apparently, think this is weird.)

I totally wanted to include a Plenara scene when we ran on Absalom Station, but I had to refrain. Somehow I could sense my players weren't nearly as into it as I was. ;)

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True story: my best friend and I were once banned from a Vampire the Masquerade LARP after our starting-level characters conquered the city in only three nights of play using only a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, the ‘Star Trek: DS9’ book Legends of the Fereng, and an in-universe copy Camarilla’s bylaws.

He made a fairly run-of-the-mill Tremere scholar (a history professor, turned into a vampire because his sire wanted his expertise in ancient languages) and I made a fairly restrained Malkavian sci-fi geek (a nebbish tax attorney with dssociative identity disorder that was the embodiment of his repressed rage issues). But, we discovered in the first fifteen minutes of the game beginning that we were the only Tremere or Malkavian in the city. So we asserted our claim to Primogen status as the oldest representatives of our clans... Things quickly spiraled from there.


Traditionally you are only the government insofar as you have the physical power to enforce the laws you make. If Congress says doing X is illegal, that is just code for "If you do X, we'll put in jail, and if you resist we'll shoot you". Laws are promises about when the government will use force.

Suppose the "rulers" of Absalom Station pass a law establishing usury as a crime. Any contract (says the law) to pay more than X percent interest on a debt is illegal and the lender has to pay a fine and spend some time in jail. If the Church of Abadar, loving free markets and disliking restraints on banking contracts, don't like it they have a couple choices.

One: They can accept it. They start offering loans at more generous rates, they shut down some lending operations, and go on with their lives. No setting problem arises.

Two: They resist, but within the system. They write letters to the editor, they contribute to the electoral campaigns of pro-deregulation politicians, they take the new law to court arguing it violates some other law, whatever. Again, no setting problem arises.

Three: They resist, but outside the system. They ignore the law, lend money at illegally high rates and refuse to pay the fines when the government complains. Crime isn't in and of itself a setting problem, there are plenty of criminals in the setting. If the authorities can arrest them when they catch them, they can stay in power.

Four: They resist, but they can slaughter anyone who comes for them. A CR 30 Demon Prince shows up and doesn't care one bit who you send to arrest him. At that point the Demon Prince has become the government, *his* rules are the ones everyone has to follow, the previous authorities only exist at his sufferance. That's what we have to assume isn't happening if we want there to be mortal governments.

Abadar respects the law, so presumably orders his minions to stick to options 1 and 2. A 15th level CE Mystic doesn't respect anything, but doesn't have the power to brazenly resist the state so has to stick to options 1-3. The sufficiently powerful and sufficiently evil are traditionally restrained by the equally powerful good and/or lawful. Urgathoa can't just personally smite the police when they question her priests because Abadar, Serenrae, and Asmodeus won't let her. The gods have some sort of cold war going on where they accept some intervention (like granting spells to the Urgathoan priest to smite the police) but draw the line at some level of intervention (like flooding the place with Balors).

The only things which I think create difficult setting problems is when the gods *do* stage large scale interventions without apparent consequences (like armies of devils conquering Cheliax in Pathfinder for example).

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There has to be some level of “divine detente” going on in the pantheon... I pretty much just hand wave it as saying that mortals don’t understand the nuances and gods never bother to explain the details.


If I recall correctly James Jacobs has said that basically all deities have agreed against direct divine intervention on the mortal plane...essentially due to escalation problems.


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Or at least, against direct intervention that doesn't have broad divine support ( or at least acquiescence ). However, that would be more a "break glass in case of armageddon" thing. If everyone from Iomedae to Oras to Grandmother Rat all approve of an intervention, it probably means there is an existential threat actively in play.


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I like the cold war/detente thing. Though presumably some factions push their minions/devoted a bit more in pushing the envelope of divine sanctioned douchebaggery :)


Losobal wrote:
I like the cold war/detente thing. Though presumably some factions push their minions/devoted a bit more in pushing the envelope of divine sanctioned douchebaggery :)

There might also be a certain amount of leeway. For example, supposing there were Pharasma-worshippers in the living conclaves on Eox. I could see them operating rings that forcibly "retire" the undead and reincarnate their souls as living beings automatically-indebted to those who "saved" them from an unnatural fate. This would be in a grey area of "divine detente" and something handled by law enforcement entities on Eox.

(I'm thinking of other ways for the living to be a thorn in the side of a majority-undead society in much the same way that undead used to be a thorn in the side of living cultures.)

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It’s a weird variation of the question that’s vexed theologians for millennia: Why does God allow Evil to exist? If people like St. Augustine, Zeno of Citium, and Immanuel Kant aren’t able to satisfactorily answer that, then odds are good that a roleplaying game about lizard-people with chainsaw swords probably won’t either.

We do know that the Starfinder universe contains gods of myriad alignments. We know these gods are real, are active, and can directly communicate with mortals. We also know they could, potentially, unleash legions of celestials/demons/whatevers and armies of mortal worshippers upon their enemies... But we also know that they don’t.

For me, I think it’s easiest to try to explain away their lack of action, since that seems to be the default state, instead of trying to explain their very rare direct intervention.

A “divine detente” seems to be the most likely explanation. Historically, we know that whenever the international balance of power was divided between multiple rival major powers (England/Spain; England/France; Triple Entente/Triple Alliance; USA/USSR; Kim/Kanye) the powers will still act in support of their own interests or to undermine their rival’s. Usually by proxy and sometimes directly... But they keep things, for lack of a better word, low-key.

The USA and USSR engaged in all sorts of espionage shenanigans, they both propped up various puppet states, they both backed coups against the other’s puppets, they both rattled their sabers... And on several occasions they went to war. Just never with each other. As terrible as Afghanistan or Vietnam might have been, it never got to the point of a full blown “Cold War gone Hot.” Had that happened, it would probably also known be as “World War III.” Or maybe just “Armageddon.”

Presumably, the gods of Golarion have some sort of “mutually assured destruction” capacity that keeps their rivals in check. They can all engage in low-key Bush War conflicts and espionage-type shenanigans – adventuring parties, evil cults, the occasional miracle – but they don’t ever cross that threshold that would make the celestial ICBMs fly.

I’m kinda envisioning a very high-level campaign where the PCs need to play Planar Jack Ryan and race against time to stop a divine diplomatic incident from escalating into a Holy War. Like the Hunt for Red October involving some sort of Xth-level Artefact instead of a submarine.


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Batgirl_III: You are of my people and I love you deeply. :D


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Batgirl,
I agree there's likely a divine detente. Most of these gods have been dealing with each other for millennia, and likely know the endgame of divine warfare. And The Destroyer plays a mutual threat for them if not to ally against, at least not to feed. Or not to leave themselves vulnerable to by depleting their energies. And most gods probably like their status, given all the other options.
On the mortal scale, the SF factions with power also have intelligence. Recognizing nobody can tip the scales in ways they'd fully control, small scale conflicts and spying would be more the norm. Chaotic forces at odds with this would also have the hardest time forming a coalition to be effective. So functional civility + diplomatic facades would keep the gears of civilization churning. Plus the existential threats of the Azlanti, the Swarm, & Dark Tapestry would encourage alliances, however tenuous.

As for the Problem of Evil, you left out "good & omnipotent god". Without that, the answer's quite easy: there's evil in the world because the supreme being is not good (won't stop evil) or not supreme (can't stop evil). Those (alongside "does not exist") are unpalatable answers to those who believe in an omnibenevolent, omnipotent god, but since they are the default answers...those believers have a problem. Nobody else does.
(The inability to rectify the PoE is a major cause of apostasy.)

So in SF, there is no Problem of Evil. (Yay for chainsaw-sword-wielding lizard people philosophers!) Mortals mostly know the SF gods are a mixed batch with none having complete control (BTW, polytheism is another answer to our reality's Problem of Evil, but still unpalatable to monotheists). It's probably humbling knowing even your gods aren't superior enough to shape the universe to match their ideals. The gods have their portfolios and limited powers (even if far beyond the mortal scales), so given galactic scales, how does a god compare? And then factor in billions of galaxies! (Or perhaps infinite in SF) On an ultimate scale, are the gods very godly at all or maybe their portfolios do cover such vastness that their inaction in our viewpoint is because of our inconsequential scope? Are there battles raging now where the power/tech level 20 in SF is quaint? Is there a Halflings only galaxy of hugs & hearths? Were there galaxies or planes wiped from reality due to divine warfare or Cthulhuian horrors? How does the Gap figure into this? Or Golarion's former status as Rovagug's prison?

So yes, the SF situation opens up whole new sets of philosophical questions like why are the alignments so well balanced? Is/Was there a balancing force/entity comparable to The Destroyer? How much of reality has been determined by great wyrm Time Dragons? Why do so few of the clergy have to adhere to their gods' wills (as opposed to Clerics in PF who could be stripped of powers)?

The funny thing is, these aren't quite the conundrums they seem because the decrees of Paizo designer-gods and GMs worldwide could determine them as needed. If anything, plot is the god in SF, to which space and time and all things metaphysical bend as needed.
Cheers


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The "god of the gaps," so to speak, phenomenon would (or could) arguably still work in Starfinder. You could always postulate that there is an omnibenevolent and potentially omnipotent God-beyond-the-known-Gods which allows Evil to exist because it "works in mysterious ways," but still puts Its thumb on the scale from time to time or guides fate toward some ultimately good end. In fact this is a very common trope in real-life "polytheisms."

The Gap itself would tempt such speculation. Why are all the Gods so mum about it? Maybe it's because they have an agreement... or maybe its because they don't know anything more than mortals because something more powerful than them imposed the Gap. Maybe it's waiting for sentients to show themselves worthy of greater intervention and protection. Maybe all it takes is for someone to wake up and say, "Hey, we shouldn't just tolerate a situation where beings like Nyarlathotep and Urgathoa are allowed to be part of the Pact Worlds. Maybe the God-of-Gods helps those who help themselves."

Go far enough down that road, and there would be clear temptations to do it, and you could potentially generate something quite culturally influential even in the face of objectively-real but obviously flawed Gods.

(For an added twist, it might occur to a particularly canny Outer God to masquerade as such an entity... oh dear, I feel a plot hook sinking itself in, here...)

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Castilliano, CeeJay, and I have got to figure out how to get our SFS characters together: Red-hot interstellar sociopolitical theory! Thrilling tales of two-fisted philosophy! Action-packed theological apologia!

Cogito Ergo Badass.


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We need Starfinder characters with Positivist, Utilitarian and Post-Positivist Theologian Themes at the very least. I'm currently homebrewing a "post-post-modernist anti-post-positivist realist" class, I'll let you know how it goes. ;)

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CeeJay wrote:
We need Starfinder characters with Positivist, Utilitarian and Post-Positivist Theologian Themes at the very least. I'm currently homebrewing a "post-post-modernist anti-post-positivist realist" class, I'll let you know how it goes. ;)

I think you are getting a little too technical here.


I'm joking. :D

That last bit, though? That's referencing an actual, real quote from an academic journal back in the days of not-too-distant yore. The correct quote was (and someone in all deadly earnest describing themselves as): "post-anti-anti-essentialist anti-post-positivist realist." My Degree in Bafflegab may not feed me but it's good for a laugh now and then...

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That is a truly glorious bit of sesquipedalian loquaciousness used to obfuscate the eschewing of academic rigor vis-a-vis publication of practical philosophic finding via juxtaposition of justifiable arguments with jargon.


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Batgirl, I'm in NorCal. If you don't know where that is, you're too far away. :)

CeeJay, there were some "God above gods" (usually of the gaps) hints in previous editions. Gygax made allusions to a creator god above the gods (which I don't recall him fleshing out), but then again even the greatest gods were statted out and killable (albeit quite tough & with nigh unlimited control of any plane they ruled.)

Gygax also had Tharizdun for Greyhawk, and in one of his novels mentions how the omnigod of the universe could just as well have been good, but (for the Greyhawk one) it, Tharizdun, was pure evil. He was only tamed by all the gods tapping into his own power to make himself a prison. So not a god in a gap, but one above all others, even combined. But trickable, I guess?
In later canon, even the trickling of power leaking from a sleeping Tharizdun's prison was enough to be a god in its own right.
Gygax's heroes (spoiler alert) eventually flee that planarverse, leaving it to collapse, but trapping Tharizdun there with the incarnation of Entropy to slow him down. Even that's a temporary solution.

1st ed and/or possibly Planescape talked about the 7th level of the plane of Heaven which IIRC nobody came back from if they ascended there. So there was a post-Heaven Heaven beyond even godly knowledge.

Pulling more from earthly monotheism, there was Asmodeus who like most D&D/PF archdevils comes from Christian myth. But, and I believe this was Planescape, it's hinted that #1 devil Asmodeus is only an avatar of a far greater evil that was cast down, its collision punching the deepest pit of Hell, a pit which passes through many planar levels and now serves as a locus of Hell's society. This story is tied to a separate rumor of a god-serpent buried below the lowest portions which is recovering its might to rise again. The power level of this entity implies a god above gods needed to cast it down. Essentially Yahweh w/ Satan as a (mega) serpent.

Primus, the LN Modron god, started at hypothetically defeatable levels in 1st ed, but then the clockwork of his plane became tied to the fabric of the universe and he got elevated to being so important that to kill him was to destroy the universe or even that he was the fabric of the universe. Essentially he was an RPG incarnation of a pantheistic god because hey, why not have several conflicting theologies blended together.

Speaking of which, there were tons of D&D gods given singular credit for creation. Most every pantheon had one as its leader. IIRC it later became canon that the main Halfling goddess, Yondalla, with perhaps the main Dwarf god, ???, were the actual creators.

Lastly, and kind of hazy to me, I think there were three keys tied to the creation of the universe out of the chaos of Limbo and possibly as a bastion against the Abyss. An LG, LN, & LE god (Asmodeus?) held one each. I think in PF too, Asmodeus holds a crucial key. I think those represent joint efforts though.

Of course, what I find strange is in PF there were gods that hardly were known outside of their own continent and a pantheon per species. And now we have a galaxy...


Ah, the misty realm of NorCal. I believe 'tis where they worship the obscure deity known only as... Nick Cannon. Uh, I mean Adam Driver.
No, Tom Waits. That's what I said. What'd I say?

You're taking me back with the Gygax references especially. I remember games waaay back in Yon Days Primeval where we wound up pitting the players against everything up to creator gods and they regularly killed the F out of them (I hadn't yet realised that you could just treat these as manifestations and/or re-stat them at will; if they were in Deities & Demigods with certain stats that was it).

I only later learned how much weirder and cooler real religions could get. Like, the fact that Egyptian religion had been around long enough that it had a bunch of different creation myths involving totally different deities, and people accepted all of these simultaneously. (It seemed outlandish until I realised there were two entirely different and non-compatible creation myths in the Bible.)

Nowadays my mind goes to the real-world religions for Maximum Weird, after having studied them. For thinking about how polytheism can work there are a lot of possibilities, but my go-to is Yoruba religion, which has a tripartite Supreme Deity (Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi) way before you even get to the deities that most people actually interact with and make offerings to.


Castilliano wrote:


1st ed and/or possibly Planescape talked about the 7th level of the plane of Heaven which IIRC nobody came back from if they ascended there. So there was a post-Heaven Heaven beyond even godly knowledge.

"Doors to the Unknown", a Planescape adventure. Probably the same place that Aelwynn and Nemelle from PS:T are from, though this is not explicitly stated.

Also, O, the letter of the divine alphabet, is of some higher - or possibly deeper - reality. He also shows up in Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Castilliano wrote:


Pulling more from earthly monotheism, there was Asmodeus who like most D&D/PF archdevils comes from Christian myth. But, and I believe this was Planescape, it's hinted that #1 devil Asmodeus is only an avatar of a far greater evil that was cast down, its collision punching the deepest pit of Hell, a pit which passes through many planar levels and now serves as a locus of Hell's society. This story is tied to a separate rumor of a god-serpent buried below the lowest portions which is recovering its might to rise again. The power level of this entity implies a god above gods needed to cast it down. Essentially Yahweh w/ Satan as a (mega) serpent.

This is from "A Guide to Hell", a post-Planescape supplement. PS never revealed the identity of the Lord of the Ninth, this being one of the big secrets of the setting. Basically, AGtH ruined much of the mystery and fun of Baator and now everyone thinks Asmodeus is the LotN and always has been. It also basically forced, as you say, a dualist creation myth into D&D, ruining much of the fun of the unknown.

Castilliano wrote:


Primus, the LN Modron god, started at hypothetically defeatable levels in 1st ed, but then the clockwork of his plane became tied to the fabric of the universe and he got elevated to being so important that to kill him was to destroy the universe or even that he was the fabric of the universe.

Um, when was this changed? In 4e or something?

Castilliano wrote:


Speaking of which, there were tons of D&D gods given singular credit for creation. Most every pantheon had one as its leader. IIRC it later became canon that the main Halfling goddess, Yondalla, with perhaps the main Dwarf god, ???, were the actual creators.

Sources?

Castilliano wrote:


Of course, what I find strange is in PF there were gods that hardly were known outside of their own continent and a pantheon per species. And now we have a galaxy...

Maybe the Unification Church in Dragonstar has a point...

Sovereign Court

There's also the High God of the Dragonlance pantheon, who may or may not be the same being as Ao of The Forgotten Realms, who may or may not also be Io of Council of Wyrms/Monster Mythologies. These guys have cropped up in a few other sources over the years either as adaptations or just indirect references. But, by and large, are all presented as "the god that the gods pray to."

I generally just hand-wave the whole thing as "mortal minds just cannot understand it" when it comes to trying to explain how the gods work. Any time my players have ever gotten to a point where they can fight a god (because if you give it stats, eventually, a PC will try to kill it) then I never have them actually kill the god. It's an avatar, a manifestation, a proxy, or some other form of Doombot.

You can kill Thor, the God of Thunder, but unless you figure out how to remove the very concept of weather from reality, there will always be a thunder god.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

*cough* Its only tangentially relevant, but my own take on overgods in Pathfinder/Starfinder is. . . there used to be two, brothers, who created the multiverse. The one whose still alive is currently named Asmodeus. They had an ideological disagreement, and losing that fight is why Asmodeus is a crippled husk of his former self sitting at the bottom of a planar crater, and will remain so for endless eons.

"Wait, what do you mean 'losing that fight'", you might ask. After all, Asmodeus is the one still alive, surely he won? Well, see, that's what Asmodeus thought, too. Its ultimately why he lost: he couldn't conceive of any way that one could win without being alive. His brother, by contrast, understood that one could both die and win, and was totally willing to die in order to win. So, yes, he died. . . and in doing so, he both crippled Asmodeus for eternity, and scattered his own divine essence about mortalkind. Which is, btw, where paladins come from.

Infernal propaganda and mythology will totally brag about Asmodeus victory and inevitable cosmic triumph, but Asmodeus himself? He totally realizes he got screwed, and that it was his own fault. This agonizes him more than his lingering wounds do.


Bjorn,
Asmodeus was ruler of the 9th layer of Hell (perhaps all of Hell via fealty) well before Planescape (though it was implied there were gods more powerful than him there too). When 2nd ed. renamed devils & demons, they changed up things, and added the Blood War to keep both sides busy.
I don't recall reading "A Guide to Hell" so maybe elsewhere had it too?
I thought that later canon had it that Asmodeus stepped off the throne as a way to see what the archdevils would do, whom they would align with, etc. The fallout shuffled many of the archdevils around, culling out the weak or disloyal, with Asmodeus coming back out on top. I don't know if that was a post hoc explanation of the PS era or a separate event.

I don't recall when the designers boosted Primus. I do remember wondering why the heck they would take a barely-god endgame monster and amplify his importance so much. I didn't track much 4E lore, so before then.

That said, 4E may have been when Yondalla got the call. Not sure.
I do recall laughing with another player about the choice. (In hindsight, it makes sense to give some oomph to an otherwise tame pantheon.) The Dwarf god has gotten credit elsewhere too, so I might be blurring the two sources together.

Deities & Demigods had many Earth pantheons who would occasionally make their ways into D&D (or even PF in the case of the Egyptian ones), so that's a set of discrepant creation claims there. If I recall, many of the major races claim credit for creation for their gods too, each with a separate story. I also recall reading that the truth was lost to mystery (so as to allow for whatever choices suited the DM's plot.)

As for Starfinder, I do wonder what direction they'll go with gods re: galaxy. I expect we'll see the old "same god with different names" trick, but hopefully there will be room to add some gods uniquely tailored to specific species.

As for the OP, the gods and their divine servants have taken no actions disruptive to the Pact or its laws. Whether this is just a matter of time (as PC levels ramp up) or intentional inaction written into their natures, who knows. It seems their most efficient course of action is to support their followers, but then that implies a limit to the scope & power of the gods, two things we have no idea about on a galactic scale.

Fun chat.
Cheers.


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I had always thought Ao was supposed to be the DM. RPGs have overgods with bizarre motivations and vast power, they're real humans.

I ran a Rise of the Runelords game where Rovagug was the personification of Pathfinder inevitably going out of publication, Golarion being an interesting place was what kept him contained, and the gods were all trying to keep him at bay by creating a universe that entertained the players.


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And the reason gods don't have published stats is because they won't let me experiment on them to find out what they are.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Nethys, "Elder God" wrote:
And the reason gods don't have published stats is because they won't let me experiment on them to find out what they are.

And now you know why Nethys isn't a major deity in the Starfinder era: he's still sulking in a corner after the rest of the deities came together and firmly explained "No, we are not your guinea pigs, you are not allowed to dissect one of us. Nope, not even him. Or him."

:)


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:

Losobal's example might not have been the best.

But what about Pharasma and Eox?
If the Steward of the Skein were to appear on Eox and start destroying undead, what happens? I know, unlikely but still possible.

Since Eox is a Pact signatory, how do the Stewards enforce the law on a powerful outsider and direct servant of a Goddess?

I always liked the (admittedly with little basis) idea that Pharasma's followers are militantly against the undead, but Pharasma herself doesn't really care. She has several trillion souls to keep track of.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh, Pact Worlds actually pretty much confirms my take on Pharasma vs Eox. The overall church attitude is "No, we don't like Eox, but we are pragmatic, and have no interest in some grand war". Not only is there an actual Church of Pharasma located on Eox, but one of their activities is "when an enthusiastic crusading Pharasmin shows up wanting to kill undead, direct them to suitable targets that don't cause political problems".

( The group that has an active interest in fanatic massacre of Eox, by contrast, is the *Sarcesians*. . .)


Metaphysician wrote:
( The group that has an active interest in fanatic massacre of Eox, by contrast, is the *Sarcesians*. . .)

Well, Eox did blow up their planet. I think the CRB mentioned the sarcesians still haven't forgotten the ancient feud, but it has been very interesting to find out some of the stuff sarcesians have gotten up to in actions against Eox since.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
CeeJay wrote:

It seemed outlandish until I realised there were two entirely different and non-compatible creation myths in the Bible.

Oh? Care to elaborate?


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Ravingdork wrote:
CeeJay wrote:

It seemed outlandish until I realised there were two entirely different and non-compatible creation myths in the Bible.

Oh? Care to elaborate?

Going into detail might take the thread off-course, but there's a useful introduction starting here (the first of three posts that were clearly meant to introduce a longer series which never happened, but he covers the essentials).


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Interesting read there Ceejay! Thanks!

As how I treat the gods in StarFinder, the Divine Detente is a standard. Basically no one checks each others backyard very much as long as nothing spills over to them.


Divine Detente is good for all lawful and neutrally aligned deities, but what about the chaotic ones? I'd poise there is a cost players can't see for Divine Intervention. If they want to blow up non-believers or dump demon armies on the universe, they risk war and spiritual starvation.

And with the forces of Law beating down the ones of Chaos, well, they can't make a concerted effort. Player-characters then become a hugely powerful pawn in this divine war just on cost savings alone as long as believers are an effective way to channel will into the universe.

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