The Windsong Testaments: The Acts of Iomedae

Thursday, November 7, 2019

We can learn much from the wisdom of the divine, but we can learn as much from their actions. The truly faithful understand that not even the gods themselves are infallible, and that words and promises do not always suffice. Those among us who see no fault in the gods are worse than zealots, worse than puppets. They taint the very idea of faith with their blind devotion. When a god makes a mistake, the results can be disastrous if their faithful do not understand the error. If they take that error as gospel, they are doomed to repeat the error and compound upon it again and again. And in so doing make the initial misstep into something more. In the worst of cases, these repeated mistakes can transcend to become the new order, and not even the gods themselves can turn them back.

Iomedae knows this well, for she was, not so long ago, among those who worshiped the gods herself.

Before her Ascension, Iomedae worshiped Arazni, the herald of the god of humanity, Aroden. When Arazni was defeated during the Shining Crusade, Iomedae turned her faith to Aroden. That Iomedae herself chose the path of a paladin was an indication of the strength of her convictions, for Arazni did not particularly embody the strictures of law, nor did Aroden particularly promote acts of goodness. But Iomedae saw the devotion to tradition and honor in Arazni’s deeds and could sense the underlying kindness and generosity in Aroden’s acts even if he didn’t notice them himself.

Even after she ascended to divinity herself, she continued to serve as Aroden’s new herald, and when the god of humanity perished unexpectedly at the dawning of the Age of Lost Omens, Iomedae did not lose hope. In the decades to follow, Iomedae’s faith grew and she inherited Aroden’s mantle. And as her church grew, she spread her wisdom to those who would listen. She told her followers to avoid her faults. To watch and judge themselves when she would misstep, and to not take her errors as gospel. For even before Iomedae’s apotheosis, she had noted imperfections in the gods she venerated, and as a goddess herself she vowed to never encourage the same unwavering zeal. And as such, she commanded that those who would worship her learn not solely from her words, but from her actions.

First came her memorable clash with legendary Nakorshor’mond, a gluttonous monstrosity spawned and abandoned by Lamashtu. The glutton consumed members of her adventuring group, and Iomedae had to cut her companions free from otherwise eternal slumber from the fiend’s supernatural gullets.

Next was her defeat of the Pallid Sisters, a coven of Garundi witches who had been terrorizing the city of Senghor. Here, Iomedae found triumph without ever drawing her blade, achieving victory through the clever use of wordplay and diplomacy alone.

The last of these initial acts performed before the Shining Crusade was the defeat of Segruchen the Iron Gargoyle, who had proclaimed himself the King of the Barrowood. Iomedae’s griffon-mounted battle saw the so-called King metaphorically dethroned in mid-air.

It wasn’t long after the Iron Gargoyle’s fall that the Shining Crusade began, and Iomedae was at the forefront of the battle from the start. During the Second Battle of Encarthan, Iomedae’s legacy grew as she took command of a regiment of mortally wounded knights and held back a wave of wraiths long enough for reinforcements to arrive at dawn.

The goddess Iomedae, helmetless, in full plate and a large flowing cape. wields a shield and glowing sword to fight a horde of skeletons, backing up another valiant knight.

Illustration by Dallas Williams

Erum-Hel, the Lord of the Mohrgs, was her next great triumph during the crusade—Iomedae defeated him during the Battle of Three Sorrows. She wasn’t able to slay the powerful undead monster, but sent him whimpering back into the Darklands nonetheless, and in so doing struck a crippling blow against one of the Whispering Tyrant’s most notorious and feared generals.

Soon thereafter, the Whispering Tyrant struck back against Iomedae and shattered her magical sword. Yet Iomedae didn’t let this deter her, and she simply rebuilt it and continued the fight, for she knew that it was not her sword that gave her the power to stand against evil—it was only a tool in that pursuit.

A month after the Shining Crusade came to an end, Iomedae visited Absalom with several other veterans of the war. Her visit to the temple of Aroden drew more adoration for her own acts than for Aroden herself, but it was a month after she left that another miracle took place when her image appeared at the same shrine—an image that healed the needy and spurned the wicked… including one false priest of Aroden who had secretly conspired with the cult of Asmodeus to convert those of faltering faith.

Although the Shining Crusade had ended, many of those who had fought for Tar-Baphon remained behind. Since the war was over, Iomedae sought to redeem those who had lingered. Her greatest work during these days was the redemption of the graveknight known only as the Black Prince. With her forgiveness, he was able to repent for his evil, bringing an end to his undead state and allowing his soul to pass on for judgement.

Elsewhere in Ustalav, Iomedae heard of nine forlorn knights who had fallen from favor among the church during the crusade, only to go missing soon after their excommunication. She sought them out and freed them from the vampire-mage Basilov, using nine drops of her own blood as payment in ransom. She was forced to slay the vampire soon thereafter, but with the knights’ aid, she also secured their return to the church.

Iomedae’s rule over the city of Kantaria began soon thereafter, but only lasted for a year and a day, but she never intended to rule for long—just long enough to protect the city from sinister shapechangers so that a legitimate ruler could take the role.

Finally came her eleventh act—an act that would end her time as a human and begin her life as a goddess. Iomedae cast her cloak down over the pit surrounding the Starstone Cathedral, transforming the garment into a bridge upon which she could cross the chasm and enter the edifice to take the Test of the Starstone.

Today, the faithful refer to these eleven deeds as the Acts of Iomedae. Iomedae has made it clear that the lessons, not the specifics, are important, and to her faith’s credit the vast majority understand this. What tends to get lost in the excitement of worship and admiration, though, is the fact that Iomedae didn’t set out at the start of her acts to perform eleven heroic accomplishments. They were, in truth, attempts by Iomedae to learn from the failings of those she respected, be they family or friend or even one of the gods.

About the Author

James Jacobs is the Creative Director for Pathfinder. While he was there at the beginning of Golarion’s creation, many of the deities worshiped by that world’s heroes and villains had already existed for decades before. Goddesses and gods like Desna and Rovagug, Sarenrae and Abadar, Achaekek and Zon-Kuthon first established their faithful among PCs and NPCs alike in James’ home campaign in the late 80s and early 90s. Sharing them with the world as deities of the Pathfinder setting, seeing players and creators come to love and hate them (and in some cases cosplay as them), has been a career highlight.

About the Windsong Testaments

On the northern reaches of Varisia’s Lost Coast stands Windsong Abbey, a forum for interfaith discussion tended by priests of nearly twenty faiths and led by a legacy of Masked Abbesses. At the dawn of the Age of Lost Omens, Windsong Abbey suffered as its faithful fought and fled, but today it has begun to recover. A new Masked Abbess guides a new flock within, and the Windsong Testaments—parables about the gods themselves—are once again being recorded within the abbey’s walls. Some of these Testaments are presented here as Golarion’s myths and fables. Some parts may be true. Other parts are certainly false. Which ones are which is left to the faithful to decide.

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Web Fiction The Windsong Testaments
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Shadow Lodge

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Gorbacz wrote:
Notice that pretty much nobody ever pokes mistakes of Cayden, Shelyn or Desna despite the fact that you could probably write several books about all oopsies they made. But if Iomedae forgets to validate a parking ticket, it's knives out.

Iomedae's followers and their manifest failures are central to multiple APs (WotR, HV, TG, arguably CC), and she herself shows up in one of them. I don't think I've ever seen a Caydenite NPC in an AP who wasn't the iconic Fighter, though that may well be a selection bias or failure of memory on my part (or it may be because Cayden sucks and those places where his followers could show up (RoW, HR) they tend to be rightfully replaced by Milanites).

Dark Archive

There are caydenite NPCs, but I don't remember caydenite clerics or such. But my memory isn't best either :p

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zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Notice that pretty much nobody ever pokes mistakes of Cayden, Shelyn or Desna despite the fact that you could probably write several books about all oopsies they made. But if Iomedae forgets to validate a parking ticket, it's knives out.
Iomedae's followers and their manifest failures are central to multiple APs (WotR, HV, TG, arguably CC), and she herself shows up in one of them. I don't think I've ever seen a Caydenite NPC in an AP who wasn't the iconic Fighter, though that may well be a selection bias or failure of memory on my part (or it may be because Cayden sucks and those places where his followers could show up (RoW, HR) they tend to be rightfully replaced by Milanites).

They don't need to even turn up. He promotes alcohol, disrespect for laws and rules, taking divine tests that turn you into a deity under influence and lewd debauchery, this automatically makes him Chaotic Neutral with Good tendencies at best and the CG is just a misprint.

For some readers, that is.


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zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Notice that pretty much nobody ever pokes mistakes of Cayden, Shelyn or Desna despite the fact that you could probably write several books about all oopsies they made. But if Iomedae forgets to validate a parking ticket, it's knives out.
Iomedae's followers and their manifest failures are central to multiple APs (WotR, HV, TG, arguably CC), and she herself shows up in one of them. I don't think I've ever seen a Caydenite NPC in an AP who wasn't the iconic Fighter, though that may well be a selection bias or failure of memory on my part (or it may be because Cayden sucks and those places where his followers could show up (RoW, HR) they tend to be rightfully replaced by Milanites).

Ironfang Invasion has a Caydenite in it as a central figure, but she gets over taken by the PCs in terms of relevance after book 2.

Lawful deities often get shortchanged because lawful organizations are the ones that create institutions that arguably have to fail for adventure to take place, so they don't get to have notable victories unless PCs are involved. And in the case of Paizo APs its usually with the help of some plucky CG deity (or their representative) that victory ever happens at all. (side eyes Desna)

Iomedae's followers were leading the charge on two different Sisyphean tasks: containing Tar-Baphon and closing the World Wound, and then some of them decided to take on a third to liberate Cheliax.

So, any organization that is trying to enact good on Avistan is doomed to failure because this is a PC centric setting.

Though, the Glorious Reclamation won in my timeline due to fallout from Hell's Rebels, so each table will of course have different experiences.

Shadow Lodge

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Kasoh wrote:
Ironfang Invasion has a Caydenite in it as a central figure, but she gets over taken by the PCs in terms of relevance after book 2.

Selection bias it is, then. I should probably get around to reading II at some point.


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Brynne Taithe is a cleric of Cayden Cailean in the first Age of Ashes book.


Kasoh wrote:


So, any organization that is trying to enact good on Avistan is doomed to failure because this is a PC centric setting.

Interesting, and it makes me wonder just how Lawful-tending an AP could be and still work. Though I suppose both Kingmaker's exercise in building a functioning state out of an anarchic wilderness, and War for the Crown's central plot motivation being protecting a decision of a governing body against those who would overthow it, have Lawful values of assumed primary objective, and I would be surprised if Agents of Edgewatch doesn't tend strongly Lawful as well.


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the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Kasoh wrote:


So, any organization that is trying to enact good on Avistan is doomed to failure because this is a PC centric setting.
Interesting, and it makes me wonder just how Lawful-tending an AP could be and still work. Though I suppose both Kingmaker's exercise in building a functioning state out of an anarchic wilderness, and War for the Crown's central plot motivation being protecting a decision of a governing body against those who would overthow it, have Lawful values of assumed primary objective, and I would be surprised if Agents of Edgewatch doesn't tend strongly Lawful as well.

And the City Watch of Korvosa are a Lawful organization that aids the PCs consistently throughout Curse of the Crimson Throne.

That's not to say that adventures can't be lawful or promote lawfulness, only that without the presence of PCs, a lawful organization will not be operating at its fullest potential, because this is a game where things have to go wrong and heroes have to step up and fix them. Once you add a PC, things can go right.

Wrath of the Righteous is perhaps the best example. A Lawful organization has had systemic rot creep in from decades of mediocrity and demonic subversion so the 5th Mendevian Crusade would probably be doomed to failure if not for the PCs and their mythic power.


Note that even Hell's Rebels (according to its Player's Guide) has a potential place for Lawful PCs who get fed up with the corrupt and unjust nature of the Thrune regime, but I haven't seen anyone really make use of that. (Closest would be a Thrune family defector in this PbP and that character was actually a Caydenite anyway -- was a hoot anyway, but unfortunately didn't get very far.)


What do Iomedae and her followers think of Arazni now? I imagine they feel bad for her but also recognize she is evil and dangerous.

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Yqatuba wrote:
What do Iomedae and her followers think of Arazni now? I imagine they feel bad for her but also recognize she is evil and dangerous.

It's a "wait and see" mode for the moment.


James Jacobs wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
What do Iomedae and her followers think of Arazni now? I imagine they feel bad for her but also recognize she is evil and dangerous.
It's a "wait and see" mode for the moment.

Yup, Geb (both the mythic Necromancer comparable to the Whispering Tyrant in terms of outright power and the city itself which is chalk full of powerful undead) are both wild cards!

So far the ravenous undead citizens of Geb have been making due feasting on steady supply of slaves but I'd imagine that could change at any moment. Geb himself could decide to flush Nex out of his demiplane by waging war on Nex's empire or do something even worse!


^AP hook?


Also it says Iomedae worshipped Arazni (as opposed to just being her friend, as I assumed). Does this mean Arazni was a demigod even before she become a lich? If so, what were her domains and portfolio I wonder?


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Yqatuba wrote:
Also it says Iomedae worshipped Arazni (as opposed to just being her friend, as I assumed). Does this mean Arazni was a demigod even before she become a lich? If so, what were her domains and portfolio I wonder?

According to Pathfinderwiki "In -1491 AR, Arazni killed and was killed by the terrible beast Tlochach when taming the plains of western Xopatl. Her soul was judged and sent to Nirvana by Pharasma, where she eventually became an astral deva.

In 1121 AR, Arazni met her old friend Aroden again, who asked her to become involved in the affairs of Golarion once more. She became his herald, and later a demigod."

She was killed by Tar-Baphon in 3827. Iomedae is somewhere in between that.

As a living deity, I believe she had tactics as one of her domains and probably protection, which she kept into death.

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It's probably more accurate to say that Arazni became a quasi-deity, but to those worshiping her that wouldn't make much of a difference.


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Ok, I'm really confused. She was a human who died and became an angel, then a demigod, then died again and was brought back as a lich? That's... really complicated.

Shadow Lodge

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Yqatuba wrote:
Ok, I'm really confused. She was a human who died and became an angel, then a demigod, then died again and was brought back as a lich? That's... really complicated.

I dunno, you managed to explain it in a single sentence. Can't be that complicated.


Well, how does she go from an outsider with paladin-like abilities (I assume so at least, we've never seen her pre-lich stats), to a level 20 mythic wizard?

Silver Crusade

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She may have been a Wizard with Paladin abilties or vice versa, but as a Herald her mechanics were pure HD, being raised into a Lich might have set things a certain way, or she retrained as one since being revived.

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Yqatuba wrote:
Ok, I'm really confused. She was a human who died and became an angel, then a demigod, then died again and was brought back as a lich? That's... really complicated.

She started as a human, died, came back as an azata, then died, then came back as a lich. Yes, it's complicated. But also something that makes her history all the more interesting.

Silver Crusade

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… no one piss off the Directorsaur or he'll kill her a fourth time.


Ok, though in 2e it says she is now some kind of god (I assume a real god and not just a demigod) who's still evil but has a somewhat different portfolio. I'm still hoping she will get redeemed eventually, although I assume it will take Iomedae's help.

Shadow Lodge

Rysky wrote:
… no one piss off the Directorsaur or he'll kill her a fourth time.

Meh, it's an RPG campaign setting, no NPC stays dead forever.

Shadow Lodge

Yqatuba wrote:
I'm still hoping she will get redeemed eventually, although I assume it will take Iomedae's help.

I doubt it. Iomedae is the favored "daughter" who got a charmed life on a silver platter while Arazni suffered for an age. Arazni's character arc might well involve a reconciliation with Iomedae, but someone else will probably prompt her to it.


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??!

Wait -- didn't Arazni become an astral deva* after her pre-herald death & not an azata? Has this been changed?

All these [admittedly] little retcons are starting to pile up & getting hard to follow... :(

*sources:

> Crystal Frasier. (2019). To Exceed Their Grasp. The Dead Roads, p79.
> Luis Loza. (2019). Borne by the Sun's Grace. Borne by the Sun's Grace, p3.

<sigh>


I think he meant astral deva as she was LG and azatas are CG


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zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
I'm still hoping she will get redeemed eventually, although I assume it will take Iomedae's help.
I doubt it. Iomedae is the favored "daughter" who got a charmed life on a silver platter while Arazni suffered for an age. Arazni's character arc might well involve a reconciliation with Iomedae, but someone else will probably prompt her to it.

I don't think it is out of the question. Iomedae worshipped Arazni in life afterall. Its not hard to imagine a scenario where Arazni becomes Iomedae's Dou-Bral, where she keeps offering her hand perhaps against better judgement.

A non-contentious relationship between Iomedae and Arazni, even if not redeemed could be very interesting.


I supposed it might depend on how close they were in life. Probably less close than I thought as she was just one of thousands of worshippers rather than a personal friend as I had assumed (indeed, she may have never even met Arazni in person). Also, I like the whole thing about how Iomedae liked Arazni more than Aroden as she was LG rather than LN. I've always got the impression that paladins are a lot more about the G than the L.


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If they bring back the book line, they should write a book about the story of Iomedae and her Connection to Arazni and her history.

Just explaining how they got the different alignments together, could make it a doorstopper^^

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Greatly sorry that for once I am not enthusiastic about one of these stories. I actually like this thread better.

zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Rysky wrote:
I'm sorry, aside from Erum-Hel how is any of that Iomedae's fault?
The people who proximately failed were her servants and as their master she is responsible for their actions and omissions.

Indeed, being Lawful means your responsible for things that fall under your purview. And you are responsible for your underlings too. But being Good means that you focus on forgiveness and making up for your errors.

Silver Crusade

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Not really sure how "the writers decided to kick her in the knees" is her error.


Something else I am wondering? Why didn't Aroden try to save Arazni before he died (as he only died about 100 years ago? Is it just one of those "gods can't interfere" things?

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Yqatuba wrote:
Something else I am wondering? Why didn't Aroden try to save Arazni before he died (as he only died about 100 years ago? Is it just one of those "gods can't interfere" things?

The two explanations that make the most sense to me are:

1. Aroden knew Arazni had some mystical link to the Whispering Tyrant, as Tyrant's Grasp revealed said connection was part of why she was so evil and bitter, the Whispering Tyrant almost literally whispering in her ear constantly, such that when he busted out, Arazni mellowed out considerably and only then did she take it upon herself to bust out of Geb. If Aroden knew this, he probably figured trying to save her would alert Tar-Baphon through that link, and he'd then immediately try to bust out of Gallowspire to try and get Aroden to fight him again, a fight Aroden, a god, wasn't sure he'd be able to win. So leaving Arazni to her fate could keep Tar-Baphon relatively docile.

2. Aroden just...kinda...didn't care? I think the lore, ESPECIALLY now that we have Arazni's perspective, is really trying to depict Aroden as an imperfect, flawed individual. He had grand ambitions that kept him busy, sure, but the text keeps repeating, emphasizing, that he ABANDONED Arazni, and that was a big factor in her turn to the dark side. He may have just been petty and thought "Oh, you thought I abandoned you, Arazni? WELL, FINE! I WILL!" since he IS established as kind of arrogant, and above all, he was LN, not LG.

Honestly, part of me feels like it was some combination of these two factors anyway, but I personally lean more towards the "Aroden was kind of a d@#$!" interpretation, because I kind of think he was, and because this very story emphasizes that one of Iomedae's greatest qualities is learning from the mistakes of her divine predecessors, being humble and compassionate where Aroden was proud and uncaring.


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Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
Something else I am wondering? Why didn't Aroden try to save Arazni before he died (as he only died about 100 years ago? Is it just one of those "gods can't interfere" things?

The two explanations that make the most sense to me are:

1. Aroden knew Arazni had some mystical link to the Whispering Tyrant, as Tyrant's Grasp revealed said connection was part of why she was so evil and bitter, the Whispering Tyrant almost literally whispering in her ear constantly, such that when he busted out, Arazni mellowed out considerably and only then did she take it upon herself to bust out of Geb. If Aroden knew this, he probably figured trying to save her would alert Tar-Baphon through that link, and he'd then immediately try to bust out of Gallowspire to try and get Aroden to fight him again, a fight Aroden, a god, wasn't sure he'd be able to win. So leaving Arazni to her fate could keep Tar-Baphon relatively docile.

2. Aroden just...kinda...didn't care? I think the lore, ESPECIALLY now that we have Arazni's perspective, is really trying to depict Aroden as an imperfect, flawed individual. He had grand ambitions that kept him busy, sure, but the text keeps repeating, emphasizing, that he ABANDONED Arazni, and that was a big factor in her turn to the dark side. He may have just been petty and thought "Oh, you thought I abandoned you, Arazni? WELL, FINE! I WILL!" since he IS established as kind of arrogant, and above all, he was LN, not LG.

Honestly, part of me feels like it was some combination of these two factors anyway, but I personally lean more towards the "Aroden was kind of a d@#$!" interpretation, because I kind of think he was, and because this very story emphasizes that one of Iomedae's greatest qualities is learning from the mistakes of her divine predecessors, being humble and compassionate where Aroden was proud and uncaring.

I think it's the second one. Which kind of makes me wonder why people would worship him in the first place, as if he cares this little about his own herald, how much do you think he cares about a level 1 cleric?

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Nothing stopped people from worshiping God in real life despite the fact that he/she pretty much never ever cured anybody of cancer/brought their kid out of coma/sent the angels down to right wrongs/stopped the bad guys from gassing the chamber.

Belief and religion are funny like that.


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Yqatuba wrote:
Something else I am wondering? Why didn't Aroden try to save Arazni before he died (as he only died about 100 years ago? Is it just one of those "gods can't interfere" things?

Also, Tar-Baphon brutalized Arazni for the express purpose of provoking Aroden. Everything Tar-Baphon does is to get a reaction from Aroden.

Aroden being a callous and clever fellow wasn't going to rise to Tar-Baphon's bait, but it required sacrificing Arazni and he was probably okay with that.


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Gorbacz wrote:

Nothing stopped people from worshiping God in real life despite the fact that he/she pretty much never ever cured anybody of cancer/brought their kid out of coma/sent the angels down to right wrongs/stopped the bad guys from gassing the chamber.

Belief and religion are funny like that.

True, but if you could pick between a god who doesn't give you anything, or one who gives you magic powers and even helps you out sometimes, which do you think most people are going to pick from?

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Yqatuba wrote:
I think it's the second one. Which kind of makes me wonder why people would worship him in the first place, as if he cares this little about his own herald, how much do you think he cares about a level 1 cleric?

Well, he WAS the god of humanity, so a number of humans simply worshiped him out of cultural habit, much like with Torag and the dwarves. Some may have worshiped him out of gratitude for his many deeds that made the Inner Sea region livable, like in Sarkoris where he drove out Deskari's avatar. Not to mention a number of humans in particular were cultural chauvinists who wanted to bask in Aroden's reflected glory, which is the whole thing that set both Taldor and Cheliax up for their respective falls. Taldor has finally managed to pull itself back from the brink and step out of Aroden's shadow, but it's still not the world-dominating power it used to be, and Cheliax...just keeps falling further by the day.

And for some, that aloof attitude may be MORE of a reason to follow him rather than seek someone else. He encouraged humans to live to their full potential, seek out their destinies and make their mark on history, so they'd feel that Aroden WANTED them to stand on their own and the blessings are more of side-perks that come when they achieve greatness. I presume this may have even been one reason why Arazni was attracted to his service in the first place, that he didn't coddle her and trusted her with a lot of her own responsibility, she just didn't realize at the time that that also meant he wouldn't be there for her when she did need him.

Someone can do great things, be heroic and maybe even supportive, and still be a crappy human being, and now the Inner Sea is starting to wake up to that in regards to Aroden and his legacy, thanks in part to Iomedae's example.


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Gorbacz wrote:

Nothing stopped people from worshiping God in real life despite the fact that he/she pretty much never ever cured anybody of cancer/brought their kid out of coma/sent the angels down to right wrongs/stopped the bad guys from gassing the chamber.

Belief and religion are funny like that.

A lot of people would dispute that God never did.

It's a funny world, like that. I cannot not imagine the level of zealotry constantly active and visible deities would generate even if they weren't doing anything. There would be tons of people worshiping...just Whoever. Aroden would have done just fine for sure.

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