To continue along with the most recent blog posts, I wanted to dive into other spiritual/godly beings introduced into later editions of the Shadow World Master Atlas. Much of this material seems abstract to me, as it was rarely interjected into source book and/or adventure material.
Greater Spirits of Orhan.
Excerpts from the Master Atlas and Powers:
These are powerful servants and aides of the Lords of Orhan; in essence they are demigods. Spirits are more numerous and more likely to be encountered (or at least seen) by an adventurer than the Lords themselves….
Their nature is similar to that of the Lords, but they lack the omniscient power
and are rarely worshiped as gods themselves…
The Spirits of Orhan are believed to trace their origins from one of three sources: they are lesser beings who entered this space-time with the Lords and have always served them, children of a Lord and Nymph mating, or they are offspring of a Lord mating with a human or Elven female. The last, while not unheard of on Kulthea, are rarely powerful enough to reside on Orhan with the Lords. More than sheer Essænce control, the Spirit must be enough like a Lord to endure the stretch of time as a nearly omnipotent being and maintain his ‘humanity’ as it were. A few children have fallen from grace to violent insanity over the millennia and had to be destroyed by the Lords at great emotional
and physical cost. These occurrences are a special tragedy for the Lords of Orhan.
Terry then goes on to describe 7 of these demi-gods (4 Demi-gods of Charon as well), but states that: “There are in fact dozens of these beings“. For me, this raises two frustrations I have had with SW over the years. First, that seemingly setting critical elements are introduced much later in the book series (see my blog post on Jewel Slime); second that despite the importance of these new elements they aren’t really incorporated into later material. I couldn’t find 1 reference to the Orhan demi-gods in the Master Atlas timeline, Emer I, Emer II & Emer III. They are not present in any of the “history” of Kulthea. These are beings that are 60th to 80th level!
The next section in the SW Atlas covers “Nymphs”: fairy folk that are tied to elemental or geographic features: Trees, Grottos, Oceans, Caves and Hills, etc. Very much like “Thematic Demons”, they are defined thusly:
The Essænce given form and personality, the
Nymphs are of a similar nature to the Lords of
Orhan, but are tied to the earth rather than Orhan.
While I haven’t used Nymphs much or perhaps at all in my campaign, they touch upon an underlying metaphysics that are constantly hinted at, but never really formalized in rules: the Essaence is fundamentally transformative and can imbue consciousness, powers and personality into the physical world. Perhaps that is why many have gravitated towards the Essaence/Anti-Essaence paradigm. The Unlife/Anti-Essaence represents some malevolent will that usurps thought and personality; so too should the Essaence have intent and will as well?
Per the Atlas:
In many cases an apparent “local” god is actually a different incarnation of a Lord of Orhan or Dark God. There are also, however, many superhuman beings who can legitimately be considered gods. Most, while in most respects non-corporeal, are linked to a specific location and their power diminishes tremendously with distance from that place.
Local Gods introduce a second principal to the setting; one of “Ascension”. How does one powerful being make the transition from formidable to Godly? What is this process? Laia, a Demi-god was:
Daughter of Cay, Laia is one of the few children of the Lords of Orhan who has been elevated to “godhood.”
It appears that the Lords of Orhan can bestow Godhood upon a chosen few? As we discussed in the previous blog, can a powerful being ascend if they have gathered enough power and worshippers? How do these Gods attain the ability to “Channel” to their followers? How does a being become a local God? Through permeation of the Essaence over time? Do sentient beings make a local god? Do they first define a concept that “Becomes” via their collective will?
I blogged on this subject 5 years ago, but it never really drew comments or further discussion.
The Shadow World setting is basically a Greek-Roman polytheistic pantheon that has a number of other spiritual layers bolted on: Hero/Demi-gods, Alien Agothu, god-like Lords of Essence, locally potent natural Spirit creatures and Local Gods. Perhaps this is part of the criticism that Shadow World is a “kitchen sink”?
In my efforts putting together the Shadow World Channeling Supplement, I wanted to review other system settings and see what material might be helpful. I was curious about the Empire of the Petal Throne gods (also interdimensional beings rather than traditional “gods”), and reviewed the Religion supplements for Runequest (Cults of Prax) and Harn Religions. While much of me wants to respects the totality of Terry’s creation, another part wants to pare some of the material down. I’m not sure how I feel about Dryads, Neiads, and other Fairy Folk in my SW setting, and I don’t where to fit in Demi-gods to an already crowded religious table-top.
Do Demi-gods, Nymphs and Local Gods fit into your Shadow World campaign? Should the path to Godhood become a part of the Rolemaster game system or the SW setting? Do we have enough Godly beings? Too many? Not enough?