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?
5 thoughts on “Shadow World: Spirits, Demi-gods and other godly beings.”
The recent discussions have caused me to reexamine and reevaluate the underpinnings of our campaign. Talking with the players, it seems we have drifted a particular direction IRT Dieties and beings of power. We’ll probably chuck the whole traditional “Gods” trope, and simplify it down to entities who can manipulate Essaence (“Powers of Light and Darkness” ). Those entities can be mighty (Lords of Orhan, K’ta’viiri, etc..) or weak (player spellcasters), but they are all basically accessing the same source. As to the impact of that understanding, I suspect it will streamline our campaigns because we’ve discarded a whole mess of traditional Fantasy diety murkiness. That alone makes it quite easy to explain how and why “Local gods”, Avtars, Demi-Gods and other beings of Power exist. For example: with that understanding I now can label the “Nymphs and Sylphs, Naiads Dryads, and Oceanids” as “Spirits of Orhan” with a focus and not that much different than a standard PC caster (just more powerful).
I’ve also always ignored most of the standard ‘DnD’ trope fantasy creatures (undead, vampires, orcs, etc..) in our campaigns and focus more on the unique creatures of the world. After all, there has been a LOT of interference with the Kulthea environment over the years. To name just a few:
a) The original biosphere of the Althans and the subsequent manipulation of that biosphere by the Althans.
b) The Althans bringing back to Kulthea creatures, peoples and entities for experimentation.
c) The Lords of Orhan who both created and saved creatures during the Interregnum.
c) Visitiations and infestations of other creatures such as the Krylites and the ancestors of the Aldari. You have to figure that these other races would have had at least a remnant of their original biosphere with them.
d) The continued, and never ending visitation of creatures from the Void and other planes (demons).
e) The manipulation of the Kulthean creatures and peoples by the Dark Gods of Charon.
Heck, the environmental consequences of things as simple as insects and plants have huge impacts, as shown in our own lives.
As to how one ascends, that’s a good question, and one I’ve not had to face in a campaign. Have to read a bit on that one (probably GURPs and Pathfinder).
 Maybe formalizing the concept concept of Essaence ‘Levels’ makes sense here. Maybe the Lords of Orhan and the Dark Gods can access ‘raw’ Essaence, whereas others can only access something more limited (like BriH’s ‘aether’ from the earlier linked article). This does fit with RM’s concept of Arcane spell lists, and might help with the understanding of Navigator spells.
Given that the Lords of Orhan aren’t really “Gods”–this seems like a good framework. But…there are implied abilities as one goes up the ladder of power. Depending on your views of Channeling mechanics, the “Gods” have the ability to send PPs or even spells to their followers, manifest physically, travel between the moon and the planets etc. One Lord of Orhan purportedly controls the souls ability to travel to the afterlife. High level spells can bring people back from the dead. Are these abilities just more erudite Arcane lists that are developed at higher levels? But in general I agree that the power ladder is just higher abilities of accessing and manipulating the Essaence.
Great points, lets see where this goes.
“Are these abilities just more erudite Arcane lists that are developed at higher levels?”
Yes, I’d argue so (maybe call it ‘Primal Essænce’). Simply that the major powers have access to a tier/concept of ‘Essaence’ that is beyond what most can fathom. I’d suspect that the K’ta’viiri were closest to the path of this ‘tier’, as probably shown best by the ‘Eye of Utha’ event (with the Dark Gods emergence) or their combined science/Essænce experiments. Furthermore, RMC’s SLII discusses Arcane magic (point one) in exactly this way (as does RMSS’s Arcane Companion). For example RMSS:AC’s Wizard’s Base list ‘Faith Breaker’ List disrupts Channeling (Block Channel, Unpower Faith), or the Containing Ways list which can rob a spell caster of all PP’s). RMC SL speaks specifically of a spell being able to block Channeler’s link to their deity (‘Unpower’). This I think shows at least the conception of a tier of magic that can imping on the Essænce transfer of Channelers (be they Spells or PP’s). To go one step further, isn’t any manipulation of a channel of power (Chanelling or not) a step in the direction of further manipulation and control? A horrible example (I admit) but consider the similarities between Nuclear bombs and Nuclear power plants.
For the Travel abilities, I’d point to Shadow World’s Navigator lists, R. P. Henton’s “Rifts’ Arcane spell list (1996, approved by I.C.E.), or even RMC’s ‘Ethereal Mastery’ list. The “Rift’s” Spell list provides for a way to create two-way transport gateways, including Dimensional Travel (lv30). Frankly it’s similar in some way’s to RMC’s ‘Etherial Master’ list, just not bound to the ‘Etherial’ plane.
The Soul manipulation power’s are, I’ll admit, tough. Maybe Souls could be seen as pattern imprints on the Primal Essaence. This would explain how the various Spell Lists which deal with interacting with the dead work? To follow this, then perhaps it wouldn’t be too far to see some entity wanting to collect the various patterns, for some kind of undecipherable purpose. whew….. deep metaphysical stuff here, and I’m way over my head.
Found the Xa-Ar reference: “Fueled by the Essænce of the Well and the devotion (and fear)
of the worshippers, the demon grows in power and essentially becomes Xilkot.” so a combination of worship and access to high-powered energy allows the creation of a god.
The only example for a children of a god I recall is Valaan Mahrindi in Xa-Ar. He gets some overpowered resistances like Shrek and the Dragonlords, and maybe some extra juice when casting. Other than that it’s a normal person, only with an expensive Talent/Background Option, so players could choose to go that way without unbalancing things too much.
As regards nymphs and such we never used them, but I understand that Kel is a dryad so powerful that can be considered a god, but in Emer I it is stated that its power does not come from worship.
Xa’-ar is a whole topic unto itself. I love the product for it’s uniqueness, but it can be a dumpster fire of “too much”. The Earthwarden spheres border on a fun house dungeon with no obvious functional purpose….