Davon’s comment on my last post made me think a bit more about the “Charonic” pantheon in Shadow World. In that blog post, there were really 2 items that felt like they needed a more in depth explanation that Terry never really provided: The Dark Gods and the Dragonlords. In this post, I wanted to delve a bit more into the Dark Gods and perhaps narrow down to some plausible choices that fit the SW narrative and history. But first I would encourage readers to check out a file I put up last year, the Shadow World Channeling Supplement. This expanded upon the various religions and “Priesthoods” of the various Orhan and Charon gods and included new Base lists for each of the Gods.
Let’s first list a few theories about the origins of the Dark Gods:
- They are former Lords of Orhan who turned from the benign ways of their brethren.
- They are escapees from some inter-dimensional prison.
- They are the result of experiments by the Althans to create non-corporeal life.
- Davon in his comment, cited some references to the Dark Gods relationship to “Demons of the Pale”, which could be related to #2 above.
- The Dark Gods are Avatars created by the Lords of Orhan.
The first theory is probably the easiest to matriculate into SW canon. While the Dark Gods don’t appear until early in the Second Era, the Lords of Orhan are not discussed individually in any material way in the First Era or the Interregnum. There is no issues with the specific Dark Gods not being mentioned as part of the “Orhan contingent”; none of the Gods in general are touched upon. One could also argue that “Gods” didn’t really gain power until they had enough active worshippers–a common idea in fantasy literature and gaming. Therefore the Gods really didn’t coalesce their power until they had sentient beings repopulating Kulthea in the early Interregnum. The Gods of Charon, by virtue of their smaller worshipper base and perhaps the mitigating effects of their exile to Charon just have less power overall compared to their brethren.
The second theory feels a bit to vague and hand wavy for me. Aren’t the Lord of Orhan refugees from another dimension already? Were they escapees from some inter-dimensional prison themselves? Do the Charon Gods need the implication of escapees or convicts to justify their morality (or lack thereof)? This solution just raises more questions that need to be solved. Plus, Kulthea is already filled with powerful beings: Lords of Orhan, Demons from Beyond the Pale, Agothu, Thalan, spirits, local Gods, minor Gods and Avatars, surviving Lords of Essence, Andraax…. For me, adding yet another god-powerful batch of refugees seems unneeded at this point.
The third theory just doesn’t work for me. As powerful as the Lords of Essence seemed to be, and certainly Kaedena as Empress of the Galaxy was), the idea that they could create god-like beings is too much.
The fourth theory, that Davon mentions is the Dark Gods relationship to Demons, the Pales or even “Beyond”. That’s certainly workable, but I would make a few points. Demons are “alien” and those from “Beyond the Pale” are beyond mortal understanding. The Dark Gods are fairly simple in their motivations and many of them couldn’t even really be called “Evil”. In fact they tend towards “anthropomorphic” appearance and behaviors. Many of the Dark Gods have Temples in the major cities throughout Kulthea. A few, like Scalu, are certainly strange or terrifying, but certainly not alien beyond mortal understanding. Most of the Dark Gods are similar to the Lords of Orhan, but perhaps less Greco-Roman inspired.
The final theory is touched upon in the Master Atlas. The full relevant section as follows (bold emphasis mine):
This close pass by the comet disrupts the function of the
Eyes of Utha, causing an unbalance in the Flows. Also, the moon
Charón passes through Sa’kain’s tail. Soon after this event the
Dark Gods—cruel counterparts of the Lords of Orhan—begin
to appear. Unlike the Lords, these entities revel in manipulating the peoples of Kulthea for their amusement… and their amusement includes human sacrifice, perverse rituals, and bloody warfare.
To counter these new deities, the Lords of Orhan create
manifestations—Avatars—of themselves and appear in these
forms on the Shadow World. They present themselves as gods,
and they allow their powers to be channeled for generally benevolent purposes. They also allow their demigod spirits to travel to Kulthea and intervene directly in world affairs.
The origin of the Dark Gods remains unclear, shrouded in
the superstition and myth of a time long ago. Some Loremasters suspect they are actually former Lords of Orhan who turned from the benign ways of their brethren. Others hold that they are escapees from some inter-dimensional prison, or even the
result of experiments by the Althans to create non-corporeal
So clearly, the Lords of Orhan created Avatars of themselves in RESPONSE to the Dark Gods. This also touches upon the beginnings of the Lords of Orhan’s manifestations on Kulthea through their Avatars; perhaps this was the beginning for organized religions? This passage still leaves the origins of the Dark Gods unclear. They are an opposing force of the Lords of Orhan, they too have “Demi-gods” that manifest on Kulthea and they have a broad base of followers. And they are NOT of the Unlife.
In the end, what is the answer? Whatever is best for you and your campaign of course! However, given the opportunity, should the origins of the Dark Gods be changed or clarified?