Yet Another Saga About Rising Evil (Hey, It's Trending!)

So, Heru Kane has a really neat thread going ([url]]), and it actually reminded me of Akriloth's thread a few months back ([url]]) where he branched out from events in a saga he had run and ran with the things in that saga to make a world where much of what we knew was wrong and now demons are taking over. (Wow, it sounds kind of blunt when I say it.) Both the saga structures presented in Heru Kane's thread and the general concepts embodied in Akriloth's intrigue me greatly as somebody who likes the idea of growing dark powers, and in particular as somebody who really enjoys theorizing and having moral quandaries about the Divine. As I've mentioned in other threads, I play Divine characters as often as possible, and typically enjoy deconstructing and reconstructing the concept of faith and what God represents in a world like Mythic Europe, so I thought it would be neat to be interesting to test such things on a setting-wide scale.

Plus, I'm in a super creative, edgy, experimental mood and I've recently done a lot of reading about other mythologies, so I really want to pull in some concepts from other mythos that intrigued me. So sue me, I'm human, I have impulses and petty reasons for what I do sometimes. :laughing:

On the other hand, if I can be frank, I wasn't terribly fond of how Akriloth did it, even realizing that he did what was likely best for his particular troupe and play style. His version of things seemed very convoluted, political, and less than mystical. God stopped being an entity and the entire idea of having faith is basically shown to be just wrong, and the process was much more akin to the dry, scientific way magi make things happen in the world rather than the amazing and awe-inspiring that should come from a being like the One True God. And I really don't think that the best way to deconstruct and redo the cosmology in a place like Mythic Europe is to totally shred down the fundamental center of the religion and make the resulting practices and beliefs arbitrary. I want to rock Mythic Europe to its core, and in doing so my idea ended up rather dark even by the setting's own standards, but I wanted it to be something that still validated God as an entity and justified Mythic Europe's particular state in a way that didn't feel forced to me, and which perhaps more importantly still put magi in an important position for more than just convenience's sake.

And did I mention convoluted? Yeah, my idea's going to be a bit more simple and direct. Hope that isn't a bother to anyone.

I drew a lot of inspiration from Heru Kane's thread as well, as I mentioned, but it was too small scale and close to home for what I think of when I think about a dark lord rising. Plus, hey, Dies Irae just came out, so it's the perfect time for a Go Big or Go Home approach!

So I hope you'll all join me for my initial conception of a setting with Hell as the central antagonizing force, and I'd like as many critiques and ideas as you can come up with, because this is a pretty barebones idea at the moment.

"Why does a perfectly good God allow suffering? 'Tis the most righteous option, of course; that can be the only logical answer. But how, you might ask, can a world with suffering be more right than a world without it? To understand this, lass, you must know the truth of the conflict between the Divine and the Infernal, between good and evil. Because, oh yes, in this world, good and evil are real forces, just as, nay, more real than fire and steel. They are the only ineffable, indestructible, infinite forces of the cosmos, cycling endlessly as the Heavens themselves."

The elder magus stirred his drink, gazing wistfully over his expansive laboratory. He had everything here; mechanical contraptions, shimmering gold and silver scepters, hallways of nonsense proportions and seemingly impossible geometries, and even a little girl, who he nodded at in reaffirmation of her existence. He scratched at his short beard and started, seeming shocked to find it there.

"But Master Criamon," the little girl objected. "If God is all-powerful, couldn't be just destroy all the evil and let everybody be happy?"

"God has infinite power, yet evil is an infinite obstacle to overcome, child. Infinities can only cancel each other; one cannot overpower the other. As long as there is free will, there will be evil, and there will be good. The cycle of good and evil is all-encompassing and consumes everything else, trapping all. The matters of the elements, of life, of the afterlife, even time is encased, forced to follow the cycle and repeat."

"Even God?" She uttered incredulously.

"God is infinite, and the cycle is infinite, in equal measure. God does not want evil to exist, but it must. The cosmos are a waterwheel, we are the water, and God is a madman inside the rims, able to do anything within the wheel but crying for nothing more than to shatter it entirely." He sipped his drink, deeply inhaling the vapors rising from within the cup.

The girl wrapped her hands around her knees, rocking back and forth a bit while keeping her wide eyes trained on her master. "You keep saying it's a wheel, a cycle. Does that mean it all just repeats? Time starts over, the same stories come, the whole world starts over? Is it all the same every time?"

Criamon chortled at this, nearly spraying his hot drink out over himself. He continued to chuckle and regarded the girl with amusement. "Heavens, girl, how do you expect me to know if the world is the same every time? I only know this time, I don't recall any of the previous worlds. I don't even know if I was in them. Besides, that's not the point of today's lecture." He groaned as he rose shakily to his feet. "The thing to take from what I've said today is that the world isn't as clear-cut as most would have you believe and you can't always rely on someone else to be in total control. Oh, and if you screw up my potions again, there's a chance I might punish you for it infinite times."

The conflict between God and the Devil isn't quite how you've imagined it.

God is purely benevolent, and infinitely powerful, but unbeknownst to the Church He is not constant. God is in everything and He is separate, yes, but more than that he is a duality. He is the embodiment of the cycle of benevolence and malevolence in the universe. Benevolence and malevolence are balanced in terms of absolute power, but are too oppositional to remain in harmony, thus causing the cycle to perpetuate.

One side, the good side known as Yahweh, Allah, and many other names, gains an advantage over evil, dominating it and stealing its power to gain absolute power over the universe, and He creates, breathing life into creation and giving people souls and free will. Yet the good must be balanced by the evil, which seeps into the world, growing in power until enough is there that the evil side, variously called Lucifer, Beherit, Shaitan, and many more names can tear free from the good's subjugation. There they fight for the world, where the evil side, which has been building up strength, subjugates the good, casting the world further and further into darkness until it is eradicated in the tide of destructive evil. And thus the wheel turns again, with good regaining strength and fighting again for control, so that it may create.

The more power one side asserts, the more quickly the other side's power comes pouring in. As such, when God created the perfect Garden of Eden, the Satan's serpent's appearance was nearly immediate, and it brought sin and evil to the world. God decided to leave the choice in the hands of His creation how much time they spent with good dominant in the world, granting the power of holiness to those who entreated Him faithfully, while allowing an amount of leeway to those who entreated the Devil, for they played a counterbalancing role; in a perhaps ironic twist, with good deeds increasing goodness in the world and thus accelerating the balancing wave of evil, evil acts by free-willed beings do the opposite, offsetting how much evil energy comes into the world even as they concentrate it in an individual area.

The demons of this world are the embodiment of the evil force that has entered the world, but suffer disunity and ineffectiveness due to not having a true commander. Angels, meanwhile, represent expressions of perfect goodness, banded together and acting in harmony under the eye of the perfect God. While God could hypothetically cure all diseases, end hunger, and destroy all the demons with a thought to briefly recreate paradise, this would merely encourage evil to pour back into the world at a vastly faster rate, so God uses his powers judiciously and at the behest of his most pious followers to put the Devil's full reawakening off.

The other Realms represent aspects of the cycle as well, but rather than mirroring parts of good and evil, they represent the world itself.

Faerie represents the constants of all worlds that have been under the cycle, gaining power from their sympathetic resonance with things all the worlds have had in common, essential aspects of "stories" which happen across worlds, even if the shapes and specifics are sometimes different. They are bound to the cycle, and will usually act to perpetuate the cycle, even if they are aware of it and consciously wish to try to change things; it is simply their nature.

Magic represents that which is natural and unique to each world, those things that arise without being beholden to good or evil, that which can change and vary from cycle to cycle without intervention by God. Magic is the cause of changes between cycles, and varies in its form and intensity from repitition to repitition. In some worlds, Magic is a moderate power in rough balance with the others; in some, it's a barely-noticeable blip compared to the other Realms; in some, its power grows to strengths or purposes beyond the greatest expectations. And one of these times, God can only hope, maybe Magic can finally break the endless cycle.

For while the Divine God and the Infernal God are effectively infinite when they have subjugated the other, during their time between subjugations they are measurable, albeit unbelievably vast, beings. Perhaps during this time some force which by its nature cannot be created or engineered by God will finally be able to disrupt this battle of the cosmos in some meaningful way.

What do you guys think? Is this a pretty cool idea for a way to shift the underlying cosmology a bit, and to preface a Dies Irae-style "end of the world" scenario? Or is it just dumb and awful and totally wrong and I should scrap it? Any ideas for consequences of this I'm not thinking of, or ways you can think of to expand off of it to make it more meaningful to games that don't focus on the obvious apocalypse scenario? Ideas and criticisms in general? Let me know! If this has potential, I want to maximize it; if it doesn't, better to find that out so I can try something else.

Hey Hammer!

I like your idea and the way it is written. Very nice snippet, with Criamon :slight_smile:
Having something exist outside God's plan, though, is a major change indeed. I wonder if it's really necessary. After all you don't need to change the paradigm to have a major disaster... God has permitted the Deluge, the black death who killed 1/3 Europe's population and such. Unless it's a total destruction of planet earth, I think you could have a big bad change by using the "gods moves in mysterious ways" clause.

There are ways I could change it, to make it part of God's plan, yeah. In fact, there isn't necessarily anything to suggest that it isn't already part of his plan as-is for some mysterious unexplainable reason, other than Criamon's conjecture in my snippet. But then, that fundamental change is in some ways what I was after, too; see below.

I mostly just want to focus on giving the player characters a sense of greater control and meaning. I like almost everything about the Mythic European mythology, but the exception to that is the sometimes arising feeling that people's choices don't fundamentally matter to anything except the fate of their own souls. God always has a plan, however mysterious, and this sort of breaks full apocalypse scenarios by taking away the onus of success and failure on the part of individuals. If the world ends now, then God decided it was time; if the world is saved, then God never intended it to be destroyed in the first place. Either way, there's that ineffable feeling of being pawns, even if I as an SG run the world correctly. So I wanted to bring about a world that both justified God's limiting of his expressions of Divine might and gave players back that central sense of agency.

This also restored the idea of faith as a question in Mythic Europe. God is still infinite and omnibenevolent, at least for most of the time you'll know him, but once people figure out that something's up, it will more justify the fact that some people simply aren't faithful in a world where God literally performs miracles and sends down angels.

Also, I'm super on about the concept of duality, and in general the idea of God and Satan being actually the same being in a sense and making evil an equal oppositional force to good really intrigues me. As I mentioned, I was blending some other mythological concepts into Christianity here.

I, ehm, don't think making God a part of a duality and having unCreated things (Magic) counts as a change less than Arkiloth's :smiley: Regardless - I do like it.

I understand why you want to make Magic pivotal, but frankly found your justification problematic. So I'll vainly suggest another.

My favorite take on Magic is that it's the Platonic Realm, the realm of pure ideas as they are in their perfect form. Magic auras on earth are a pale reflection of these perfect ideals. Given this view, you could say - it's a heresy I'm sure, but less so than dualism - that even God can't determine what is POSSIBLE, namely the Platonic/Magic Realm; he can only choose to create from what is possible, namely how to instantiate the ideal Forms in an un-ideal way, thus Creating the world. Now the Realm of Magic, by itself, has no desires regarding the world. But magi do. Thus, magi can in principle re-shape Creation, including perhaps keeping Satan at bay even though God cannot. They are a loose canon, not bound by God or Satan as they draw their power from the pure realm of Forms rather than from their duality.

In this scenario, I might allow the PCs to be given/develop the power to overcome the Limit of Creation, thus allowing them to be truly God-like in order to overcome Satan.

I think it's just a matter of perspective. Even in our real world you read reality according to your own world view. The very same event is seen as God's will by christians, as phisics by scientists, as cospiracy by the paranoids and so on... So one of your players could say: "ok, my GM says that I just broke God's plan! But did I? Or was it it's REAL plan all along? God's mind, after all, is unknowable."
But I'm being boring :slight_smile:
I like your setting as a foundation for a saga, and i like what YR7 added. The magic realm is made of ideas that come before God. So if you can tap into it directly and with a free mind, you can actually create something new and unforeseen.

Maybe not less of a change, but less convoluted at least, and I think it keeps the concept of God just as mystical and beyond mortal ken as normal. Anyway, glad you like :smiley:

Oh, that's an excellent idea as well! And they aren't necessarily contradictory, either; Magic covers all that is possible, but that doesn't mean everything is discovered each time around, not even close. Magic is still the key Realm in differentiating the cycles because the whole concept of it as the platonical realm is so vast that it nonetheless comes out pretty differently every time.

I dunno about outright giving the PCs the ability to break the Limit of Creation, because I feel making it so easy would detract from the idea that it's the hard work and free will of people (and to a lesser extent Magic creatures) that allows the world to change from cycle to cycle, but it's definitely one of those Limits that I would let players learn how to break through effort.

Thanks so much for all the feedback so far, guys!

What I like the most in your proposal, Hammer, is that it gives a simple, yet elegant explanation why God is rarely intervening in the World events. If He intervenes, he empowers the Devil.
As long as he is the only one acting, His actions will always be counter by himself.

However, if mankind acts in a certain way, this changes "permanently" the balance between Good and Evil. It becomes a true expression of Free Will. Somehow, manking could make by itself a better world, Heaven on earth, or turn it into a living Hell.

The place of magi is that as beings wielding immense power, yet being still human, more than anybody, they can take actions that will affect large area and whole population.

Of course, God being a dual being is a drastic paradigm change, but I like how it keeps the Divine all-poweful, yet very discreet and how free-will is real, not just an obscur plan from an unfatomable divinity.

Pfft. Are you serious? Name-calling and jabs at my ideas? Alright. Well, you said you were open to what everyone has to say, so here goes.

Your idea failed completely at its goal. You wanted to make free will and the question of faith more relevant, but then you made good and evil objective forces. Where's the room for quandary in that? Where's the room for people who feel betrayed by God's ineffable jerkitude, where's the room for deciding for yourself what you consider important? When you objectify good and evil as a universal element, you take away the most important element of choice players have. The choice to decide for themselves what they want to achieve and what they want that to mean for their character. In the base game, even if the vast majority of people in the setting would disagree with you, you had the right to decide, "I don't think this thing that everyone accepts as right actually is." You take away their right to say, "I think God is wrong here." You have the right to say, "I'd rather suffer in an equal Hell than spend eternity in Paradise under a tyrant." Even the angels and demons of the setting are defined for the most part by unity and whether or not they adhere to religiously upheld virtues, things that the humans of the time considered positive and negative, not cosmically defined rightness and wrongness.

Your setting tells people who question God's goodness or try to change the system in a particular way that they are objectively in the right or in the wrong. You're giving players the "your actions really matter" agency but also telling them that certain actions are outright good or outright evil and if they disagree with the status quo then they're bad people. (Or at least their characters are.) This is one of the biggest problems with the core of D&D and it's a huge issue to try and introduce that to Ars Magica. Morality doesn't work that way and you should at all costs not impose that on people.