Magic and Gods on Yantas

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Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Mon 10 Apr 2017, 14:20

So, I discussed this in a post in the thread on my conworld, Yantas, but I kind of wanted to have this as a stand-alone topic for the moment. I've been trying to a form of magic to Yantas, mostly inspired by Terry Pratchett's work, that does objectively exist, but overall would have about the same effect on the world as if it didn't. Kind of.

Basically, there's a kind of magical field that permeates the world. It's kind of like a secondary "world" or "plane", I guess. Sort of like a shadow. Everything in the "real world" has a counterpart shadow within the magical field. The magical field can be affected by "belief" and as a result the real-world can be affected by the magical field. I suppose you can think of it almost in the same way as electromagnetism, but pretty wishy-washy when it comes to actually explaining how "belief" affects it.

Anyway, so the magical field is affected by "belief", mostly the idea that certain occurrences can be attributed to certain rituals or certain entities, like wearing lucky socks, help from an ancestor or spinning around anti-clockwise three times. The effect on the level of a singular person is pretty weak, because the magical field needs input of a roughly similar "scale" to the output in terms of energy/mass (think equivalent exchange in Fullmetal Alchemist). As the number of instances of belief increases, so does the effect on the magical field, but human beings have no way of directing that effect.

What happens instead is that the magical field sort of warps around that belief and then manifests in the form of a conscious deity who can then act according to their own will, which is where the whole "but overall would have about the same effect on the world as if it didn't" bit comes in. Deities, being entities in their own right and possessing free will, are capable of just ignoring their followers, doing as their followers wish, or doing something entirely different.

Deities aren't really "all-powerful", though. They're restricted. A lot. Well not a lot, but there are limits to what they can do. For instance, they can't just do whatever they want. Performing an action requires effort, and effort requires a "power source". Belief on its own is a pretty low-level source of power in a magical sense, while animal and human sacrifices are at a higher-level (especially when combined with belief on the part of the one being sacrificed). When a sacrifice is made, then animal or person is killed, but the "shadow" is directed towards the deity.

The "energy" that is directed towards the deity doesn't have to be used straight away, instead being effectively stored by that deity, but it also bleeds away over time, dissipating into the magical field again. So for a deity to continue to exist after their "birth", they need to find new believers to replace the ones that die and/or continue being offered up sacrifices.

Deities are also bound to the rough locations of their believers (so they're not omnipresent), they only exist so long as they have enough power to continue to exist (so they're not omnitemporal or immortal), and they can only sense the world around their believers and learn from that (so they're not omniscient). Deities are also neither inherently good nor inherently bad. They just sort of are. Some deities are selfish, others are hoarders, saving up power for one big miracle, others perform small feats fairly regularly, but they always pay for what they do and they have to fight against fading away.

Demigods also exists from time to time, but generally speaking they're just humans that happen to have been created by deities. They have no special abilities or powers or any weird weaknesses, they just have a deity behind them who might have a plan for them and might listen a little more often. It's actually pretty hard to spot a demigod, and it's entirely possible that some people who've been labelled as such aren't, and some demigods just grow up to be considered purely human.

Along similar lines, since deities are created by belief, no creation myths are correct, the family trees in various mythologies are all wrong and some mythologies which have different gods might be referring to the same "physical" deity, e.g. more or less all solar gods are the same deity (deities don't really merge, they just sort of out-compete each other).



I think that more or less covers it all. Belief affects magical field, affected magical field creates deity, deity affects magical field, effected magical field affects real world (all effort requires energy).
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by Creyeditor » Mon 10 Apr 2017, 14:53

I still like the idea [:)] I also have a question: Could there be ancient gods with no current believers? I was thinking that, if a god has many believers, which all sacrify for him, he would have no believers and a lot of power, which would take some time to fade away.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Mon 10 Apr 2017, 15:43

Creyeditor wrote:I still like the idea [:)] I also have a question: Could there be ancient gods with no current believers? I was thinking that, if a god has many believers, which all sacrify for him, he would have no believers and a lot of power, which would take some time to fade away.
I actually had this exact scenario in my mind as I was finishing up the first post. Since a deity's "power" takes time to dissipate (I might come up with an actual "rate" at some point, we'll see how it goes) then assuming the number of believers decreases faster than the dissipation occurs, then, yes, a deity could hang around after it lost its final believer. In the case of a particularly power-full (not powerful [:P] ) deity then they could presumably hang around for several centuries, or millennia.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by gestaltist » Tue 11 Apr 2017, 10:11

sangi39 wrote:
Creyeditor wrote:I still like the idea [:)] I also have a question: Could there be ancient gods with no current believers? I was thinking that, if a god has many believers, which all sacrify for him, he would have no believers and a lot of power, which would take some time to fade away.
I actually had this exact scenario in my mind as I was finishing up the first post. Since a deity's "power" takes time to dissipate (I might come up with an actual "rate" at some point, we'll see how it goes) then assuming the number of believers decreases faster than the dissipation occurs, then, yes, a deity could hang around after it lost its final believer. In the case of a particularly power-full (not powerful [:P] ) deity then they could presumably hang around for several centuries, or millennia.
This is a pretty cool idea. :)
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by alynnidalar » Tue 11 Apr 2017, 14:46

In such a case, I imagine the deity would be willing to do just about anything to get some more believers... or at least sacrifices...

Perhaps they'd have to make the choice between risking some of their power on a miracle/on creating a demigod to drum up business for them, or hoarding their power and trying to survive a little longer.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Tue 11 Apr 2017, 15:58

alynnidalar wrote:In such a case, I imagine the deity would be willing to do just about anything to get some more believers... or at least sacrifices...

Perhaps they'd have to make the choice between risking some of their power on a miracle/on creating a demigod to drum up business for them, or hoarding their power and trying to survive a little longer.
The idea, to a point, was to give them a sense of mortality. They might live longer than humans but they still have a chance of dying Unlike the "small gods" of Pratchett's Discworld, which just fade and then carry on, deities on Yantas fade wholly back into the magical field. If, for any reason, belief in a god returns, then, unless that specific deity has managed to hold on, an entirely new deity will rise up from that belief.

This is where I sort of divide "god" and "deity" in Yantas. A deity is the actual entity that rises from the magical field as the result of belief while a god is the perceived nature and relation of that entity. As a real-world example we could take, say, the Norse god Forseti and the Ásatrú god Forseti. On Yantas, the older Forseti would be some deity (Forseti-1). However, if belief in Forseti faded enough and for long enough that Forseti-1 disappeared, then when people start believing in Forseti again (in Ásatrú) then a new deity, Forseti-2, would rise from the magical field. The name given to that deity is the same, and the same attributes and relationships are ascribed to it, but while they represent the same god, they are two distinct deities. On the other hand, a resurgent belief in, say, Thor, could revitalise the original deity Thor-1, should it have hung around long enough.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by alynnidalar » Wed 12 Apr 2017, 15:17

I like that idea quite a bit. Are ordinary people aware of this, or would they think Forseti-1 and Forseti-2 are the same? Could lead to some interesting beliefs either way.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Wed 12 Apr 2017, 16:39

alynnidalar wrote:I like that idea quite a bit. Are ordinary people aware of this, or would they think Forseti-1 and Forseti-2 are the same? Could lead to some interesting beliefs either way.
My guess would be that the vast majority of people aren't aware of the situation going on behind the scenes, either in terms of the deities themselves or how magic works, i.e. through deities.

For example, there could be deities who perform actions for certain people all the time, giving them a kind of sorcerer-level status, while others might perform actions for certain people only if those people perform specific actions, giving them a wizard-level status. Those individuals wouldn't know that "their magic" comes from a deity, only that they happen to be "magical". Other deities might perform actions on a fairly ad hoc basis, essentially "granting wishes" from time to time, thus making magic a highly personal thing within those communities, but tied directly to a god.

I suppose some people might be aware of the actual situation in the background, but they'd gain that through special circumstances, like a deity actually revealing that fact to them, in a similar vein to Small Gods.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by Creyeditor » Wed 12 Apr 2017, 17:18

Wow, you could have scientist/philosopher-like people trying to find out how deities work. Wait, that's called theology *here*, right?
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Thu 13 Apr 2017, 15:49

Creyeditor wrote:Wow, you could have scientist/philosopher-like people trying to find out how deities work. Wait, that's called theology *here*, right?
Oo, you're right, I think. But then theological conclusions could be objectively incorrect as well (at least from our perspective we'd know they were) [:P] What a person thinks a god might be like and how magic works, even if it looks like it fits all the information available to them at the time, might not actually get it right because they can't see the entire picture.
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So close your eyes once more and once more believe
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by elemtilas » Thu 13 Apr 2017, 16:08

sangi39 wrote:Along similar lines, since deities are created by belief, no creation myths are correct, the family trees in various mythologies are all wrong and some mythologies which have different gods might be referring to the same "physical" deity, e.g. more or less all solar gods are the same deity (deities don't really merge, they just sort of out-compete each other).
Just wanted to say, sangi, how much I've enjoyed reading this thread! There's some really interesting twists and turns in here! Sure, the inspiration from Discworld is clear, but even clearer is how distinct your system is.

As for the above, that's an awesome bit of geopoetry that! It's like a worldbuilding neapolitan icecream cake of goodness: all these layers that underlie the reality, and yet what the reader experiences at the surface may be completely misdirected! I love that kind of thing --- it gives your system a sense of realism and depth that many systems lack.

Will be interesting to see how theology unfolds in Yantas: what will happen when they discover how this shadowplane works and all the gods everyone's been worshipping are all wrong and might actually be someone else!
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Thu 13 Apr 2017, 16:56

elemtilas wrote: Just wanted to say, sangi, how much I've enjoyed reading this thread! There's some really interesting twists and turns in here! Sure, the inspiration from Discworld is clear, but even clearer is how distinct your system is.
Thanks Elemtilas [:)] I figured that since the Discworld inspiration would be fairly obvious to anyone familiar with it, it was only fair to state that inspiration explicitly, even though I tried to form something around it that was quite different in some respects (in Pratchett's world, for example, people know about gods and the gods they know about are the gods that exist. Barring the whole "fading" thing, gods exist as people understand them).


elemtilas wrote:
sangi39 wrote:Along similar lines, since deities are created by belief, no creation myths are correct, the family trees in various mythologies are all wrong and some mythologies which have different gods might be referring to the same "physical" deity, e.g. more or less all solar gods are the same deity (deities don't really merge, they just sort of out-compete each other).
...

As for the above, that's an awesome bit of geopoetry that! It's like a worldbuilding neapolitan icecream cake of goodness: all these layers that underlie the reality, and yet what the reader experiences at the surface may be completely misdirected! I love that kind of thing --- it gives your system a sense of realism and depth that many systems lack.
That was the aim. I wanted a system that was objectively "real" within that world, but which could have multiple surface realisations while still being consistent. So, for example, in some areas you've got wizards, in others you've got sorcerers, "prophets" could exist receiving very real messages from the gods, or magic could be very small scale and personal, and either work all the time or haphazardly be no better than a roll of a slightly weighted dice (just enough to keep people believing), and all of those differences coming down to different strategies employed by different deities.

And then those deities are there, working in the background, doing whatever they feel needs to be done to keep belief in them going, while the people of the world weave stories around them that barring "gods exist" are completely unrelated to reality. A solar deity doesn't make Italva (the sun) come up every day, sacrifices don't either, but a belief that that deity does do that, and that sacrifices help, keeps the deity going and Yantas just keeps on spinning around its axis, same as always.


elemtilas wrote:Will be interesting to see how theology unfolds in Yantas: what will happen when they discover how this shadowplane works and all the gods everyone's been worshipping are all wrong and might actually be someone else!
I actually haven't thought all that much into this. As communication between people remains quite regional I'd expect that no-one would really get all that close to coming to that sort of understanding, what with all the misdirection going on. As people start exploring further afield, and international communication becomes more common, regions with different magical systems and theological beliefs will come into greater and greater contact, and it might be then that people start to draw the link, but I'd imagine it might be quite slow. Explicit magical use might be considered the result of a "demonic" force, and thus the gods of sorcerers might be consider equivalent to the Devil by people from other regions rather than "other gods".

That is to say, the gods and magic of other peoples might be viewed predominantly through the magic and mythology of the people encountering them, at least for a time.

One thing I did think about recently is the idea of scepticism, i.e. what would deities do in reaction to the idea of non-belief? Would they strike it down with lightning in the style Abraxas, or would they allow it, taking the chance to challenge the assertion elsewhere? This could be another area where different deities take different approaches (and in turn affect mythology).
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by alynnidalar » Thu 13 Apr 2017, 18:59

Of course that just makes me think of Dorfl in Discworld.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by Creyeditor » Thu 13 Apr 2017, 19:01

sangi39 wrote:One thing I did think about recently is the idea of scepticism, i.e. what would deities do in reaction to the idea of non-belief? Would they strike it down with lightning in the style Abraxas, or would they allow it, taking the chance to challenge the assertion elsewhere? This could be another area where different deities take different approaches (and in turn affect mythology).
I think there would be a great deal of proselytization. Killing a scepticist makes only sense if that makes you gain more believers. They might also try the opposite and give goods to non-believers if they promise to believe, kind of like reverse corruption.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Thu 13 Apr 2017, 20:09

Creyeditor wrote:
sangi39 wrote:One thing I did think about recently is the idea of scepticism, i.e. what would deities do in reaction to the idea of non-belief? Would they strike it down with lightning in the style Abraxas, or would they allow it, taking the chance to challenge the assertion elsewhere? This could be another area where different deities take different approaches (and in turn affect mythology).
I think there would be a great deal of proselytization. Killing a scepticist makes only sense if that makes you gain more believers. They might also try the opposite and give goods to non-believers if they promise to believe, kind of like reverse corruption.
I think it might depend on the deity and possibly the people. I don't know how prevalent "oh my god, that guy who thinks God is speaking to him is craaazy" has been throughout our time on Earth, but I get the feeling that a lot of the proselytising talk will come from either priests or a fanatic minority, i.e. when most people hear "convert the heathen" it's going to come from another human being, not a deity.

I think the only way to have that make sense is to maybe place some sort of "cap" on a deity's ability to communicate with people. Like, if they communicate with them directly too often it starts having negative effects on the chemistry of the brain and the people eventually die. So some level of direct communication is fine, but prolonged communication is detrimental to the believers.

Your last point is kind of where I was going with the idea of how deities might handle sceptics. They can either kill them outright, try to bring them around with some "miracle" or just continue their work and perform actions on the behalf of believers hoping the sceptic will be dismissed. Depends on the deity and what they think might be the best solution.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by elemtilas » Fri 14 Apr 2017, 02:25

sangi39 wrote:
Creyeditor wrote:
sangi39 wrote:One thing I did think about recently is the idea of scepticism, i.e. what would deities do in reaction to the idea of non-belief? Would they strike it down with lightning in the style Abraxas, or would they allow it, taking the chance to challenge the assertion elsewhere? This could be another area where different deities take different approaches (and in turn affect mythology).
I think there would be a great deal of proselytization. Killing a scepticist makes only sense if that makes you gain more believers. They might also try the opposite and give goods to non-believers if they promise to believe, kind of like reverse corruption.
Skepticism and Atheism are just other kinds of belief --- surely they too will spawn sòme kind of ... er ... god? something else?
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by Ànradh » Fri 14 Apr 2017, 06:07

Did you ever play Black and White? One of my favourite games, and I'm getting kind of a Black and White vibe from this because some of the mechanics of belief and power were similar.
The game allowed you to poach followers from other gods by performing miracles (good or evil at your preference, as the name would suggest), but you had rings of influence around your centres of worship that you couldn't reach beyond for more than a short time; I seem to recall how long depended on the amount of prayer power you had stored up, which you spent performing the miracles in the first place, and, of course, a rival god wasn't just going to let you get away with it. (Ah, fond memories of Lethys throwing rocks at my temple for electrocuting his worshipers' livestock... Yeah. I was a very morally grey deity. My creature though... Bad ol' puddy cat.)
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Fri 14 Apr 2017, 16:07

elemtilas wrote:
sangi39 wrote:
Creyeditor wrote:
sangi39 wrote:One thing I did think about recently is the idea of scepticism, i.e. what would deities do in reaction to the idea of non-belief? Would they strike it down with lightning in the style Abraxas, or would they allow it, taking the chance to challenge the assertion elsewhere? This could be another area where different deities take different approaches (and in turn affect mythology).
I think there would be a great deal of proselytization. Killing a scepticist makes only sense if that makes you gain more believers. They might also try the opposite and give goods to non-believers if they promise to believe, kind of like reverse corruption.
Skepticism and Atheism are just other kinds of belief --- surely they too will spawn sòme kind of ... er ... god? something else?
If there were a kind of spiritualist atheism (belief in no gods, but they still believe magic exists) then I suppose there might be a way for a deity to hang on in that manner. Since effective magic usually requires some sort of regular sacrifice then it doesn't seem unreasonable that a deity would arise from the belief that sacrifices lead to more intense magic. The deity in question would just be thought of as "that which is necessary to perform magic better".

I can't see a non-spiritualist atheism resulting in a deity (it's more belief that some seemingly unrelated action can lead to an event happening or just a sort of "belief in the supernatural" as we might put it that leads to deities coming about).


Ànradh wrote:Did you ever play Black and White? One of my favourite games, and I'm getting kind of a Black and White vibe from this because some of the mechanics of belief and power were similar.
The game allowed you to poach followers from other gods by performing miracles (good or evil at your preference, as the name would suggest), but you had rings of influence around your centres of worship that you couldn't reach beyond for more than a short time; I seem to recall how long depended on the amount of prayer power you had stored up, which you spent performing the miracles in the first place, and, of course, a rival god wasn't just going to let you get away with it. (Ah, fond memories of Lethys throwing rocks at my temple for electrocuting his worshipers' livestock... Yeah. I was a very morally grey deity. My creature though... Bad ol' puddy cat.)
I didn't, but I remember someone mentioning it to me in high school. I didn't look into it very much. Just stuck with Command & Conquer games [:P]

I'm trying to flesh it out as I go, trying to create a world that's roughly similar to ours but with little pockets of "magic is actually a thing here".





One thing I didn't think about is how deities might tie in with the Kovur, the non-human sapient species that inhabits a large portion of Yantas (with humans inhabiting a different portion). The mechanics would be the same, i.e. belief in magic leads to deities coming into being who then actually perform the magic, but deities might have to employ different strategies to maintain belief.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by sangi39 » Tue 21 Nov 2017, 21:52

So I started thinking the other day about this again. So far I haven't really incorporated the magic/deity system into Yantas, since I've not worked much on culture, but it's still there in the background. Anyway, I started thinking about an afterlife. I mean, there's clearly something in this conworld that is supernatural, so I kind of want to throw in a very real afterlife (like the gods and magic, the in-world "reality" will be different from how various cultures think it works).

I quite like the idea of souls gradually fading as memory of the deceased is lost, but I kind of want to tie that into some sort of divine ascent vs. absorption. So something along the lines of:

1) A person dies, and their soul separates from their physical body.
2) That soul remains distinct from the magical field so long as they have a continued connection to the living world (the more people remember the deceased and the longer people remember the deceased for, the longer it takes for them to lose that distinctiveness).
3) If a soul can remain distinct enough for long enough (as in the case of national heroes, famous political figures, cultural icons, etc.) then that soul can begin to affect the magical field, effectively becoming a deity.

So there's no actual heaven, hell, or anywhere you actually go when you die, you just sort of hang around until people forget about you. So in cultures where ancestor worship is a major part of their belief system, it's more likely going to be the souls of deceased ancestors performing magic than an independent deity.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Magic and Gods on Yantas

Post by Creyeditor » Tue 21 Nov 2017, 21:58

Could a philosopher in Yantas propose then, that humans are just gods that still have their physical bodies and thus are not yet 'allmighty'?
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