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    Canonfire :: View topic - Greyhawk Dieties/Gods in Basic
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    Greyhawk Dieties/Gods in Basic
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Oct 07, 2008
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    Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:03 am  
    Greyhawk Dieties/Gods in Basic

    Since I recently realized that B1 and B2 were originally written during a time when the first Basic box was really for the first three levels of OD&D, I looked to see if there were any references to Greyhawk gods. Mystara's whole later take on there not being gods but rather immortals was a later development (like the name Mystara itself).

    Sure enough, in B1 there are references to the Great Church, St. Carmichael, St. Cuthbert, Secret Church, The Bringer, and the Holy Brotherhood.

    The edition of B2 I have is not an original printing but one I got in my box set from 1981. But it does desribe clerics of evil chaos as wearing black robes with maroon cowls and having skull clasps. While there's not much else that's descriptive, these details seem to be in line with either Iuz or Nerull as described in the Greyhawk Adventures rule book.

    B3's first printing has a picture of a room which has a text description which says there are holy symbols in it. This would be first module from the 1981 boxed set and seems to contain the symbol from the EEG. I don't know if that is a coincidence. The other symbols in the room come from ancient Egypt, Islam, Christiantity, gold, fire, earth, water, and the zodiac for cancer. There were more symbols but I'm not familiar with them.

    B4 references the gods of Cynidicea: Gorm, Usamiaras, and Madarua.

    X1 references Oloron, Lord of the Skies.

    X2 references a bishop and an abbot and contains a picture of a cleric using a cross.

    X3 mentions the Lawful Order of Fosetta, Spumming Nooga, and Cretia.

    MSOLO2 mentions the minataur god Kiranjo.

    X4 references a diety of Law represented in a shrine that looks dragon like and a diety that protects those seeking knowledge which has three arms and is bull headed.

    So I figure those are the gods that may not be "immortals" in the Mystara sense...which if you care. It seems to make sense to me that clerics would belong to a religion that worships a diety and not an immortal. Or why make the distinction that immortals aren't gods though some may pretend to be gods?

    From a rules point of view, why bother to make the game less offensive for those that say they are offended when the more popular AD&D line still had gods? I can only guess that it's easy for us to use our 20/20 hindsight to say what a committee of people should have done about 25 years ago.

    Anyway, the interesting Greyhawk thing I thought was that maybe when Gygax was writing B2, he hadn't fleshed out Iuz or Nerull the way Ward described their followers in Greyhawk Adventures. I say this because that book lists Nerull as Lawful Evil yet we know the chapel and shrine are dedicated to evil chaos. Iuz is Charotic evil but the skull clasps aren't described as grinning nor are any of the evil clerics wearing black or white. Yet there is a gong.

    ...And then in the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, the clerics are followers of Erishkigal.
    GreySage

    Joined: Oct 06, 2008
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    Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:07 pm  
    Re: Greyhawk Dieties/Gods in Basic

    Raymond wrote:
    B3's . . . The other symbols in the room come from ancient Egypt, Islam, Christiantity, gold, fire, earth, water, and the zodiac for cancer.

    It seems to make sense to me that clerics would belong to a religion that worships a diety and not an immortal. Or why make the distinction that immortals aren't gods though some may pretend to be gods?


    Its well known that EGG used the gods of our pantheons to get started -- I give you Ereshkigal. I, myself, like to use Perunu, which is the Slavic name for Thor, Zeus, Jupiter, et al. Simply because this name is unfamiliar to our "western" ears. Happy

    Raymond wrote:
    The other symbols in the room come from ancient . . . Christiantity . . . X2 references a bishop and an abbot and contains a picture of a cleric using a cross.


    This isn't necessarily a truism. But it is a modern day misconception. The cross did not originate with Christianity, but was adopted by it:

    "Various objects, dating from periods long anterior to the Christian era, have been found, marked with crosses . . . in almost every part of the old world. India, Syria, Persia and Egypt have all yielded numberless examples . . ." Encyclopedia Britannica (1946) Vol. 6, p. 753.

    "The shape of the [two-beamed cross] had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt." An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London 1962), W. E. Vine, p. 256.

    "It is a strange, yet unquestionably a fact, that . . . the Cross has been used as a sacred symbol . . . the Greek Bacchus, the Tyrian Tammuz, the Chaldean Bel, and the Norse Odin, were all symbolised to their votaries by a cruciform device." The Cross in Ritual, Architecture, and Art (London 1900) G. S. Tyack, p. 1.

    So, the cross does not have to equate with Christianity in anyone's campaign. It doesn't even have to stand for "goodness." It can be used for some other god, even one of an "evil," or of a "perverse," nature.

    "Various figures of crosses are found everywhere on Egyptian monuments and tombs . . . as symbolical of the phallus [a representation of the male sex organ] or of coition . . . the crux ansata . . . is found side by side with the phallus." A Short History of Sex-Worship (London 1940) H. Cutner, pp. 16, 17; also The Non-Christian Cross, p. 183.

    Try that one out on your players! Evil Grin

    Here's one for the road:

    "These crosses were used as symbols of the Babylonian sun-god, and are first seen on a coin of Julius Caesar, 100-144 B.C., and then on a coin struck by Caesar's heir (Augustus) . . . It should be stated that Constantine was a sun-god worshipper . . ." The Companion Bible, Appendix No. 162; also The Non-Christian Cross, pp. 133-141.

    Just offering up some gaming curve balls. Cool
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:27 am  
    Cross

    The cross in the picture appears to be a "Cross crosslet" but yes it's a fairly basic geometric design that as your pointing out may have been used elsewhere at other times as a reference to something non-Christian. But since it's next to a moon and a star in the same picture the odds are that the TSR illustrator was using familiar symbols to our real life culture though there's nothing from stopping a DM from ignoring the picture or saying that it represents something else in his or her game.
    GreySage

    Joined: Oct 06, 2008
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    Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:49 am  
    Re: Cross

    Raymond wrote:
    The cross in the picture appears to be a "Cross crosslet" but yes it's a fairly basic geometric design that as your pointing out may have been used elsewhere at other times as a reference to something non-Christian.


    Exactly! We -- at least those of us from Western cultures -- come from a Judeo-Christian background and, therefore, have a certain mental association with/of the cross. At the very least, your players are probably thinking -- "good guys." But, what if the temple isn't devoted to good? Shocked

    Raymond wrote:
    . . . there's nothing from stopping a DM from ignoring the picture or saying that it represents something else in his or her game.


    And there you go, walking your players right into a trap. And one that wasn't necessarily set for them, but is a trap of their own making -- because of their arbitrarily (mentally) associating the "Cross crosslet" with a good aligned Deity. A nice, subtle surprise for them. (Insert evil laugh here) Evil Grin

    But, hey, that's just my two pennies. Happy
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    From: Nyrond

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    Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:41 pm  

    I agree with Raymond's original post that its probably a matter of Gary's game evolving. If I had a player having problems with it I'd probably explain it away as regional names and worship practices for a divine being that is basically the same creatures. In real life terms an extreme example would be the God of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish tradition which is fairly consistently described - with some minor variations in all three faiths but called by different names and worshipped in radically different manners. Mystic has already given another example of Perunu/Thor/Zeus/Jupiter which is the same deity evolved into different traditions depending on geography, time, and social factors.

    I'd also note that while making up original sounding names is fairly easy, making up original symbols is not. (I have a rather thick book that is a dictionary of symbols and just about anything that you can think of has been done at some point in history and has some meaning attached to it). So just about any symbol you can come up with is going to have various meanings to it you probably hadn't intended.

    And Mystic... making the player's preconceptions work against them is evil... shame on you... and of course on me. :) since I do it all the time myself. Especially when dealing with players that are meta-gaming... the player giving the character knowledge that the player has that the character wouldn't. For example... its the first time the party has ever meet a troll and none of their characters make the skill check to know anything about trolls. If the player's start breaking out fire and acid without some trial and error first then they are unfortunately going to find out that fire actually HEALS trolls and acid hardens their skin temporarily giving them damage reduction. I guess they will have to use trial and error to figure out that trolls, for some reason, are vulnerable to cold and electricity in this campaign.

    My favorite cross misconception is the "cross fylfot." Seeing the term many people would think 'oh, a cross, it must be a good thing' but if they saw the actual cross they would immediately associate it with evil, since another name for that form of a cross is "swastika." A swastika isn't good or evil, its a symbol and the moral associations are what we make them. In fact, except the notorious use by the Nazi's the swastika is a notably powerful symbol of 'good' concepts in many major world religions and throughout recorded history.
    GreySage

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    Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:58 pm  

    Varthalon wrote:
    And Mystic... making the player's preconceptions work against them is evil... shame on you... and of course on me. :) since I do it all the time myself . . . For example... its the first time the party has ever meet a troll . . . the player's start breaking out fire and acid without some trial and error . . . find out that fire actually HEALS trolls and acid hardens their skin . . . I guess they will have to use trial and error to figure out that trolls, for some reason, are vulnerable to cold and electricity in this campaign.


    Oh, great heavens! That's just sadistic Varth! Sadistic! Evil Grin Laughing Evil Grin Laughing

    Varthalon wrote:
    My favorite cross misconception is the "cross fylfot." . . . name for that form of a cross is "swastika." A swastika isn't good or evil . . . except the notorious use by the Nazi's the swastika is a notably powerful symbol of 'good' concepts in many major world religions and throughout recorded history.


    Very true, absolutely true and my idea in reverse! I like the way you think, Varth! Cool

    Throwing your players a few curve balls makes for some good play. And they always come back for more! Wink
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:52 pm  
    Re: Greyhawk Dieties/Gods in Basic

    Raymond wrote:

    From a rules point of view, why bother to make the game less offensive for those that say they are offended when the more popular AD&D line still had gods?


    Frank Mentzer, editor of the 3 incarnation of the Basic Set (2 booklet version, Elmore cover art) had the following to say on the matter:

    Basic Player's Book, page 24 wrote:
    In D&D games, as in real life, people have ethical and theological beliefs. This game does not deal with those beliefs. All characters are assumed to have them, and they do not affect the game. They can be assumed, just as eating, resting, and other activities are assumed, and should not become part of the game.


    Basic DM's Book, page 15 wrote:

    Deities
    You may choose to add flavor to your games by adding mythological deities. The characters would be followers of such beings, and a cleric could serve a specific deity. However, all such activities are assumed,
    and should not influence play or change the rules in any way. No deity
    would react to the actions of any individual character, nor offer any special help.
    The deities of the game characters may be similar to the mythological gods and goddesses of days long past. The ancient Greeks, for example, worshiped many gods - Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, and so forth. According to legend, these gods would grant favors to their worshippers, and that is one way to explain the magic spells a cleric character can cast in the
    game.
    The DM should be careful not to needlessly offend players, and current beliefs should be avoided.


    I think the essence of these two passages is the idea that large pantheons of detailed deities are simply not needed to play a basic game of D&D, and by the time Frank wrote that, the Basic D&D game was indeed the simplified option to AD&D, which did assume and encourage detailed mythoi.

    The benefit of this from a Basic D&D point of view is that you can make divine worship as important or unimportant as you want, and as your players are comfortable with. Strictly religious players, younger players (remember that this edition of the game is easily understood and enjoyed by kids as young as 8 or 9, even younger in some cases) and the ubiquitous hack n' slash type players may be fine with the cleric simply being a field medic figure with little or no religious role playing involved. Other players want a rich and expansive role playing experience and demand more detail and lore. The game gives you the freedom of adding as much role playing and setting mythos detail as you wish without having any significant effect on the mechanics of play.

    The benefit of loosely defined or undefined divine systems in the game from a Greyhawk standpoint is that you can add these elements without having to adapt to the mechanics of the rules. The cleric and related classes are generic enough that a simple code of conduct or dogma statement (such as the brief blurbs in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer) can be added and flesh out any god's clerics. Or you can add house rules to further diversify your divine classes.

    The game and the setting don't clash here the way they might in other editions, and that gives you the freedom to play the game however you wish.
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    GreySage

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    Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:03 pm  

    I think that you would only need to add as much "divine specifics" information as is necessary for any Cleric or Druid to play their role, such as behavior that their God/Goddess will and will not accept.

    For the player character who wants it, more could be added for their particular God/Goddess. But its not necessary for the player to know and be expert on the entire pantheon, much less all pantheons.

    That wasn't true in ancient real life (or today), it need not be true in Greyhawk.
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