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    Canonfire :: View topic - Thoughts on the "early life" of Nerull
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    Thoughts on the "early life" of Nerull
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    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 13, 2001
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    From: Stockholm, Sweden

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    Fri Jan 21, 2011 7:01 am  
    Thoughts on the "early life" of Nerull

    I was thinking abouth the lack of a proper God of the Dead in the Flanaess. Sure, Nerull is the Grim Reaper but he is only the God of Death. Wee Jas has an aspect as a Godess of Death but it has been argued that it is a rather new aspect and in addition she doesn't seem to have any control whatsoever on the afterlife, i.e. the soul of the deceased since the soul travels toward the Outer Plane that corresponds to his or her alignment or possibly to the realm of the patron deity.

    My thoughts then led me to consider that things might have different in the distant past. Perhaps, when the conflict between Good and Evil was new to the powerful entities, Nerull was a Neutral deity of the dead with the entire Plane of Concordant Opposition (Outlands to some) as his realm. At first, he presided over various elder races (varying from campaign to campaign but could include serpent people, elves, proto-humans, the gith ancestors etc.) but perhaps his reign extended into the time of Man. But what happened when various planar creatures discovered that the souls of mortals held great power that could be used for personal gain or bartered among the planar entities? In addition, the souls could be transformed into loyal servants, e.g. demons, devils, etc.

    IMO, this led to the deities and planar lords to suck the souls to their own planes instead of wasting away in the realm of Death. Nerull was robbed of his source of power turning him into a hateful, evil thing. In their fear of Nerull's vengeance, the gods ousted Nerull from his realm and he was force to flee into the unwanted pits of Tarterus/Carceri.

    IMO, whether this could be an actual event or merely a myth I think I'll add it to the background of my campaign. Does it make sense?
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    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    From: LG Dyvers

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    Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:59 am  

    It sounds like an interesting theory that could be included in your player's campaign. Smile

    You mentioned the fact that gods, etc. barter and trade for souls. I'll suggest that you limit that to within the planes of the souls' alignment. For example, the soul of a Chaotic Evil person goes to the Abyss where it is claimed by his or her primary god, or included in a pool of unaffiliated souls that is divied up among all the gods, etc. within the Abyss. Once the Chaotic Evil soul has been assigned to a particular god, that god can then trade it around amongst the other Chaotic Evil gods. It is not possible for such a soul to be traded to gods of any other alignment.

    That philosophy prevents difficult questions from arising such as, 'What if a NG god traded souls to a LE god? How's that fair to the soul?'

    Souls are thus guaranteed (or condemned) to spend eternity on a plane corresponding to their alignment in life. However, they may not spend that eternity in the service of the same divine entity.

    SirXaris
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:03 am  

    Gilban,

    I think your idea is a good one. However, it does seem to henge on the notion that Nerull cares what happens to the souls of the departed more so than the cessation of life of a mortal being. Cutting the soul's tether to the mortal realm at a timely moment would seem to be the paramount drive for this god more so than soul collection. Maybe the souls do pay him tribute in some fashion upon their deaths. A surviving companion might say, "He dies a valiant and honorable death" thus giving tribute by tying the death god in with concepts of valor and honor. Maybe those that survive leave coins on the eyes of the deceased, or maybe the creation of grave yards act as shrines or tribute. Those cultures that do not, get the lousy seats and routes to their afterlife.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Still a good idea that I will use to confound my games clerics.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:08 pm  

    I like it. I'd probably go a different way, but I really like the idea that he was once more neutral and that something caused him to become evil. Very nice.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:31 am  

    An interesting topic. I'm inclined towards the Planescape view that belief is paramount and can alter reality. In that view, powers can be altered as well. I have two ideas around this topic: fixed nature of divinity, and changeable nature of divinity.

    The first, being in line with the Planescape idea is this: that Nerull represents death, and death is feared by most sentient beings, thus, Nerull is evil because people (on a base level) see death as evil and want him to be so.

    The second, Nerull is only seen as evil by people and isn't necessarily so. This is in line with a 'fixed nature' of deities, where they are not shaped by the beliefs of others, including their worshippers.

    I have never heard of Nerull being any kind of shepherd of the deceased like Kelemvor or Myrkul, and that idea strikes me as being at odds with the Nerull's nature.

    The Grey Mouser
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    Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:06 pm  

    I think it's important to draw the distinction between a god of the dead, which I see Wee Jas as being, somewhat equivalent to Hades; and a god of death, who is a personification of death, equal to Thanatos or the Grim Reaper, which is more how I see Nerull. Maybe he started out as one and became the other. Even though we call them deities, there are a number of other GH gods who are fairly indifferent to their worshippers and are much closer to being like the personifications which are common in real world folklore - Death, Mother Nature, Father Time, Lady Luck, Jack Frost, etc...
    Master Greytalker

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    Sun Jan 23, 2011 3:23 am  

    Yes that's how I view the two death gods. Nerull has the aspect of 'Father Winter' in the Old Faith. He needn't be evil and 4E does have instances of gods having aspects with different alignments (one could argue that Incabulous could be an evil aspect of Nerull if one wants to trim down the number of discrete gods while Father Winter is a neutral aspect). Of course, 4E 'killed Nerull' which won't be happening in MY Greyhawk campaign I assure you!
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:17 am  

    I think Nerull has to remain Evil. Embodiment of evil and annihilation of life.
    Flans are a strongly spiritual/naturalistic race, so my guess is they had something like Beory taking care of the dead, or maybe some micro-pantheon of spirit guardians, a cult of the dead akin to that of American Indians etc etc.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:10 am  

    And of course the Baklunish and some Flan tribes revere their ancestors. Maybe each household associates an acestor spirit with guardianship of the dead, similar to Roman household gods.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:36 am  

    GreyMouser wrote:
    An interesting topic. I'm inclined towards the Planescape view that belief is paramount and can alter reality. In that view, powers can be altered as well. I have two ideas around this topic: fixed nature of divinity, and changeable nature of divinity.

    The first, being in line with the Planescape idea is this: that Nerull represents death, and death is feared by most sentient beings, thus, Nerull is evil because people (on a base level) see death as evil and want him to be so.

    The second, Nerull is only seen as evil by people and isn't necessarily so. This is in line with a 'fixed nature' of deities, where they are not shaped by the beliefs of others, including their worshippers.

    I have never heard of Nerull being any kind of shepherd of the deceased like Kelemvor or Myrkul, and that idea strikes me as being at odds with the Nerull's nature.

    The Grey Mouser

    While I accept the Planescape notion of worshippers having an effect on a deity, sometimes a great rearranging of the deity and his or her place in the cosmos, I do not accept that deities only exist as a personification of Belief. Deities are existing entities of great power, some started as minor spirits and grew into greatness, other were mortals who ascended, and a few are older than the structure of the known planes. I see the greater gods of the Flan pantheon as some of the oldest entities of all - existing way before there were any humans, let alone Flan tribesmen. With this view Nerull and his "early years" stand quite a lot apart from the views of the mortal worshippers. In addition, it is only with the discovery of the potential uses of the mortal souls, which didn't exist until humans and other mortal races possessing souls came to be, that the deities are affected by the power of worship IMO.
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:29 am  

    PaulN6 wrote:

    ...Of course, 4E 'killed Nerull' ...


    -Wow. That's a lot of XP! Laughing
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 24, 2011 11:18 am  

    Enough Xp to make the Raven Queen a greater god herself. Her true identity isn't known. Maybe it will be my character that kills him.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:34 am  

    Thread Necromancy! which given the topic, seems appropriate. ;)

    Just a few things to add to this discussion.

    First, I agree that Nerull doesn't seem a caretaker of the dead so much as someone who's interested in getting more people to be dead, and that this leaves a bit of a gap in the death arena. One idea I had was to import Nemorga, the god of death from the Scarn setting. He's more LN, and definitely more of a caretaker/funerary supervisor sort. In this revised theology, Nemorga would be Nerull's twin, or possibly his second persona, a kindlier aspect. Nerull is feared and therefore propitiated, but Nemorga is more revered and invoked at funerals, castings of gentle repose, etc.

    Second, sometimes I wonder if there's a sort of uber-Death, like Death in Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics (and there's a prime example of how Death need not be evil or terrifying), or the uber-Death in Terry Pratchett's Discworld - not the Discworld Death, but the greater Death to whom he appeals in Reaper Man.

    Third, are there other even more bloodthirsty death gods out there? Thinking specifically of whatever the Duvan-Ku worship in James Raggi's modules...this entity seems too dark even for Nerull.
    GreySage

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    Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:11 pm  

    As some have noted previously, I have always equated Nerull as the destruction of life and surely no caretaker of the departing soul to the 'hereafter.' To me, he exists ONLY to kill, despoil, cause suffering, misery, pain, and torment. Nerull draws strength by these actions, and life force is there for him to pervert, destroy, and drain, much like the greatest of the undead. His hunger to perform these actions is never-ending...

    Pelor is the antithesis of Nerull, and though he is primarily a god of healing and protection, one could argue that Pelor can be seen as the benevolent caretaker of the spirit realm for the Flan people. Pelor tries to ease the suffering of the living, but I don't see any reason why he wouldn't take the protector aspect for those people whose 'time has come.'

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    From: LG Dyvers

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    Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:40 pm  

    I take the position that each god is responsible for the status and condition of those souls that worshipped them in life once they pass to the afterlife. This policy works well for the good and neutral gods, but the evil gods, though they only have access to souls of appropriate alignments, use those souls they have control of as currency for barter with other evil gods.

    Thus, no single god exists as caretaker of the dead. Nerull is as Lanthorn claims, a destructor god, bent on murder and death only.

    SirXaris
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