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    Canonfire :: View topic - On the generations of the gods
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    On the generations of the gods
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    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Wed Jun 12, 2013 5:20 pm  
    On the generations of the gods

    Dahlver-nar's Book of Dead Names divides the generations of the gods into several major epochs.

    First of all were what Dahlver-nar called the Sleeping Ones or the Eldest Evils. Attested to primarily from the mad carbings of the kuo-toas, certain mad cults among the drow and derro, and the liturgies of elemental evil, the Sleeping Ones were incomprehensibly alien beings who existed in the void before time itself, perhaps invaders from some alien realm. After the dawn of time and the emergence of other gods and powers, a terrible war was fought that finally ended with the Eldest Evils electing to wait out the lifespan of the multiverse, going into hibernation deep in the still-forming planes to wake only when all gods and mortals were dead and only the void remained.

    Some claim the Elder Dragons awoke after the Sleeping Ones went to sleep, having been asleep themselves since the fall of the previous cosmos. Others say the Dragons were the offspring of the Elder Gods, spawned after the creation of the world to aid the Younger Gods in the war against the Titans. Myths, as always, vary.

    Next were the Lords of the Elder Elements, also known as the Primordials: entities of raw, formless elemental substance who were born after the primal void but before the creation of the world. These, too, warred with the elder gods and their children, battling the creator deities to keep existence in a state of wild chaos and flux. Ultimately they failed and were either chained by the gods or else they resigned themselves to the new status quo, retreating to the newly created Elemental Planes to rule over their own reduced domains, allying or opposing various gods as was their wont. All younger elemental lords and all elementals are ultimately their children.

    The Elder Gods constitute their own generation. These were the first beings that could truly be called gods as most mortals understand the term today, the bringers of cosmic order who warred against first the Eldest Evils and then the Lords of the Elder Elements so that the world could be made. The Elder Gods were not a single generation: various genealogies have been compiled showing which Elder Gods spawned various others of their kind, but in truth no mortal knows for sure exactly how they relate to one another. But these were the gods whose will brought forth the planes as we know them today. After the creation of the world, the Elder Gods gave birth to two further generations of deities: the Titans and Younger Gods.

    The Titans were the first children of the Elder Gods, cherished and protected and tutored in their secrets. They were both incredibly powerful and incredibly spoiled, raised to think of themselves as the rightful inheritors of all the worlds and planes. They treated all other beings as their playthings as they played and conspired with one another and impatiently worked to see their own parents step down from their thrones so that they could rule themselves. Some myths say they succeeded, and the Elder Gods all retreated from the known planes or were killed in a violent war instigated by the Titans. Some say there were two generations of Titans, and it was after the birth of the second Titanic generation that the Elder Gods decided a new generation had to be introduced to contain the threat they posed.

    The Younger Gods were born after the Titans: some say they were the Titans' children, and some say they were created by the Elder Gods after they saw their oldest offspring were too willful and selfish to control or contain. The Younger Gods were weaker than the Titans, but more numerous, and with the aid of secrets they gleaned from the Elder Gods and the Elder Dragons they defeated the Titans in a cataclysmic war, establishing themselves as the new rulers of the cosmos and locking the Titans who fought them in the prison of Tarterus. Those few Titans, almost entirely of the younger generation, who sided with the Younger Gods against their parents were spared, and dwell among the gods in eternal feasts and revels. Yet the Younger Gods fear their own offspring, or perhaps mortals who have risen to godhood, may someday depose them, so they play complex games to keep the youngest generations busy among themselves, and look ever to various prophecies so that they can destroy those who might pose a threat to their domination.

    The Giants are the eldest mortal race created by the gods (as hinted above, dragons may predate the gods as such). They are the children of the Younger Gods descended from Annam, the eldest of the Elder Gods of Creation (according to some). They ruled great empires in the Age of Giants, when volcanoes and glaciers and primordial forests covered the world and even the beasts were rougher and far larger than most of the beasts that inhabit the world today. Eventually the Giants fell into decadence, inbreeding, and mutation, retreated into their isolated holds, and were replaced by the younger races as the dominant races of the world. With the passing of the giants, the glaciers, forests, and lava retreated as well, uncovering a world more hospitable to younger and frailer peoples.

    Finally we come to what the giants at least lump together as the Younger Races, those who came to dominate the world after the fading of the Giants. Elves would never speak of themselves in such terms, of course, but they are as much the children of the Younger Gods as dwarves, hobniz, goblins, orcs, gnomes, and men.

    The Book of Dead Names exists in many forms; the various scholars, theologians, and binders who have copied it have rewritten it in hundreds of different ways to suit their own prejudices and philosophies, such that it is impossible to now say how Dahlver-nar originally believed the gods to be related, or if it's even possible to speak of the gods in such human terms. Some versions have Pelor and Nerull among the Elder Gods, while others have them as among those who overthrew the Titans of the sun and the underworld. Some have Beory as an Elder God, others as one of the Lords of the Elder Elements who sided with the Elder Gods in the Dawn War. Some elevate their own racial patron to the status of Eldest of the Elder Gods, creator of all others, or even as an entity that preceded them all. Others accept their place as latecomers to creation. The truth, as always, is occluded.
    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:10 pm  

    Very nice article, Rasgon. It's a great short myth of the history of creation to present to any player whose PC chooses to research such information.

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    Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:53 pm  

    Rasgon ... I gotta say, man - I never cease to be amazed. You write really well.

    The difficult thing for me, is that I can never tell where canon ends and fanon begins when I read your stuff. If someone pointed at this article, and said "See? This is just the way it happened. Rasgon wrote it!" I wouldn't feel comfortable disagreeing with them.

    So ... I *loved* this short article. But ... how do I know where to draw the line? Is this all canon, or is it a complete product of your imagination, or is it somewhere betwixt the two?
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    Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:27 am  

    Enjoyed it.

    I've always had difficulty trying to figure out what to do with Titans. There are all manner of good sources on where demons, devils, archons, etc., fit in the multiverse, but not much about these powerhouse creatures.
    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:52 pm  
    Re: On the generations of the gods

    Icarus wrote:
    The difficult thing for me, is that I can never tell where canon ends and fanon begins when I read your stuff. If someone pointed at this article, and said "See? This is just the way it happened. Rasgon wrote it!" I wouldn't feel comfortable disagreeing with them.


    The best answer is that the parts you like are canon and the parts that you don't like are direst heresy that must never be spoken of again.

    I do tend to forget that not everyone automatically knows what my inspirations are, though, and it might be good to source things both for ethical reasons and to satisfy the idle curiosity of those who care about such things. Okay, then: some annotations.

    rasgon wrote:
    Dahlver-nar's Book of Dead Names divides the generations of the gods into several major epochs.


    Dahlver-nar was originally mentioned in the 1st edition DMG as a legendary priest, possibly the most powerful cleric of all time, so I liked the idea of him being the author of a guide to the gods. The 3rd edition Tome of Magic said he was a binder (a class introduced in that book) instead, "a powerful cleric who forsook his deity to pursue pact magic." The Savage Tide adventure path used that idea, allowing characters to collect a Tooth of Dahlver-nar associated with a powerful demon who now exists as a vestige (a dead god or other powerful dead entity who now exists outside the known planes). So what would a book about the gods written by a heretical cleric who became one of history's greatest specialists in binding vestiges be called? The Book of Dead Names sounded reasonable. Note that this could be translated as Necronomicon.

    Quote:
    First of all were what Dahlver-nar called the Sleeping Ones or the Eldest Evils.


    The Sleeping Ones are mentioned in The Inner Planes accessory for Planescape, on page 72. "It is said by some, particularly the kuo-toa, that an ancient and venerable race roamed the planes long before any other species were born. Indeed, a few even speculate that these creatures caused the multiverse itself to come into existence. Eventually, for a reason that none can guess at, this forgotten race decided to end their contact with the cosmos. According to stories of the kuo-toa (and other races), they sealed themselves in the depths of the paraplane of Ice."

    The description in The Inner Planes goes on to describe the "brain-shattering awe" inflicted on those who venture too close to the "many, many miles long" entities still sleeping within the ice. Monte Cook's intent was to establish something like H.P. Lovecraft's In the Mountains of Madness on a cosmic scale.

    As Erik Mona noted when he was co-writing Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, the concept of the Sleeping Ones is very similar to the draedens from Frank Mentzer's D&D Immortals Set. "Draedens are the descendants of beings that existed before the Immortals, beings who may have actually created part of or all of the multiverse... When Immortals assumed the responsibility for all of existence, the draedens became resentful. But after long strife and negotiations, they agreed to peace. They plan to outlast their enemies by simply waiting until the Immortals destroy themselves, leaving the multiverse to the draedens again."

    As I hinted, a draeden appears in Fiendish Codex I. Page 126: "Ulgurshek... the 92nd layer of the Abys... Ulgurshek is not part of the Abyss but is in fact an immense living creature from the dawn of time called a draeden. The godlike being had already fallen into torpor when the Outer Planes themselves took form..."

    The other class of entity I associate with this generation are the "Elder Evils" worshiped by the aboleths, as detailed in Lords of Madness. I called them Eldest Evils here to distinguish them better from the Elder Gods. "The aboleths acknowledge the fact that the gods are powerful, but they also know that the Elder Evils existed before the deities of the current world, and they know that the Elder Evils will remain after the world has come to an end." Are the Elder Evils the same as the draedens, cousins, ancestors, or only contemporaries? Whatever, they seem to belong to the same generation.

    Quote:
    Some claim the Elder Dragons awoke after the Sleeping Ones went to sleep, having been asleep themselves since the fall of the previous cosmos. Others say the Dragons were the offspring of the Elder Gods, spawned after the creation of the world to aid the Younger Gods in the war against the Titans. Myths, as always, vary.


    This part is just me rambling, mostly. I'm inclined to have the oldest dragons be older than the world, since Tiamat was older than the world in Babylonian mythology. Monster Mythology mentions the "Sleeping Deep Dragons whose spirits lie at the core of many worlds still." When I say Elder Dragons, I mostly mean the gods of the dragons (Bahamut, Tiamat, Aasterinian, Io, and so on); I like to have them as a separate generation from the modern gods so that the gods can learn at their feet. But whatever.

    Quote:
    Next were the Lords of the Elder Elements, also known as the Primordials: entities of raw, formless elemental substance who were born after the primal void but before the creation of the world.


    The primordials and the Dawn War between the primordials and the gods are a 4th edition concept, but the "Lords of the Elder Elements" come from the article on the Silent Ones that Gary Holian wrote for Living Greyhawk Journal #4. "Elemental Cults going by names such as the Cult of the Black Flame, Cult of the Earth Dragon, Lords of the Elder Elements, and various followers of the so-called Princes of Elemental Evil also have become foes of the Silent Ones. These cults have as a collective goal the release and deification of certain ancient evil beings, abominations long thought driven from Oerth." In 4th edition sources like The Plane Below, the Princes of Elemental Evil are explicitly named as primordials, and the idea of primordials as ancient evil creatures banished by the gods after a war seems pretty much the same idea as what Gary Holian was writing about in LGJ #4. I see them as an earlier generation than the current gods, but they're clearly different from the draedens/sleeping ones, who existed before there were any elements. In the 4th edition Forgotten Realms setting, the elemental rulers Kossuth, Istishia, Grumbar, and Akadi are also named as primordials, albeit non-evil ones.

    Quote:
    The Elder Gods constitute their own generation.


    The distinction between Elder Gods and Younger Gods doesn't exist in canon, really, but my love of real-world mythology means that multiple generations of the gods is important to me. Establishing the Elder Gods as a separate thing from the present gods means that the titan myth in Dragon #357's "The Ecology of the Titan" is more like the Greek mythology that the titans originated in.

    Quote:
    The Titans were the first children of the Elder Gods, cherished and protected and tutored in their secrets. They were both incredibly powerful and incredibly spoiled, raised to think of themselves as the rightful inheritors of all the worlds and planes. They treated all other beings as their playthings as they played and conspired with one another and impatiently worked to see their own parents step down from their thrones so that they could rule themselves. Some myths say they succeeded, and the Elder Gods all retreated from the known planes or were killed in a violent war instigated by the Titans. Some say there were two generations of Titans, and it was after the birth of the second Titanic generation that the Elder Gods decided a new generation had to be introduced to contain the threat they posed.


    This is inspired by Dragon #357's origin of titans, which also inspired the treatment of titans in Pathfinder. The myth in that issue is simpler: the gods created the titans from primordial chaos, spoiled them and used them to lead their armies against each other in divine feuds. "As the greatest titans realized their power rivaled the gods, their demands grew increasingly unsettling." The titans create children of their own, the first giants, and while the gods considered the giants to be abominations they offered a compromise: giants would be banished to the Material Plane where they would live as equals among other races that the gods would create. The titans saw the creation of new races by the gods as an attempt to supplant them and they rose against their creators. After a massive war between titans and gods, the gods were victorious and some of the titans were imprisoned in Carceri.

    I have a couple of problems with this story. One, making the titans younger than the gods inverts their relationship in Greek mythology, so I made them creations of the Elder Gods instead. Two, the idea that titans were jealous of mortals is basically the story of Iblis in Islamic myth, and I already used that in the genie origin story. So it seemed to me that it would work better if instead of being jealous of mortals, the titans were jealous of the creation of the younger gods.

    Quote:
    The Giants are the eldest mortal race created by the gods (as hinted above, dragons may predate the gods as such). They are the children of the Younger Gods descended from Annam, the eldest of the Elder Gods of Creation (according to some).


    Annam is from Monster Mythology. I like him enough that I kept the Monster Mythology myth (more or less) rather than having the giants as creations of the titans, as in Dragon #357.

    Quote:
    Eventually the Giants fell into decadence, inbreeding, and mutation, retreated into their isolated holds, and were replaced by the younger races as the dominant races of the world. With the passing of the giants, the glaciers, forests, and lava retreated as well, uncovering a world more hospitable to younger and frailer peoples.


    This is mostly just my interpretation.
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    Sun Jul 07, 2013 6:01 am  

    All I can say is thanks, this is a wonderful breakdown.
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