Godstar (YA dystopia thing)

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Godstar (YA dystopia thing)

Postby Kappa » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:33 am

Godstar is a world I created trying for a sort of YA Dystopia vibe, which promptly turned around and got all reasonable and pleasant on me.

The magic system has six elements, arranged in a cycle: Soul, Fire, Earth, Life, Water, and Air. Each element is governed by a deity.

  • Life is associated with the colour green, has dominion over the first two months of spring, and is ruled by the goddess Vaneda, who is married to Zokoris of Soul.
  • Earth is associated with the colour yellow, has dominion over the last month of spring and the first month of summer, and is ruled by the god Ombara, who is married to Siaife of Air.
  • Fire is associated with the colour orange, has dominion over the last two months of summer, and is ruled by the goddess Akhale, who is married to Nesirith of Water.
  • Soul is associated with the colour red, has dominion over the first two months of autumn, and is ruled by the god Zokoris, who is married to Vaneda of Life.
  • Air is associated with the colour purple, has dominion over the last month of autumn and the first month of winter, and is ruled by the goddess Siaife, who is married to Ombara of Earth.
  • Water is associated with the colour blue, has dominion over the last two months of winter, and is ruled by the goddess Nesirith, who is married to Akhale of Fire.

The symbol of the six gods is a six-pointed star made of six diamond-shaped 'leaves', each in an appropriate colour. It looks like so.

When the elements are listed, it's usually in either colour order (Soul to Air) or calendar order (Life to Water). Godstars may be made and displayed with the elements cycling in either direction, and the default orientations are colour order with Soul on top, calendar order with Life on top, and either order with Air on top, but one can easily find a godstar showing one's favourite god ascendant.

The world of Godstar is a theocracy. The six gods rule the world as equals; if there are any major disagreements within their divine council, they keep them under wraps.

It's actually a pretty well-run theocracy, all things considered. The gods are interested in keeping mortals from challenging their power, but they find that the best way to rule a world indefinitely without anyone trying to overthrow you is to make that world a place where people have good, comfortable lives and no reason to suspect they could improve their situation by rocking the boat. They also do genuinely value having a happy and prosperous population, and they even prefer people to be more rather than less magically powerful, as long as their power isn't strong enough for the gods to find threatening.

Speaking of magical power: Godstar magical heredity is an interesting and slightly complex subject, which I will do my best to explain.

Each person has three possible 'slots' in which they might express an element of magic, and each slot has a 'main' and a 'minor' position. The vast majority of people have no magic in any position of any slot. Some people have magic in one or more slots. The 'main' and 'minor' positions are often the same for a given slot, but might be different; the 'main' position straightforwardly governs which element of magic you can access from that slot, while the 'minor' position mostly only affects heredity but can also serve to amplify or extend the power of an element you already have access to through at least one main position.

For each slot, if someone with magic in that slot has children with someone else who also has magic in the same slot, their children will definitely also have magic in that slot, but what type and how much depends on the interaction between the parents' elements. In general, the closer the parents' elements are to each other, the more powerful the child's magic will be; and the child's element always falls between the parents' elements on the circle, except of course that when the parents have opposing elements, in which case all the elements are "between" those two and the child could get anything, but will tend to get it very weakly.

(The parents' power level also contributes to the power level of the child. The rule, if laid out in full, goes something like this: if the parents have exactly the same elements in a slot, the child will be more powerful than either. If the parents have neighbouring elements in a slot, the child's power level will tend to fall between the parents', but might be slightly better or slightly worse. If the parents' elements are two away from each other, like Soul and Earth or Life and Air, the child's power level will almost always be weaker than the average of the parents, and sometimes weaker than either parent. If the parents' elements are opposed, the child will definitely be less powerful than either.)

Also, the normal way of things is that a child's element in the main position will derive from the parent's element in that position, and minor will likewise derive from minor; but sometimes main and minor switch places between generations, most often when the element in the minor position is significantly more powerful than the element in the main position.

Let's have an example: suppose that one person with a medium amount of Air/Water in their first slot has children with another person whose first slot is a medium amount of Soul/Earth. Air is next to Soul, so the child might inherit Air or Soul in the main position; Water is two away from Earth, so there the child might inherit Water, Earth, or Life which lies between the two. Most of the time, the child will be something like a medium-strong Air or Soul in that slot, with a weaker Earth, Life, or Water in the minor position; but very rarely, the positions might swap and the child will have a weak-ish Earth, Life, or Water in the main position of their first slot and a stronger Air or Soul in the minor position. If that happens, it's likely to swap back in the next generation, unless the grandkids end up with their main element reinforced and/or minor element weakened such that the proper balance of power is maintained.

And as if that wasn't complicated enough, each slot also has a particular aspect of the element. For example, Soul's aspects are Destructive, Transformative, and Creative: if you have Soul in the first slot, you have Destructive Soul, but if you have Soul in the third slot, you have Creative Soul. (There's also a 'free aspect' for each element, which isn't bound to a slot and might or might not show up if you have that element at all.) If you have a particular aspect of an element, your magic with that element will tend to be thematically linked to that aspect, and you'll have an easier time using it in ways that relate to that aspect and a harder time using it in ways that oppose it.

The aspects for each element go like this:

  • Soul: Destructive, Transformative, Creative - free aspect: Transformative
  • Fire: Destructive, Destructive, Transformative - free aspect: Creative
  • Earth: Creative, Transformative, Transformative - free aspect: Destructive
  • Life: Creative, Creative, Transformative - free aspect: Destructive
  • Water: Transformative, Transformative, Destructive - free aspect: Creative
  • Air: Transformative, Transformative, Transformative - free aspect: Transformative

Yes, Air's free aspect is a tad redundant. Such is the way of things.

In general, people who know a lot about magic are aware of the magic slots and what each one means in terms of elemental aspects, and the fact that a child's power level in a given slot will tend to be related to their parents', and the element of the child falls in the range between the parents' elements; but only the gods actually track magical heredity well enough to be certain of the principle that having similar elements gets you more powerful children while dissimilar elements make the child weaker. And from the mortal perspective, the entire phenomenon of minor slots looks like "sometimes an element turns up unexpectedly in a slot where it shouldn't have been, or someone is disproportionately powerful in a particular element for no discernible reason."

But wait, there's more!

Have another visual aid. Imagine this colour wheel as representing the possible level of strength one might have in an element. If you're in the middle with white, you have none; as you move out toward the brightest part of the band of colour, you have more and more of the element whose section of the ring you're in; now what happens if your power level gets high enough to start pushing you out into the black?

Your magic becomes less elementally affiliated. Instead of having power with Soul or Life or Fire, you just have power, unbound by the traditional restrictions of the elemental system.

The gods would really prefer that this didn't happen.

Sometimes, in their attempts to subtly encourage the development of more magical power among mortals, they let things go a little too far and a child is born whose power is not fully elementally bound. When that happens, they generally try to steer the kid toward marrying someone who has either no magic of their own (in which case the magical parent's power is substantially diluted in the next generation) or magic of mostly opposing or at least non-neighbouring elements (in which case the magical parent's power is less diluted, but still probably diluted enough to bring the kids back into the elementally-bound power range); or as a last resort they might encourage the dangerously powerful person not to get married at all, in which case their power is lost to the next generation but the potential problem doesn't get any worse. Sometimes they can manage this steering very subtly; sometimes they have to be a little more emphatic about it.

How emphatic, you ask? Well, let's talk about marriage in Godstar.

One of the strongest holdovers from the setting's origin as a YA dystopia is the fact that in-setting, human reproductive fertility is not considered an attribute people naturally have; it's a gift from the gods, which they bestow when they bless your marriage. This gift is never revoked, so if you have a blessed marriage and then get divorced or widowed, you can go on to have as many children with as many ill-advised partners as you like, so long as they're in the same boat; and there's also no direct provision against cheating on your spouse and having kids with someone else, if you're into that sort of thing. But someone who has never entered into a marriage blessed by the gods will not have the capacity to produce children.

The gods do not withhold their blessing lightly. If you met your partner last week and don't know their name, you might get sat down for a long and serious conversation with a priest, but if you stubbornly insist on marrying them anyway and they feel the same way about you, the gods will let you make your own decisions even though they expect you to regret it. Refusing to bless a marriage is reserved for cases like a couple who hate each other and can't stand to be in the same room, or where one or both of them is abusive toward the other, or where one or both of them is at high risk of abusing any children they might have and has refused preemptive counseling or other solutions. The gods are not omniscient or infallible - more on that later - but they know a lot of things, and if they think letting you marry your intended will be a truly, deeply terrible idea, they won't participate.

On the flip side, the gods have also been known to play matchmaker. Teenagers and young adults might find themselves being introduced to people they get along with by helpful priests, or a priest might suggest to a pair of good friends with excellent chemistry that they give dating a try, or under extreme circumstances - when it's just that obvious that two people are meant for each other, or when they look like they'll probably get along pretty well and the gods have their own reasons for wanting these people to marry - the gods will outright summon them to a temple and present them with betrothal pendants on the spot.

This is the standard opener for a Godstar thread: Tael Ismani, the local Serg, gets betrothed by the gods to a girl whose elements are mostly opposed to his. They pick someone he'll get along with, to the best of their knowledge, and try to ensure he'll be happy with them by summoning him to a different city from the one where he grew up (he does not get along with his parents) and giving him a mansion (because he's the sort of person who really enjoys owning a mansion).

So - what is the best of their knowledge, then, exactly?

That question leads into the topic of the Godstar priesthood.

Each priest is dedicated to a particular god, and that god can see and hear anything the priest sees and hears, know anything the priest knows, read any thought or memory or sensation the priest has ever had. The gods can also communicate directly with their priests at any time, to issue instructions or offer suggestions or consult the priest's experience and judgment on some question or other.

The gods use this ability responsibly, for the most part. They make and keep agreements about not spying on a priest's sex life, or not reading a priest's sibling's unpublished manuscripts, or other miscellaneous privacy concerns. (Although the gods do get enough incidental glimpses into their priests' lives that it is pretty much entirely impossible for a priest to commit serious crimes on an ongoing basis without getting caught, and pretty difficult for a priest's close friends and family members to do anything too sketchy without going to a lot of trouble to hide it.)

However, they are also keeping an eye on things for their own purposes. Every book ever published gets read or at least skimmed by a priest just in the ordinary course of priests going about their lives, and if the gods think a particular book might be egregiously disruptive, they exert subtle influence to make sure it doesn't reach too wide of an audience. It's not illegal to criticize the gods - you won't get in trouble for it, if you do it openly they might even openly welcome your perspective - but someone pushing a seriously revolutionary message might find themselves very short on opportunities to get the word out. They have a private genealogy project tracking the development of magic in the population, and they're gradually steering it towards a world where magic is useful and plentiful but nobody is at risk of having kids whose power levels turn out unmanageably high.

Overall, Godstar is a pretty pleasant place to live. The gods have a lot of information and a lot of experience and they want their people to lead nice, happy, fulfilling, prosperous lives. But there is... a certain subtle tension between their interests and the interests of any particularly ambitious citizens, or citizens who object to being theirs.
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