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Small gods setting

PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2018 12:26 pm
by ChaosMagic
Basic premise: an alternate modern Earth, where small gods exist alongside humans. There are no major gods (e.g. a sun god, a war god).

As a general but not absolute rule, gods with a larger or more abstract domain have less power over their domain than gods with a smaller or more concrete one. Gods have a fuzzy and ill-defined upper and lower limit, that seems related but not identical to human capacity to fully comprehend a concept (with much lower upper limits than humans have). So you also don't have a god of This One Atom In Particular.

Most gods come in various types, the most common of which are ancestor/ family gods, service gods, place gods, item gods, and concept gods. However, new gods come into existence essentially whenever there's a need or place for them, so there are gods outside these categories.

Ancestor or family gods attach themselves to a single household or family unit. Their main role is acting as a mediator and counselor for the family, interfacing with other gods on the family's behalf, and keeping the family safe. Their most notable power is tracking the location and general status of every family member. It's possible to leave an ancestor god's domain without leaving the physical household, and vice versa. A single god usually follows the eldest child (or specifically son or daughter in some cultures), or whichever child inherits the family home. A god is orphaned when the family line ends. Those who leave home to form their own families either find an orphaned god, or generate a new one. Runaway or emancipated children are almost always adopted by an existing orphaned god.

Service gods respond to a specific, usually human, need. Examples include seeing eye gods for the blind (who're known for having more than two eyes to represent being 'all seeing'), psychiatric gods (who might be able to monitor a human's mental state and assist, usually indirectly such as through steering their human away from triggers), etc.

Place gods are tied to a specific location, and often have some level of power over that location. The location is usually determined by the extent of human attention it will tend to draw. Buildings,water features, 'natural shrines' (e.g. groves, unusual rock formations), caves, and graveyards are all prone to forming place gods.

Item gods tie themselves to specific objects, usually beloved or particularly old ones. They usually protect and assist in the function of the object. This category has overlap with place gods, with some fuzzy areas debated - is a god of a particular tree a place or item god? Item gods, as well as place gods, will act to prevent their domain from being destroyed.

Concept gods are very rare. Many concept gods are association networks of lesser gods, either telepathically linked or existing in an outright hive mind/ distributed consciousness. The concepts are usually small and limited in scope, and tend to revolve around a set of skills it's possible to be good at. A few are gestalts of related item gods. Examples include the god of therapy, the god of stuffed animals, and the god of doing well enough on exams to pass. Narrowly focused concept gods (e.g. 'this particular ritual as celebrated by this one village') are more common than broadly focused ones (e.g. therapy).

Some worldbuilding implications:

A fear of stranger danger never really developed. Children generate many gods. Gods are ubiquitous, and often protective of children. Instead of news stories of children going missing and having something horrible happen, most people are used to minor interest pieces on a child who went missing and was then returned home a few hours later with pockets full of an excessive number of acorns.

Gods come in many, many shapes. Humans in this setting have a different uncanny valley, since many gods would fall into ours. Humans who are considered 'godlike' in skill or psychology often do fall into this world's uncanny valley - special interests and statistically unusual talent at a specific thing can contribute to this perception.

Gods don't have a gender like humans do. Most pick a gendered pronoun for languages that require it. Most languages with gendered pronouns, though, have a separate pronoun for gods.

Gods are technically just an animating force/ soul without a physical form. They by default interact with other animating forces/ souls, so will always touch animals. They can choose whether to interact with inanimate objects or not. This makes them very useful for search and rescue. Their ubiquitousness combined with this trait means emergency services often try to train gods as first responders. This endeavor can be compared to herding cats. It does, though, sometimes succeed quite well.

Gods are language-independent; they're essentially under a constant translation effect. The vast majority will not help with translation, though, because that is not their Thing. (Service gods for the deaf and hard of hearing are actually the best to tap for translation, since that's part of their Thing.)

Languages with established monotheistic religions have a different word for big-g God, creator of the universe, and small-g gods, those guys who're everywhere. Monotheistic religions are rarer in this world, though - most religions would be animistic, spiritual, or agnostic by our definition.

Gods don't have names like humans do. Humans often name them, because humans name everything, but the gods are their domain, not their name. Many gods are referred to by their shape or function; e.g. the cat god of therapy is called Mr Cat, while a seeing eye god might be called Mr Eyes.

Services often need to interface with gods even outside of search and rescue. Logging/development without permission from local place gods is both taboo and often a terrible idea. Road layers often talk to the gods that direct where acorns fall to ask that they leave the roads alone. Buildings with a place god are almost never demolished (and tend not to be destroyed naturally either).