View Full Version : [4e] Hollow Thrones: Variant flavor on the divine power source in Points of Light.

2010-01-18, 03:48 AM
The day before this, I had crafted the concept below as a variant of the background of the divine power source of Dungeons & Dragons 4e, and had then submitted it for approval to a group of my associates. I have since integrated the ideas and thematic expansions of those associates into this work, and now present it for your viewing pleasure. This is intended for use with the default Points of Light setting, and though the alterations to its flavor appear to be vast and momentous, it can be inserted into any campaign without any significant changes to how it should carry out at first, right until the Dungeon Master unveils the twist. I seek feedback on this approach divine and ideas on how it may be expanded.

The premise:

The Dawn War did not transpire as most in the universe believe it to be. The primordials were all either slain or sealed away in the furthest reaches of the planes, but the balance of the cosmos took its toll on the opposite side of the war too. The gods had sacrificed themselves to fell the mightiest of the primordials. The unyielding chains that bound Mual-Tar, the Thunder Serpent, were forged from the iron hearts of Bane and Bahamut. Rorn, the Blazing Fury, was only pacified after Melora had decomposed her being into a great ocean that could cool the towering pyre. Piranoth, the World Mover, exhausted the will and the flesh of Moradin and Corellon, who had used their mastery over earth and the elements to imprison the primordial. Only the gravity of the most voluminous neutron star, the unliving sun that was once Pelor, could keep Atropus, the World Born Dead, in a distant orbit sequestered from the world of mortals.

It was a pyrrhic victory indeed, and the servants of both the primordials and the deities mourned their masters' passing. The demons, the archons, and the elementals, however, found that their command over the building blocks of the cosmos was left unfettered. The Elemental Chaos still stood, and their power from it was not abruptly cut off. So too, did the angels, the devils, and the mortal servants of the divine discover that their link to the Astral Sea was not severed. What both sides soon rationalized was that though the primordials and the gods had forged the world, their presence was not needed by creation any longer, just as a building still stands if its architect perishes. Their ties to their respective planes was all they needed to exercise their power.

The votaries knew that chaos would erupt in the world should the knowledge of the fall of the divine were to be disseminated. Through a project conducted in collaboration with the primal spirits of the land, the dispassionate third party who had observed the Dawn War, the world was deceived and led to believe that the pantheon had triumphed resplendently and were hale and hearty in their thrones in their astral dominions. Faith was a keystone that most sapient life strongly tended towards, and the concept of a deity, a figurehead, a personification of a set of beliefs one could live by, and perhaps even fight and die for, made investing one's faith in something that much easier. Divine magic was no different from the methods of the arcane; rather than forging ties with the Feywild, the Shadowfell, the Elemental Chaos, or the Far Realm, the Astral Sea was the radiant weapon wielded by the pious. Why, then, should the status quo be disrupted, thought the upper choirs of angels and those who were present for the Dawn War? Those angels whose devotion and power had evolved them into aspects could even be used to strengthen the illusion, and surely, an excuse such as "In the aftermath of the Dawn War, the gods have left the fate in the world in the hands of its rightful heritors. They shall directly intervene no more," would be enough to hand-wave the lack of tangible deific activity.

This results of this ruse were far more satisfactory than they had ever anticipated. The gods were still worshipped. Praises and dirges were sung to Erathis as civilizations rose and fall, conquerors and generals beseeched Bane for the skill and resolve necessary to lay their enemies low, assassinations were carried out and malice was spread in the name of Lolth and Zehir. Divine power continued to prosper. Invokers of militant gods stood at the gates of the Abyss and decimated hordes of demonic brutes with detonations of radiant energy, avengers of Melora struck down those eldritch monstrosities that leaked forth from Far Realm breaches using blades infused with astral essence, and clerics and paladins of opposing deities clashed time and again as conflicts of belief never truly cease.

To this day, only the highest echelons of angels and the eldest of the primal spirits are cognizant of the truth surrounding the gods. Is it really so bad, though? The gods may as well have never died off. What of those who are then enlightened to this cover-up, however? What of the invoker who, after years of communication and devotion to Ioun, ascertains that she fell in the Dawn War? What of the lord of Thanatos who bursts into the throne room of the Raven Queen in a mission to overthrow her, only to find the seat empty? What of the heroes and villains of immense, epic power who discover that a divine spark is ever-gradually welling within them? That, Dungeon Master, is for your campaign to resolve.

On the divine power source as simply magic of the Astral Sea:

If divine magic is simply "Astral Sea magic," then why has this not yet been deciphered by intrepid scholars? Perhaps it *has*. Perhaps, equally, a means of making use of this magic can only normally be provided by an entity already possessing a connection to it. Thus the servants of the absentee deities, both those aware and unaware of the state of affairs, as well as the drifting god-shards drawn to Invokers possess a means of initiating someone into that power. Our intrepid scholars would have discovered this easily enough.

"Unlike with most other known forms of magic, mortal creatures require the acceptance of a representative of the Astral Sea to assist them in forging a connection between themselves and it. This power is not guarded jealously by the gods, and even those mortals who have had a connection forged for them are in a position to do so for others. The limitations on who might acquire such a connection are still poorly understood. To be sure, as with all magic, a certain force of character or will is mandatory; what other specifics might exist require continued research, although it seems very likely that these requirements vary depending on the type and intensity of the power expressed," how what such sages might lecture other savants of esoterica.

It almost certainly has been sussed out that the consent of a specific god is not necessary, and that the powers of all divine spellcasters share certain similarities irrespective of the divinity of worship such that it could be intuited that it is not the gods providing similar power but rather that the source of the power is not the gods themselves, but rather the ephemeral plane from which they hail from.

On invokers, their "direct, moment-by-moment connection to the gods," and deceased deities:

A setting variant wherein the pantheon is revealed to be long-deceased would not only tamper with the concept of a player character who happens to be an invoker, but also those of characters of the other three divine classes. The general theme of this twist is, once more, "Is it really so bad, though? The gods may as well have never died off."

The invokers make use of covenants, yes. These covenants, however, might have been forged at the very beginning, during the Dawn War, and you take up the mantles of the invokers of old, hence the "secret monastaries" and "study in a library where the universe's oldest lore was preserved" mentioned in the description of the invoker class. It has already been established in official material that invokers can commune and channel the divine essence of departed deities, such as Amoth (Dragon Magazine #381), and that each invoker is invested with a fragment of astral spiritstuff that aligns with their patron deity (Dragon Magazine #382).

In the setting variant proposed in the initial posts of this thread, each of these god fragments could be the quasi-sentient spark of divinity once possessed by each of the deities. On their own, the consciousness of such a shard is nearly nonexistent, glimmering with only the barest vestiges of the deity's will, but when stimulated by the piety and zeal of an invoker, it develops a sentience similar to that of an artificial intelligence. The personality of each shard is forged from how the invoker views the god, filtered and refined with insights from the gravitas of the deity's words and deeds faintly echoing in the Astral Sea. Indeed, two invokers of the same deity may receive differing messages. An unaligned invoker of Bane is given guidance of waging war and conquering lands for a rightful cause, whereas a chaotic evil invoker of the Iron General is nudged into spreading tyranny and bloodshed for its own sake.

Chosen by the gods? Of a sort. Perhaps Lloth spun a tangled skein before her end, and the web of deception has ensnared you such that you may serve as a puppet. Maybe an echo of Melora still remains in the heart of the wilderness, and through the arrangement of standing stones and wind whistling through the rock formations, you heard her voice. Have you seen the divine machinations within a certain sequence of notes that hint at the will of Corellon, or the art of war left by Bane to ensure his ultimate victory? Perhaps the covenant itself is the preservation of their will, the path chosen by the god, and by channeling the original impulse, you speak as the god once did.

When the grand reveal takes place, shall the invoker acknowledge that this shard has served as a wise mentor and that it is practically no different from her supposed deity speaking to her, or shall her beliefs crumble simply because it is not the genuine article she was guided by?

On an epic-level hero or villain claiming a divine seat:

Upon being rendered privy to this forbidden lore, a figure of immense power and a budding divine spark could either preserve the status quo, under the belief that the cosmos does not require deities, as the past several centuries have clearly shown, or they could ascend and claim the empty thrones for themselves. The latter option would only be tenuously beneficial for the world.

Consider the following: Kord, the deity of honor in battle, strength, and storms has been nonexistent for the past several centuries. Despite this, honor and glory are concepts held in high regard by many; the laws of physics surrounding mass, volume, density, and the muscular systems of living organisms are fully stable (short of tampering through supernatural methods); and hurricanes, typhoons, monsoons, and their kin occur as they should thanks to the laws of the natural world, perhaps minorly overseen by the primal spirits. Kord had likely programmed them into the universe, and it does not require his perpetual maintenance. What good, then, would a new figure having taken the unoccupied throne of Kord do but incite bedlam and confusion all throughout the planes?

If one were to achieve a divine apotheosis and ascend to be the god of strength, then the faith of Kord would receive a shock of tremendous proportions, generating much chaos. If one demanded worship from those followers of Kord, then one must delineate what had happened to the former deity. If one then admits that she, as a mortal, has replaced Kord, then by extension, one would suggest that any mortal with sufficient drive and skill may supplant her, instigating a war between the mortal and the divine. Absolute power can corrupt absolutely, and one may be even driven to abuse the powers of strength and storms to whimsically obliterate those who oppose you in even the slightest fashion. Perhaps even the balance of the cosmos might cause the birth of a new primordial in a yin-yang-esque manner.

On Lolth:

It stands to reason that a deity who holds deception in her portfolio would have had the most cunning manipulators and sly prevaricators amongst her highest-ranking ministers and hierophants, and that their promotion of the continued "existence" of their deity would be particularly seamless, using aspects, devils, demons, and the drow to form an entangling web of deceit.

Or perhaps Lolth chased down and harried one of the few remaining primodials during the Dawn War, weaving her web deeper and deeper in efforts to trap him. Eventually, the beast was ensnared, but not before she had spun so intricately that she could no longer escape. Now she lurks in the deep, unable to move, her screams never reaching mortal ears. All she can do is tug the strings, which vibrate up through the shadows of the Underdark, singing their silken song to the ears of the priestesses, who interpret her divine will in their backstabbing ways. Some say she toys with those above, others say she weeps at the misinterpretations of the mad clerics, while still others wonder if she knows not that her children even exist and worship her, and is lost to the depths, the last divinity, forever alone.

2010-01-18, 04:20 AM
This is a really interesting idea, and funny enough also close to how i view the option of a godless cleric in 3.5