Quote Originally Posted by RatElemental View Post
A lot of your argument hinges on the assumption that the barbarians thought magic didn't exist. That was not what the comic said. It said they thought magic was "Dumb nonsense for fool and simpletons."
That's a valid point. "Pointless/useless" is certainly one valid interpretation of "dumb nonsense." I decided to go with the other one ("fiction/superstition") after reading the full context of what Thor said: "Belief is when mortals know that we exist, in these specific identities." Also, "He's getting better as he absorbs more Belief from your world."

I acknowledge that I'm making one important assumption here: If Odin requires "good" Belief from our world to get better, that implies that his affliction is a result either insufficient or deficient Belief from the prior world. That assumption absolutely isn't supported in the text anywhere. It's an arbitrary system written by the Giant, and for all I know it's a weird Rock/Scissors/Paper system where Belief repairs damage from lack of Worship, Worship fixes lack of Dedication, Dedication fixes lack of Belief, and Souls just keep the lights on.

You can think something exists and also think that thing is silly and not worth bothering with, and in fact it never even occurred to me until just now that that passage could be read as them thinking magic does not exist.
That's absolutely true, and (this was ages ago, so I can't be sure, but) I probably parsed it the same way that you did on first reading that panel, before I read the entire comic and gave it all a moment to sink it. In context, however, (and obviously, accepting my inference that Odin was suffering from Belief malnutrition) one interpretation makes far less sense.

The barbarians thought magic existed, but only that stupid people bothered with it, and as a result the god of magic's mental capabilities suffered.
Does this fit in with Belief? It sounds much more like Worship or Dedication to me, because the barbarians obviously Believed that Odin existed--probably as a God of Magic--but simply didn't care much for him.

The barbarians thought magic didn't exist, in a world where magic presumably exists
I don't want to get political, but we live in a world where a ton of stuff exists, yet a majority of people don't believe in it. Also, remember that even our best science doesn't "know" anything for sure--it's all essentially models of reality that we accept as useful (perhaps even "real") because those models have been validated for their predictive value time and time again. We live in a world where God or gods exist for the majority of people, yet "magic" does not for many of those same people.

For barbarians who similarly believe in higher beings, but not "Magic" (however you want to delineate that), it would be pretty simple for them to explain away any real Magic they see as either divine intervention, unknown technology, or plain trickery.

(Were there worlds where magic actually didn't exist? What would that do to Odin?).
That's a good question. Presumably, they wouldn't create such a world, or they would try their best to build a new domain for Odin into the DNA of that world. Remember, Odin's domain of Magic might be more than mere personal preference: There is a robust yet intricate body of law delineating the powers each deity have when acting within their own domains and the restrictions imposed on them when dealing with the domains of other deities. This is once again an assumption on my part, based on how my knowledge of real life legal systems and game design, but I doubt this system makes it that trivial for a deity to change his or her domain. The whole delicate balance of power would hopelessly untenable if, for example, Balder could do a great PR push convincing his followers that he's in fact the omnipotent monotheistic God of Everything, and the rules require that the rest of the pantheon must defer to Balder's domain of "Everything."

And rather than turning into a god of lies or dropping magic from his portfolio, Odin's mental faculties suffered as a result of this lack of belief in magic.
You raise a valid point... I touched on it a bit in my last post. Superficial changes to appearance and behavior are probably easy. Most mortals can learn to take up drinking in less time than it takes to earn an undergraduate degree--it's certainly plausible that for a god, it would be just as simple. But what about deeper personality traits? If you're the God of Uncontrollable Temper and Inappropriate Explosive Outbursts, and suddenly your believers think that you're the God of Serenity and Measured Responses, what happens then? You know you must change enough to align more closely to their Beliefs to stay healthy, but how easy would it be to change a personality trait that has defined you for millennia?

The real world is full of people who know on a rational level that they must change in order to achieve some goal: Be less timid in order to advance at work or get dates, control their temper in order to avoid being fired, stop procrastinating in order to get decent grades an finish their degree. A great many of these people fail.

As to your theory about gods matching details of their follower's belief in order to benefit more from it... Why is Odin still acting loopy? This specifically runs counter to what mortals think Odin is like, given Minrah's reaction to it.
My theory is that the gods can consciously choose to change their appearance or behavior if it becomes helpful to their continued survival, much like you or I might consciously choose to be more polite at work or improve our grooming habits in order to remain gainfully employed. But what happens if we've been out of work for years, and suffering from ill effects? Even if we know we need a suit and tie for work, our best clothes might be old and threadbare from our years of neglect and poverty. Our physical ability to improve our appearance and to act like the alert, energetic, and composed employee people want might be constrained by years of malnutrition and lack of adequate physical and mental healthcare. Getting back in the workforce wouldn't be impossible, but it might take a lot of time and more help than a single warm meal.

Remember, Odin's basically senile. His free will has been subverted in the way that malnutrition or mental health disorders have the power to subvert free will in real life.