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Deathlords with Agency

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  • Gammelbraxen
    started a topic Deathlords with Agency

    Deathlords with Agency

    I guess Deathlords aren't going to be quite as bound to the Neverborns in 3e as they were in 2e? Which is good, I never quite liked the fact that all Deathlords were railroaded into one goal: Destroy Creation (and everything else was a momentary distraction).

    But what if the Deathlords were something else? What if they were not bound to the Neverborn at all? What if they had true agency?

    Imagine a gathering of powerful, bitter ghosts in the Underworld. Some slain by the Usurpation, some having lingered even longer, fueled by remembrance of what they once had and petty/grand ambitions. They had lost the charms/innate magic they once wielded, but Sorcery/Necromancy was still theirs,as was the lesser tricks of the dead. But now they had gathered, Rivals all, for the Second Black Nadir Concordat. They knew that Necromancy, powerful as it was in the Underworld, had never reached the highs that Sorcery had, never quite fulfilled the promise that was hinted.

    MAD AMBITION AND HUBRIS HAPPENS!

    ...And so they broke into the tombs of the Neverborn, stealing, or CREATING, the Third Circle of Necromancy. The dead primordials may have howled in protest but the will and egos of these dead exalts where greater still.

    After this, those who had now become Deathlords went their separate ways. Part of a brother-/sisterhood, yet still rivals. Stealing secrets from each other as always. Each forging themselves through necromatic workings into a dark majesty. Each with plans of their own.

    So, yeah ... this would make Deathlords into Powers with agency of their own. With plans and goals of their own. And villains with hubristic levels of moxy. Which is probably how I will quietly re-write them in my head-canon at least.

    What of the abyssals then? Would they be created by the Deathlords or the Neverborn? While it could go either way, personally I like it better if they were created by the Neverborn. Created, but not controlled. (Who knows what mad, dead Creator-Gods think). It would also be a delicious dangling carrot to the Deathlords. Are the abyssals too dangerous to be trusted? But they could be such powerful tools. And what if their rival Deathlords starts using them? Can any Deathlord afford NOT to court them into their service?
    And why, uh... do their power seem to emulate the Deathlords themselves, not the Neverborn? Did something happen when they wrested the Third Circle of Necromancy from the dead primordials?

    Hey, the Time of Tumult isn't just for Creation.

  • Aquillion
    replied
    Originally posted by Robert Vance View Post
    While we can certainly improve on elements of their 1E presentation, the idea that the Deathlords fundamentally don't want to just plunge existence into nothingness like good little puppets of the Neverborn is definitely here to stay.
    This is how I always picture their views on that.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Originally posted by Robert Vance View Post
    Yep. From a big-picture, bird's-eye perspective, the thing that the Deathlords are, the narrative and dramatic role they fulfill in the setting, is to personify nine-or-thirteen different aspects of Death, to be a pantheon of nine-or-thirteen Gods of Death—not gods as Creation knows them, but real-world mythology's gods, like Yama or Ereshkigal or Mictlancuhtli. That's what makes them so interesting, and such good inspiration for Abyssal Charms.
    Hmm, at times like this, I need to remind myself that ideas that I've come up with in the interim are absolutely not definitive.

    So even if I've come up with something that functions as an alternative to First and Forsaken Lion brooding in his citadel and directing spectral armies in meaningless wargames that I've become highly enamoured of, I can still get behind rolling back to that First Edition portrayal if it was tied with a metaphysical dimension to death that can guide the Abyssal Exalted.

    Hell, focusing more on the existential problems of death than on being major figures of evil would even effectively resolve my personal issue with fantasy evil (grandiose, aspirational, almost romantic) being hard to take seriously in the face of so much contemporary and historical actual evil (petty, irrational, ignorant).

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  • Simon Darkstep
    replied
    I'd assumed the Neverborn had aspects akin to the subsidiary souls of Yozis. The subsidiary souls themselves might be awake to varying degrees, but all of them generally confined to the tombs.

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  • Kleptomania
    replied
    Originally posted by Robert Vance View Post
    Yep. From a big-picture, bird's-eye perspective, the thing that the Deathlords are, the narrative and dramatic role they fulfill in the setting, is to personify nine-or-thirteen different aspects of Death, to be a pantheon of nine-or-thirteen Gods of Death—not gods as Creation knows them, but real-world mythology's gods, like Yama or Ereshkigal or Mictlancuhtli. That's what makes them so interesting, and such good inspiration for Abyssal Charms.
    It makes me happy to read this.

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  • Robert Vance
    replied
    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
    Sure, I'm not really interested in nothingness. Nothingness is pretty boring, since by definition it's something lacking in details.

    What I'm concerned with is death; how these individuals that style themselves as lords of it approach it, harness it, share it, and what the ultimate consequences of that are.
    Yep. From a big-picture, bird's-eye perspective, the thing that the Deathlords are, the narrative and dramatic role they fulfill in the setting, is to personify nine-or-thirteen different aspects of Death, to be a pantheon of nine-or-thirteen Gods of Death—not gods as Creation knows them, but real-world mythology's gods, like Yama or Ereshkigal or Mictlancuhtli. That's what makes them so interesting, and such good inspiration for Abyssal Charms.

    Leave a comment:


  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Originally posted by Robert Vance View Post
    While we can certainly improve on elements of their 1E presentation, the idea that the Deathlords fundamentally don't want to just plunge existence into nothingness like good little puppets of the Neverborn is definitely here to stay.
    Sure, I'm not really interested in nothingness. Nothingness is pretty boring, since by definition it's something lacking in details.

    What I'm concerned with is death; how these individuals that style themselves as lords of it approach it, harness it, share it, and what the ultimate consequences of that are.

    I would definitely think that these things should be a bit distinct from the kinds of political and territorial aspirations of the Realm, but everybody is ghosts.

    Certainly, I think the Neverborn should have little more relevance than being the places where these self proclaimed lords of death went to acquire their power (and we're maybe cursed by the experience). Like, if even First Edition went so far as to have Neverborn deliberately punishing Deathlords for transgressions, I think First Edition was putting the focus in the wrong places.

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  • nalak42
    replied
    I mean I could see an interesting angle of establishing a very high level of activity and have that be explained as just how fracked up these things are that its all the same thing as talking in their sleep to these things.* It just doesn't seem like the standpoint of 2e's canon. It also probably doesn't help that at times it felt like the Deathlords didn't have personalities so much as they were wearing hats. I mean wasn't the Bishop stated to be terrified of the Lover for reasons unstated? Was anything ever done with that?

    *Silly idea

    FAFL: "Oh no they're still asleep."
    Abyssal: "Really? They seem insanely active for sleeping."
    Princess Magnificent: "No that's asleep. Its kind of freaky yeah."
    Abyssal: "Are you sure?"
    Mask: "Oh yeah. At least in our time I don't think they've been awake longer than 10 minutes."
    Eyes:"It was a really productive 10 minutes though."
    Princess Magnificent: "Didn't you try to unmake yourself 5 minutes in?"
    Eyes: "Yeah, but Wander of Desolation succeeded in unmaking himself and I hated that douche."
    *Abyssal is freaked out as assembled Deathlords are visibly cheerful and nostalgic*


    Leave a comment:


  • Robert Vance
    replied
    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

    Do you want them to be that going forward?
    While we can certainly improve on elements of their 1E presentation, the idea that the Deathlords fundamentally don't want to just plunge existence into nothingness like good little puppets of the Neverborn is definitely here to stay.

    Leave a comment:


  • Lioness
    replied
    Originally posted by nalak42 View Post
    I don't remember the Neverborn as being asleep in 2E. Honestly, the way they were constantly interacting with the Deathlords, that the whispers merit was interpreted as them leaking knowledge and instructions into abyssals minds, Holds in Thrall crouching in the Dowager's head, the constant threats to strip Eye of Seven Despairs of his abyssals and give them to the other Deathlords if he didn't stop with his weird games,and possibly that Raton abyssal that none of the Deathlords claimed as theirs but made a point of saying something that made the Lion's armor start to compress on him. So I mean add in that and the explanation that necromancy was a group of solars and lunars waking up the Neverborn while stealing secrets from the Neverborn's tombs and it just never seemed like they were asleep.

    Which getting back on topic I think was the problem with the Deathlords vis a vis 2E agency. With the exception of Eyes the books kind of hammered in that almost everything they did was either at the Neverborn's instruction or a result of the Neverborn's actions.
    So much this. The insistance that the Neverborn were asleep seemed to originate entirely from the forums in the later part of 2e, if you discussed the books and everything they said about the Neverborn it was like being gaslighted when people were going 'nah... the Neverborn are dead they don't control Resonance or really do much of anything'.

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    Originally posted by nalak42 View Post
    I don't remember the Neverborn as being asleep in 2E. Honestly, the way they were constantly interacting with the Deathlords, that the whispers merit was interpreted as them leaking knowledge and instructions into abyssals minds, Holds in Thrall crouching in the Dowager's head, the constant threats to strip Eye of Seven Despairs of his abyssals and give them to the other Deathlords if he didn't stop with his weird games,and possibly that Raton abyssal that none of the Deathlords claimed as theirs but made a point of saying something that made the Lion's armor start to compress on him. So I mean add in that and the explanation that necromancy was a group of solars and lunars waking up the Neverborn while stealing secrets from the Neverborn's tombs and it just never seemed like they were asleep.
    I think it mentioned them being asleep... but you're right, they sure didn't seem to be.

    I did quite like, actually, the thing where the Black Nadir Concordat mined too deeply in search for forbidden power and woke up things that should not be woken, as a theme in of itself, but I think more broadly it didn't really work so well.


    In 1e the Abyssals were already fighting over the concubine and being unproductive so he set out to teach them a lesson.
    In 2e it's all about him and his pain, the implication is that it'll stop when they're all dead and then he'll choose new incarnations and play out a different revenge scenario.
    Yeah, that is quite different.

    I think an ancient vengeful ghost tormenting a small number of people because they wronged him/her in a previous life is a fine plot for players to encounter, as a small self-contained story about creepy ghosts. But it's a big waste of a Deathlord.

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  • Lioness
    replied
    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
    (Also... from what I remember, Eye and Seven Despairs' little torture party with 3 Abyssals is a 2nd ed thing. First ed, if I remember, had him much more just being an evil mad scientist cackling over his necromantic creations. Actually doing Deathlord stuff.)
    The over elabourate scheme where he pretends to be dead was around in 1st edition but the different editions have a very different spin on things.
    In 1e the Abyssals were already fighting over the concubine and being unproductive so he set out to teach them a lesson.
    In 2e it's all about him and his pain, the implication is that it'll stop when they're all dead and then he'll choose new incarnations and play out a different revenge scenario.

    Leave a comment:


  • Simon Darkstep
    replied
    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
    ...

    I'm enamoured of the picture of the game painted when Geoff Grabowski talked about ancient heroes being resurrected in a world at the end of history, presenting them with a worthy challenge to save it.
    ...
    I'd like to hear more (from anyone) about refreshing or replacing the Underworld, Deathlords, Neverborn, Abyssals, and the whole idea space, with ideas drawn from this particular spark.



    Leave a comment:


  • nalak42
    replied
    I don't remember the Neverborn as being asleep in 2E. Honestly, the way they were constantly interacting with the Deathlords, that the whispers merit was interpreted as them leaking knowledge and instructions into abyssals minds, Holds in Thrall crouching in the Dowager's head, the constant threats to strip Eye of Seven Despairs of his abyssals and give them to the other Deathlords if he didn't stop with his weird games,and possibly that Raton abyssal that none of the Deathlords claimed as theirs but made a point of saying something that made the Lion's armor start to compress on him. So I mean add in that and the explanation that necromancy was a group of solars and lunars waking up the Neverborn while stealing secrets from the Neverborn's tombs and it just never seemed like they were asleep.

    Which getting back on topic I think was the problem with the Deathlords vis a vis 2E agency. With the exception of Eyes the books kind of hammered in that almost everything they did was either at the Neverborn's instruction or a result of the Neverborn's actions.

    Leave a comment:


  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    While I did like the 1st ed Deathlords more than the 2nd ed ones, because they're less chumpy (for example, the Eye and Seven Despairs is actually a Deathlord, rather than a creepy ghost who's supposed to be a Deathlord but is too busy torturing 3 people)... they're still a little bit chumpy. Princess Magnificent got beat by a story.
    Which is weird of course, because mechanically they're ridiculously powerful.

    (Also... from what I remember, Eye and Seven Despairs' little torture party with 3 Abyssals is a 2nd ed thing. First ed, if I remember, had him much more just being an evil mad scientist cackling over his necromantic creations. Actually doing Deathlord stuff.)

    And I agree with Isator, that part of this is the Neverborn. For slumbering cthonic ghost-gods, they sure do give a lot of orders (and cursed Princess Magnificent to have to hang out with the "nice guy" who's crushing on her... which is a bit weird as a curse from slumbering cthonic ghost-gods).

    Whereas, with Nephwracks and Spectres, the Neverborn are always presented as a more unconscious, insane influence. Dark whispers of madness pushing them towards mad and nihilistic schemes, rather than shouting "You're a loser Princess Magnificent! I'm putting you under Faffles control!" Fonts of evil cursed power found by 13 vengeful ghosts, rather than their bosses.

    The Deathlords are, after all, already the bosses of the Abyssals. Not sure you need another level. And if you do have the Deathlords and the Neverborn, they should be different. The Neverborn shouldn't just be top Deathlords.

    In short, Darth Vader is an Abyssal and Emperor Palpatine is a Deathlord. He's not a Neverborn: the dark side of the Force is the Neverborn.

    (In my own game, the Lion, Mask, and Eye and Seven Despairs worked with the ghosts of Chejop Kejak and the Scarlet Empress to put the Neverborn back into proper slumber. Kejak and the Empress so that the Neverborn wouldn't drag everything into Oblivion, the Deathlord triumvirate so that they could concentrate on conquering and ruling the Underworld for all eternity rather than having to take orders from the Neverborn.)
    Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 09-17-2018, 03:02 PM.

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