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Pantheons With Opposing Factions

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  • Pantheons With Opposing Factions

    Reading over Watcher's work with the Tuatha De Danann has made me curious about the lines between gods and titans, and the difference between titans and antagonistic deities. With the Tuatha, the difference between gods and titans is almost purely political. The Fomor and the Firbolgs are not any less anthropomorphic (at least mentally) than the Tuatha and are in no way the alien embodiments of abstract forces that titans are often defined as being. On the other hand, we have figures like the Badb and Nemain who only seem to be gods instead of titans because they're both members of the Tuatha. The Badb is a monstrous anthropophagous crow-horror, and Nemain is the literal embodiment of slaughter. She's both the embodiment of an abstract concept and an exceedingly destructive entity. By most definitions of a Titan that I've seen, she seems to fit the bill to the letter. She's a goddess instead, however, for what appear to be wholely political reasons. I've considered the idea that the Fomor and the Firbolg have a pretty good argument for why they'd be classified in the same category of being as the Tuatha. Bear in mind, the Tuatha themselves subvert many of the common tropes for what constitutes a "god." So would it be better to think of the Tuatha and the Fomor as two antagonistic factions of gods, rather than one faction of gods and one faction of "titans?" How do you guys feel about the concept of pantheons with two or more factions that are in direct opposition to each other?

    The other major example of this I could think of within the game are the Aesir and Vanir. The Aesir and Vanir are both considered gods and were formerly at war. They seem like a prime example of a potentially divided pantheon, albeit one that eventually made peace between the factions. There's also Skadi, who is a member of a race that is usually thought of as titanic but is a goddess by marriage.

    This is how I would personally go about interpreting the angels and devils of Abrahamic mythology. There's been a lot of debate as to which side are the gods and which side are the titans, and honestly, I think both sides have fairly compelling arguments. I would personally interpret both sides as "gods" (in the same sense that the Orisha and the Yazata are gods, at the very least), and have them as a pantheon that fractured due to a civil war and reduced to two factions that are in direct opposition to one another.

    So what do you guys think? I'm just as interested in personal takes as I am in the official canon answer to this question.

  • #2
    It's a bit ambiguous (intentionally, I imagine), and alot is up to the storyteller. Basically, I think of it as the difference between a villain and a monster.

    The villain is human (even when they aren't literally human), they have human flaws, frailties, biases, they can love, learn from their mistakes, look down on all the little humans and draw a mental connection between those around them and how they can be lifted up by them. A villian sees a housefire and thinks "how can this benefit me".
    The monster is ruled by impulse, they are guided on whims and urges, their frailties are the limits of the force they represent, they are defined wholly by their archetype and cannot fathom the need to break from it, let alone actually consider doing so, have survival instincts and a need to grow in power but humanity's role in this is tangential at best. A monster looks at a housefire and thinks "hmm smells good" and goes about their day.

    But you're right that myths (even greek myths) don't draw super clear lines between the two. Many of the various myths show alot of back and forth between the aggressive and protective forces in their respective pantheons. Loki causes earthquakes, Prometheus tricks Zeus out of good sacrifices to benefit humanity. But Loki is a god and Prometheus is a titan. A bunch of gods and titans switched sides from one to the other, and a whole bunch of them have intermarried (Freyr married a giantess, does this mean the queen of elfland is a titan?). Ultimately I think it comes down to whether the being in question plays a role in the pantheon seen by humanity, it's implied heavily (or was it stated?) that humanity's effect on Fate is what sustains the myths that shape elemental beings into gods, dividing the line between titan and god. But there are alot of ways you could look at that; Hades, for instance, was rarely actively worshipped at times instead, he was feared, few dared even speak his name and yet he remains a god. Hecate was born a titan but sided with the gods and is worshipped as a goddess of crossroads, necromancy and magical practices, she could be a goddess or a titan.
    The orisha don't even acknowledge the existence of titans, they see everyone as gods and think the other pantheons are just trying to cast political enemies as dehumanized monsters. And with the way Fate works it might actually be working.

    Basically Titan just means a force antagonistic to society in your game. Beings like Typhon and Nidhogg are titans because that's their role but for more humanized enemies of the gods, you as a storyteller have a ton of freedom either way. Maybe a group like the Fomori catch on to this treatment of Fate and attempt to become a proper pantheon to oppose the Tuatha, maybe an abandoned pantheon has devolved into Titans and now threaten the world. Whatever works for your group really. And hey having two pantheons oppose eachother and denounce the other as monsters is a great way to add strong nuance to your game, go for it, it's what makes supervillians into complex characters.

    As to running an Abrahamic pantheon, you're spoiled for perspectives, unfortunately. Too many of the older pantheons have had their writings lost (with the obvious exceptions of those still widely practiced today such as Hinduism) so while we can see a lot of fragments of the cultures that worshipped them most of our knowledge comes from only a few books that act as summaries such as the Eddas and the Theogony. Basically, figure out what role you want your players to take on and what you're trying to say about the mythology you're using. There are a lot of examples of many figures on either side being gods or titans as Scion defines them. Even if he's a villain you could argue Lucifer is still a god due to the amount with which he's involved with human experience, and the Abrahamic god certainly exhibits alot of titan-like qualities if viewed objectively
    You could portray Heaven as apathetic and superior while portraying Hell as humanistic and accepting. You could portray heaven as righteous and benevolent while hell has forsaken compassion for malevolence (and certainly that's the attitude the church would like to sell). You could portray them as a pantheon very involved with humanity that endured a Tuatha-like schism and portray both as gods. Or you could just have them all be titans. All of them work from one perspective or another.

    Personally I like the demonic pantheon and the use of the abrahamic religion as a titomachy and feel it could make for a really powerful narrative but I'll acknowledge both flaws with the approach as well as the very specific depiction of christianity needed to maintain this particular status quo, you need to get angels at their most eldritch but make the demons humanized by their experiences without portraying them as total pricks. It's a careful balance and not for everyone. I'll also admit I'm a bit of a fangirl for this depiction of Lilith and have been since VtM, and I do like adding nuance to Lucifer, he just feels like such a supervillian when played straight.
    Last edited by Darkfoxdev; 07-19-2019, 05:23 PM.