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Fictional Pantheons?

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  • Fictional Pantheons?

    Simply put, fictional pantheons are literary creations. William Blake created a profound mythology, Tolkien created an appealing one, neither counts as a real world pantheon people worshiped. However, both men's writtings give enough details that you could create PSPs and reasonable descriptions for their pantheons. In the 1ed of Scion, the Atlantean, Yankee, and Allied, pantheons were fictional pantheons in this sense.

    The question is, do Fictional Pantheons have a place in Scion?

    If fictional pantheons have a place in Scion, what is that place? Might their be a campaign, given as a worked example, set in a Space Opera setting with competing pantheons promoting different value systems for humanity? Or perhaps a group of fictional gods, like Urizen and his tribe, stated out as a demostraition of how myths are turned into workable pantheons for games?

  • #2
    Um...I'm pretty sure that "superheroes" will be addressed in Scion 2E. Although I'd think it's going to be more like "superhero-ification" of deities. (The best example is Thor.)


    • #3
      This tends to be a fairly contentious issue.

      Significant portions of the fan base prefer Scion to be focused on real-world mythology; with fictional Pantheons only arising out of PC actions (aka PCs starting their own as they become deities), while others prefer having the mix 1e started by adding the mentioned fictional ones.

      I personally feel that Scion does have a place for fictional Pantheons. Though it should be a secondary expansion while the core material focuses on real mythologies. The only exception to this for me should be when the core books discuss creating Pantheons (since again, PCs making their own should be part of the game) as fictional ones serve a useful purpose as examples for how to craft ones.


      • #4
        I think the fun of Scion is that you're playing with numerous ancient myths in a new setting, and putting figures from all over the world into a setting with one another. Making a pantheon up from whole cloth defeats that purpose.

        @CaryKingdom - Writer and Ne'er-do-well
        Currently working on Scion: Second Edition
        Everything is subject to change, and all opinions expressed are solely my own or those of my my houseplants.


        • #5
          Operating on the premise that if it’s not Factual, it must therefore be Fictional, there is a class of Fictional Pantheons that I believe very definitely have a place in Scion: namely, Pantheons that are built around real-world mythologies that are so factually sparse that most of the Pantheon has to be invented by the writers. Examples of such are the Arabian and Gaulish Pantheons.

          The above illustrates a further complication: there really isn’t a hard line separating “Fact-based” Pantheons from Fictional ones; it’s a continuum, and the question isn’t really “do fictional Pantheons have a place?” so much as “where do you draw the line?” Implicit in my opening statement is the notion that if the writer has to make up most of the details himself, the Pantheon is fictional; but I could just as easily see an argument that if the Pantheon has or had a thriving base of worshippers, it should be considered “factual”, even if 90% of the game material pertaining to it is made up.

          The Atlantean Pantheon demonstrates another “shade of gray”, where the fiction’s premise is that the Pantheon did have worshippers at one point; but that the worshippers have been gone for so long that their very existence is now in doubt. My own inclination would be to draw the line between the Gaulish and Arabian Pantheons on the one hand, and the Atlantean Pantheon on the other; but really, the two examples aren’t that far apart.

          Then you get into what I’d call the Fabulous Pantheons (as in “Fables”) — Pantheons that are built on personas that nobody has ever seriously believed in or worshipped, but which are firmly rooted in the public imagination nonetheless. The National Pantheons fit this group, as do figures such as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. My inclination would be to avoid building Pantheons around such things, unless you’re dealing with a Shard setting that is specifically geared toward them.

          Tolkein’s mythology is an interesting case: at first blush, it looks like it was something that Tolkein made up out of whole cloth, and thus should be considered about as far to the opposite side of the spectrum from, say, the Greek Pantheon. But if you look at it more closely, it’s not that clear-cut: Tolkein’s “gods” are closely patterned after a real-world religion that has an enormous following even today: that is, they’re a reconceptualization of Abrahamic mythology. This would arguably place Tolkein’s Pantheon in a slightly less fictional “shade of gray” than a Pantheon featuring Columbia or Santa Claus. Still firmly in the realm of fiction for Scion’s purposes, mind you.

          All that said: the bottom line for me is that there are so many unexplored possibilities in the hundreds of Pantheons that everyone here would agree are Scion-appropriate, and so much diverse possibilities among them, that I see little point in the developers pursuing any that are primarily made up.


          • #6
            Tolkien's pantheon is also a re-imagining of Finnish mythology as well. And you can definitely see Old English all over everything he did. So it's definitely fantasy by way of scholarship. For the purposes of story-telling. As opposed to Blake, who looks like he was trying to shoehorn some Zoroastrian/Gnosticism into a set of tales designed to illustrate a political objective. (He's in good company. That's pretty much what Plato did for Atlantis... err... not the Scion Atlantis, the one the Atlantic Ocean was named after.)

            There are a lot of "fantastic" mythologies out there that are largely made up but are based in and around some version of a quasi-historic version of the world in which we live. I think you could probably integrate those into a Scion setting pretty well, if you wanted to do so. You would be stretching the "game of modern mythology" to "game of fantastic mythology with a modern setting", but that's a huge jump.

            So, though, I don't see myself doing it for one of my own games (I LOVE me my bookcase of myth books), I definitely can see creating a "lost pantheon of a vanished people" much like the Atlantean pantheon, if that served a purpose for the stories I was trying to tell. It's based on the modern concepts of "Lost Atlantis" so you have source material to work from. On the same level, I'm guessing you could use the relevant new age-type sources to create pantheons for Lemuria or Mu or Z. You could go another way and base an Atlantean pantheon off of, say, the Gods of Atlantis from DC comics (Aquaman & Arion) and work it up that way. Similarly, in a different vein, Lovecraft's Great Old One integrate into this world fairly seemlessly. They could definitely be lurking around behind the scenes in a world of fantastic mythology. Perhaps as Titans? Unless you want to go there with playing the Son of Hastur, the Daughter of Ithaqua and the.... Spawn? of Cthulhu. With an interesting level of Squick-factor.

            On the other hand, if you are going to keep the modern setting, I think you might have a harder time integrating something like Tolkien's mythology. You could do so, but I think it's going to be enough work that you probably should have a really good reason for doing it. It seems to me that it would only be marginally less difficult to integrate the Valar into the modern world (and have them getting busy with the Second Children of Iluvatar) than it would be to create a version of Middle Earth re-tooled for Scion. Blakes would be a much better fit with a modern world, or at least one from a century or so ago. As it should be, since that's what he's talking about. It's a lot like having a fantastic (phatasmagorical?) version of the various Angelic pantheons that are out there.

            As for "nigh fictional" pantheons. I think they need to be CLEARLY marked as such. People learn a lot from gaming, by osmosis at the very least. Thinking that the Gaulish pantheon as presented represents the Gaulish pantheon that we-know-don't-know-much-about is a disservice to what we DO know about Gaulish myths and legends. There is a big difference between knitting together an interpretation of myths from what we know and what will work for the purposes of the game and taking a few factoids and making the rest of the story whole-cloth. That being said, I think the Gaulish pantheon is relatively cool. It seems a little more different from Irish myths than it could have been and that distance was made up wit hpure make-believe, but, sure, why not? If you want to explore "this is the pantheon that Fate hates" it's right there for you and it does get some verisimilitude for the use of what info there is.

            I think John & Anne's Arabian pantheon is a little more portable. As she said when discussing it, there is definitely some info out there, but some of it is just GONE. Actively suprressed out of existence. Not recorded in any meaningfull way. And some of those are parts a pantheon needs for a Scion write up, so what are you going to do? Anne did a great job taking what there was and trying to figure out something cool to use to fill in. Some of it from out of her head. Some of it based loosely on various customs and folkways of the relevant culture. I think her Arabian works a bit better for me for those reasons.


            • #7
              On the Tolkein Mythology thing, I could actually see something like that showing up at some point, as the ultimate “forgotten gods of a forgotten people” sort of thing. Not so much Tolkein’s specific mythology, mind you; but maybe an adaptation of the Exalted Incarna as a Pantheon. Or not. 😛


              • #8
                I'm in the process of creating my own pantheons, myths, cosmology, etc...
                And it's very different from what has already been made. (Old myths don't really go over well today)


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Shadowflame View Post
                  I'm in the process of creating my own pantheons, myths, cosmology, etc...
                  And it's very different from what has already been made. (Old myths don't really go over well today)
                  On what do you base that observation?

                  They seem to be doing fabulously at the box office, either directly or indirectly in some of re-tooled form. Same with books, in the fantasy genre, science fiction, and "literature" (whatever that means). Comic books too. Not just the popular ones but the ones that get acclaim. And so on and so on. Those myths show up in pretty much every field of creative endeavor and even, quite often, in other fields as well.

                  In fact, considering how they are told, re-told and re-retold, there aren't really many stories that aren't, in their essence "old myths". By modern theories of literature analysis and symbolic anthropology, there aren't that many different basic stories that have every been told. And the original telling of those stories were myths, legends and folklore. Myths are embedded at the fundamental levels of culture. So, in point of fact, since you are an example of 5,000, 10,0000, 20,000 or 150,000 years of human culture (depending on how you slice "human" and "culture"), anything you make will be informed by old myths and will most likely be the x-thousandth iteration of the same basic concepts.

                  It seems like, considering that this is a forum devoted to game that is fundamentally about "old myths", while taking said game out of the box and re-arranging it to suit your own needs is absolutely cool, disparaging the core concepts is an attempt to be deliberately provocative, particularly in the dismissive fashion you addressed your comments.


                  • #10
                    Human sacrifice and stuff is frowned on today...


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                      On the Tolkein Mythology thing, I could actually see something like that showing up at some point, as the ultimate “forgotten gods of a forgotten people” sort of thing. Not so much Tolkein’s specific mythology, mind you; but maybe an adaptation of the Exalted Incarna as a Pantheon. Or not. 😛
                      Maybe some young, particularly nerdy Scions decide to model themselves after the Valar and end up being Fatebound into actually being them?


                      • #12
                        It may, indeed, be frowned upon. However, it was very much a part of those cultures that participated in it. If you wish to not include it, then you can simply not include that Pantheon into your game. That is the beauty of rpg's: You can include whatever you want and disregard whatever you want. However, you should also go ahead and talk it over with your players to not include the Pantheon. Some of them may resonate strongly with the Atzlanti.
                        However, it is commendable that you wish to create your own Pantheons. I have toyed around with the idea myself. Creating one in the vein of Rise of the Guardians (I can hear people groaning from here) simply because these myths fit for those who do not wish to deal with specific cultures.


                        • #13
                          "Was is the operative word. Human sacrifice does not go over well today. I think it's kinda strange that people want things as "real" as it can be, but ignore the fact that by today's standards, sacrificing newborns (looking at you Moloch) puts a deity firmly on the other side. For the most part, were I to put together a bunch of deities from other mythologies, I would have back stories that tell how they acclimated to various time-frames. I would cobble together another group of deities that refused to recognized the winds of change and prefer to try to relive their glory gory days. And they would be the villains.


                          • #14
                            Human sacrifice is alive and well. We call it "Capital Punishment" here in the USA. Voluntary euthanasia. Double blind drug trials including a placebo for people with lethal medical conditions. We justify those the exact same way that other cultures justified their version of human sacrifice. It preserves the social order. It promotes the public good.

                            In fact the difference between a modern war, of aggression where you "kill them where you find them" and an Aztec War of Flowers with its "find them, capture them, then kill them" is really a matter of location of the homicide rather the function served.

                            We definitely still have sacrifice of newborns that is functionally not much different than the kind of infant exposure from Ancient Greece, some West African tribes, etc. but, the situations and issues involved are beyond the scope of discussion I find myself comfortable discussing in an open forum.

                            The thing about people is that they pretty much seem to be people no matter when and where you find them. They will definitely find different ways to do things, but it will be different ways to do the same things.


                            • #15
                              You can play games with the English language to pretty it up as much as you want, killing babies in such a manner isn't acceptable today. (I'm reminded of a time when I had to go to court and was watching an earlier court case. It was amazing how easily the judge sliced through all the bs that a lawyer was trying to sell.) It is what it is. Murder isn't acceptable today. If you believe differently, then you should not be playing games. You should instead be seeing a psychiatrist.