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A backer asked us about how deity worked in the world if Skybourne and, since the answer is a bit complicated, we thought we’d answer it here for anyone else who'd like to know. In Skybourne, we’ve made a few small but significant changes to the way alignment works and, by extension, the way clerics and deity work as well.
In Skybourne, alignment does not mean personality: a good man may lie, an evil man may be merciful, a lawful man may carouse, and a chaotic man may go willingly to judgement for his crimes. True, a man’s alignment does influence his personality through their tendency toward good, evil, lawful, and chaotic acts, but ultimately a character’s personality is determined by the player. Instead, alignment in Skybourne is much better thought of as allegiance.
Good and Evil: A History of Gods and Demons
In Skybourne, there are two primary overdeities: the Allgod and the Ungod. The Allgod is tied to positive energy and is the source of life, good, and healing. The Ungod, on the other hand, is tied to negative energy and is the source of death, unlife, and evil. All clerics who channel positive or negative energy are channeling the power of the Allgod or the Ungod, although neither being will grant spells to clerics.
It is from the Allgod and the Ungod that the gods themselves derive their power and many of the forces of creation were birthed.
There are two types of divine beings that serve the Allgod: gods and saints. Gods are beings created directly by the Allgod, while saints are the souls of mortal beings that became greater than the angels. It must be noted that the distinction between a god and a saint is not one of power, only of origin; many gods have few worshippers and little power, while some saints have widespread devotees and are the most powerful being in the pantheon. These beings are autonomous with their own beliefs, desires, and agendas and may war among themselves both physically and ideologically, their only connecting force being their allegiance to the good alignment and by extension to the Allgod.
Similarly to the gods and saints described above, the Ungod is served by dark gods and demon lords (while the beings created by the Ungod are also called ‘gods’, they are often distinguished by the title ‘dark’ to separate them from their ideological counterparts). Dark gods are created directly by the Ungod, while demon lords are the souls of particularly powerful and corrupt mortals that won their position in hell and the pantheon through force of arm, deal-making, or sheer cunning or power. The inter-conflicts between the demons and dark gods are much more pronounced than those of the Good-aligned, as their nature and lust for power drives many dark gods and demon lords to constant treachery in service to their own personal agendas.
Along with the devotees of good and evil among the divine are many creatures who owe allegiance to neither. These beings are known as Primordials, and either exist independent to the Allgod and Ungod, or were created through the interaction of these two beings with each other. These include the elemental gods, the King and Queen of Faerie, and a host of other beings scattered throughout the planes and demi-planes. There also exist a series of Fey Lords; divine beings who, like the saints and demon lords were not birthed the same as the gods and primordials, but who nonetheless possess divine power. The Fey Lords form a nobility of the scattered planes, and while most Fey Lords were birthed by divine parents, there does exist some individuals who have attained this rank through their own actions.
Alignment: Good, Evil, and Neutral
An alignment of good or evil in the world of Skybourne has less to do with one’s disposition (although one’s disposition will certainly lead them to good or evil acts) and more to do with the state of one’s soul in light of this great cosmic struggle. Most civilized humanoids in the world are neutral, caring little for cosmic struggles they feel don’t concern them, and being perfectly willing to pay tithes to either the hierophant or the lich king if it gets the tax collectors off their back. Good creatures, on the other hand, have a personal stake in the cause of righteousness; they needn’t be crusaders, but still they must, through allegiance or action, have aligned their soul with the interests of the good-aligned gods. LIkewise, petty crimes will not earn a creature an evil alignment. To become evil, a creature must dedicate themselves actively to the dark gods or else have tainted their spirit so thoroughly through their actions that Hell can claim ownership of their soul.
A creature with a temper and a tendency toward violence can be Good if they try every day to keep themselves on a righteous path, and a caring, merciful person could be Evil if they have descended to the depths of depravity, no matter how good their initial intentions.
Lawful and Chaotic: Civilization and the Forest
It is true that there are extraplanar beings aligned with the concepts of Law and Chaos, but such beings rarely take an interest in the souls of men. For many, the struggle between Law and Chaos is less about divine beings, and more about the actual war being waged all around them for control of the destiny of the world.
For some, the loss of the old world was a sad but necessary step in the progression of the world. The old way of life was not only stagnant, but damaging; when the forest grew, it was the will of the world made physical, cleansing its surface of industry, pollution, and all those arrogant enough to think themselves masters of creation. These beings make peace with the forest rather than seeking to tame it and live in tribes alongside the natural denizens of the forest.
For others, the destruction of the old world was one of the greatest calamities in history. The march of history was one of lesser to greater as rivers were tamed, technologies were crafted, and cities built. The loss of thousands of years of civilization and progress can never be recovered, but the few bastions of civilization left can be defended as the followers of Law wage war against the forest. These beings seek to conquer the world, taming the forest just as an an animal trainer would tame a dangerous animal. In this conflict, paladins and monks feature prominently, as paladins are charged with holding the light of civilization high and defending it against all opposition, and monks train in monasteries that double as libraries and fortresses, built to defend what knowledge of the old world remains.
While the transformation of the world affected all creatures, there are some for whom the shift was less pronounced. Most prominent among these are the kingdoms of the merfolk, where life underwater already necessitated a much more harmonious existence with nature than was possible on the surface. While the transformation of the world did birth leviathans and other great sea creatures, for the most part the kingdoms of the merfolk remain intact, and the merfolk have found themselves often serving as mediaries and traders for the scattered surface dwellers.
Alignment: Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral
Just as with Good and Evil, most humanoids tend toward neutrality in the Lawful/Chaotic divide, although not as prominently. The forest tribes are almost always chaotic, while the denizens of the floating isles are often lawful, but most of the refugees scattered around the world are too busy defending themselves and scratching out a living to care for the larger concerns of civilization. Likewise, a creature needn’t be pledged to either defend or destroy civilization in order to gain a lawful or chaotic alignment. That being said, the forces of Law and Chaos are indeed at odds, doing battle just as often as their Good and Evil counterparts for control of the world and its future.
A chaotic creature is not crazy; indeed, he may even be noble, serious, and respectful of authority, but he might also be a crusader against those seeking to civilize the forest. Likewise, a crime boss may not respect the law of the land, and yet could be a profound Lawful defender of civilization, particularly as his profession couldn’t exist without cities in which to ply his trade. Clerics may also specialize in either Law or Chaos through their selection of domains, entering themselves into their own ideological battle just as poignant as the battle between good and evil, except this time their opponents might just be other members of their patron's pantheon.
Today’s post was prompted by a backer question: it’s the kind of thing we love, as it lets us know what you want to hear from us. As such, we'd love to hear more from you as to what you'd like to know about our books or the world of Skybourne.
What about the setting would you like to know? What excites you the most, and what do you want to hear more about?