Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest Post @ Dice Monkey: "The Character of Souls"

Okay, so a couple weeks ago I responded to an open call over at Dice Monkey for guest writers.  I finally came up with something decent, entitled The Character of Souls and it was posted recently.  It's further thoughts about souls which I started in an earlier post on this blog.

For those of you too busy to click on the link to Dice Monkey, here's what I offered up:

So I’m slowly working on my “ultimate” campaign world.  This time I’m going to do it right (no, really).  One of the core concepts is that the world is a magical/divine one, not a scientific one.  The world is flat, the sky god really does travel across the heavens in his golden ship each day, typhoons are the wild wrath of the sea god, etc.  So all creatures in the world have a soul, that divine spark whose presence makes a living thing alive.

But this brings up basic question: where do souls come from?  Who created them?  Are they still being created or were they all created in discrete past events or eras?  Where all created by one entity or by several?  And if several, jointly or separately?  Can they be destroyed?  And what level of power is necessary to destroy a soul? Or can only a soul’s creator destroy it?

And there is the question of what exactly a soul contains.  It is the spark of life, but does it have a character of its own?  Since my new world is for a high fantasy campaign, I plan to use the classic D&D alignment system.  So then, does a creature’s alignment come from the characteristics of its soul?  Are there chaotic neutral souls and lawful evil souls and so on?

A D&D type world has creatures which are typically of a certain alignment.  That argues that all creatures of a certain type would have souls of the same character/alignment.  But how would that happen?  Why would all orcs be chaotic evil?  Would chaotic evil souls gravitate particularly to orcs in the womb?   Is it perhaps that when each type of living creature was formed by its divine creator each individual was given a soul of a particular character?  Did formation of the race/species thus included creation of a particular type of custom soul for them and now only one type of soul can fit that species, like a key only fits a certain lock?
Or perhaps souls were created by certain deities and because those deities had fixed divine alignments they were only able to create souls with alignments similar to their own.  The chaotic neutral earth mother can only make souls which are chaotic neutral.  All her creations are thus chaotic neutral in alignment, or either ethically chaotic or morally neutral.

But this leads to a big problem with creatures with highly variable alignment such as humans.  If humans were created by one deity and that deity can only create souls of the same alignment, then all humans would be of one alignment.   But clearly they are not.

In my new campaign world there is a hierarchy of deities.  The original primal gods came first.  They created the divine guardian dragons and the five nature deities.  The primal gods created the three core mortal races (humans, elves, and dwarves).  The divine guardian dragons created the mortal dragons who in turn created the smaller, humanoid drakkar.    The nature deities first created the animals of air, sea, and land as commanded by the primal gods; later these deities created intelligent species and races for reasons of their own.  Lastly a group of newcomer, lesser deities entered the world and created the fiendish (tiefling) and angelic (aasimar) races by interaction with mortal peoples.

So that makes for several tiers of souls:
1. primal-created
2a. nature-created
2b. divine dragon-created
3a. mortal dragon-created
3b. lesser deity-created

Each tier will have its own characteristics and in the case of the 2nd and 3rd tiers have distinct sub-types.  I’m positing that the souls in each later/lower tier are more set in their alignments due to the nature and power level of their creators.

1. The First Races were created by all the primal gods in concert.  The primals used select divine essences and a unique blend of the five elements for each of the three First Races.  This is why they have the widest range of alignments but with each race having a typical “personality” beyond alignment.  There is a reason dwarves love gems and metals and humans covet landholdings.

2a. The nature deities first created the plants and animals of the world.  Because these deities are morally neutral the plants and animals are morally neutral (neutral on a good–evil scale).  Much later they created the beast races (such as minotaurs) in imitation of the other races they saw around them.    This second phase of creation was done in haste and driven by fear and hatred of the races and entities wreaking devastating war across it.  They were birthed as weapons and their souls were tainted with the fear and hatred raging in their creators at that time.

2b. The divine dragons created their mortal avatars, the worldly dragons.  The earliest mated pairs were actually immortal despite being formed of physical flesh and blood.  The five divine dragons were originally formed to guard the five elemental poles holding the world together.  They naturally partook deeply of the characteristics of their corresponding element, two being lawful, two chaotic, and one neutral.  The souls of the later worldly dragons were the same ethical alignments as their creators, based on the element of that ancestor.

3a. The worldly or mortal dragons later created the humanoid drakkar peoples.  The drakkar were infused with the element of their ancestor divine dragon and their souls partook of its essence.  That is why the earth dragons are balanced and neutral while the fire drakkar are passionate and chaotic.

3b. In the final aeon of the world, powerful beings entered from elsewhere and warred with each other.  Though immortal and insubstantial like deities, they were less powerful than the five deities of nature or the divine dragons and nowhere near in power to the primals.  They could not create entire races or species, only rare individual entities.  They could, however, create physical avatars of themselves modeled on the First Peoples and in this way interact with them.  These beings were generally neutral ethically (law vs. chaos) but with variations, but strongly morally aligned, apparently due to their planes of origin.   So their physical avatars could mate with the First Peoples, but their offspring were influenced physically and morally by the blending.

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