Cosmology and Metaphysics
Cosmology in the CG
Good/Evil vs. Holy/Unholy
The gods of the Continuing Game are "Greco-Norse", and like the gods of pantheistic Europe, they are incarnations of neither good nor evil – in sharp contrast to the bipolar cosmology of modern Christianity and Islam. Greco-Roman and Norse gods were, just like humans, a mix of good and evil.
Many of Hesket's gods are generally good in nature, such as Perinnia or Majenir. By contrast, Kahla-Ran is notably evil. Some fall in between, such as Rannash and Dorial. Nen, chief of the gods, is hardest to pinpoint. Some theologians argue that It must be good, for it sentences evil souls to the hells, and rewards the good souls with heaven. Others argue that It neutrally allots the good to their place, and the evil to theirs. The former belief is more prevalent, if just because mortals are optimistic creatures about their own afterlives and about the gods.
However, good or evil, the gods are all holy, and that which opposes them is unholy. Holy doesn't mean "good" necessarily -- but unholy does mean evil. So Kahla-Ran ain't good, but she's still holy.
Heaven and Hell
The heavens and the hells of the Continuing Game world might seem the rough equivalent of the Heaven and Hell of Christianity and Islam, but they are closer to the Elysian Fields and Tartarus of Greco-Roman myth. The heavens are no one god's exclusive domain.
The hells, by contrast, are left to Kahla-Ran's charge (much as Hel was charged with the underworld of Norse myth.) However, the hells are not entirely hers, either. Kahla-Ran's deception (taking sacrificed souls directly, bypassing Nen's judgment) is a crime tolerated by the others because she serves them a useful purpose. What is that purpose? Well, the hells teem with demons: unholy, foul creatures of chaos and trouble. Kahla-Ran is the only god willing to abide in the hells, keeping the demons under control (or at least at bay.) It's a dirty job, but someone had to do it, and none of the other deities were willing to put up with the constant troubles of being surrounded by demons. Kahla-Ran "took the job" knowing that the distastefulness of her position would make a good bargaining chip when her schemes were exposed. When faced with angry peers, she could threaten to resign... and none of the gods would want to see the demonic hordes let loose.
Note also that the cosmology of the CG universe treats the hells more as a jail, not a prison. Only the foulest of the foul are sentenced to an eternity down below; most souls sent to the hells are released after having served a "sufficient punishment". Hitler might spend eternity being roasted over a spit, but Nixon will join Nen eventually. (Note that "sufficient punishment" is measured in divine, not mortal units of time. There aren't really "years" in the afterlife per se, so who knows how "long" a sentence is.)
Many mortal theologians say that the heavens themselves are divided, with each deity holding sway over a particular section of the heavens, such as the Great Library of Elune, Kyta's Celestial Seashore, and the Smithy of Furthane. Between all of these places lie the Fields of Glory, neutral territory for all deities.
Each god is served by his or her servants and messengers, called "celestials". ("Angel" comes from the Greek word meaning "messenger".) These are divine beings, made by each god, to do his or her bidding in the celestial realm as well as in the mortal. The task of each is dictated by that god's role. Tradalos' servants act like Valkyries, gathering the souls of the fallen; Perinnia's wander, providing assistance (undetectably, of course) to homes and families; Kintaka's just scamper about, causing mischief.
Celestials are referred to by the god's name plus "-on", plural "-onim". Thus, Nen's servants are the Nennonim, Elune's are Elunonim, Furthane's are the Furthanonim, and so on. Trailing vowels are dropped before a suffix; thus "one Saranon" or "many Zotronim" instead of the ungainly "one Saranaon" or "many Zotraonim".
One god is an exception: Kahla-Ran, being a goddess not of creation but destruction, has no power to create her own servants. There are no "Kahla-Rannonim". It is for this reason that Kahla-Ran seeks sacrificed souls; she needs the labor! She relies on her mortal worshippers to provide her with the needed rituals and powers. It also explains why she employs demons to do her bidding. Kahla-ran is not the maker of demons, but she is sometimes their employer. Demons may "contract" (if you will) with Kahla-Ran. It is for this reason that one hears the distinction between "demons" and "Kahla-Ran's demons". The former serve themselves and their own ends; the latter serve the goddess, doing her bidding.
How do celestials act? What are their powers? See the Bestiary.
Note that not all divine servants are necessarily celestials. Between the celestials and the mortals are the "luminaries", servants made by the gods specifically for the mortal realm (unlike the "angel"-type celestials, who reside in the heavens). Luminaries, while servants and creations of the gods, have only a very thin link to the divine, barely more than that of a mortal. The average luminary rarely receives direct "instructions" from above, instead having been charged by the gods, when the luminary was created, to wander the mortal world independently and use his/her own judgment as to how to carry out the god's divine mission. In the South, luminaries are most often jann, aerial creatures of the desert, while in the North they take the form of graces, creatures of nature.
Graces are "typed" -- that is, they usually have a specific purpose or thing to watch over. A Kytan grace might watch over a rocky point, hoping to prevent shipwrecks. Another might protect travelers at a crossroads. They are patient, honest, kind, firm in their convictions, and of course holy. Graces of the less military gods are more likely to go invisible or enter wraith-form than engage in a combat; obviously, this is not true of Rannash's graces...
There is also a difference in scope between celestials and luminaries. Celestials (when they are made manifest to mortals) usually herald very important religious events. Celestials are powerful and otherwordly creatures and they do not appear in the mortal world without a strong reason. Luminaries, by contrast, are small-scale. A grace might help a lost traveler in the woods, or a jann might assist a nomad chief in finding water for his tribe. Luminaries stay out of big-picture scenes in mortal affairs, and try to avoid making any obvious splash.
Readers may think they know of an obvious exception: in early 998, luminaries helped the PCs defeat the serpentines' plot, which hardly seems small-scale. Note, however, that this was not a mortal affair as much as a darkling one, and the luminaries work to counter the darklings. Even so, notice that the luminaries still minimized their big-picture influence. A luminary could easily have walked into Collegium Hall and informed the Collegium of the plot, but that is not how luminaries work (just as the gods move in mysterious ways, "Deus absconditus" applies to the gods' servants as well). Instead, the luminaries gave only vague warnings of danger to a few dozen mortals (that is, the PCs), and then worked behind the scenes to bend the serpentines' "mindscape" enough to let the mortals (not the luminaries) save the Collegium. The luminaries strove to counter the darklings, but did so in a way that the world at large was unaware of the danger or the effort to stop it. Even the mortals who did know of the plot did not know of the luminaries' invisible assistance until the last moment.
Demons are to Titans (see below) as celestials are to gods. When the titans were defeated, the demons were cast into the hells, with Kahla-Ran sent there to watch over and contain them. The demons now continue to wreak chaos and vengeance upon the mortal races, seeking revenge for their former masters by inflicting pain upon the gods' followers.
Note that since the Titans are banished and gone, the demons don't have any contact with their former masters, so it might be more accurate to say "demons were to Titans as celestials are to gods."
Note that not all non-mortal (that is, "immortal"), ageless beings are necessarily divine (or infernal.) Djinn, for instance, are simply magical creatures, not servants of gods. The same goes for the fae.
Mortal theologians do not fully understand the relationship between the gods and other immortal beings such as the fae and the djinn. Perhaps these creatures are creations of the gods, but made different from mortals. Perhaps they are "naturally" existing. No PC could ever be able to fathom the complexities of these relationships using a puny, mortal mind, so you shouldn't ever give the players the answers to these questions. It's ineffable to mortals -- and you the player are a mortal just as your character is. And so on and so on... you get the idea.
Holy spells and items work on undead. Does this mean that undead are creations of the Titans? Well, no. Undead are souls who, for whatever reason, have escaped the normal passage from the mortal world to the world beyond. Undead are blasphemies against the gods' natural order, and thus things like Holy Water act to rectify the situation, sending the soul on to the next world. So holy power works against them without them being unholy in the same way that, say, demons are.
The Titans are the enemies of the gods whom the gods displaced in mythic times before the mortal races existed (ala Greek myth.)
There isn't much lore about the Titans -- this is, in part, deliberate on the part of past Game Masters to maintain a sense of mystery about the ancient unknown. Since the Titans have been gone a long long long time, there isn't a heck of a lot that's certain about them, and what's left around is vague. However, this much has been introduced in-game:
There were 81 titans. Of these, eighty of them were divided into four groups of twenty. One in each group served as its head; in Sturian writings the leaders are named Rheanus, Uromas, Crothys, and Encelipe. The eighty-first titan was the messenger of the titans, conveying the requests of the worshippers to the remaining eighty, since the other eighty titans could not hear the requests of their followers directly. The Sturians named this messenger Eriathis.
Until the fall of 2001, the default "Miracle" when a player died and was brought back was "Fendel found you and brought you back." Previous editions of the rules deliberately left Fendel's nature vague:
Some say Fendel is but a kind-hearted, noble priest. Others call him an otherworldly spirit, an angel, or even an incarnation of Tralados, lord of the dead. Some claim to have met him - or rather, to have met someone who claims to be him - and say he is but human. Whatever he might be, Fendel has granted many an adventurous soul another chance at fulfilling an uncompleted quest...
...note that Fendel's actions are considered just short of miraculous, and a character's restoration by Fendel should not be roleplayed lightly. Also, the fact that Fendel pays attention to PCs -- and seemingly to few else -- is considered just coincidence.
Does Fendel belong here in the cosmology section? Well, sort of, since some believe this mysterious figure is an incarnation of Tralados. Regardless, GMs should never reveal any info about what Fendel actually is. For that matter, if Fendel comes up at all, he should always be "off-screen".
avatar - don't use this word. For starters, it's a term specific to Hinduism. Secondly, it just means "incarnation". (That's it, just "incarnation".) With "incarnation" being a European word, and Hesket having a European milieu, use "incarnation" instead.
celestials - angelic servants of the gods. Generally pictured as winged beings sent down from the heavens. These come in a variety of strengths, and each god's celestials may have a different form (Rannash's as warriors, Elune's having more than two eyes, etc.) Only Kahla-Ran, as a goddess of destruction, has no celestials.
darklings - former servants of the titans, made by the titans on and for the mortal realm. The titans' unholy equivalent of the luminaries. This includes vampires, werewolves, and other unholy creatures.
demons - the former servants of the titans, banished to the hells when the titans were defeated. They seek revenge by creating pain and havoc upon the followers of the gods. Some demons enter into the service of Kahla-Ran.
fae - creatures who are immortal, but neither divine nor infernal. They are "simply" ageless spirits who live outside the mortal world.
gods - the beings who overthrew the titans to rule the heavens and the earth. The gods grant powers and gifts as thanks for the prayers and veneration of their followers.
immortal - any creature who doesn't age, and therefore is not mortal. This includes any number of cosmological entities, including creatures such as fae and djinn.
luminaries - servants of the gods made on and for the mortal plane. Rather than receiving direct instructions from the gods, luminaries were given a charge at the time of their creation, and now carry out that mission based on their own judgment. Luminaries are "between" mortals and celestials. Luminaries include such creatures as jann (in the South), graces (in the North), myo-o (in Yamamoto), and kimall (in the dwarven caves).
titans - the enemies of the gods, who the gods displaced. They are imprisoned and have no power outside their prison; they cannot affect the mortal realm.
- the Gods
- the Titans
- archcelestials (includes the Argent Wolf of Tralados, the Weavers of Balthazar, and other "companions" of the gods)
- major fae (royalty)
- major djinn
- regular demons (Banes, greater Jacks)
- powerful fae
- lesser djinn
- lesser demons (Imps, lesser Jacks)
- some fae
- most fae
"How come the king doesn't just get resurrected?"
"Hey, there's the guy they executed! Quick, call the sheriff so he can kill 'im again!"
"Oh, it's no big deal we lost Eric. Fendel will find him."
Resurrection is a tricky subject, since we don't have it in the real world . How do we deal with it in our game world?
Resurrection in Society
Resurrection seems like a virtual certainly for PCs... out-of-game. But please remember that PCs are by definition exceptional cases. PCs are heroic personalities, engaged in out-of-the-ordinary situations of drama, danger, and glory. In-game, characters don't have the confidence in the certainly of resurrection that their players will. What this means is:
- PC priests may be able to cast Restore Life with some frequency, but the average priest cannot. Restore Life is, in the grander scheme of things, a remarkably powerful spell. The same goes for most of the other medium- or high-level spells. The average peasant cannot simply get a Heal Wounds when an oxcart falls on him.
- Miracles are, well, miraculous. A PC should never act with cocky assurance that a dead friend will be back "in a few weeks at most". A dead friend is a situation for mourning. In-game, your character has no concept of a Miracle's inevitability.
Resurrection and Metaphysics
So the King gets assassinated. So what? Even if a Restore Life or Resurrection are powerful spells, you'd think the royalty, nobility, and high clergy would be the ones with access to them, right?
In fact, they do. But remember that these spells' effects are voluntary. If a dead person doesn't wish to return, they don't have to. The dead may always choose to remain resting, and most do.
But why wouldn't they want to return? Once again, remember that PCs are exceptional cases, who usually have an "unfinished task" their spirit would want to complete. Also, remember that while you're alive, you desperately want to remain alive, but who can tell what a spirit's feelings are? Perhaps spirits are reluctant to cross the barrier between worlds. More likely, the dead now residing in the heavens would wish to remain there. After all, they don't call it "heaven" for nothing. Why go back to the dangerous, unpleasant mortal world when you've found lasting happiness in the world beyond?
As a result, many dead notables will in fact have a raising spell cast upon them -- but few of them accept the offer. Only in those rare cases where the soul's unfinished business overrides the attractions of the otherworld does the spirit accept and return to earth.
What about older figures, such as ancestors from the past? Why can't you resurrect them? First of all, the Resurrect spell will not bring back someone who has died of old age. The gods are pretty firm about when your time is up. Second, the longer a person has been dead, the further their soul drifts from the material world, and the more "reminders" it must have if it is to be brought back to life. Reminders might be things associated with the person in life, particularly the remains of their own physical body. A person might need no reminders at all a month after their death, but five years later might need a long bone from their former body, the armor they once wore, a picture of a beloved one, and so forth. A person from really long ago (such as Neklos the Lich) might require most or all of his physical body, some of his most powerful artifacts, a few virgin sacrifices, and that sort of thing. Conclusion: bringing back the long-since-dead is rare if not impossible.
Resurrection and the Law
See the Law and Justice page.