Friday, November 7, 2014

Naughty Eternally

Neutral Evil is evil without regard for civilization one way or the other. Such evil can exist normally with or without the laws that work to, say, Belkar and Bialey's advantage. As a result, there's something very common-feeling about a Neutral Evil villain. They almost seem evil without a cause. I kind of struggle with it, since it almost seems like Neutral Evil is primarily evil for the sake of being evil.

That makes this alignment the most uninteresting to me, to be honest. I mean, really who's evil for the sake of being evil? Jerks, mostly.

Ansem is the God of Murder, formerly the God of Death. Life and death go hand in hand, but Ansem goes a step further, encouraging the murder of others. The population of the world is growing, not shrinking, so there's always more people to kill. According to Ansem, though death is a natural part of life, an ever-expanding population is unnatural and needs to be balanced.

Ansem's most devoted followers are assassins, who rely on Ansem's favor to keep them in the business and to keep the business coming. Many people are too weak to take the life of another, after all, and they need strong hands capable of doing it for them. Ansem's followers are there to be those hands.

Like all of the evil deities, though, Ansem is not only respected by evil people. Mercenaries, soldiers, executioners, and anybody else who may need to take a life as part of their duties is likely to offer their kills to Ansem, hoping to stave off their own deaths for another day. There are also benign cults that crop up now and then who tend to the dead, performing burial rites and cleaning up grisly scenes. They are particularly welcome during wartime.

Interestingly, Ansem does not seem fond of necromancy. A risen dead, whether resurrected or undead, makes a mockery of death itself. So, Ansem operates in such a way that ensures his ledger always balances out again. So, due to a pact with Daryll, the Goddess of Life, they say that for any life restored untimely, another life is taken untimely.

The other Neutral Evil deity is Iona, the Icehearted. She is the Goddess of Manipulation, formerly the Goddess of Love. It's unclear why she turned from one to the other. Perhaps she was spurned, her love unrequited, and so she turned to manipulation to make the target of her affection reciprocate her feelings. Perhaps she realized that what we call love is nothing more than a tool we can use to manipulate others. Perhaps it was a combination of these things.

Regardless, Iona's scope expanded well beyond romantic entanglements and soon covered all sorts of activities that manipulated emotions to achieve a desired result. As a result, she is a favorite of politicians. In fact, her political power was so great during the time of my first campaign that she managed to orchestrate a complex ritual that would allow her to manifest her true form in the mortal realm.

She often worked alongside Belkar, combining his military strength with her political influence, creating an intensely patriotic state filled with strong, loyal peoples. These military states would often clash with other kingdoms, creating a classic rebel/empire style of conflict. However, during my first campaign, Iona grew bold and edged Belkar's influence out of the picture. Her followers took total control of both the state and the army, though she could only maintain that level of control for a brief time. She used that opportunity to attempt an all-out gambit.

As it turns out, deities can affect the world in many indirect ways and only a few direct ways. The most direct ways include either the creation of an avatar--a physical manifestation of an aspect of that deity, with some limited version of the god's full power--or they can effectively possess a willing follower that is completely devoted to that god's ideals, also known as a Chosen. An avatar is very clearly other-worldly, and maintaining one in the physical realm is a huge strain on a deity's influence. A Chosen, on the other hand, can blend into society, and doesn't require nearly as much influence to maintain. However, such dedication is hard to come by, and even given the chance most good-aligned and even neutral deities will not take advantage of their followers in that way.

Regardless, gods can not generally manifest their true forms in the material realm. To do so would require a huge amount of preparation that, if we're being honest, I never really bothered to flesh out. Suffice to say, though, that a few people had spent several decades as Chosen, sibling with the last name of Claye. From the time they were children they inserted themselves into governments, gained influence, and ran things from behind the scenes to get things ready for their gods. One of the three kids belonged to Belkar while the other two belonged to Iona. Iona betrayed Belkar at the last moment, deciding that if she were to manifest herself in this world to rule it she would do so on her own.

A god in the realm of mortals would basically be unstoppable. When it became clear to the party that they would need some way to actually slay Chosen and Avatars, they ventured to a massive, hidden dungeon filled with trials that eventually granted the party weapons that were capable of slaying a god... but even with the weapons, they were utterly outmatched when Iona appeared.

It was only afterward when, with great effort, several of the gods resurrected the party and granted them additional strength that they were able to actually defeat Iona. Though one can not truly, permanently kill a god, Iona's gambit backfired and she disappeared from the realm for a long time. Unfortunately, the deities who used their power to grant the party strength, including Waymon, Belkar, and Kincheloe, all found their influence waning after the battle. This left the world vulnerable, and over time other deities rose to fill the power gap.

All that because I thought it would be funny for my first D&D campaign to end with the party killing a Goddess of Love. Heh.

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