Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Godlings

Shortly before Christmas, I posted an image from an old issue of The Strategic Review that associated the then-new fivefold alignment system with an early version of the planar arrangement canonized in the AD&D Players Handbook. One of the most interesting features of that image was the inclusion of the names of four different types of beings, each one connected to one of the "corners" of the alignment/planar schema: "saint" in the Lawful Good corner, "devil" in the Lawful Evil corner, "demon" in the Chaotic Evil corner, and "godling" in the Chaotic Good corner.

Devils and demons are very well established in D&D lore, saints less so, but they have been mentioned from time to time (there was even an article in Dragon that dealt with the topic in greater detail). Godlings, on the other hand, are mostly a mystery. From context, I suspect Gygax's original intention was that they were immortal-human hybrids -- demigods in the usual use of the term -- of the sort encountered regularly in Greek mythology. Herakles would be an example of a godling on this understanding.

Obviously, D&D never really picked up on this idea (or, if it did, I missed it), so I've been pondering it a bit in the context of my own idiosyncratic take on alignment. As I have it, the gods are from Elsewhere and define Law by their ordering of Nature to serve their own ends. Saints are beings raised up in their service, while devils are former servants who have fallen. Demons are a "byproduct" of the gods' ordering of Nature -- the cosmic equivalent of radioactive waste given malevolent intelligence. Great believer in symmetry that I am, the question arises: what of those byproducts that aren't malevolent? Is such a thing possible?

I say yes and so godlings are a kind of non-evil "demon." That is, they're Chaotically-aligned supernatural beings created as an unintended consequence of the gods' meddling with Nature. This is the origin for all the "little gods" I drop into my campaign, as well as oddities like the Horse Lords the steppe nomads accept as their aristocracy or the Amazons that threaten the lands of civilized men. Godlings are thus a catch-all for any kind of aberrations, freaks, and weirdos that don't have any other obvious origin or connection in the world. Being Chaotic, they are generally destructive and unpredictable, but they needn't be malicious, since demons already have that niche covered. Of course, godlings can be quite unpleasant and many of them are, but it's more because of their whimsical self-absorption than malice.

(This makes me wonder if perhaps the Eld are godlings in origin, who have become more demon-like as time has gone on. Hmmm.)

12 comments:

  1. "immortal-human hybrids," I would think. Don'tcha hate it when your hands aren't paying attention to your typing?

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  2. Godlings are thus a catch-all for any kind of aberrations, freaks, and weirdos that don't have any other obvious origin or connection in the world. Being Chaotic, they are generally destructive and unpredictable, but they needn't be malicious, since demons already have that niche covered.

    This sounds a bit more like CN. These guys aren't just not-necessarily-malicious, they've pegged the good-o-meter according to the chart.

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  3. Monster Manual 2 includes devas, planetars, solars, and other "good demon/devil equivilents." Perhaps these are intended to be what you're referring to?

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  4. Ah, I like that idea. After I read this I incorporated the godling into my homebrew.

    Godlings are the old ones creations (the old ones are gods in my campaign) who gained great powers by unlocking secrets of the world and learning the ways of the old ones. They then began to create works of their own. Magical items and rituals, prayers that channels the power of the old ones.

    I'm still working on saints. I think they are godlings who have achieved there destiny, been deified and have ascended into godhood. They reside in the astral sea far removed from all mortal affairs but still worshiped widely in the world.

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  5. I remember reading that article, and I just assumed "Godlings" was just another term for Titans, who I always seen them as a form of lesser gods - who are also Chaotic Good. From how Chainmail/OD&D notes their monster descriptions, unearthly being of 16+ HD (like the more powerful demons & devils) are god-like beings by their own right. In this case, Titans could be much like the myriad of lesser-known gods of Greek mythology, who have small cults, and have a vary specific control over the cosmos (like Eos - Titan Goddess of the Dawn).

    Well before I read the article, I had a natural concussion that Saints are a god-like arch-angels (like Saint Peter), that bestow Cleric spells on behave of those who pray for their add. So a Good Cleric that casts a Cure [whatever] Wound spell, would actually be praying to Archangel Raphael - Saint of Healing. Of course, this is without the "Lord Almighty" in the picture to maintain the total polytheism nature of the game.

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  6. Are true neutrals Boddhisattvas?

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  7. I'd personally take "daemons" back to their greek roots and separate the cacodemons ("evil spirits") from the eudaemons ("good spirits"). They're both extraplanar entities that meddle in the lives of mortals, but one spreads chaos and destruction because it feeds on suffering and death, while the other spreads chaos and destruction because it feels like it.

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  8. Your approach to godlings brings to my mind a lot of creatures of fairy - and therefore a lot of my favorite Poul Anderson stories. The Merman's Children, anyone?

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  9. This has entered my thoughts about my campaign as well. I always intended to use Holmes alignment but hadn't thought about the different titles.

    Because of the magical events that brought my world to where it is creation, in this case very specifically the creation of the Christian God, is coming undone as he is no longer known. I've left why open...was he defeated by Satan, is he waiting until he can fulfill prophecy, was what appears to be a failed judgment actually been the judgment of the Bible and the inhabitants of the game world left behind (a la the RPG "The Lost"), or is it something else? Don't know and to be honest in setting the Christian nature of the missing creator worshiped by some clerics is sketchy.

    Anyway, I wanted to have something demons and devils were afraid of, in this case the Qlippoth of Ken Hite's Cabal book for GURPS. However, it wouldn't be hard to steal your idea of demons are created by the fracturing of the universe (although I might keep the name Qlippoth and let LE be demons and devils) and introduce the good side of chaos as Godlings.

    For now I don't have to decide but it's in the stew.

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  10. Perhaps these are intended to be what you're referring to?

    It's possible, but my guess is that Gygax simply moved on and changed his ideas. He frequently did that and, by the time of the MM II, I doubt he thought about the game in the same way as he did when he wrote this article on alignment.

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  11. I just assumed "Godlings" was just another term for Titans

    That sounds very plausible. Good catch!

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