Author Topic: Evil vs realms in SW?  (Read 1066 times)

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Offline metallion

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2021, 03:52:04 PM »
Being an atheist (or I guess agnostic) myself, I rather like the way Terry wrote gods.

I like how he describes gods to a degree.  As a theist, I find them very dissatisfying because of what isn't touched on:
- What even is a god?  More to the point, what does a worshiper think a god is?
- Aside from that sweet, sweet Spell List access, why does anyone worship gods?  That question's actually answered sometimes: Lankans want Klyssus to ride his sun chariot, sailors want Neela to ask Shaal to not sink their boats, but what's the inspiration for attending a Kuor service?
- Why do gods care about worshipers?  Are they lonely otherwise?  Do they derive nourishment from worship?  Do they need miniatures for their wargame simulations?



Offline Arigon

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2021, 12:06:02 AM »
The "Gods"

I vastly differ on the canon here. I think everyone can and should do exactly what they, and their group are comfortable with.

The United Orhanian Church, probably a construct of the Priests Arnak since Osaran was an Arch Prelate/Arch Bishop in the Church. Very much a Catholic structure.

For my "Mythology" I have set aside one of the "Pales" which was invaded and called it Underhill.  It is the place of the De Danna and when the Althans invaded, the Sidhe, and De Danna, and Unseelie's and all of that poured out, and made extermination of the Althans a goal. As they were already prepping for civil war at some point, the tensions were already high.

My Fey came out, and kicked butt, but needed additional forces, so they bred with mankind. This resulted in Elves. High Trolls, which are more like elves than trolls, bred with humans to make High Humans. Gnomes bred with humans (poor gnomes) and Dwarves were born.

The Althans did much the same, but were late to the game on that. The Fey needed the numbers to fight an interstellar empire. By the time the Althans realized they were in trouble it was already too late.

Sooooo
The Lords of Orhan are basically exiled De Danna on the Seelie side of things.
The Lords of Charon are basically the same but on the Unseelie side of things.

My player group loves that it is not Tolkien, and it is something that they get to run around in that is both Shadow World, but also belongs to our group.

Unlife for them is essentially the Dark Side of the Force. Essaence of black and Essaence of White. Just like Lucas' universe, the best course is somewhere in the middle, as life is really various shades of gray.

For what it is worth, I am pretty much an atheist, except I am pretty much a follower of Karma/the Force/ The Tao. Maybe we become the gods we need to be, just as the Tao seek. Maybe there is nothing. For our game, there is what I have really briefly stated above, and Unlife is potentially consuming, just as the Dark Side is, but it also has lessons to teach.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #22 on: December 04, 2021, 12:58:04 AM »
Vog Mur is literally on the map of MIddle Earth Terry did for MERP.

That, I did not know. Today I Learned!

Being an atheist (or I guess agnostic) myself, I rather like the way Terry wrote gods. There does seem to be a bit of tension there between the absolute Good and Evil we see in some of the spell lists, and the more relativistic cosmology Terry espoused in his world-building.
I did not *know* it either, but there were a number of hints dropped on both sides of the product line (some names, and the way some parts of Vog Mur are described. On the MERP side, I think Court of Ardor and Shadow in the South are where the similarities are the strongest).

About Kulthean Gods - I think Terry never deviated from his idea that the "gods" or Orhan and Charon were not true gods in the way we see divinities nowadays (i.e. near-omniscient and near-omnipotent, because of the prevalence of monotheistic faiths). They are basically very powerful, intrinsically noncorporeal extraplanar entities. And the difference between a true god and a very powerful alien is slim in the eye of a mere mortal. Thus, "gods". Even the 'local gods' are powerful spirits. Kulthea is fundamentally a world without true gods, without absolute power... until the Unlife enters the picture.

This view I have of the Shadow World cosmology shaped the way I see magic (everything comes from manipulation of the Essaence) and the relation between the Orhan 'gods' and their followers (casters from the realm of channeling use gods as mental icons to manipulate the Essaence - basically, the channeling realm is a mental representation that helps the practitioner with the task of spellcasting by associating mental symbols - 'gods' - with the sequence of mental actions). In other words, channelers use a crutch to perform magic - but a crutch that allows them to bypass some of the intrinsic difficulty of casting spells. Gods do not control the magic the faithful cast in their name, but they *can* be interested in some people in particular, and either enhance their abilities or hinder or block them.

Now about Good and Evil. I think the 'evil' lists are awfully badly named. Evil is intrinsically cultural rather than absolute. And 'Evil' magic is still magic, and still powered by the Essaence. On the other hand, if magic is Essaence shaped by will and intent, then you can say that 'Evil' magic is shaped by sinister, selfish, or sadistic intent (negative personality traits)... but it could also be shaped by pain, or the desire for retribution or vengeance at any cost, which are negative as well but much more difficult to ascribe morally. Basically, if magic is an exercise in applied willpower, then evil magic is an exercise in fueling willpower with a negative emotion (pride, rage, pain, greed) for increased capability at the cost of having effects tainted by that emotion. It is only "evil" if those emotions are considered evil, but it is tainted - and you could easily imagine 'good' magic being similarly powered and tainted by very positive emotions such as love, compassion, joy or similar.

And about the Unlife - which, according to the scriptures, is totally different from the Essaence, and utterly alien in origin. I've always thought of the Unlife as a negation of creation. Not the act of destruction, but the resulting state - quietness, peace, stagnation, stillness, the indifference of absolute nothingness. There is power in that, and it is a seductive song for the tormented - the lure of peace where the Essaence promises change (because life is change). Lorgalis, when arguing that the Unlife was the enemy of death, was not explicitly lying but was doing an Obi-Wan on Elor: Unlife is the antithesis of everything that changes, even of living immortals. Its ideal state is total nothingness - and such thing cannot be understood by living beings. However, the song of peace, and the lure of being able to destroy, are tempting for those who seek power beyond what the Essaence can provide (because the power of Essaence is limited by one's willpower).

That is how I make sense of it all - no true gods, an energy of change that is shaped by will, taint from emotions, and a seductive lure of unending peace through nothingness. And in the end, the universe dies (the theory of universe death by cold is the closest thing to the Unlife I can imagine).

Offline B Hanson

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #23 on: December 04, 2021, 09:14:43 PM »
Sorry to jump in here, but some provocative thoughts. The problem is that Terry didn't write his world for Rolemater...he wrote it "kinda mostly" for RM and never let his vision or story walled in by rules.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2021, 01:54:54 PM »
Sorry to jump in here, but some provocative thoughts. The problem is that Terry didn't write his world for Rolemater...he wrote it "kinda mostly" for RM and never let his vision or story walled in by rules.
I have the same feeling - RM was the system he used, but the seams were unraveling every time cosmology was brought into the picture, because RM, as a "generic" system, must accommodate generic settings that are very light on "why" things are the way they are and heavy on what adventurers can do to avoid boredom. So if you don't think much about the "why", RM is an alright fit (even though NPCs obviously don't follow the rules). But try to get consistency between system and setting on deep matters and the system gets in the way, so I guess it's natural for a GM to say "screw the system" and discard anything that does not fit the setting.

Honestly, I'm not even sure that the RM magic system is a good fit for Shadow World (it certainly wasn't a good fit for Middle Earth...). The only reason I'm still using it is because of continuity (I started with it, and since all my campaigns occur in the same reality and timeline, I have to maintain a modicrum of consistency and keeping the bones of the magic system helps).

Offline thrud

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #25 on: December 10, 2021, 05:00:41 AM »
Good stuff being said here.
I usually focus pretty heavily on how things are done rules wise. Here I feel the whole Unlife mess is described in a lot of flowery words, but hand waved rules wise.
I like the simplicity of Rolemaster magic.
- Essaence is the raw stuff magic is made of. Check!
- The different realms have different way of accessing and manipulating essaence. Check!

Evil is a human concept, and magic is neither inherently good or evil. I have no problem justifying evil spell lists. Corrupted "evil" spellcasters are prepared to take shortcuts to gain power, they will be less concerned with doing things the proper way, and if stepping over some corpses will gain you that extra power... so be it.

Now, enter the Unlife...
Suddenly evil isn't a human concept it is absolute.
Essaence isn't the only true source of magic.
Why would you automatically serve the Unlife just because you use "anti-essaence"?
Unlife is a power just like any deity or devine power, regular spellcasters doesn't automatically become religious just because they start using magic?

I have no problem with anti-essaence corrupting the character, that's fine. (The dark side of the force,etc.)
I have a problem with characters automatically becoming unlife minions just because they use anti-essaence.
Corrupted people will do, horrible things, largely lack morals, get pleasure from tormenting others, etc. That however doesn't make them religious, it just makes them evil. And yes, evil is a concept!

I can totally see the Unlife as a doomsday cult wanting to wipe everything moving out of existance. That's great, not a problem!

I guess I feel that it's important to separate concepts vs religion vs source of magic vs tapping into magic.

You have all said so many great things, and in the end it will always come down to each GM making his/her own decisions on what's what.

Offline jdale

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #26 on: December 10, 2021, 10:42:38 AM »
>Why would you automatically serve the Unlife just because you use "anti-essaence"?

If merely bringing the power into the world serves the purposes of the Unlife, you are advancing their goals. If the power is drawn from outside, you may be creating or expanding a conduit, making it easier for others to do the same. If it does corrupt yourself, as well, that also advances their objectives, even if you don't originally think that is your intent.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2021, 11:39:55 AM »
Now, enter the Unlife...
Suddenly evil isn't a human concept it is absolute.
That's where I differ, I guess - in my point of view, the Unlife is not "evil". It is only tagged as such because the relative concept of evil present in several cultures overlaps with what the Unlife brings, but it's no more "evil" than, say, a black hole ripping matter from a solar system and absorbing it, making life miserable for those people who don't die from the changing environmental conditions.

What the Unlife is is unfathomable (even by its servants, I would say - the Unlife, being nothingness brought into existence, is a contradiction, so sentient beings must work around this contradiction in their mind, but the Unlife being a paradox does not prevent it from *being there*). And, like everything seemingly all-powerful people cannot understand, it is either feared (often) or worshipped (rarely), depending on whether the perceptible effects align with the goals of sentient beings. But this reflects on the people, not on the Unlife itself.

So when the Orders Arnak are qualified as "evil", this is because of the misery and destruction they unleash - acts of sentient beings understood and interpreted by other sentient beings. But the Unlife in itself is not evil (once again, like a black hole). But you could assign evilness to a number of people associated with respectable cults because their actions go against the local moral system [and I think that you can find examples in human history when servants of a 'good' system of belief performed acts that not only are considered evil now, but could easily be considered evil *then*].

As a matter of fact, the Dark Gods are evil where the Unlife is not, not because they are more destructive, but because they embody human traits that are considered evil, whereas calling the Unlife 'evil' is missing the point - it does not embody anything remotely human.

I have no qualms tagging Osaran as evil, though - but Osaran is evil because of himself, not because of the Unlife, and he would be evil without the Unlife anyways. He inflicts pain and death and enjoys it (I think I could quote from the Haalkitaine book on that), and *that* is evil. The Unlife does not destroy for pleasure or joy, it destroys because this is all it is.

Offline thrud

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #28 on: December 14, 2021, 03:17:52 AM »
>Why would you automatically serve the Unlife just because you use "anti-essaence"?

If merely bringing the power into the world serves the purposes of the Unlife, you are advancing their goals. If the power is drawn from outside, you may be creating or expanding a conduit, making it easier for others to do the same. If it does corrupt yourself, as well, that also advances their objectives, even if you don't originally think that is your intent.

My main issue is simply that Evil forces a (N)PC to become a Channeling hybrid.
All Evil is Channeling, ergo no separation between the realms and their evil spell lists.
And once corrupted you automatically become religious and a devout follower of the Unlife. It's not just about character traits being twisted and you unknowingly furthering the unlife's goals. A (N)PC literally goes religious if you follow TKA's writings.

You're basically being railroaded into several concepts that break core RM concepts.

At this point it doesn't seem to exist anything even close to coherent and logical, so it'll be full on house rules for anyone who wishes to include the Unlife in a campaign.
Going off-road and you're on your own...

I was looking for an answer and there not being an answer is sort of an answer in itself.

Offline MisterK

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #29 on: December 14, 2021, 06:55:34 AM »
I don't know about that.

You can use Channeling (as a realm, and as a skill) and not be religious.

You can be religious and not use Channeling.

You can be evil and not be religious.

You can be evil and not use Channeling (as a realm, and as a skill).

However, being a conscious follower of the Unlife makes you sort of religious (but not necessarily a Channeling realm practitioner) - you become "of the faith", in a way.

The Unlife does not change one's profession or realm of power - it changes one's core.

Think of the Essaence (or the Unlife) as fuel, and the caster's mind and body as an engine. You have several different engines - basically one engine type per Realm, one engine type per hybridation, and specific models for each profession. By default, all those engines use the Essaence fuel. When you become corrupted, something changes in the engine and it uses Unlife fuel. But the engine type and model does not change.

Offline kmanktelow

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #30 on: December 14, 2021, 08:06:06 AM »
Don't see that using the Unlife changes your magic and makes you a Channeler - you are still exactly the same Realm of spell caster. You have just changed the source of your Essence to the Anti-Essaence. Bit, like filling your car up with leaded or unleaded - the car doesn't care where it's fuel comes from - as long as it has some fuel. Magic is the same - although as a GM I ruled that people who learned Evil lists, had to roll Spell Mastery when casting their normal spells, failure meaning the effect is opposite - if possible. Healing spells cause injury, etc.
Admittedly your car is unlikely to suddenly start sacrificing people, etc if you suddenly switch to unleaded but a person will be corrupted by the Anti-Essaence, slowly but surely with each casting of a so-called Evil Spell.
TBH I think the issue is the  calling them Evil Spells - they are simply spells. The good and evil comes from the choice of power used to cast the spell. The Essaence is tricky and harder to learn to control, while the Anti-Essaence is easy to use, but corrupts over time.

Offline Hurin

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #31 on: December 14, 2021, 10:15:47 AM »
I do think the central disagreement here Thrud is your inference that using the Unlife implies Channeling. It doesn't to me. Using the Unlife does not imply Channeling any more than using Essaence implies Channeling. Essaence and Unlife are just power sources that can be accessed multiple ways: Channeling, Mentalism, etc.

I agree that Evil might not fit entirely well to describe the Unlife effects in some gaming groups. Maybe corrupting or something like that might be better.
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Offline jdale

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #32 on: December 14, 2021, 10:26:27 AM »
>Admittedly your car is unlikely to suddenly start sacrificing people, etc if you suddenly switch to unleaded but a person will be corrupted by the Anti-Essaence, slowly but surely with each casting of a so-called Evil Spell.

Arguably if you switch to leaded gasoline you are sacrificing people, or at least their neural development, in order to advance your own purposes. You are spreading harmful corruption into the world that seeps into the environment and affects everyone. It's not a terrible metaphor.
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Offline Hurin

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #33 on: December 14, 2021, 12:03:10 PM »
Admittedly your car is unlikely to suddenly start sacrificing people, etc if you suddenly switch to unleaded ...

I too loved this line so much that I almost made it my signature.
'Last of all, Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed'. --J.R.R. Tolkien

Offline thrud

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #34 on: December 18, 2021, 05:01:58 AM »
I interpret, it exactly like y'all do, and that's the core of my issue. That that is the logical reasonable way of reading it and fitting it with the RM rules.
However reading what's written in the Master Atlas and Powers of Light & Darkness, is something very different.

This is the rub, I can't make sense of the written word. Using logic is much much easier.
"An assortment of Evil Channeling Spells learned by all
priests of the Iron Wind (those who are not by nature of
Channeling can still learn them; they essentially become
hybrids, channeling from the Unlife for these spells)."

"...there should be no question that the spell caster is turning to a new power source for his energies (the Unlife or a Dark God)."

"In the NPC system information, many "Priests" are actually listed as Mentalists or Magicians or some other non-channeling profession. However they are essentially hybrids, channeling the power of the Unlife to cast their spells."

As I said before, I completely agree with everything you have written above, and that is how I interpret this as well. I just wanted to be sure I wasn't interpreting it the wrong way.

Offline MisterK

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #35 on: December 18, 2021, 10:28:33 AM »
As I said before, I completely agree with everything you have written above, and that is how I interpret this as well. I just wanted to be sure I wasn't interpreting it the wrong way.
I'm not sure you'll ever know what the gospel way is since I'm pretty sure a number of unwritten secrets died along with Terry. However, in my opinion, this is a clear example of where the system clashes with the setting concept.

To be honest, I don't even use the Unlife as an alternate fuel for magic. Magic is use of the Essaence in all cases. Turning to the Unlife does not changes the magic you do or the fuel you use, it changes *you*, your insides, the way your soul is tied to your body, the way your life energy sustains your actions and the way your thought patterns are balanced with your emotions. The way I see it, you offer *yourself* to the Unlife in exchange for increased power - more power points, additional "talents", faster learning, supernatural strength, Ancient Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know, whatever. The Unlife provides that extra oomph, and more. But in exchange, it eats you from the inside. *That's* why you become an NPC, not because of overpowered destructive lists.

So those lists ? They are an additional incentive to speed things along and let more bits of your insides be dissolved and replaced with nothingness - after all, you gein more power, right ? You are one step closer to those dreams of revenge, domination, sadism, or simply 'proving those fools wrong'. But bit by bit, you also forget *why* you were doing this. You just become a vessel to convince or destroy others, to spread the nothingness.

The Unlife is, in a way, like a plague - it does not have a conscious intent. Rather, it must spread, and spreading requires it to eat life and destroy matter. And like a virus, it tries to setttle in "compatible" hosts, the better to eat them from the inside and spread the plague.

And you are still using the Essaence for magic - using raw Unlife is much, much too corrosive for lower lifeforms to handle without being destroyed themselves. And like a virus, the Unlife has a way to "hollow out" the vessels but preserve the envelope so that they can still spread the plague and be useful.

And I'm in disagreement with Terry on one point - it is that the higher lifeforms can be immune to the Unlife corrosion. In my canon, the Dragonlords wouldn't touch the Unlife with a ten-foot pole - they have enough intrinsic power and are necessarily wary of letting *something* get inside of them. However, the K'Taa'Viiri are definitely vulnerable (curiosity killed the cat), and even the Dark Gods can be tempted and become hosts - they usually would be too egocentric for that, but they have a childlike fascination with destruction and their struggle with the Lords of Orhan called for some "innovative" ideas that they would come to regret. Some of them are pretty far gone already (Orgiana and Scalù). Others (Kesh'Ta'Kai, Andaras) have enough insight to see what happens, enough foresight to plan their escape and enough tricks to gain something in the fallout.

Offline Hurin

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #36 on: December 18, 2021, 10:48:51 AM »
I interpret, it exactly like y'all do, and that's the core of my issue. That that is the logical reasonable way of reading it and fitting it with the RM rules.
However reading what's written in the Master Atlas and Powers of Light & Darkness, is something very different.

This is the rub, I can't make sense of the written word. Using logic is much much easier.

Ok, now I see what you're saying, and I do agree. I am just going to disregard those passages in Powers of Light and Darkness.
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Offline jdale

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Re: Evil vs realms in SW?
« Reply #37 on: December 18, 2021, 08:27:35 PM »
I felt like saying a lot more about moral relativism and evil spell lists, but it's long and doesn't touch directly on Shadow World, so I moved it to General Discussion. https://ironcrown.co.uk/ICEforums/index.php?topic=20447.0
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