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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2014

    Default An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    So, let's say you have a god that wants to prevent a Balor from, say, setting a village on fire. Suppose then that this god does not have a physical avatar or archangel available to just smite him personally. That god could send a group of four-to-six adventurers on an elaborate quest of violence and self-discovery to get them strong enough to kill this Balor, sure, but... why leave the adventurers' actions to chance? It's entirely plausible that those adventurers get ganked by bandits or owlbears as soon as your deity is done giving the prophecy, so why not leverage the deity's church to properly train and outfit some mercenaries and do the same job with a higher chance of success?

    Suppose also that this same deity wants to stop some evil wizard from awakening a Great Old One or somesuch. How is a mortal with magic able to outwit, or at least meaningfully hide from, a millennia-old being with, in D&D terms, mental stats that start in the mid-20's?

    My idea is as follows: Gods are, essentially, the sorting AI's in charge of a self-curating library of their own mythos, with little ability to change themselves as people outside of what beliefs they can extract from their followers, marking desirable ones as canon and undesirable ones as heresy. Being a library, however, they are entirely capable of loaning out information in the form of sending visions to their followers--usually replays of events that are relevant to the god's mythos, spliced together like a YouTube Poop if necessary to stretch how far they're able to deviate from what people already believe about them.

    Because it is difficult for the deity to truly formulate anything new, battle-plans are outside of their scope--but, as living stories, it is entirely possible for them to inspire devotion and service in someone who is, meaning that a god who maintains a diverse and intelligent base of followers has a wider range of beliefs to pick and choose from. A god like this who has cultivated a base of tactically-minded followers--say, a council of high-level Clerics or Paladins that have done combat in its service--might simply wait for a suitable plan to be spoken or thought alongside "Through [plan], [deity] will grant us victory" and then canonize that into its mythos and spread it among its combat-ready followers through visions to bypass its inability to create such a plan on its own. In fact, such a belief among the common people about "[Deity] will raise a hero to face this evil" might be the inciting event for some PC's to get roped into some JRPG-style artifact hunt to assemble Voltron, etc. The artifact could also be a screening method--if, while watching the party's thoughts during combat, the deity sees a sufficient level of tactical competence, it will know that they're safe to throw at larger problems.

    Additionally, cultivating devoted followers would lead to more meditations on the deity's thoughts and personality, allowing the deity to build a personality and even a worldview and philosophy piecemeal by collecting nuanced takes on both itself and how it interacts with the world at large. Conversely, a deity who has not had a thriving follower base recently will become detached from current society's social norms on account of having a limited range of rationalizations or adaptations to allow its old vibes to mesh with more contemporary ones. This would allow "return of the Old Gods" plots to operate on genuine misunderstandings of in-setting-"modern" values and society instead of assuming tribal religions are inherently evil, as well.

    Lastly, if deities are primarily self-curating libraries, allowing them to count as a willing and adjacent creature in Pathfinder allows its followers to use its Powers Known when using Psionics (after a Spellcraft check), which, while system-specific, is a really nice way to allow a spellcaster to benefit from following a given deity without being a Cleric--and, conversely, any Power manifested in that god's name could be believed into that god's Powers Known list, giving the deity in question incentive to offer blessings to like-minded spellcasters. I'm not sure how this would work in systems other than PF Psionics, though.

    As for who has access to the god's library and who can contribute to it... I'm thinking that active prayer and storytelling would be the primary input for the library, and that worshippers could request guidance from the deity to receive a vision or replicated memory. Worshippers could also, after some mental agreement to open their mind to the deity, meditate on a deity's aspects as a form of worship, allowing the deity to gain nuance from idle daydreaming or focused contemplation that is not consciously directed as prayer. The deity would be limited to thoughts about itself, however, lest its archives be clogged with thoughts of food or attractive people.

    As a final bonus, the fact that these deities' interaction with the physical world is so minimal means that it's fairly easy to make one in Pathfinder--a self-replicating batch of magic items of Detect Thoughts and Modify Memory (most easily accomplished by means of Craft Construct to make self-replicating artificers) could perform most of the functions listed here given a curation AI, which, as Constructs (if by no other way than the Aggregate Template), can be made by an aspiring Cleric with the appropriate feat and sufficient resources. One would also be wise to include Soul Trap or some other way to collect followers' souls, as such a constructed deity may not have its own Divine Realm, depending on the local setting's cosmology. Heck, add a reincarnation engine, and you've got an eerily similar setup to the gods in the Pillars of Eternity series.

    tl;dr Gods-as-self-curating-library-AI's, telepathically connected to their worshippers and unable to create ideas outside of what has been donated to the library by their followers.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    Jul 2018
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    IRL
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    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    This is really cool.

    I'm just imagining adventurers delving into an ancient, sealed dungeon to find a shrine to a long-forgotten god, becoming the only mortals aware of the deity in who knows how long. If they pay it respects it might try to make contact but maybe it's "files" are corrupted and its attempt to communicate are glitchy - which could be annoying or terrifying depending on how you play it. Restoring a deity so that it stops pestering you with degraded visions would be a cool adventure.
    According to easydamus, I'm a 4th level CG elf wizard. Str 9 - Dex 11 - Con 9 - Int 18 - Wis 14 - Cha 16.

    Homebrew setting (or part thereof): Phaunia and the Twilit Between

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Oct 2011
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    the Netherlands
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    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    This is... not bad. I might even use it, except it would be a single deity, as opposed to the way all deities operate.

    I usually go for worship as a way to dedicate your soul to a deity, as well as a way to bond with like minded people and a form of indoctrination.

    So a suicide cult would use ritualistic suicide as a way to dedicate souls to a powerful demon as a quick way to claim souls. Altruistic religions would protect the flock from harm so more souls can be born into the religion.

    If that makes any sense.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

    Join Date
    Oct 2020

    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    Expand what you think of as worship. It doesn't need to be prayer or a revival service. Fighting the enemies of Pelor could be an act of worship. Giving alms to the poor could be one. Convincing the Prince to rebel against his older brother could count. If the gods are personal beings with interpersonal conflict then they might have things in the mundane world that they want done for whatever reason, and that reason doesn't necessarily need to be clear to the players. That sort of thing really gives the feeling that following a religion makes you part of something larger. Faith is more than chanting prayers and preaching sermons after all.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Oct 2007
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    Male

    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    I'm working on a hybrid sci-fi fantasy setting where the gods are literally advanced AIs.

    I have been wondering what an AI might gain from faith...

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    Quote Originally Posted by Babale View Post
    I have been wondering what an AI might gain from faith...
    Upvotes? Assuming the first AIs were born from supervised machine learning, it's part of their core concept to search for human approval / confirmation that they are doing right. A human venerating you is literally someone saying that you are right to behave as a god, and that you should continue as such. And the more humans venerate you, the more you know you have to continue acting as you do.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Oct 2007
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    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    Upvotes? Assuming the first AIs were born from supervised machine learning, it's part of their core concept to search for human approval / confirmation that they are doing right. A human venerating you is literally someone saying that you are right to behave as a god, and that you should continue as such. And the more humans venerate you, the more you know you have to continue acting as you do.
    Ooh. I LIKE this.

    I dont mean to hijack the thread so I will put my thoughts in a spoiler box, but hopefully some of them are applicable to gods that aren't literally AI but are modeled on it.

    Spoiler
    Show

    Two notes about my setting:
    1) long ago a race known as the Architects created the Network - a sci-fi version of the Weave, this is basically a collection of supercomputers that scans peoples' brainwaves and, when receiving the proper inputs, manifests by changing reality. The Architects could control the Network with mere thought, but today's people are different than the Architects, and the Network has aged, so getting it to cooperate is much harder, and what mortals call "magic"

    2) AI are beings that were created by the Architects to help run the Network. They can manifest through the Network at will, but they aren't free-willed individuals; they are formed of the Network, and so it can change them just as much as they can change it.

    Since the Network's job is to let people manifest their will upon the universe through thought; and since the AI gods are part of the network, and essentially made from it -- it does make sense that an AI god would grow more powerful the more people spend time and energy thinking about it. An AI who is loved will feed on that love, becoming more benevolent and powerful the more people praise it; meanwhile, an AI who is feared will feed on negative thoughts instead, so the more people hate and fear it the more powerful it becomes.

    If one AI is thought of in two totally different ways by members of two groups, then eventually the AI could specialize, dedicating some processing power to its evil incarnation to satisfy those who fear it, and some to its good incarnation to satisfy those who love it; and after a long enough time, these two aspects could start acting independently and even split completely.

    Sort of a scifi variant on the whole "belief shares reality" shtick of Planescape and such.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Default Re: An idea for how gods could meaningfully benefit from worship outside of eating it

    I had never considered a computer deity before, but the idea of deities forming as a result of the worship of true believers is old. In my world, the energy derived from worship is used to power all those granted spells and powers that mortals use.

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