Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Immortals and the Chicken and Egg of Cultural Development

by Andrew Theisen

Premise: Religion, fundamentally, develops as a result of man attempting to explain the origins and scope of his existence on the planet. Further, it often formalises the moral framework of a culture, providing- through doctrine or mythology- a means of transmitting these ideas to future generations. (Obviously, a very general overview of religion and its purposes and effects. Sufficient for the purposes of this discussion, hopefully.)

This is how religion mostly operates in the Real World, where- for the most part- people do not commune with the gods on a regular, daily basis, or at least not in numbers like would be seen among the clerical practices of a fantasy world with its polytheistic and actual divinities.

The question then becomes- in such a world, where the gods/Immortals are actual beings, who do communicate with their followers directly and indirectly, and who have their own motives and goals to play out- what role do they take on in the development of cultures on Mystara? And how/if does their vow of non-interference relate to said roles? This is something that has been on my mind a lot over the years, and very recently.

Given the notion of a brand new, budding culture- say, a race that has recently come into a degree of self-awareness, what would be the process involved?
1) Does the race create its own personifications/names for various forces around them (say, the sun), and Immortals later introduce themselves and insert themselves into that role (say, at a point of time where they feel the race has reached a level of awareness in which they can safely reach out to them- i.e., the Prime Directive/First Contact?)
1a) At what point would such introductions take place in a culture?
1b) If the culture develops its religion/mythology largely independent of the Immortals (who then place themselves in their chosen roles), do the Immortals "correct" any misconceptions in the mortals' mythology? (IE, the sun and moon of new race are considered husband and wife. Ixion and Asterius decide to take on the roles. Do they "fix" the mythology, or adopt their new identities wholesale among the people?)
2) Do the Immortals instead take an active role in revealing themselves to the new race, initiating first contact and giving themselves a name and function which the new race/culture then creates a mythology around?

Further to all of this, how much contact/influence do the Immortals provide through communion with their clerics/priests? Do/can they provide moral frameworks? How would such influence on a culture impact their vows of non-interference- is it indirect enough to not count? Is there a Council that would provide oversight among the Immortals on how much/little the Immortal(s) were impacting the mortals' development?

Anyway, just some thoughts that have been running through my mind that I thought I'd put out there for discussion.