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Immortals I Have Known

by Nicholas Hudson

Are Immortals the only beings of their respective level of power that sentient, mortal beings can achieve, and does immortality vary from plane to plane?
Before I explain, I would like to introduce some vocabulary I will use in this discussion, for the sake of clarification:

athanasia (adj.): the quality of being deathless, of being immortal
athanasist (n.): in this context, refers to any being of Immortal-level power, but not necessarily an Immortal, a being possessing athanasia; any being that is capable of using Power, and is of a higher-level than Exalted, as exalted is presented in Wrath of the Immortals
Gold Box (n.): the Immortals Set, the fifth set, the original rules for Immortals, being the successor to the Masters Set; Wrath of the Immortals was based on the Gold Box
Immortality (adj.): the state of being Immortal (note the capital "I")
Immortal (n.): a specific type of being, that which is described in the Immortals Set (Gold Box) and Wrath of the Immortals, typically divided into five spheres; most Immortals were at one time mortal, and achieved Immortality through one of several Quest-Paths, but there are exceptions
immortal (adj.): see athanasia
immortal (n.): an athanasist, a being that only faces true and final death on its home plane, or under other such specific and rare circumstances
Quest-Path (n.): a set of specific and delineated trials and obstacles a prospective candidate for Immortality must overcome before a sponsoring Immortal will grant Immortality to candidate; at present, six exist, but only five have been detailed: the Dynast (Sphere of Time), the Epic Hero (Sphere of Thought), the Paragon (Sphere of Energy), the Polymath (Sphere of Matter), and the Conqueror (only open to humanoids, indefinite Sphere); the Quest-Path for the Sphere of Entropy has not yet been detailed

To better explain the vocabulary, Immortality is a specie of the genus athanasia, while Immortal is a specie of athanasist (under an Aristoliean classification system).

At this point I will also disclose a preference for the Gold Box over Wrath of the Immortals; I do not, however, believe them to be incompatible in almost any regard, and see Wrath of the Immortals as being a simplified version of the Gold Box, designed to present Immortals as powerful, campaign forces, while the Gold Box was primarily interested in presenting Immortals as PCs; since they can be both, and the Gold Box explains in more detail such things as the Nightmare Dimension (rather more complicated than the description given in Wrath of the Immortals; I would also recommend reading a copy of Flatland by Abbott to better understand the dimensions), I would recommend acquiring both.

It seems to me, based on my readings of various Mystara material, that Immortals are not the only beings of their level of power, and here I do not refer solely to beings obviously created to serve as monsters for an Immortal-level campaign, such as draeden, repeaters, and demons (who are Immortals in any event). These beings are athanasists, and I include among their number the elemental rulers, the spirit lords, the Immortal Dragons, the great giants, and other miscellany. These beings are all at the same level of power as Immortals, but are clearly not Immortals. Most of them officially are listed as having Power, and it would seem appropriate to give Power to the others who were not included in the Gold Box. It would seem further appropriate to label each of the above as the "Immortals" of their plane/race/et c., although I prefer to label them athanasists. But what of their nature?

Size equates to power amongst the elementals, and the Elemental Rulers are the largest of their kind. In the Immortal modules, IM1-3, they are listed as possessing Power, and are more than a match for the low-level Immortals that will be encountering them in the course of the adventure. Elemental Rulers can also grow in strength and power, just as Immortals can, and can grant wishes. As the ultimate powers on their plane, it seems as though the immortality that elementals achieve is not that of humans and their ilk, but is instead a variant of their own, Elemental Rulership.

A brief aside on the Elemasters: for those of you who do not have the Gold Box, their are four Immortal Elemasters (Immortal as defined above, not Elemental Rulers), and the Box describes them as being the highest power of their respective elemental planes. However, since they seem to be more than a little deranged, and constantly plot to prevent any from achieving their rank, I theorise that the Elemental Rulers pretend the Elemasters are in charge, giving them meaningless powers and responsibilities, all the while running everything by themselves. The Elemasters spend all of their time making pronouncements, to which the elementals nod reverently, and then promptly forget.

The only Known World humans who seem to know of the Spirit World are the Ethengars; Dawn of the Emperors specifically states the Planar Geography skill gives no knowledge of its existence (which makes perfect sense under my theory of cosmology, which I will present in a slightly later post). Although information is sketchy, we do know that the Spirit World faces the same sort of strife and conflict found in Mystara, and that creatures from this world can grow in power, from basic spirits, all the way to Spirit Lords. Although not described as such, the power and rank of the Spirit Lords is immense, and I believe it is appropriate to term Spirit Lords the Ultimate Power of the Spirit World, just as the Elemental Rulers above. I also feel that they should have Power attacks, just as Elemental Rulers.

Immortal Dragons are a little different; according to the Gold Box, they cannot rise above their current stats, and thus, although they are labelled Immortal, they do not seem to fit in with standard Immortals. It also seems, from such evidence as Gaz3 and AC10 Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, that Pearl, Opal, Diamond, and The Great One are positions rather than individuals, and that there can be many Immortal Dragons. Perhaps the most striking difference between standard Immortals and Immoral Dragons is the path each takes: dragons achieve Immortality by acquiring treasure, not by undertaking one of the Quest-Paths.

Similar statements apply to the great giants; giants can achieve Immortality, AC10 states, by becoming masters at whichever art their particular race is a specialist at, and they would seem to thus be in the same boat as the dragons. Gaz7 briefly describes great giants, as a means of reconciling the powerful, god-like giants of the Norse sagas with the relatively underpowered giants of the D&D game. Immortal giants would not seem to be quite the same as Immortals, but information is regrettably lacking.

According to the rules, however, a particular mortal is not necessarily limited to their form of immortality, with respect to their plane or race. Terra was supposedly once an Earth Elemental, Yamuga, Tubak, and Cretia are spirits than attained Immortality, rather than Spirit Lord-ship (according to Gaz12, Wrath of the Immortals assigns Terra, Ixion, and Loki to them respectively, but I prefer the gazetteer's view), human mages from the School of Dracology can reach Dragon Immortality, as can Elementalist with respect to their elemental plane. Even Harrow, a diaboli, achieved Immortality.

The above has been the answer to the question I poised at the beginning, but I would enjoy list input on this subject. Is Immortality better than the other forms? Why would one seek immortality outside of one's plane/race? What does this pose for the Old Ones?