Monday, September 22, 2014

The Devotional Domain: Hindu Divinity

So, I came home from an intensely long day of work where the air conditioning was stuck on high and we were all freezing to death, and I had to run five-hour training workshops for a bunch of colleagues, and I was pretty exhausted, so I came in the door and said, "Hey, I'm going to just microwave some leftover pizza and fall down, is that okay with you?" And John replied, "Sure. Oh, remember that I offhandedly told everyone that you would be writing Monday posts about Devotional Domains now and you didn't do one. See you later, gotta go!"

So after the numb staring at the front door for a minute, I recovered the will to live and here I am! Please pardon this post's lateness. It is totally my fault. Maybe slightly John's fault. Definitely our fault, anyway.

So, a while ago, we explained what the Devotional Domain is - unlike the other Domains, it's focused not on the universal cosmic powers that gods and heroes of many different pantheons exhibit, but on the specific cultural beliefs and practices of each pantheon's supporting religion. There's a world of difference between what the ancient Greeks believed their gods represented and what kinds of religious rituals were appropriate for them, and what the Norse or Hindu or Egyptian religions believed in the same areas; and likewise, there should be a difference when it comes to what Heroes from different traditions can do!

We've seen people wondering if the Devotional Domain gets to have Spheres - different areas of influence or paths of powers - within it, the same way the other Domains do, and the answer is yes, it does! The Devotional Domain has three Spheres: Divinity, which contains powers over the hero themself and their ability to become more divine in keeping with their patron's mythology; Ritual, which contains powers related to performing the sacred ceremonies and actions traditionally performed in honor of their patron's pantheon; and Theology, which contains powers related to the fundamentally important concepts and ideals of their patron's religion.

However, the beginning core rulebook for Hero's Journey features only one of those Spheres. It's not because we don't love Devotional powers or want your Heroes to be as divinely unique when it comes to their pantheon of choice - quite the contrary, but for the reasons of space constraints and initial simplicity, we're going to start with one and expand in the future. Your Heroes will have access to the Divinity Sphere right out of the gate, so that they can explore what it means to be a hero and eventually even a god of their patron's pantheon.

I saw a request for us to talk about what players might see in the Devotional Domain for Hindu Heroes, so let's talk about the major ideas behind their Divinity Sphere: avatara and deity manifestation.

Hindu gods and heroes are very often strongly connected to the idea of avatara, literally descents, which refers to times that the gods intentionally take on different forms in order to perform various different important quests or fill roles that would normally be outside their areas of expertise. Avatara of the gods can be divine creatures, monsters, powerful animals, or new deities in their own right; in fact, many of the famous heroes of Hindu myth, like Rama and Sita, are themselves avatara of gods and go on adventures and do important things in their own right.

Similar to the idea of avatara is the concept of different manifestations or incarnations of various gods, who can take on, become or even create new personas as they need to, like Parvati emanating the goddess Durga from herself at need, and Durga later emanating Kali when the need was most dire. These deities are sometimes considered completely separate gods of their own, who act independently and can even interact with the god that they came from; other times, they are personas that a god takes on temporarily in times of great need, which are part of them but appear only when it is important and otherwise leave the deity to fulfill their usual roles. All Hindu gods are technically manifestations of Brahman, the infinite consciousness and divinity that is the only true reality, so in some sense every god and every hero that represents them is an avatara of Brahman itself.

Taking on new forms or manifesting as an avatara is most often the province of gods, which of course your Heroes are not (at least, not at the beginning of the game!). However, powers that involve this idea are not out of the question for Hindu characters, who may be themselves avatara of other figures without losing any of their own individuality. You might see Divinity Blessings for Hindu Heroes that involve revealing their connection to greater divine forces that they represent, calling upon powers and personality in times of need that they do not normally have, and at high levels even creating independent avatara of their own to go forth and act on their behalf.

We can't give you a thousand details right now, but trust that we're excited about this and hope you will be, too! Some of our major concerns include keeping this set of powers relevant to Heroes who represent some of the older Vedic gods who appear as avatara less frequently than do some of their compatriots, finding ways that Heroes who are still very mortal in their power to still partake of the powers of their patron's pantheon, and keeping them from getting too complicated or difficult for Heroes to use (being multiple people might be par for the course for the Hindu gods, but those of us more mortal might have a harder time keeping track of things!).

Feel free to let us know on the forums what pantheon's powers you might like to hear about next, and to sling any questions Cameron's way. Until next time!