Monday, October 13, 2014

The Devotional Domain: Norse Divinity

All right, it's time for Devotional Domains, part 3: Norse Edition!

We've already talked about the Divinity Sphere and its focus on allowing Heroes to share in the quintessential abilities, archetypes and powers of the pantheon from which their patron hails. For the God-Touched of the Hindu pantheon it was all about avatars and emanations, and for the Egyptian pantheon is was about syncretism and symbolism; and for the deities of the great European north, it's all about doom, destiny and their inevitable place in the universe.

Norse mythology is centrally concerned with Ragnarök, the eventual end of the universe, which is laid out in various prophecies and foretellings across the ancient Norse legends so that its events and importance are well-known and constantly shaping the actions and personalities of all the gods involved. Many of the Norse gods are foretold to take part in the events of the final battle, with their deaths and despairs and triumphs and victories foretold by the mysterious Norns and mortal, divine and giant völva with the sight to see the future.

And although the prophecies of Ragnarök are far in the future, to be truly played out only when the world enters its death throes and prepares to burn into nothing and then be reborn from the ashes, their foretold events echo backward to affect the gods named in them now. Loki and Heimdall, doomed to kill one another at Ragnarök, are hated rivals who have fought on many occasions; Thor and Jörmungandr, likewise set to destroy one another, have twice tangled with one another and renewed their undying hatred; and Odin, who will be killed by the great wolf Fenrir, sits with the wolves Freki and Geri at his feet, constant reminders of his eventual fate. The cults of the gods as well are often concerned with their foretold fates, keeping such time-honored traditions as the discarding of the extra pieces of leather from all boots to be added to the boot used by Vidar to defeat Fenrir at Ragnarök.

So what does all this mean for your Hero of the Norse pantheon? Devotional Blessings for Norse Heroes are likely to involve finding ways to define your place in the pantheon, your relation to friends and foes and eventually your final fate at Ragnarök, granting you new powers in exchange for strictures or penalties that build your fatal flaws. Whether you align yourself more with the nature-loving Vanir or the battle-mongering Aesir, your destiny as one of the Norse gods will become part of your character's core capabilities and weaknesses; the more you entrench yourself in your fate, the more powerful it makes you, but the greater your doom.

Obviously, this involves a lot of things in the here-and-now, since not every Hero will ever encounter Ragnarök itself, nor is destiny itself always easy to understand, interpret or control. As a Norse Hero, you become part of the fate of the Norse gods and the Norse universe as a whole as soon as you are called by a god, so making your role count and learning where you fit in that great pattern and eventual end is an adventure that will continue to grow and change as you do.

A few other powers involving your identity as a Norse Hero and later god may also explore things like the innate difference between the Vanir and Aesir branches of the Norse gods, the identity of some Norse gods and Heroes as being closely associated with other beings such as the alfar or jötnar, and the preservation of a Hero's deeds in artforms as an extension of their honor and legacy. As with the other versions of the Divinity Sphere, we hope that there'll be something for every kind of Norse Hero to explore their relationship with their patron's religion and their eventual place within it.

We're down to the last of the core rulebook's pantheons, so next week will be all about the Devotional Blessings available to Greek Heroes. We'll see you then!