Friday, November 28, 2014

Weekly Update 11.28

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress, what is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the process of making the game and abilities and powers discussed in this blog my not work as described here.

OK, this week is Thanksgiving in the US so things are pretty quiet.

Buuuut… The system count, is now at...


So what dies this mean? It means that all of the system work is done! All the work now is finishing the writing, the editing, and layout. When that's all done the book goes to the publisher. So what's happening this week? This week John got all the remaining work he owed to the Graphics team. That included tables and the Web of Fate. Now they can work on finalizing those for the book. The character sheets are getting a slight redesign as well.

Anne and the editor reviewed the first 5 chapters which are now approved.

You've probably noticed the blog has been pretty quiet, and there is a reason for that. As you probably know, Anne and John want to get the book published and sent for delivery by the end of the year. This has meant that the time they normally spend on the blog has gone into finishing the book. So unfortunately, so expect a certain degree of radio silence for the next couple weeks. I will try to fill in some gaps, but I am but one marginally informed man.

With that, onto your questions, some of which were huge!

What role "ohana" plays in Hawaiian mythology?

Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind. Joking aside, this is a really big question, one that we are sadly not qualified to give an answer to. Kinship is important in Pacific Tribal societies, but the specific significance of Ohana in mythology could be the subject of a graduate thesis.

What stories are there with multiple heroes in them? Do you think the focus on lone heroes in myths is due (in part) to the oral tradition making it harder to focus a story on more than one or two main characters?

So there was some good conversation around hero teams in mythology on the question forum, and some of the examples brought up in the thread are actually used in the book of examples of hero teams. There is time spent in both the GM and the Player chapters discussing the fact that unless you’re doing a one-on-one story, that your character will be part of a larger group of heroes, and being part of a larger group means you’re going to share the spotlight from time to time.

I’ve said before I’m better versed in pop-culture than mythology, so allow me a digression to a modern myth most are familiar with; Star Wars episodes IV-VI are an example of a hero team done well. All of the main characters get multiple moments to contribute to the story. While Luke is the character generally focused on, he’s not the focus of every scene. Han Solo, Princess Leia, C3-PO & R2-D2, and Chewbacca all get multiple moments to contribute.

A story with a single protagonist (in my opinion) is on the surface easier to tell, you don't have multiple plot lines as you only have the events happening to a single character. But as to the reasons behind the oral tradition, this probably veers into another graduate level thesis on the evolution narrative and storytelling.

What other monkey/ape gods are there?

There are definitely other Monkey gods out there. Off the top of her head Anne thought of the Howler Monkey Twins of Mayan Mythology and Sarutahiko of Japanese Mythology who, while not a monkey himself, is a god of monkeys.

The Handsome Monkey King and Hanuman are absurdly strong and wildly magical. Are most monkey gods in Asia viewed this way? Or is it a case of one (HMK) being obviously influenced by the other?

The answer to the first part is no, monkey gods in Asia not uniformly viewed as absurdly strong and wildly magical. Grouping an entire continent together to find a single unifying themes veers into something that we at Hero’s Journey try to avoid, and trying to figure out who influenced whom is not something we are qualified to answer, and would require a great deal of study in cross cultural influences in Asian mythology.

I know the book is still in editing but can we have a ballpark figure of the page count?

This is still very rough estimate, but we’re looking at between 300-400 pages.

That's it for this week! Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weekly Update 11.20

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress, what is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the process of making the game and abilities and powers discussed in this blog my not work as described here.

To kick it off this week the countdown now sits at…

5 Systems Left

That’s right, there are only five systems left. You can count the systems left on one hand. But that’s about all I can say, by John and Anne’s own admission these are the systems that were the least “fun” for them to put together, they are not being discussed for their own protection. The work is mostly closing loopholes so that no one winds up with an exploitable system.

Outside of systems work, the art team is finishing the extra maps mentioned in the Kickstarter. As well, the editing team is done with the first two chapters.

Once Anne and John are done with systems, the team's focus will shift to final editing and layout for the book, all so that they can be sent to the publisher to be printed and be out for delivery by the year's end.

So that's it for the update,  on to questions for the week.

We had seen in the gameplay videos the crafting of an antidote, but will it be possible to craft more "mythical" objects? If so, could you talk about it and share some infos?

It will definitely possible to create mythical objects. The blessings that enable the creation of mythical objects will be found within the Creator Aspect.

Would it be possible to have some more details about the Aspects subsystems?

I have brief rundowns for all other aspect subsystems. However, this reveal comes with a caveat. That caveat is that outside of clarification for my poor descriptions, this will probably be all I am able to say about these subsystems before the release of the core book. So with that in mind, here they are.

The Lover Aspect - The Lover has Faithful Allies. Where the Leader has groups that are loyal to them, the Lover has close companions who will truly devoted, madly, deeply devoted to your character. They need not be romantic lovers, they could be a best friend, a brother in arms, the Samwise to your Frodo. They will do nearly anything for your character.

The Creator Aspect - Creators have two blessings per tier that have a "super-charged" (my words, not an official term) mode. A hero can use their "super-charges" only a limited amount of times per saga. A simple example of one ability would involve healing; lets say you had a blessing that could normally heal one person, a “super-charged” version of that blessing would allow your character to heal the entire group at once.

The Hunter Aspect - The Hunter gains access to Mettle. Mettle is a resource that allows your hero to fight through hardships for a limited number of times during a saga. By using mettle, your hero is able to go without food, water, sleep, or even ignore pain penalties for a specified amount of time.

The Warrior Aspect - Warriors in addition to being amazing fighters, gain access to Brawn. Your hero can spend their brawn points to perform superhuman acts of strength. Specifically they can lift and break things with ruthless efficiency.

The Sage Aspect - Sages are incredibly intelligent. Because of their intelligence they have a resource pool that they can tap into to fuel uses of other aspect abilities, alternatively they can use their sage resources to augment the use of other aspect abilities.

Will you guys use kickstarter for your supplements?
The answer to this is yes, but probably not for every supplement. Anne and John have learned a lot from this first Kickstarter, and they are still figuring out how they want to use it in the future. Generally their thought is they will only use Kickstarter for projects that they want to go above and beyond on.

So that's it for this week, have a great weekend!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mechanics Update: Ethoi are History!

Okay, folks! We've mentioned that there have been big changes in the Ethoi department over the past few months of development, and a few of you have heard about it but would like to know more. Cameron, always crusading for your questions, brought this one up a few times, but eventually we all decided that it would make more sense for someone (read: me) to write a blog post about the changes rather than try to run it through him to repeat for all of you, like some kind of Game Development Telephone game.

So, here I am to talk about Ethoi! The first big and obvious thing is this: Ethoi are gone. They have been removed from the game. The original post describing them refers to a mechanic that is no more.

So, you know, that's a big deal.

There were several reasons behind our decision to ditch Ethoi, and the first was that we found that they were more limiting for characters than they were helpful in defining them. The Ethoi were designed to help give characters some of the flavor of the Heroes who had come before them, illustrating that the traditional values of their patron god's pantheon and religion affected and shaped them as much as their own decisions and motivations. They were supposed to add color to Heroes' lives and choices by ensuring that they were part of their pantheon's heritage as well as their own new traditions, but in practice they weren't doing that job. For Heroes who were inclined toward them, they weren't encouraging anything that they weren't going to be doing on their own anyway, and for those who wanted to do or be something new, they could quickly become strangling requirements that forced Heroes into narrow versions of what a Hindu or Greek or Norse or Egyptian Hero, specifically, should be.

A second major problem was that coming up with what were essentially religious or cultural values that characters would be required to adhere to made us distinctly uncomfortable the more we thought about it. Although we can make big sweeping generalizations about religious values and even be in the ballpark of correct a lot of the time, in the end saying "this is what a follower of the Egyptian religion considers ethical" or "this is what a Norse person believes is important" treads a little too close to stereotyping Heroes based on their religion or ethnicity, and we were definitely not down for that. After all, people of different ethnicities, religions and cultures can share a background in common but have very different values or ideas of how to interpret moral issues, and forcing characters into a single "right way to be Egyptian" felt simplistic and inaccurate. Plus, we (the design and writing team) are not from all those backgrounds or religions, so us trying to make a call on what they might consider most important was kind of a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey situation.

So, rather than trying to salvage a mechanic that wasn't doing its job and was beginning to look distinctly problematic to us, we scrapped it. Now that Ethoi are gone, what do you folks get instead?

In most of the major mechanical senses, Archetypes have been expanded to take over the job that the Ethoi were doing: it is now Archetypes that govern how quickly a Hero can progress in their abilities and powers, making them the most important stat when it comes to moving up in the world. This is a lot better because the Archetypes are universal to all Heroes; not only do players get to choose which ones best apply to their characters, regardless of their background or pantheon, but they describe styles of heroism and reasons for becoming heroes that could be applied to any Hero from any time or place. When you choose for your Hero to embody the Savior or the Ruler, you have done so because that's the kind of Hero you want them to be, and they can fulfill those ideas as any person of any background you wish.

(As a consequence, Archetypes no longer give you extra Labors the way they used to, but don't worry, you'll get those elsewhere!)

A good thing about Ethoi was that they were giving Heroes some more flavor when it comes to their pantheon; we want the choice of a pantheon and patron god to have meaningful effects on your Hero beyond just roleplaying, so we weren't thrilled about losing a mechanic that made that decision a little more relevant. However, the Devotional Domains have been substantially expanded since then (albeit not all in the initial release), and along with some benefits from your choice of pantheon and patron, we think you'll have plenty to make choosing a given set of gods as your patrons feel both spiritually and mechanically different.

So, that's the scoop on Ethoi, those game mechanics that almost were. Thanks to all of you who asked about them, and as always, feel free to keep asking questions - either Cameron will get you answers in the Friday updates, or if it's something that needs an in-depth response, he'll chase us around the Writing Tower until we can get you a post like this one.

Until next time!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekly Update 11.14

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress, what is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the process of making the game and abilities and powers discussed in this blog my not work as described here.

First things first, this week the countdown is at…


This week only ticked off two things from last week, but honestly only four days had gone by from last week’s meeting and this week’s meeting. One of the things that got finished was intoxication penalties, remember to have your characters drink responsibly, otherwise there will be penalties.

Also if you haven't seen it yet, Anne and John have a new video up on the Kickstarter site letting you know where things are in the production. If you've been following the blog, it might not be a ton of new information, but it's a heads up direct from them.

Only a short update, but you had a lot of questions so let's get to those!

Will there be a chapter in the book addressing things like the consequences of Inter-pantheon wars and marriages and such?
This unfortunately will not make it into the core book in a significant way. There is some discussion but not an entire chapter. This is something that you could potentially see in a supplemental book down the line.

In your universe, there are temples of the old gods spread over the world, i imagine the temples would be more concentrated over their native areas but do the gods compete for "territory" and followers?
In the core setting Gods haven’t interacted with the mortal world directly for thousands of years. They have wielded little influence as to where their mortal worshipers build temples. Their temples reflect where their worshipers decided to put them.

How does it look with lethality?
Lethality is a tricky thing to nail down. There are a lot of factors that come into play, and can depend on your GM and your character. If you create a character that is a glass cannon and has no defensive stats, then you will be very fragile. If you’re very fragile, you could be killed by a normal run of the mill mortal.

If you are fighting something of equal level to your character, there is a chance it can kill you. As a heroic character it's up to you to make sure that you come out ahead.

Over the course of a Hero’s Journey, your characters are often confronted by being that are significantly stronger than themselves. In these circumstances it is imperative that you tread lightly, because those would be situations where the story has the potential to be the most lethal.

Could we get some insight on Character Creation? Is it a point system, an archetype system? 
This is another one of those questions that you will need to wait for. I know the wait is getting hard, but there is a chapter devoted to this in the book. There will be points that you will be able to assign and starting characters will be roughly equal. But unfortunately the details of character creation will have to wait until the book is published.

Are Gods in HJ affected by their domains? As in, will a Sun God be weakened during an eclipse, or will a God of knowledge be stronger in a library?
This is something of a grey area. The gods themselves are not directly weakened or strengthened by external factors in our world. That being said, what you’re describing could be an interesting story hook for a GM.

What about the Ethoi?
This has been asked by several people directly. I’d point to the disclaimer nothing is set in stone until the game is published, and over the course of development things change. The Ethoi are one of these things. Next Monday, Anne will be talk about The Ethoi and where it fits in development.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Lord of Chaos

Today's question (demand, really) is short and to the point: Tell us about Apep! We are all too happy to talk about Apep (probably closer to Apapi in ancient Egyptian), also known in Greek circles as Apophis, the dread serpent of darkness and primordial chaos who lurks in the unfathomable depths of the shadow world of Duat. It is a big deal in Egyptian mythology, so let's learn about it! (Carefully, and quietly. We don't want its attention.)

Apep - often called "the Apep" in Egyptian texts, to distinguish it from lesser serpents that might be considered its offspring or reprsentatives - is an enormous snake that lurks in the darkness of Duat, sometimes said to lie coiled around the fabled Mount Bakhu, at others believed to lie in the fathomless dark waters of the primordial Nun, the only place infinite enough to contain its endless bulk. According to the Pyramid Texts, Ra, the sun god, travels through Duat each night, dying when the sun sets but resurrecting himself at the dawn to allow the sun to be reborn the next day, but Apep lies in wait there to try to stop him, appearing in the dark underworld skies with hordes of evil minions and lesser serpents.

What exactly Apep's aim here is differs slightly with the version. In some myths, it wishes to devour the sun, swallowing Ra and the solar disc into its endless gullet to become its sustenance alone; in others, it seeks only to prevent Ra from ever raising the sun for the next morning, to which end it employs any means, up to and including destroying him and his protectors before they can escape Duat to take to the skies again. In all cases, Apep is a symbol of the chaos that lurks at the edge of the universe; if it succeeds in preventing the sun from rising, it will destroy the natural order of things, and in return the world will be plunged into chaos and death.

Apep's origin was for most of Egyptian religion not recorded in any way; it had simply always existed, much like the other primordial elements of chaos and creation, and not even the most ancient of gods could claim it as offspring. In later myths, after Greek and Roman influence had caused etymological confusion that related the serpent to the word for spitting, it was said to be created by Neith, the ancient goddess of the waters, who had spat it out as unclean when she was creating the rest of the great waters. Other serpents that may or may not be related to it are found throughout Duat, including fire-breathing torch-serpents that light the solar barque's way, great serpents whose guts the sun god must travel through, and other dangerous snakes who may be offspring of Apep or simply other forms of its malevolence seen throughout the underworld.

Because Apep is so terrible (always described as fathomlessly huge, which is why it is depicted with such tightly-packed coils to represent how much of it there is, and smetimes said to have a head made of vicious hard flint or eyes of gold) and so dangerous, the sun god was understood to not be able to fight such a fearsome foe alone. The solar barque was staffed with a defense team intended to help him fight Apep off each day, including Horus, god of kingship and warfare; Maahes, lion god of slaughter and courage; Serket, scorpion goddess of poisons and disease; Mehen, the serpent god who opposes his fellow snake; and the trio of magical gods Hu, Saa and Siu, who support and enhance the magical powers of Ra himself. Each day, through their combined efforts, Apep is defeated or turned aside and Ra is saved to begin the day anew, although not without great hardship and injury to all.

The foremost of Ra's defenders, and the only deity who stands as a true opponent who can face Apep's might, is Set, god of the deserts. Apep's powers include a terrible hypnotic gaze that can freeze even a god so that they lose all reason, not to mention its unending coils which are wrapped around the barque itself and all the gods within, and thus many of the defending gods are paralyzed by its gaze each day, or physically restrained so that they cannot help Ra as they intend to. Set, however, is the strongest and most powerful of all the divine warriors, and he is unaffected by any of Apep's dangerous skills; he is too strong to be held in its coils, and too loyal and determined to be hypnotized, which allows him to take over and drive the barque for Ra while the sun god fights the snake's influence himself. He then fights Apep with a great iron spear, eventually skewering it and driving it off until the great struggle begins again the next day.

Apep's not just a big mindless sun-eating snake, either; when it comes to Set, it's downright snarky, trading insults and one-liners back and forth with the god of chaos, including making fun of his missing testicle. So clearly there is plenty of malevolent intelligence behind those great serpentine eyes.

In spite of the efforts of Ra and his fellow gods, Apep's attacks are not always in vain. Occasionally, it successfully swallows the sun; this is the case when eclipses occur, which were believed to be the result of Apep performing a surprise attack during the daytime, and which last as long as it takes for the gods to come to Ra's rescue and fight the snake off before the day can resume, and on at least one memorable occasion, the sun didn't rise at all thanks to Set being called away to the birth of his son, leaving the barque woefully underdefended. Apep was ruinously wounded when Set returned and carved a hole in its throat to let the barque through, but we must assume it enjoyed the victory while it lasted.

Apep's relationship with Set is a complicated one, and not just because of the constant insult war and physical altercations; in later times, Greek and Roman writers actually conflated the two gods into a single person, a move that would have been vastly confusing to those Egyptians worshiping their earlier incarnations centuries before. Because Set and Apep were both used to represent chaos or at least opposition to order in Egyptian myths, and because Set was so heavily demonized thanks to his rebellion against his brother Osiris (exacerbated by Greek writers conflating him with their own most evil antagonists of the gods, such as Typhon), over time the god who was the most staunch opponent of the serpent became considered just as evil, and eventually as the serpent itself. It probably didn't hurt that the Hyksos, a Semitic people from the northeastern Middle East area, had conquered Egypt at the end of the 14th dynasty (with a lot of traumatic new inventions like chariots that were not seen as very sporting) and took on Set as their patron god, which associated him with divisive invading conquerors.

So Apep absorbed Set, near the end of the Egyptian religion, and then was in turn absorbed into the Greek figure of Typhon, in a big scary stew of darkness and monsterness that threatens the universe.

Regardless of who or how it's associated, the Apep is the most terrible of all Egyptian enemies of the gods, and a figure to be feared for all of time, as long as the universe still remains in existence and the gods wish to keep it from being destroyed.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Modern Mythology

So I am still working out the final shape of what the Monday post will look like. I thought about a bunch of things that I could talk about: Thor in the Marvel Universe, Stargate and Gods as Ancient Aliens, or Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey. All of those seemed too obvious, and are generally well tread territory, so I went back to some articles I been grabbing from the web over the past few months.

Which brings me to the article I wanted to talk about today. Specifically how Mythology can be used as a motivator. Bear with me here, because it only tangentially touches on Mythology. A few weeks ago I found this article on a learning blog (training is one of my day jobs). The article covers an ARG used by a 7th grade teacher to help his students better learn The Odyssey and specifically the character of Odysseus.

If you’re not familiar with what an ARG is, it is an Alternate Reality Game. Unlike a “normal” game where there is a very clear distinction between what is and is not part of the game, an ARG blurs that. One of the most famous is I Love Bees developed by 42 Entertainment as part of viral marketing campaign for Halo 2. I Love Bees told the story of an AI marooned on Earth trying to put itself back together. It's very interesting to read about, and I highly recommend checking it out.

ARGs are really good at organically pulling together groups of to solve problems, often problems that would be difficult, if not impossible, to solve as an individual. In Dolus, the game created by John Fallon, the goal was to get his students to better understand Odysseus as a character.
...students had to inhere the very qualities that helped the cunning Odysseus to prevail on his journey. “Odysseus is mortal and without superpowers but, above all, he’s a tenacious problem solver,” explained Fallon. “He is put into seemingly impossible situations and, through sheer human ingenuity and persistence, he finds a way out.”
Fallon got his students to think about what made Odysseus, his wit and problem solving skills. He set out challenges that got his students thinking like him, and as a result got them to see Odysseus not as a far off one dimensional stock hero. By making his players struggle to reach for the skills that made Odysseus a hero, he made the character someone that the students could admire. In the end the students ended up with a clearer vision on who Odysseus was for them.
“They did a better job of making their individual versions of Odysseus more clever and better problem solvers rather than just a cardboard cutout hero who bashes his way through problems. This likely stems from having experienced some difficult problem solving of their own in similar circumstances.”
Heroes and Heroic Journey’s have been used teach us what we can do at our best, as well they can be useful to warn  of hubris and Odysseus is a great example of both of those. Without any super powers, and with only his wits, he guides his crew through their long journey home. That story, even more than a thousand years later can still be used to motivate students.

If you’re interested the article can be found here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Weekly Update 11.7

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress, what is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the process of making the game and abilities and powers discussed in this blog my not work as described here.

So welcome to November! Despite it's being published at noon today, I am actually writing this in the dead of night. I have been on Jury Duty for the past four days, which cruelly strips away the opportunity to use any devices that can connect to the internet. But enough about that, let’s talk numbers.

This week the countdown sits at…


11 items down from last week, which is some pretty strong progress.

This week John and Anne had a big meeting with the layout team where they finalized the majority of the Style for the layouts in the book. At the meeting they reviewed and accepted the first 20 pages of the GM Chapter. Also this week, they worked on the above 11 items, which they’re keeping secret, even from me.

I wasn't able to meet with Anne this week, but John will be working with the layout team to finalize the look and feel of the Web of Fate for the book.

In Art news, Art has wrapped. This means that all the artwork that will be used in the book is completed!

That’s it for updates, on to your questions! Thanks to those of you who waited an extra week for answers.

How are divinely important objects (Like Mjolnir) handled in Hero’s Journey? 
They would be significant Divine Favors, these objects probably still exist and are in the hands of the heroes and Gods that wield them. If they were lost, then chances are they’re still lost. Of course your GM might want to use them to particular effect in the Hero’s Journey that they’re helping to tell.

Ethoi spoiler on Monday Posts?
I unfortunately am not able to speak to this question right now.

Benefits from Patrons?
Your Patron gives you two key benefits. The first is extra labors usable for specific aspects. For instance, a champion of Ares will get extra labors in the Warrior Aspect. The second benefit is an extra blessing that is unique and separate from the Web of Fate. However, some gods may give the same blessing, for instance Thor and Ares give their champions the same blessing.

How do Divine Favors work? How are Divine Favors Integrated? Limits and Restrictions on Divine Favors?
The are huge and awesome questions, and they're going answered in the book, it just takes multiple pages to explaining the systems, integration, and restrictions. I haven't all of them yet and I can't speak further on it today unfortunately.

So, we're the first new heroes of this time! the first since Hercules, The Hero Twins, Chu Chulain, Sigmund and so on. But what does the setting say about all the mythic creatures? Have The Phoenix been spotted? Is the army dispatched to deal with Nemean lions? Is medusa still hanging about? Does Jotun still visit the earth?
In the core setting these mythic creatures have also disappeared, and begin to appear to help or hinder your hero’s heroic journey. However this is not to say that you can’t alter your setting to dial up or dial down the level of fantasy of your world. Maybe mythic creatures never existed before your heroes appeared, or maybe mythic beasts ran rampant without heroes to keep them in check. There are a lot of permutations to play with.

So that’s it for this week! Now that by the time you’re reading this I will (hopefully) be out of jury duty, I’ll be back on Monday with another modern mythology post. I’ll still be talking about Mythology and (Augmented Reality Games) ARGs.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Game Update! First week of November

These havnt been coming as weekly as I'd like them to, but I'm hard at work in the "fixing things" dungeon and havnt been able to escape.

Saturday game: Gangs of New York

"Most importantly, be discreet"
These were the final words given to them by the gods secretly helping them. The final session began with Corey leading 3 Iron Man-esque robots to kill Michael in Washington Square Park. Michael had just exited the sewers and was screaming to everyone who could hear that he was hunting Corey. Seif was imprisoned by the military. Valentina and Nic were running down broadway attempting to avoid a pair of Jotun. A jotun soon joined the fray with Michael and Corey and in the ensuing chaos, Corey was murdered and Michael was mortally wounded. Michael made his way to a hospital, but the infections and radiation poisoning from the battle were too much. Seif broke out of prison to rally the troops against the attacking Jotun. He succeeded at destroying one, but died as the second and third assaulted the base.

Then some secret stuff happened to each character that not everyone knows about.

A new mini story starts where everyone is playing a character that has died in the campaign. They're competing in an arena for the enjoyment of the gods watching. The winner gets to live again.
The characters being played are

We haven't gotten to play this yet though, so not much more to tell.

Sunday Game:

Things are getting increasingly bad for the sunday crew. I'll be brief though.

Folkvardr finally made it to the Greek Prophecy machine(patent pending). He saw many things that were horrible. But many of which he has suspicions about anyways. It seems many "forgotten" gods may not be completely forgotten. Afterwards, the Greek tech goddesses kept him sedated and dissected him.

Jioni has become constantly plagued by attacks from Artemis. What was once an occasional bother has become a constant threat. This may be because even though many of the greeks are still locked away, Jioni's husband was let free on "good behavior" and is back ruling his world. Jioni has been spending most of her time in Solheim attempting to heal from her horrible wounds and waiting til she becomes a woman again(physically) so she can return to her husband and plead her case.

Sowiljr was late for a meeting with Vishnu and it seemed Vishnu left without him. He hung out with Indra for a while before attempting to head back to Earth so he could get to Folkvardr to save him. This was increasingly difficult because the illusion realm had started to pour completely overtake the Hindu overworld. Eventually sowiljr made it back to Olympus and made an exchange for Folkvardr. Tyr is headed over to help protect the mountain.

Eztli is in her overworld making sure her people are all well taken care of. This is more difficult because many are not pleased with her reign and most of the Aztec gods have left the great pyramid for the time being. There are only a cat and a bird on the pyramid at the moment, and they both seem to have very different ideas about how Eztli should be using her time.

Eventually everyone meets up at the pyramid. There are some quick problems in Mexico City because Sowiljr would'nt "comfort" a mourning Chalchiuhtlicue, but it gets quickly handled. They all head to the secret Roman Coffee Shop. And for the first time ever, they successfully blend some magic coffee.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giver of Wisdom

Back to India today, to talk about this question from the box!: I loved your post on Hanuman and I was wondering if you could do a post on another, much less well-known Vishnu devotee: Narada. Your wish is our command!

Narada definitely is less well-known than Hanuman, which I think may be partly because he's just not as flashy as a magical monkey who sometimes leaps across the ocean in a single bound. Instead, he is one of the most highly-respected and famously wise of all Hindu sages, who was looked to by kings, other sages, and even gods for spiritual guidance, and who often appears in the midst of various myths to dispense advice in the nick of time (and also, often, when irritated people don't want it but still need it regardless of their crankiness).

He is one of the most famous devotees of Vishnu, occasionally even acting as counselor to the gods, and like his divine patron is wise and benevolent but also occasionally demonstrates a wicked sense of humor. Narada was mortal, but had in his previous life been one of the gandharva, beautiful supernatural beings who perform songs of praise and carry messages for the gods; he was cursed with humanity after choosing to perform a worshipful song to a mere demigod instead of to Vishnu, who thereafter sent him to become a mortal. His origins are always thinly veiled, however; his family recognized his connection to divinity and he was given to the priesthood of Vishnu at a young age, and his former life as a celestial musician is echoed in his mastery of the veena (which, depending on the region, is sometimes said to have been invented by him) and his status as the most skilled mortal musician of his lifetime.

Narada's career begins when he is a young man, and leaves the company of the priests of Vishnu to wander the forest alone, performing penance and seeking the ultimate truth of the universe. He meditated with such determination and devotion that Vishnu took notice of him, and appeared before him in his full and most glorious of forms, an overwhelming display of glory and beauty that no mortal could bear for long. Vishnu informed Narada that he would never see him in his full glory again until after his death, which was part of his punishment of being mortal; although this turned out to be true, Vishnu did eventually relent and give Narada back his spiritual powers after death, at which point he became considered a servant or even avatar of Vishnu himself, one who has his own temples and devotees.

Narada, like many other divine sages in various cultures' mythologies, usually knows more about what's going on than anyone else does, which results in him doing things that seem to make no sense or appear to be unfair or even evil. Of course, they only look that way because no one else has any idea what he's up to - he may occasionally be more than a little mischievous, but he's not downright harmful. For example, he intentionally told Krishna's father Vasudeva that an innocent family of allies were plotting against him, an outright lie, which resulted in Vasudeva capturing, imprisoning, torturing and eventually killing them. They were understandably pretty upset about this, but Narada told this lie not because he wanted them to suffer, but because only he had the secret knowledge that they were actually deities who had been cursed to be born mortal, and that they could not return to their divine forms until they had been tortured and killed in this manner.

Krishna, who is of course one of the avatars of Vishnu, is also especially fond of Narada, whom he considers perhaps the most pious of all his devotees, and who he turns to for advice in several instances. In each case, Narada counsels Krishna, who is somewhat famous for his temper and propensity for mischief, to employ patience, kindness and love toward others, staving off the possibility of war and conflict with various factions.

Of course, a lot of Narada's life is about atoning for past sins and not getting too full of himself, and in spite of being super fond of him, Vishnu also enjoys punking him to remind him not to get too proud of himself. In one instance, Narada, correctly surmising that he was Vishnu's favorite, point-blank asked him to tell him that this was so; Vishnu responded by instead claiming that a random mortal farmer was his favorite devotee, which immediately offended and confused Narada. He decided to stalk the farmer, lurking in and around his house and fields in an attempt to figure out what made him so special, but succeeded in learning only that the farmer worked all day and prayed to Vishnu once before leaving and once before going to bed.

Because he wasn't quite done pushing his luck, Narada then went back to Vishnu and demanded an explanation for why this random dude who didn't even pray a fraction as often as himself was his favorite. Vishnu told him he'd explain only if he put a large earthen pot of water on his head and walked around with it all day, and managed not to spill even a single drop of water. Narada successfully did so, but upon returning, Vishnu asked him how many times he had prayed to him that day; Narada was forced to admit that he hadn't prayed at all, since he was using all his concentration to succeed at the task, and then Vishnu informed him that he was only impressed by people who could go about their reponsibilities and be devout at the same time, rather than choosing one or the other.

Look at Vishnu back there. He's so pleased with himself. Also hilarious is the story in which Narada becomes too proud of his musical expertise, and Vishnu responds by taking him into the forest, showing him a group of suffering and deformed women, and then explaining that these are the goddesses of music and Narada's playing is so terrible that he's actually killing them with it.

Narada's doings are generally morality tales; he appears as the wise counselor when his advice is appropriate and illuminates things that the audience should learn, but he is also not infallible and soemtimes has to be shown to have failings, so that the audience can also be reminded that even the wisest of sages are not immune to pride, foolishness, or plain old ineptitude.

It would take forever to describe all of Narada's stints as divine advisor to the stars, but they include advising other sages who falter in their duties, helping kings seek blessings for their kingdoms, and even visiting the gods to ensure their religious devotion is still strong in spite of their great powers. The messages of most Narada stories is that it doesn't matter how powerful and holy someone is - they can always strive to be better, and pride in their prowess never does anything but get in the way.

When you're out there being the best Sage you can be, remember the tales of Narada, dear young Heroes. Pride has been the downfall of many a divine adventurer!