God’s Alignment

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Seethyr
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God’s Alignment

Post by Seethyr »

I know there’s some buzz out there amongst forums about alignment and it being somewhat of an outdated concept.

I’m not one of those people. My paladins are still lawful good when I play them.

With that being said, I might want to contradict that statement with the gods of the Mazticans. I mean, they are cruel and capricious, but if they really are modeled off of Aztec gods I feel like they should just be more like forces of nature. In other words and as an example, if you don’t sacrifice to Azul, I’m sorry but the rains just won’t come. Worshiping them for certain shouldn’t necessarily be evil because if you don’t, welcome to famine.

I don’t know, I’m pretty moralistic sometimes personally but here’s one scenario where I’m thinking to myself “well, what are they supposed to do?”
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by lookatroopa »

Evil deities with worshippers all across the board aren't an alien concept to Toril. In a lot of ways, the worship of evil deities on Maztica strikes me as being similar to the worship of Umberlee by seafarers of Faerûn, who more often than not pay tribute to her out of necessity rather than on ideological grounds.

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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Big Mac »

(I got ninjad by Lookatroopa while writing this.)
Seethyr wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:06 am
Worshiping them for certain shouldn’t necessarily be evil because if you don’t, welcome to famine.
Regular people don't generally "worship" evil deities in other D&D campaign settings - they "placate" them, in order to get those deities to leave them alone.

You will, of course, get evil clerics, that do properly worship evil deities. And you will, of course, get cultists, who are signed up to the church and help carry out evil plots.

But, the general thing with Forgotten Realms deities for Faerûn, is that everyone is aware of the fact that there are lots of deities and that specific deities control certain aspects of life.

So there are plenty of people placating the evil deities in Faerûn. And I think there are a lot more evil deities in the canon of Faerûn than in the canon of Maztica.

It's interesting that people get a bit more fixated on this - with Maztica - than with Faerûn (or another D&D world).

I wonder if that is because Maztica has a relatively small pantheon (on the same sort of level as the Dragonlance pantheon) and that the small number of deities draws much more focus to specific evil deities.

Imagine if there were 100 Maztican deities and just one that likes human sacrifice. It would seem like a less important part of the pantheon, even if that particular religion was dominant.

I think that maybe, what Maztica has, is not evil deities that are "more evil" than evil deities in other campaign settings, but a culture where the evil deities have just come out into the open (in everyday culture) and are working alongside good deities and other organisations.

There is also the thing of Area of Concern.

If you have an evil deity in one setting/pantheon that controls undead and an evil deity in another setting/pantheon that controls something useful like honour, courage, the first type of magic and who gives power to warriors, you can see how the first evil deity could be seen to mostly be working against the interest of people and the second could be seen to helping people.

I think this is why there is apparently a moral conflict with Maztica. It is down to Zaltec being a god that helped the people and who then got jealous of his brother, Qotal, and then turned to evil.

It's a rather similar story to the Descent of the Drow, where Corellon's wife turned against him and became evil.

But in the case of the drow, the Crown Wars are in the distant past and the Ilythiiri were banished from the surface and turned into drow in the Fourth Crown War (there were two more Crown Wars after that) around -10,000 DR.

You do kind of have the same process happening in Maztica, but Douglass Niles made that happen in the Maztica trilogy...in the present day (instead of the distant past).

So I would argue that Maztica has the same sort of moral issues as Faerûn, but that the setting is specifically set up in a time of moral crisis, where Zaltec's servants (and Lolth's servants) have managed to gain more power than normal.

Compare this (darker) take on D&D to something like the Dalelands, and it seems to be "more evil" than the Dalelands.

But compare it to Nentir Vale (with it's Points of Light theme built in) and you have two worlds where evil threatens most people and adventurers have to work hard to undermine evil and tip the balance back towards good.

I saw Apocalypto a few years back, for the second or third time and it struck me that the Mezoamerican plot there, was kind of the opposite to the Points of Light concept. There were the villages (who were depicted as "good" people minding their own business) and the city warriors (who were the ones that came out of their city states to capture slaves to sacrifice). Mel Gibson told a good vs evil story, but with the civilisation being evil and the nomadic people being good.

The Horde campaign is about a nomadic civilisation where a "barbarian" pulls together a horde of horse nomads that destroy civilisation. That's more similar the Points of Light concept of Nentir Vale.

I don't know how "accurate" Apocalypto is, with the culture, but I think that Mel Gibson gives the film a "Reverse Points of Light" environment, where the only way to work for the forces of good is to stay away from the civilised areas and avoid (or defeat) the forces of the "city states".

I think that, perhaps, other campaign settings make us get used to "civilisation" being depicted as a "good" thing and a "lawful" thing and "uncivilised" people being "barbarians", "savages" or some other negative thing that ties in with "evil" and/or "chaos".

Maztica is more slanted towards civilisation being a lawful thing, with evil tendencies that are growing stronger. I'm still improving my Maztica-fu, but I didn't originally think of the ordinary farming folk (and ordinary city workers) as having chaotic tendencies, but I did think of them as generally good (or at least neutral).

Maztica isn't alone at having these less obvious alignment setups. Dragonlance, which also has a small number of deities, is set up to start with the gods being absent, after a King-Priest worshipping the good god, tried to exterminate evil races and steal the power of the deity he worshipped. The gods of Krynn tossed an asteroid onto the head of the King-Priest and made all of their clerics vanish. And left the world to falter for a few hundred years. The Dragonlance campaign starts off with the leader of the evil gods sneaking back to Krynn and creating a Dragon Army to take over the world.

So I think the spotlight on the D&D alignment of Zaltec, in Maztica, is a bit overrated. He might be "obviously evil", but Takhisis does plenty of evil stuff on Krynn (and even steals the entire world away from the other gods).

I know you have moved onto looking at what Maztica would be like in the post-Spellplague era. But I actually am more interested in where Douglass Niles would have taken the setting if he had written a post-Maztica trilogy boxed set.

If I recall correctly Erixitl rejected both Qotal and Zaltec at the end of the novels. There were also some pretty big changes. The leaders of the Maztican drow got cursed by Lolth and the evil supporters of Zaltec got cursed too.

I think that that Maztica, which we only get a short glimpse of, moves away from being a clone of Mezoamerican mythology and culture and moves much more towards being closer to how other parts of Faerûn is balanced. There is still plenty of evil around, but the evil humans are kind of cast out from their positions of power in human society.

As for sacrifice, plenty of the gods (other than Zaltec) have sacrifices that are really offerings. So I don't see the setting being tied to sacrifices. I think there could be sacrifices for big favours and offerings for everyday rituals to placate each deity.

Sacrifices could, IMO, easily be pushed more into the background, with a post-Feathered Dragon campaign where the GM decides to push Zaltec and the other evil deities out of the cities to create mostly-good Mezoamerican-style cities that focus on love and hope, instead of fear.

If you want to have Lawful Neutral clerics of Azul, I think they could placate Azul by "sacrificing" the afterbirth, instead of babies. That might give Azul less power, but still allow Azul to gain power in the same sort of way. Birth is supposed to be some sort of warrior-like ritual, in Mezoamerican culture and women have waters that break before the birth, so if Azul gives people water, then the baby-related part of his background could be said to be related to giving women some sort of special water that helps them have babies (or somesuch).

Then you can have that tie in with cults that want to steal babies and drown them, but, given that babies come out of that water and breath, it might not be too unrealistic to say that babies have (with their mother's help) survived Azul's test. You could even collect the "water of birth" and have clerics of Azul use it for special rituals (although collecting afterbirth's and water from women giving birth is a bit gross :lol: ).

I'm not too sure what could be done to create Chaotic Neutral clerics of Zaltec, but if his worshippers ritually injure themselves, I think you could create a toned down version of his faith (either for the past or the future) where warriors placate Zaltec with combat, instead of human sacrifices.

If Jaguar Knights fought against Eagle Knights, Jaguar Knights from other tribes, criminals and even monsters, in a "trial by combat" any death or injury could be seen to placate Zaltec, but there could still be non-lethal ways for people to "win" freedom.

I'm not saying that a post-Feathered Dragon game should be exactly like that, but I think that if you move away from the Nexalan dependency on Zaltec you can still use lots of Mezoamerican themes and not have to throw the D&D worshipper alignment system out of the window to have it make sense.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Big Mac »

lookatroopa wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 1:24 am
Evil deities with worshippers all across the board aren't an alien concept to Toril. In a lot of ways, the worship of evil deities on Maztica strikes me as being similar to the worship of Umberlee by seafarers of Faerûn, who more often than not pay tribute to her out of necessity rather than on ideological grounds.
Great example.

Umberlee is Chaotic Evil and controls the sea and people living in ports placate her (because they don't want to get killed, when they go on a ship).

The First Tied ritual, mentioned in the Church of Umberlee article, seems pretty similar to the sort of thing done in Maztica to me.

And the main Umberlee article has multiple churches dedicated to Umberlee, with people even paying clerics to travel on their ships, in order to buy-off Umberlee.

Umberlee also gives spells to worshippers of Panzuriel.

There is no write-up of Panzuriel on Forgotten Realms Wiki (instead it redirects back to the Umberlee article). But AuldDragon has created a write up for Panzuriel and I think he could maybe work well as a forgotten Maztican deep sea deity.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Big Mac »

I've got a question for you Seethyr (as you are the Maztica expert).

There are some areas off to the sides of Maztica, that are less well detailed than the Nexalan area.

How do you think they should work (from the point of view of religion)?

Do you think the area should work like Dragonlance, where the same deities are worshipped all over the continent (but maybe with other names).

Or do you think that the pantheon of deities on that Forgotten Realms Wiki article should really be the Nexalan Pantheon, with other nations that are further away gaining pantheons based on other Mezoamerican cultures (so that they feel less like Aztec-based cultures)?

I ask this because the number of deities in Faerûn alone is pretty big (and there are a few cultures that worship something other than deities).

There could potentially have been an expanded number of deities for the Maztican side of the ocean, with customised Dwarven Pantheons, Drow Pantheons, Halfling Panthons and panthons for radically different types of humans (with some deities being present in more than one place...just like Amnian deities and Lolth came in).

I think that a bigger list of deities might dilute the influence of Zaltec a bit more...while still allowing him, his worshippers and the sacrifices they want to make to gain power to provide a threat to Maztican PCs.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Jürgen Hubert »

<pops up>

In my version of Maztica, I am going to downplay the alignment of the gods.

For one thing, unlike Christian/European metaphysics, Aztec philosophy doesn't really recognize "cosmic" concepts of Good and Evil. That doesn't mean that Mazticans wouldn't recognize "good" and "evil" human behavior, but they'd define it as "behavior that is beneficial/detrimental to fellow human beings" instead of assuming that cosmic forces made them do it.

For another, the discussion of whether human sacrifice is evil is missing the point of what the human sacrifices in Mesoamerican cultures actually were for.

Mesoamerican metaphysics held that everything that exists - gods, humans, plants, animals, rocks and so forth - are just temporary manifestations of an all-encompassing non-sapient divine force, called "teotl" by the Aztecs. And it is inevitable that all such manifestations will eventually decay and dissolve back into teotl, and then be recycled in new forms.

This included both the gods and the world, so this is not an ideal state of affairs as far as anyone is concerned. Thus, the overarching goal of the gods and their mortal followers is not to prevent their inevitable end - which is impossible - but to delay it as long as they can. All that ritual, prayer, and sacrifice is intended to feed and empower the gods so that they can continue their work of keeping the world running.

And human sacrifice is a very efficient and potent way of feeding the gods - the pulsating heart is very symbolic of the pulsating energies of the cosmos, and the smoke spiraling up from the flames of the sacrifical fire is likewise symbolically efficient for piercing the layers of existence and reaching the gods.

But human sacrifice was never the only way of feeding the gods. There is also autosacrifice (shedding of one's own blood), animal sacrifice, symbolic gestures, prayer, parades and so forth. It is entirely conceivable that the gods of Maztica could subsist without human sacrifice - in fact, some of these gods already do so. I expect the need for sacrificing humans to the gods will be an ongoing philosophical and theological discussion among Mazticans.

Furthermore, the Maztican gods (as outlined in the original Boxed Set) also develop all sorts of aspects and sub-personalities, which helps us with avoiding settling on specific alignments. "Zaltec-Viperhand" is undeniably evil, but the Zaltec worshiped in Kultaka might not be. That they are both masks of a greater Zaltec entity (possibly a divine "Principle of Warfare" that encompasses Faerunian deities like Tempus as well) does not make these aspects any "less real", since everything is ultimately a mask for teotl.

So player character clerics of Maztican gods should be able to pick any alignment they want, irrespective of their patron deity - they just need to come up with a specific cult and/or divine aspect that is compatible with that alignment.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Sturm »

Make sense with Mesoamerican culture indeed. The original book trilogy indeed is not bad at depicting this, as Zaltec and Qotal clearly coexist peacefully (most of the time) in courts and society while this would normally not be possible for example in Faerun with Bane and Ilmater or any other strongly aligned gods.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Jürgen Hubert »

Aztec culture also has the concept of "agonistic imanic pairs" - paired, opposite concepts such as male-female, life-death, light-darkness, fire-water and so forth that compete and struggle with each other and yet form a greater whole - and in the process produce new things and help define or maintain the world. And if one part of the pair were to vanish, the other would lessen or vanish as well.

Zaltec and Qotal are obviously such an agonistic imanic pair. Their struggle is one of the defining element of Maztican culture and society, yet ultimately neither is supposed to ultimately vanquish the other - after each defeat, the defeated got will return again. And the wise of Maztica understand this. The gods will struggle against each other and so will their followers, because this is their nature. But only few would argue that only one is important for the world and not the other, and thus most Mazticans pay homage to both.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by thorr-kan »

I'm totally OK with gods being without alignment while retaining alignment for PCs/NPCs.

2E has the Al-Qadim precedent in Arabian Adventures and paraphrased in the Forgotten Realms wiki (https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki ... n_pantheon): "Accordingly the commonly worshiped deities of Zakhara were seen as enlightened and differed from other deities worshiped on Al-Toril because they did not have a precise portfolio. Instead, each exemplified a single characteristic or trait important to Enlightenment. They stood above the classifications of alignment, as these traits could be found in good and evil folk alike.[3][2]"

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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Seethyr »

Big Mac wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:38 pm
I've got a question for you Seethyr (as you are the Maztica expert).

There are some areas off to the sides of Maztica, that are less well detailed than the Nexalan area.

How do you think they should work (from the point of view of religion)?

Do you think the area should work like Dragonlance, where the same deities are worshipped all over the continent (but maybe with other names).

Or do you think that the pantheon of deities on that Forgotten Realms Wiki article should really be the Nexalan Pantheon, with other nations that are further away gaining pantheons based on other Mezoamerican cultures (so that they feel less like Aztec-based cultures)?

I ask this because the number of deities in Faerûn alone is pretty big (and there are a few cultures that worship something other than deities).

There could potentially have been an expanded number of deities for the Maztican side of the ocean, with customised Dwarven Pantheons, Drow Pantheons, Halfling Panthons and panthons for radically different types of humans (with some deities being present in more than one place...just like Amnian deities and Lolth came in).

I think that a bigger list of deities might dilute the influence of Zaltec a bit more...while still allowing him, his worshippers and the sacrifices they want to make to gain power to provide a threat to Maztican PCs.
As hardly the expert, just a fan, I'd say that the answer is mixed. I can clearly remember two statements in some of the official books, but I apologize for being unable to locate them at the moment. I recall a mention that there are many "other, often local gods." This ties in nicely with the trickster gods found in Chult (via Tomb of Annihilation) and I think the lesser detailed nations (mostly Kolan and Huacli) would have plenty of these. At the same time, I wouldn't limit the well known regions either. The halflings certainly have local gods (in the novels, one was a jaguar lord), and I believe that couatl have also been attributed some divine traits. Personally, I think there is no reason not to mine the whole lot of Mesoamerican gods and try to fit them to each region (Aztec to Nexal, Mayan to Far Payit, etc.).

There are also different names used frequently, for example, I believe the tabaxi and/or Green Folk call Azul "Calor." Whether these are different names or aspects, I don't think has been specified.

What I would really like to see someone do, to be honest, is to pick one of these nations and do a whole supplement based on it. I see the Kolan as Olmecs, for example, and how cool would it be for a whole book just based off of that specific region?
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Jürgen Hubert »

Seethyr wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:04 am
As hardly the expert, just a fan, I'd say that the answer is mixed. I can clearly remember two statements in some of the official books, but I apologize for being unable to locate them at the moment. I recall a mention that there are many "other, often local gods."
Here is the relevant part from the Maztica Boxed Set (the "Gods and Battles" booklet, p. 20):
Maztica Boxed Set wrote: Aspects and Minor Powers

Maztica is host to the worship of a dazzling number of deities. The major ones, of which there are eleven, are detailed in this section. Each of these has several aspects, all of which are worshipped as individual, albeit less powerful, gods. For simplicity and brevity's sake, no attempt is made to detail these - the rituals and rites tend to mirror those of the major deities, and even in the minds of Mazticans the distinctions between them often seem to disappear.

Tezca, god of Sun and Fire - for instance - also embraces the categories of smoke, lava, fireflies, and lamplight. Each of these categories is ruled by a different aspect of Tezca, and each aspect is praised individually. For our purposes, however, they can all be considered as different views of the same power - Tezca.

Thus, the distinctions blur, and the level of detail becomes intricate. Another minor god, an aspect of Zaltec called Micat, represents snake venom - but only the paralytic venom of certain desert vipers!

The safest bet is to consider the major powers as the blanket rulers over their categories. Additional detail can be added in areas of specialty as players and the DM desire.
In my vision of Maztica, I am going to double down on this. Ultimately, I encourage both DM and players to come up with new aspects and guises for the deities that fit the story and background of the characters. After all, ultimately all the Gods are just guises of the all-encompassing teotl anyway - as are their followers!
Seethyr wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:04 am
What I would really like to see someone do, to be honest, is to pick one of these nations and do a whole supplement based on it. I see the Kolan as Olmecs, for example, and how cool would it be for a whole book just based off of that specific region?
That is the plan, once I have nailed the basics down. ;)

Though personally, I see Kolan as the counterparts of the Mixtecs...
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Re: God’s Alignment

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Jürgen Hubert wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:55 am
<pops up>
You forgot to say: "Please state the nature of the Maztica emergency!" ;)

Thanks for surfing by.
Jürgen Hubert wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:55 am
In my version of Maztica, I am going to downplay the alignment of the gods.

For one thing, unlike Christian/European metaphysics, Aztec philosophy doesn't really recognize "cosmic" concepts of Good and Evil. That doesn't mean that Mazticans wouldn't recognize "good" and "evil" human behavior, but they'd define it as "behavior that is beneficial/detrimental to fellow human beings" instead of assuming that cosmic forces made them do it.

For another, the discussion of whether human sacrifice is evil is missing the point of what the human sacrifices in Mesoamerican cultures actually were for.
Dragonlance has a Kingpriest who decides to eradicate evil and who decides to steal the power of a good god in order for him to do it. Lord Soth gets sent to stop the Kingpriest (supposedly a good person stopping another good person) but fails to do so and both of these supposedly good Dragonlance character get condemned for "evil" acts. That's not too far away from the sort of ethical issues that Maztica presents.

I think the obvious tie-in to real world culture is possibly what causes issues here (and stops us from letting go and enjoying the awesome ideas inspired by mythology). Dragonlance gets away with it, because the inspiration behind the Kingpriest and Lord Soth are not so obvious. So we can't necessarily use real-world knowledge in a discussion about the alignmennt of the Dragonlance gods (or question why they would drop an asteroid on top of the Kingpriest and turn Lord Soth's lands into the lair of undead).

There are plenty of other cultures that have carried out ritual sacrifices. And I'm sure that people who drowned or burned women accused of being witches claimed that they were doing something good. So I think it's possible to "buy into" the idea of human sacrifice being seen as an unpleasant necessity.

One thing I'm thinking about more these days is the Law vs Chaos axis (as opposed to the Good vs Evil axis). We tend to equate good with kind and evil with cruel, but I'm starting to associate law with civilisation and the civil authorities of cities vs chaos as the way that nomadic tribes are organised.

So when people talk about cultures being "barbaric", it's more from the point of view of people in cities treating people without cities as being "uncivilised".

The movie Apocolypto made me think of this thing as being a theme for Maztica, as the story starts off with a small farming community that gets raided by warriors from a large city. And I think that human sacrifice is a lot easier to arrange if you are a big community inside a large city (that can raid unprotected farming villages). I can buy into the idea of evil villages attacking other villages to steal stuff, but I find it a lot harder to believe that they would be able to devote time to sacrificing thousands of prisoners.

But if you look at Maztica as a series of city states, then the cults that do want to sacrifice people, only have to persuade the local leader that they are saving that city from destruction.
Jürgen Hubert wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:55 am
Mesoamerican metaphysics held that everything that exists - gods, humans, plants, animals, rocks and so forth - are just temporary manifestations of an all-encompassing non-sapient divine force, called "teotl" by the Aztecs. And it is inevitable that all such manifestations will eventually decay and dissolve back into teotl, and then be recycled in new forms.
That sounds like, if it was applied to Maztica, it would feed into their local interpretation of Lord Ao, the Forgotten Realms Overgod.

Ao can elevate mortals into gods, demote gods into mortals or even destroy gods outright. Ao also dealt with conflicts between primordials and gods by splitting Toril into two.

I can easily see Ao getting a Maztica makeover to make Ao feel more like Teotl. And if that involves turning Ao into a force, who is there that can disprove this?

If you look at things like the Sundering, Time of Troubles and Second Sundering through Maztican eyes, it can easily be resold as Teotl reshaping the world. And mainstream Forgotten Realms sources don't need to be ignored. You just need a Ben Kenobi solution that stops Faerûn's canon from getting in the way of Maztica working.
Jürgen Hubert wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:55 am
This included both the gods and the world, so this is not an ideal state of affairs as far as anyone is concerned. Thus, the overarching goal of the gods and their mortal followers is not to prevent their inevitable end - which is impossible - but to delay it as long as they can. All that ritual, prayer, and sacrifice is intended to feed and empower the gods so that they can continue their work of keeping the world running.

And human sacrifice is a very efficient and potent way of feeding the gods - the pulsating heart is very symbolic of the pulsating energies of the cosmos, and the smoke spiraling up from the flames of the sacrifical fire is likewise symbolically efficient for piercing the layers of existence and reaching the gods.

But human sacrifice was never the only way of feeding the gods. There is also autosacrifice (shedding of one's own blood), animal sacrifice, symbolic gestures, prayer, parades and so forth. It is entirely conceivable that the gods of Maztica could subsist without human sacrifice - in fact, some of these gods already do so. I expect the need for sacrificing humans to the gods will be an ongoing philosophical and theological discussion among Mazticans.
This kind of reminds me of Spelljammer, where there are a number of different helms that move spelljamming ships through space.

There are helms called "Lifejammers" and "Death Helms" that kill people, but other helms that just drain the spells of spellcasters (or magic items). You can even fly into space using a ball full of morning dew (although I have no idea how that works :lol: ).

If people only had access to Lifejammers and Death Helms, spelljamming ships could easily be looked upon as an evil thing. And if slavers raided small communities for people to fuel Lifejammers and Death Helms, it would be about as ethical as raiding slaves for human sacrifice. But if you thought the world would be destroyed if you didn't fly from Maztica to Anadia...and you had a Lifejammer, somebody might try that.
Jürgen Hubert wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:55 am
Furthermore, the Maztican gods (as outlined in the original Boxed Set) also develop all sorts of aspects and sub-personalities, which helps us with avoiding settling on specific alignments. "Zaltec-Viperhand" is undeniably evil, but the Zaltec worshiped in Kultaka might not be. That they are both masks of a greater Zaltec entity (possibly a divine "Principle of Warfare" that encompasses Faerunian deities like Tempus as well) does not make these aspects any "less real", since everything is ultimately a mask for teotl.

So player character clerics of Maztican gods should be able to pick any alignment they want, irrespective of their patron deity - they just need to come up with a specific cult and/or divine aspect that is compatible with that alignment.
I probably wouldn't go that far myself, but I do think that Lolth is a good example deity to look at. Her portrayal in Maztica (and mainstream Forgotten Realms) products is evil, but she started off as Araushnee, a member of the Seldarine responsible for destiny and artisans and was the consort of Corellon Larethian.

The story goes that Araushnee betrayed Corellon and was cast out of the Seldarine, with her worshippers being cursed along with her. But I don't see why there couldn't be some isolated Dark Elves who never turned to evil and who believe that Araushnee is still a good deity that helps artists.

So, if you reverse-engineered Maztican legends about the gods, it would be easy to split off some communities that have different interpretations of the same deities. But I don't see how you could have nine different interpretations for every single deity.

I do like the idea that both Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights could be seen as heroes of a city. I like the idea that both could be respected by the locals and could treat locals fairly.

Going back to Dragonlance again, where you have the Wizards of High Sorcery pointing gifted apprentices at other orders (depending on the Test of High Sorcery) I could imagine people seeing Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights as two valid choices for warriors.
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Re: God’s Alignment

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Sturm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:02 am
Make sense with Mesoamerican culture indeed. The original book trilogy indeed is not bad at depicting this, as Zaltec and Qotal clearly coexist peacefully (most of the time) in courts and society while this would normally not be possible for example in Faerun with Bane and Ilmater or any other strongly aligned gods.
...and...
Jürgen Hubert wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:41 am
Aztec culture also has the concept of "agonistic imanic pairs" - paired, opposite concepts such as male-female, life-death, light-darkness, fire-water and so forth that compete and struggle with each other and yet form a greater whole - and in the process produce new things and help define or maintain the world. And if one part of the pair were to vanish, the other would lessen or vanish as well.

Zaltec and Qotal are obviously such an agonistic imanic pair. Their struggle is one of the defining element of Maztican culture and society, yet ultimately neither is supposed to ultimately vanquish the other - after each defeat, the defeated got will return again. And the wise of Maztica understand this. The gods will struggle against each other and so will their followers, because this is their nature. But only few would argue that only one is important for the world and not the other, and thus most Mazticans pay homage to both.
I didn't know that was called "agonistic imanic pairs". It's very similar to what is done with the Dragonlance deities, where the High God summoned Paladine and Takhisis at the start of the universe (or the creation of the crystal sphere ;) ).

Zaltec and Qotal make a great pair. And I can easily see Jaguar Knights and Eagle Knights fighting alongside each other to defend their territory from the Jaguar Knights annd Eagle Knights of other places. If they compete, I would expect it to be on the level of trying to prove they are braver or better at fighting than one another.

Would you see the other Maztican deities forming any agonistic imanic pairs?

There are nine left (Azul, Eha, Kiltzi, Kukul, Maztica, Nula, Plutoq, Tezca and Watil) so it doesn't seem to balance out. Do you think that would be something throwing the Maztican pantheon (and causing a potential conflict plot point)?
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Sturm »

Yes Indeed in the books the Jaguar and Eagle knights cooperate on a National basis and compete in bravery. Not sure there are other pairs in the original Mesoamerican inspiration or in Maztican material.. It seems Here https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source= ... 7175913499 are noted only the twin volcanoes and a Mayan couple
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Re: God’s Alignment

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Big Mac wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:09 pm
Dragonlance has a Kingpriest who decides to eradicate evil and who decides to steal the power of a good god in order for him to do it. Lord Soth gets sent to stop the Kingpriest (supposedly a good person stopping another good person) but fails to do so and both of these supposedly good Dragonlance character get condemned for "evil" acts. That's not too far away from the sort of ethical issues that Maztica presents.
The problem with Dragonlance is that "Cosmic Good" and "Cosmic Evil" are supposed to exist in that setting, and designating either Lord Soth (who first killed his wife to be with his elven mistress before he got the quest) and the Kingpriest as "good" by authorial fiat strikes me as dubious - and the moral justification for the Cataclysm from the POV of the "good" deities is likewise very dodgy.

But if you stop associating gods with "Cosmic Good", then incidents like this become a lot easier to deal with. Heck, you don't even have to go to Mesoamerican mythology - just take a look at whatever atrocities the Greek Gods were up to on any given day.
I think the obvious tie-in to real world culture is possibly what causes issues here (and stops us from letting go and enjoying the awesome ideas inspired by mythology). Dragonlance gets away with it, because the inspiration behind the Kingpriest and Lord Soth are not so obvious. So we can't necessarily use real-world knowledge in a discussion about the alignmennt of the Dragonlance gods (or question why they would drop an asteroid on top of the Kingpriest and turn Lord Soth's lands into the lair of undead).

There are plenty of other cultures that have carried out ritual sacrifices. And I'm sure that people who drowned or burned women accused of being witches claimed that they were doing something good. So I think it's possible to "buy into" the idea of human sacrifice being seen as an unpleasant necessity.
I think this works best if people within the setting see is as a "small-g" good - right and proper for the maintenance of the world and the proper order of society, but without pretending that the universe's cosmology is making them do this.

It's basically like a farmer tilling a field and sowing seeds. The farmer wants to do that, because they know that if they don't they probably won't have anything to eat for themselves and their families, but the farmer tilling the feed and sowing seeds is not a "Cosmic Mandate" that no fields should be untilled. It's a human need, not a cosmic one. But fulfilling this human need will probably still be judged as "good" by the farmer and everyone around them, because it helps the people fed by the field.
One thing I'm thinking about more these days is the Law vs Chaos axis (as opposed to the Good vs Evil axis). We tend to equate good with kind and evil with cruel, but I'm starting to associate law with civilisation and the civil authorities of cities vs chaos as the way that nomadic tribes are organised.

So when people talk about cultures being "barbaric", it's more from the point of view of people in cities treating people without cities as being "uncivilised".
Oh, I assume that Maztica has the same "city dwellers versus nomads" prejudices that have existed in much of the world where such cultures interact. But again, I wouldn't portray this as a "Law versus Chaos" thing in Maztica. In Aztec thought, two paired opposites not only struggle against each other but also recreate each other and contain the seeds of their opposite, and that's what missing from the traditional "Law-Chaos" dualism in D&D.

"Urbanism/Empires vs. Nomadic Tribes" makes for a nice agonistic inamic pair, though. Cities and Empires rise and drive away weaker social groups and tribes into the wilderness... but attacks by those nomads can gradually weaken the empires until the nomads become strong enough to defeat the empire. And then they will found the next Empire (consider the history of the Mexicas and the Nexalans!), and the cycle continues.
The movie Apocolypto made me think of this thing as being a theme for Maztica, as the story starts off with a small farming community that gets raided by warriors from a large city. And I think that human sacrifice is a lot easier to arrange if you are a big community inside a large city (that can raid unprotected farming villages). I can buy into the idea of evil villages attacking other villages to steal stuff, but I find it a lot harder to believe that they would be able to devote time to sacrificing thousands of prisoners.
It's worth keeping in mind that the real world Aztec Empire was extremely fertile - I think only 20% of the population were needed for food production, while their European counterparts needed about 90% of the population for that. So they had an enormous population surplus, and those wars kept the population down.

Also, by "harvesting" the young warriors of neighboring civilizations via flower wars and sacrifice, they could keep their population of young, strong warriors down as well - useful for an Empire! Thus, while there was theological justification for the sacrifices, they made political sense as well.
That sounds like, if it was applied to Maztica, it would feed into their local interpretation of Lord Ao, the Forgotten Realms Overgod.

Ao can elevate mortals into gods, demote gods into mortals or even destroy gods outright. Ao also dealt with conflicts between primordials and gods by splitting Toril into two.

I can easily see Ao getting a Maztica makeover to make Ao feel more like Teotl. And if that involves turning Ao into a force, who is there that can disprove this?
Exactly, though Mazticans would see Ao as just one more mask or guise of Teotl like everything else - though an especially potent one. Ultimately, Teotl is everything, and everything is Teotl.
If you look at things like the Sundering, Time of Troubles and Second Sundering through Maztican eyes, it can easily be resold as Teotl reshaping the world. And mainstream Forgotten Realms sources don't need to be ignored. You just need a Ben Kenobi solution that stops Faerûn's canon from getting in the way of Maztica working.
It's also arguable how much Faerunian theologicians really understand the nature of the Gods and the universe. I mean, what is the Faerunian definition of a "God"? "A powerful entity that can grant cleric spells?"
I probably wouldn't go that far myself, but I do think that Lolth is a good example deity to look at. Her portrayal in Maztica (and mainstream Forgotten Realms) products is evil, but she started off as Araushnee, a member of the Seldarine responsible for destiny and artisans and was the consort of Corellon Larethian.

The story goes that Araushnee betrayed Corellon and was cast out of the Seldarine, with her worshippers being cursed along with her. But I don't see why there couldn't be some isolated Dark Elves who never turned to evil and who believe that Araushnee is still a good deity that helps artists.

So, if you reverse-engineered Maztican legends about the gods, it would be easy to split off some communities that have different interpretations of the same deities. But I don't see how you could have nine different interpretations for every single deity.
Oh, there are far more than nine interpretations of every single deity. Pretty much every city-state is going to have their own interpretation of Zaltec, Quotal, or any of the others. Priests and philosophers might argue about which one is the "true" Zaltec, but that's akin to arguing which ball game team is "best". Each of these "aspects" are similar-yet-distinct personalities that serve as "masks" for the greater metaphysical concept of "warfare" - which does not necessarily have a personality of its own, though the aspects do usually have personalities.
I do like the idea that both Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights could be seen as heroes of a city. I like the idea that both could be respected by the locals and could treat locals fairly.

Going back to Dragonlance again, where you have the Wizards of High Sorcery pointing gifted apprentices at other orders (depending on the Test of High Sorcery) I could imagine people seeing Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights as two valid choices for warriors.
Eagle Knights will usually be more "straightforward" in battle, while Jaguar Knights will go for more "underhanded" stratagems. But both are valid choices.
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Re: God’s Alignment

Post by Jürgen Hubert »

Big Mac wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:52 pm
I didn't know that was called "agonistic imanic pairs". It's very similar to what is done with the Dragonlance deities, where the High God summoned Paladine and Takhisis at the start of the universe (or the creation of the crystal sphere ;) ).

Zaltec and Qotal make a great pair. And I can easily see Jaguar Knights and Eagle Knights fighting alongside each other to defend their territory from the Jaguar Knights annd Eagle Knights of other places. If they compete, I would expect it to be on the level of trying to prove they are braver or better at fighting than one another.

Would you see the other Maztican deities forming any agonistic imanic pairs?

There are nine left (Azul, Eha, Kiltzi, Kukul, Maztica, Nula, Plutoq, Tezca and Watil) so it doesn't seem to balance out. Do you think that would be something throwing the Maztican pantheon (and causing a potential conflict plot point)?
Well, Kukul and Maztica as the Male/Female Overgods whom their offspring had to slay/weaken in order to fashion lesser aspects of the world are another such obvious coupling (and indeed, in my interpretation Mazticans would identify Lord Ao with Kukul).

But it is worth keeping in mind that agonistic imanic pairs are not necessarily exclusive. A husband and a wife, for instance, are considered an agonistic imanic pair - yet this relationship does not define them exclusively, and they have many other relationships with other people and the world around them. Thus, each of the god might have an agonistic imanic relationship with each of the other regarding a particular aspect of their portfolio, but I haven't worked out the details of that yet.

I should note, however, that the Maztican pantheon is missing some important metaphysical real estate. I mean, where are the deities of the Underworld?
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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