Literature / The Gods Are Bastards

The Gods Are Bastards is a Web Serial Novel by D. D. Webb, updating every Monday and Wednesday (and sometimes Friday). It is described as "a High Fantasy Western" by the author, although the High Fantasy tends to come through more consistently than the Western.

The story begins focused on a group of eight freshmen (a dryad, two paladins, a half-demon, a possessed human, a drow, a pixie, and a pirate princess) attending a school for adventurers. The scope expands rapidly from there, quickly introducing a number of secondary plots involving demons, religion, politics and an increasingly large cast of individuals and organizations vying over the fate of an empire.

A summary of the plot is essentially impossible without spoiling it, but recurring themes include the end of the Age of Adventures, social change, feminism, and the struggles of persecuted minorities (such as immigrants and homosexuals).

Now has a character page which needs some love!


The Gods Are Bastards provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Lampshaded at one point with a drow-human couple whose names actually are Avrith and Bob.
  • Action Girl: Fairly common, since one of the major deities of the setting is a goddess of both warfare and feminism. Her paladin is one of the main characters, and naturally also female.
  • Affably Evil: Evil is a strong word, but even among those characters whose goals and methods are pretty reprehensible, many are extremely charismatic and likeable. Naturally, this makes them all the more dangerous.
  • Alpha Bitch: Have twice turned up out of the blue (each time trailing two henchgirls, as per formula) to harass one of the female main characters. This generally turns out to be ill-advised.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Silver Legions, Church Militant of Avei, goddess of war, women and justice.
  • An Aesop: Frequent, although since many of the protagonists are still in school, this happens as much in-universe as out.
  • Ancient Tomb: The freshmen stumble across one while on a field trip into the Golden Sea.
  • Anti-Magic: Mithril neutralises magic. This makes Zaruda's Cool Sword a Game-Breaker in some respects - and enables her to hold her own alongside her classmates.
    • Each of the Schools of Magic has one other it is neutralised by. To specify, Divine neutralises Fae, which neutralises Infernal, which neutralises Arcane, which neutralises Divine.
  • Anything That Moves: Juniper. Apparently a normal behavior for young dryads. Lampshaded by those lines:
    Zaruda: That, Juno my dear, is because you’ll fuck anything that moves.
    Juniper: That just isn’t true. Only sentient beings whom I don’t actively dislike. I have standards.
  • Arc Words: "A great doom is coming."
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The current pantheon of gods are ascended mortals, and spend most of their time formless, existing wherever the concepts they're tied to exist.
    • The previous generation, the Elder Gods were also human.
    • The ascendance was done using futuristic technology both times, and the same technology provides 'magic' as the verse knows it.
  • Author Appeal: The author has repeatedly expressed their dislike for totally evil characters (or, worse, totally evil races) in fantasy fiction, which is why the Bastardverse doesn't have any.
  • Ax-Crazy: The spirits that grant headhunters their power are utterly insane with rage and hatred, and need to be pacified with regular victims (ideally either challenging, deserving, or both).
    • Hethelax Demons when berserking, as a defense mechanism against their infernal magic.
  • Badass Normal: Of the main cast, Ruda is the only mundane human, albeit one with a Cool Sword and a royal upbringing.
  • Batman Gambit: Standard operating procedure for any Thieves' Guild veteran, particularly Bishop Antonio Darling.
  • Battle Butler: An entire guild of them, called the Service Society. Members are referred to simply as Butlers, and even powerful people avoid antagonizing them when possible.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Threatening any of her students is a very quick way to get on Arachne Tellwyrn's bad side.
    • Sexism and harm to women are surefire ways to piss off Avenists.
  • Big Good: Arachne Tellwyrn, the headmistress of the adventurers' school. More or less.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Multiple examples; see Eldritch Location, below.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Subverted with dryads. They have trouble understanding human morality and initially appear to be following their own ethical system based on "natural" principles, but the characters slowly grow to realize that they're basically just powerful humans who were never taught that other people had feelings too.
  • Brainwashed: A background character is mentioned as having been taken into slavery by drow. When they eventually resurface, they are utterly devoted to their mistress.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Arachne does this. A lot. And is badass enough to get away with it.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: One of the core group of eight, Fross, is a frost pixie who is new to human society and tends to come off as rather odd.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Dragons. See Our Dragons Are Different, below.
  • Cool Sword: Trissany's blessed blade, Zaruda's mithril rapier and Gabe's black sword Ariel all qualify.
  • Crapsack World: It's heavily disguised, mostly by the main characters all being fairly privileged, but this is a setting in which the legions of Hell are waging war on heaven using the mortal plane as a battlefield, the primary mortal authority is a ruthlessly expansionist empire, and there exists a classification system for individuals capable of ending the world.
    • Amply demonstrated by one quote
    T’bouti Nijaund: Hellgates are something people understand. The more uncertain the world becomes, the more one wants to cling to the familiar.
    • However the world is very normal in everyday life for the masses, so despite the above the trope is Averted. The tone of the story is lighter than that, as seen when General Panissar refused to let three soldiers be silenced for national security. The empire is surprisingly benevolent and the rise of mass produced enchantments and factories is resulting in a sharp rise in living standards, with dragons and disasters no longer as threatening.
      • The author has said that the text is a rebellion against the grittier trend of fantasy nowadays.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Vadrieny (an archdemon) vs Gabe (a half-demon, and even his demon side wasn't that powerful).
    Teal: We hit him with the planet.
  • Call to Adventure: The paladins had theirs when they were chosen.
  • Creepy Cleanliness: The upper levels of the Crawl are disconcertingly absent of dust and cobwebs. This is because the Crawl is a Genius Loci like all dungeons in the verse.
  • Deadpan Snarker Pretty much all of the main student cast. Even Trissiny eventually gets in on the act.
  • Death Seeker: Of all people Arachne Tellwyrn is this - at least in the bonus chapter detailing how she met Professor Yornhaldt. She snaps out of it when he gives her the idea to found the university.
  • Deity of Human Origin: The Pantheon were once mortals and got their current position by killing the previous generation of gods. It's later revealed that the Elder Gods were also once humanoids. Whether there ever existed any god not of human origin remains an open question.
  • Demonic Possession: Played with. One of the main characters is possessed by a demon, but the demon is just as upset about it as she is and they're good friends by the beginning of the story.
  • Deus ex Machina: Almost literally at one point, although the protagonists were only where they were on the gods' orders, so it wasn't completely out of left field.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Elilial calls it an Offering of Cunning, Antonio Darling makes use of it.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: the Gods like to hang out in taverns and bordellos it seems.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Played with, sent-up, defied and justified, in various ways.
    • The most obvious example is actually called The Crawl, and part of it has been deliberately shaped into a completely troperific videogame-esque example, complete with Goddamn Bats.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Glimpsed briefly in the "space between spaces" in Book 7.
    ... an impression of eyes and tentacles belonging to world-sized creatures at unimaginable distances, seen far more clearly than what was right in front of them.
  • Eldritch Location: Several, all of which are also Bigger on the Inside and Genius Loci:
    • The Crawl, a dungeon in the Dungeons & Dragons sense which Arachne Tellwyrn uses for training students. It keeps itself clean and makes sure everyone plays by the rules. Has a pedagogic streak and a sense of the dramatic, which probably explains part of why it gets along with Arachne.
      Rowe: Here, the Crawl is the only god, and its rules are absolute.
    • The Golden Sea, an infinitely large plain of grass inhabited mostly by elves and centaurs. Adventurers strike out into it looking for lost cities or Ancient Tombs full of treasure. Navigating it is difficult since the geography has a tendency of rearranging itself when you're not looking.
    • The Heart Of The Wild, the jungle domain of the Elder Goddess of Nature. Like the Golden Sea, it has an infinite and constantly-shifting geography. Unlike the Golden Sea, the inhabitants (mostly fey) are even less friendly and often more powerful, so most people who go in don't come out.
  • The Empire: The Tiraan Empire is somewhere between this and The Kingdom, an overwhelmingly powerful expansionist monarchy that assimilates new territories by force or the threat thereof... but also a pretty good place to live, and one where the government seems to genuinely care about its citizens.
  • End of an Age: The end of the Age of Adventures, and the various characters' and organizations' reactions to it, is a running theme of the story and a driving force behind much of the plot.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Evidence suggests humans are the only sentient species paying attention to gender in matters of the heart/sexuality in this setting, and a good part of the cast aren't humans, so this trope applies.
  • The Fair Folk: The fey, creations of Naiya the Elder Goddess. There are several varieties, but they're generally highly magical and entirely unfamiliar with ordinary morality and social norms. Two of the eight original protagonists, Fross the pixie and Juniper the dryad, are specimens. See also Our Fairies Are Different, below.
  • Fish out of Water: Several of the freshmen suffer some degree of culture shock, but the story gets particular mileage out of Fross and Juniper and their different approaches to learning human behaviour.
  • Five Races: Averted. While the story does include versions of all the standard Epic Fantasy races (humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, lizardfolk, and so on), they've all been changed around enough that none of them really fit the standard categories.
  • Genius Loci: At least three of them; see Eldritch Location, above.
  • Genre Mashup: Epic Fantasy meets Western.
  • invokedGoddamn Bats: Turn up during the very videogame-y Descent, a series of challenges the freshmen go through as part of their training. The trope is named but never really played straight, since several of the protagonists have powers that render them irrelevant.
  • Götterdämmerung: In the backstory. The current gods usurped the old ones thousands of years ago.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Gabriel being a virgin is treated as a joke, and a reflection on his Butt-Monkey status. Then we find out that his first real girlfriend, whom he trusted without reserve, drugged him with an infernal poison and was intending to have sex with him while he was berserking. Suddenly that scene is a lot harder to laugh at...
  • Humans Are Special: One of the major changes that the immortals are having to contend with is the rising power of humans. At one point, one character posits that humans' major advantage is their ability to pass down information and skills through the generations, so humanity as a whole gradually becomes more powerful until the balance eventually tips in their favor.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Trissiny (straight) toward Toby (gay).
  • Inn Between the Worlds: Since the Crawl connects to multiple dimensions, the Grim Visage qualifies as one.
  • Jerkass Gods: Hinted at by the title, although so far the gods seem to be mostly doing their best.
  • Large Ham: Professor Rafe.
    Rafe: BEHOLD!
  • Lecture as Exposition: Having part of the main cast be college students sure makes it easy.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: At least twenty-five plot-relevant, distinctly motivated characters as of Book 7, and easily twice as many less relevant ones who still have names and personalities.
  • Magic Nuke: In the backstory, The Empire eventually deployed one of these against the orcish nation, reducing their capital city to a twisted pile of haunted ruins.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Bishop Darling, technically. But he's mostly a good guy.
  • invokedMary Sue: Averted, though not for lack trying. Word of God is that the original concept for Arachne Tellwyrn was "big fat Mary Sue", but Webb just couldn't get it to work.
  • Matriarchy: Tar'naris is an Original Matriarchy.
  • Mobile Maze: The Crawl likes to rearrange itself to keep things interesting.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Gravestone Weaver, from his powerset.
    Weaver: I campaigned to be called Glittergiggles Weaver, but for some reason they stuck me with Gravestone.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Trissiny's attempts to intervene between the racist city guards and the residents of Lor'naris only cause things to escalate.
  • Noodle Incident: Numerous characters comment on "that class with the vampire and the priest." We meet the vampire, and she provides one about "That time she got sent to hell, met a demon lord, and got sent home with a strongly-worded letter for Arachne Tellwyrn."
  • Not So Final Confession: November (a strident Avenist from the University year above the protagonists), after being attacked by a very rare and dangerous demon, calls Trissiny to her bedside to tell her something vitally important. After she's done, she's informed that the campus healer is perfectly capable of fixing her up and she'll be fine. While the actual confession doesn't happen on-screen, circumstantial evidence strongly favors a Dying Confession Of Love.
  • Obfuscating Insanity/Obfuscating Stupidity: Downplayed, but Zaruda still qualifies, especially in Volume 1. To specify, she goes out of her way to act as cliché as possible, diverting attention from the fact that she's actually the smartest of the group.
    • Professor Rafe has possibly Become The Mask in this regard, but it's very heavily implied that he started acting like an absolute madman to deal with the prejudice he gets as a half-elf.
  • One-Gender Race: Dryads are always female; dragons, slightly more unusually, are always male.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They come in four colors, each one corresponding to a particular kind of magic and a particular philosophy. The colors are chosen by dragons at some point in their lives, so it's not clear what newborn dragons look like. And newborn is correct - dragons are always male and reproduce by mating with humanoid females (for which they presumably use their humanoid alternate form).
  • Our Fairies Are Different:
  • Person of Mass Destruction: All over the place: archmages, dragons, dryads... The Empire even has an official designation for "person so powerful they should be treated as a walking natural disaster".
  • Physical God: The gods don't always have a body, but they can incarnate when they want to focus themselves in one place, whether to make an important announcement or kick serious ass.
  • Pirate Girl: Ruda combines this with Badass Princess, being princess of a pirate nation and still comfortably able to fight alongside demigods and paladins.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Jeremiah "Thumper" Shook and his mentor, Alan Vandro, who take on Villain Protagonist roles for a little while. Aside from their generally criminal activity, they're overwhelmingly sleazy and sexist - Shook actually threatened to rape someone into submission if she didn't behave herself.
  • Red Mage: Elven headhunters can use any of the four kinds of magic at will, utterly wrecking the system of relative advantages and disadvantages and rendering them nigh-unstoppable.
  • Retired Badass: A couple of the teachers at Unseen University (no, not that one). Arachne Tellwyrn, the headmistress, is the only living mortal to have killed a god.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Elilial, the Queen of Demons, was supposed to be locked in Hell, but is apparently walking around free by the beginning of the story. The Elder God Scyllith was trapped underground, and seems to still be there.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Professor Tellwyrn has a tendency of throwing her students into difficult situations of all stripes and just leaving them there while she goes off to do her own thing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Red vs. Blue:
      Finchley: You ever wonder why we're here?
    • One of the secondary group of adventurers is a wandslinging fifteen-year old called the Sarasio Kid.
    • The Gygax charm, which ranks threats on a twenty-point scale, is an obvious one to Dungeons & Dragons.
    • One of the characters uses the phrase "mockingjay hunt" in much the same way as we would use "snipe hunt".
    • In Chapter 9-2, to A New Hope:
      Rafe: Step carefully, my children, for you shall never again see such a wretched hive of… Oh, what’s the expression I’m looking for…
      Gabe: Scum and villainy?
      Rafe: Arquin! You can’t just say that about a place, all these people can hear you! Honestly, boy, were you raised in a barn?
    • In chapter 11-8, someone asks for a password using the phrase “Speak, friend, and enter”.
  • Straight Gay: Toby.
  • Talking Weapon: Gabe's sword, Ariel. Possibly more intelligent than he is. Definitely when he's in Ax-Crazy mode.
  • Tempting Fate: Check out the opening to Book 5 and see if you can guess where the characters will be spending the rest of the book.
    "I have to say I am glad to be back in Last Rock," Toby said, adjusting the collar of his coat. "Tiraas is miserable in the winter. This is practically a vacation spot."
  • This is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Zaruda uses this a lot. Until Trissiny calls her on the inherent sexism.
  • Title Drop: The title of the book is also the very first line of the story.
  • Truce Zone: The Crawl makes violence physically impossible inside the Grim Visage. It's not clear why; possibly the Crawl just likes videogame tropes.
  • True Companions: Fross, Gabriel, Juniper, Shaeine, Teal, Toby, Trissiny and Zaruda slowly evolve into this.
  • Unfortunate Name: Horsebutt, a long-dead barbarian king who might be an Expy of Genghis Khan. Unsurprisingly, it turns out the name is a bastardization.
  • Villain Protagonist: For at least one book, Jeremiah "Thumper" Shook, a Thieves' Guild enforcer, and his mentor, Alan Vandro. Aside from being generally willing to steal and use force for their own benefit, they share an attitude to gender politics that is unpalatable to say the least - see Politically Incorrect Villain, above.
  • Wham Line: When the Archpope Justinian's ultimate plan is revealed.
  • White and Grey Morality: The author dislikes wholly evil antagonists, so this turns up a lot.
  • Wild Card: The Empire's main problem with adventurers is that they are more often than not this.

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