Our Gods Are Greater
aka: Our Gods Are Different
And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
Gods. What is meant by that word?
In fiction? A whole lot. There really aren't many similarities between gods. Lots of tropes go with gods and religion. A god might be the classical God
of Ethical Monotheism: omnipotent
and infinitely good. That's on one scale. On the other side she might be an easily embarrassed teenage girl
. Or he might be a Superhero that, despite his godhood, gets beaten up by people empowered by radioactive slime
A general minimum requirement for a character to be considered divine, though, is that regardless of their power level and number and conviction of their followers (if any) the narrative
should acknowledge them as an actual god at some point. Without that, "mere" sufficiently advanced aliens
, eldritch abominations
, physical gods
of "lesser" pedigree, and of course mortal pretenders to the title do not usually qualify.
Another trait almost universally associated with gods is having a divine portfolio or sphere of influence — that is, the thing(s) they are the gods of
. (The main exception would be in the case of a monotheist capital-G God
, who can go without an explicit job description by virtue of lacking competition and generally already being the "god of everything
In some settings, gods are omnipotent, strange, or scary; in others, they are basically just people, and sometimes not even particularly powerful ones. In some, just thinking about them can drive you mad
Basically, gods can be distinguished based on several criteria:
How powerful is the god? What can he or she achieve? This ranges from ...
- Omnipotence (can do anything, although Aquinas would usually put in the limit "anything that it is possible to do.")
- Omnipotence but with some kind of rules in place (might even be self-imposed, but the point is that the god won't break them)
- Just scarily powerful but capable of still being outwitted or even defeated using some kind of Plot Device.
- Above the power-level of "normal" people in whatever universe, but still capable of being defeated in mundane ways (generally the way of Physical Gods)
- Just an ordinary guy of the setting, who happens to be a god.
- Powers are useless or so very restricted that they are functionally useless: Many Odd Job Gods are like this.
How "Human" is the god? This deals more with emotion and personality rather than power. An omnipotent god can remain scarily human (such as Haruhi Suzumiya
). A few possible variations:
- Overarching Cosmic Principle: Does not have a "mind" or "personality" as such, but is still somehow responsible for operating things. Might need an avatar (or some kind of lesser god) to communicate with people.
- Ineffable: God has a mind or personality but it is simply impossible for human beings to grasp or comprehend.
- Physical God:
- More than human: God is mostly human but still possesses some traits that are distinctly inhuman. (As far as personality and not power, etc. goes, that is.) Usually this god is an avatar of some kind of principle and has a personality that matches.
- Just a guy: A god that is essentially a human being doing a job.
- Subhuman God: The god is more like an animal than a human being.
Gods can be moral or immoral or neither.
- Above Morality: The god is simply above that kind of stuff, or simply can't understand it.
- Paragon: God is the embodiment of Good and/or Evil. A common variation is that a Good God of this type cannot understand or fathom Evil.
- Exemplar: A god is strongly tied to morality in some fashion, but does not strictly embody it.
- Human: A god is essentially a bigger, badder human with no special morality status.
How many gods are there?
Place in the Universe
- Monotheism: There is one definite discrete God entity. And only one. She/He/It may or may not have agents around, who may or may not qualify for godhood in any other setting, but the god is definitely the only god.
- Dualism - there are two completely equal divine forces, usually one Good and the other Evil, but a male and a female god is relatively common as well. Other systems might also exist (trialism?).
- Henotheism: There are multiple gods, but one god is greater than the others. (usually the Creator God who is usually inaccessible) sometimes this is taken in such a way that there are distinct aspects of gods that are all aspects of one single god, but for all practical purposes they act as independent entities.
- Monolatrism: There are many gods, but we only worship one. This is either a form of henotheism (you guys can worship your lesser gods, but we worship the Big Guy) or polytheism (you have your god, we have ours).
- Polytheism: There are multiple gods, usually arranged in some kind of pantheon. There might be rankings between them, and one is usually considered the head of the pantheon, but he is only different in status and not in nature and might be overthrown.
- Animism: There are zillions of gods. Indeed, everything probably has a god, including individual blades of grass. The more gods there are the less powerful each individual god seems to be, for some reason.
- Pantheism: overlaps with and occasionally reverts back to monotheism. God is singular and totally pervasive. All that exists is God, God is all that exists.
Where do gods come from and what do they do?
This is a catch-all category for what gods do. Questions that can be raised are:
For related tropes, see God Tropes
and Tropes of the Divine
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Anime and Manga
- Truth in Fullmetal Alchemist.
- The Digimon multiverse have different godlike characters, and how all-powerful they are or aren't varies; as all Digimon are data in our computer networks and play by the same rules, none of them are completely untouchable. Adventure and Tamers have Digimon versions of The Four Gods. Interestingly, the Adventure version has it that the Cosmic Keystones that are important to them are something that exists in every world, and the multiverse-destroying consequences of their destruction would be the same whether you broke the Digital World's "Destiny Stones," the Kyoto temples analogous to them in our world, or their counterparts in any other universe. Frontier has a trio of Mega-level angel Digimon; Seraphimon, Ophanimon, and Cherubimon. Their Adventure counterparts are the highest forms of Patamon and Kokomon, respectively (Ophanimon doesn't appear prior to Frontier) and they're so not gods; the rules are just different in the Frontier-verse. Also, before them, the position was held by the Ten Legendary Warriors that the heroes' Digimon forms are actually avatars of. Before them, the position was held by Lucemon, but he made a Face-Heel Turn and they were who kicked him out. We've seen great feats of power from everyone on that list. Multiple unrelated continuities have Yggdrasil/King Drasil, who isn't a Digimon but the computer that runs the digital world. Or rather, it's the persona taken on by the computer that runs the Digital World. So, within one franchise, the power level and nature of the characters treated as gods by others can vary. Of course, the true creators of the Digital World are humans, but for some reason nobody ever worships them.
- The high spirits in Adam R. Brown's fantasy series, Astral Dawn, are powerful beings who served as the gods of the various pantheons throughout human history.
- The high spirits implanted the idea of themselves in the minds of a few people who later spread it to many others, creating polytheism.
- Using the psychic energy generated by worship, the high spirits who participated in the God Age became even more powerful.
- Simon and others developed a means of staying linked to a specific period of space-time. This allowed the gods and legends to retain their psychic connection and the power it brought them no matter where (or when) they were in space or time.
- The Aash Ra are also considered god-like beings. Even the spirits think of them as the original angels and demons.
- The "gods" of the H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos come in several varieties.
- The Great Old Ones - Cthulhu, Hastur, Tsathoggua, Ghatanothoa, etc, are more or less Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. They are usually immortal, of monstrous size and appearance, capable of producing swarms of spawn, and are powerfully psychic, but their influence is usually limited to a single planet and they are often consigned to hibernate through cosmic cycles for thousands or millions of years.
- The Outer Gods, of which Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep and Azathoth are chief, are more literal gods, who seem to rarely have any concern for human affairs. They are immensely powerful, though occasionally limited by the barriers between universes (Yog-Sothoth, though a four-dimensional being who lives beyond time, is still usually locked out of the mundane universe). Azathoth, for example, is a mindless demiurge responsible for creation of all of cosmos (which is far greater than our known universe). While Yog-Sothoth is locked out of the universe, it's also coterminous with all points of space and time, being the Living Multiverse.
- In no way anthropomorphic, often with frightening bizarre alien anatomy; amorphous swarming tentacles, animate slime, and glossy inter-dimensional bubbles of energy. They are often viewed as cosmic organisms, rather than traditional gods in any respect. A few Outer Gods may adopt quasi-human avatars to interact with us, or use mutated followers to the same effect.
- Both varieties are completely amoral, often animalistic forces of nature, though sometimes with very vaguely defined personalities. Some, like Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath, seem willing to reward followers who help them towards their inscrutable goals, while others, like Nyarlathotep, seem to exhibit deliberate malice for all civilized races. For the most part, however, humanity and earth has no real relevance to them.
- The Outer Gods seem to have always been, and often even have their own universes that they created and dwell in, while others were the creation of even greater outer gods. The Great Old ones are hinted to have evolved naturally, each on his own or with the help of a precursor species, though some writers have them reproducing like a single unified family. Some Great Old Ones (especially those with a family tree) can have an Outer God or two among their forebears, though whether such claims are factual or the delusions of crazed cultists is ambiguous.
- The Elder Gods, usually considered August Derleth's discontinuous insertion, have sometimes been Retcon'ed as a second group of Outer Gods who oppose the originals, but a less immediate threat to humanity.
- The Lovecraft story The Cats of Ulthar seems to hint at the existence of entities resembling the gods of ancient Egypt...in the Dreamlands where Ulthar is located according to The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, anyway.
- The gods in The Belgariad are powerful immortal beings, they are however still bound by the Purpose of the Universe and cannot directly go against it. (It is usually handwaved as two gods confronting each other directly would annihilate the universe.)
- no, that's the two Purposes. The gods would only destroy the planet.
- Gods of Dora Wilk Series vary greatly. On one end of the scale you have fellows like Anubis who is "simply" immortal being with animal head and some powers, and on the other you've got God and Goddess, who can warp the reality, invade your dreams and don't have a material forms at all. Somewhere in the middle there are Badb and Loki, who look disturbingly inhuman and has some great superpowers, but are nowhere close to God's level of awesome. As a matter of fact, multiple, multiple gods of this series has powers and abilities that are reflection of how humans perceived them through the history.
- The gods of The Elenium have wildly varied personalities, but they all appear to Need Prayer Badly. Aphriel assures herself a steady diet by always appearing as a cute child, so that she always gets love. The Elene God is much more stodgy and refuses to give out even his name, but is respected by other gods for his Popularity Power (which he never uses). Like The Belgariad, the Gods of this universe were created by, and can be bound by, even higher powers.
- In the Young Wizards series the One made the Powers That Be and tasked them with creating reality. While most of them got busy with their task, one stood aloof, wishing to come up with a contribution that none of the others could have thought of. After all of the others had finished, It made Its unique contribution: Entropy and Death. It was cast out of Heaven for this, and came to be known as The Lone Power.
- The One is assumed to be all-powerful, but rarely does anything directly, possibly because acting directly would destroy reality (His name alone is so powerful that, if it were whole rather than kept in pieces, it would destroy universes). The Powers aren't all-powerful since, when acting inside of a physical universe, they are constrained by that universe's laws, which includes entropy, which means that the amount of energy they have available to expend is finite. However, the amount of power that they do have is still unimaginable by mere humans.
- Not much is known about the mind of the One, other than that He has a tacky sense of humor. The most powerful of the Powers exist mainly outside of time, inserting multiple fragments of themselves into the timestream, so the totality of their minds can't be comprehended by mere mortals; however, the inside-of-time fragments that the mortal characters interact with give the appearance of having human-like minds. The Powers which are small enough to fit inside of a single universe appear to have human like minds.
- The One is entirely good. Among the Powers all but the Lone Power are good (as the "Lone" in Its name suggests), though not all of the Bright Powers are still "active status" do-gooders: some of them became so attached to the things that they created that they retired so they could dwell amongst their work. There are morally ambiguous Powers as well; the Morrigan is mentioned as one in A Wizard Abroad.
- Brandon Sanderson has admitted up front that the idea of godhood fascinates him. As such, all of his major works feature some sort of gods. But none of these are the real gods. Long ago, a single god-like entity/force/power known as Adonalsium was "shattered." Its fragments, called Shards, are universal principles that form the bedrock of the books' magic systems. The Shards became bound to humans known as Shardbearers; the Shardbearers function as the personification of their Shard. Confirmed Shards are Ruin and Preservation from Franchise/Mistborn, the being who creates Warbreaker's Returned (named in Word of God as Endowment), Cultivation, Honor (The Almighty's Shard), and Odium from The Stormlight Archive, and Devotion and Domination, the Shards held by Aona and Skai and named by Word of God, in Elantris.. Needless to say, all of these works are part of the same universe.
- The Elantrians from Elantris are mortal wizards who are so powerful they are revered as divine in their home nation.
- The Lord Ruler from Mistborn: The Original Trilogy is an immortal, seemingly invincible Evil Overlord worshipped in The Empire.
- The Returned from Warbreaker are humans who died in some significant manner and are returned to life with superhuman magical abilities. It's worth noting that Returned only have a few powers not available to mere mortal magic-users with enough power, they can heal a person at the cost of their lives, they can shapeshift, though the majority of them aren't aware of it, and as hinted in the story, and confirmed by Word of God, they get glimpses of the future.
- There are several levels of divine powers in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth 'verse, elaborated on in The Silmarillion. There is one single, all-powerful creator god: Eru Ilúvatar. He created other divine incorporeal spirits, the Ainur, which could be classified as angels or minor gods. The Ainur who entered the world are split into two categories: 1) the 14 Valar (a term that literally means "Powers" but can also be translated as little-g gods or archangels) and the (not-included in the counting) Vala Melkor Morgoth; and 2) the Maiar (approx. lesser angels or gods), whose ranks include such notables as Sauron, the five wizards, the Balrogs, and the Sun and Moon.
- The scope of a Ainu's power reflects their part in the great song that created the world. Manwe (whose aspect is air) and Ulmo (whose aspect is water) are particularly powerful because of how pervasive their domains are throughout the whole of creation. Lesser Ainur might represent clouds, or surf... powerful beings, but vastly less so than the greates Valar. Melkor has his hand in just about everything, which is why he is so powerful and capable on his own.
- The Dragonlance universe has a fairly large pantheon with
eighteen sixteen gods divided evenly between Light, Dark, and Neutral. Formerly, there was a tribunal of chief gods, Paladine, Takhisis, and Gilean, but then Paladine and Takhisis were made mortal and Takhisis died. Now it's a power struggle for who gets to rule the gods, as Gilean just sits with his nose in a book all day. There are also two beings as high above gods as the gods are above mortals, the High God and Chaos. These two are usually at war. However, the High God manipulated events such that Chaos would be taken out of the picture.
- Harry Dresden lives in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink world, and he states at one point that many if not all gods and godlike beings from myth are all out there as well. Faith has a sort of magical power and something like the Christian God exists, but Harry has also met Odin, and the Faerie Queens and the Erlking are very nearly godlike in power. It's theoretically possible to ascend to nigh-godlike power, but that might have never actually happened. Because of their strong magic, gods (and beings powerful enough to pose as gods, such as the Red King and the "Lords of Outer Night") are also defined by an "aura" or "willpower" that can force mortals to their knees in pain with a thought.
- However, in "Changes" we see that, when the Knights of the Cross are on a direct mission from the Christian God, they can ignore their 'willpower' and slaughter the Lords of the Outer Night. This makes very clear that whatever being is like the Christian God is far more powerful than at least those gods.
- For some perspective on the sheer power of "the White God" compared to the other godlike beings, Harry believes that one of his archangels, Uriel, could "probably take apart all the planets. Like, all of them. Everywhere."
- Harry himself seems to distinguish between the Judeo-Christian God and the other deities. In Proven Guilty, Charity, Knight of the Cross Michael Carpenter's wife, objects to Harry calling the other deities gods, and he explains that he's referring to them as "little-g" gods. Harry also refers to the Judeo-Christian God as the "Almighty", despite not being one of His followers. Finally, according to Volume 2 of the guidebook to the tabletop game, which had Jim Butcher as one of its co-authors, the Almighty is in the highest tier of power, a tier He alone occupies. The Faerie Mothers and the archangels occupy the tier below him.
- Discworld gods run the gamut. However, it's shown as gods need (and are shaped by) belief: The more belief, the stronger the god. If you only have one believer, well you might be able to summon a minor thunderstorm over one person's head. The other end is Death, whom everything believes in. Some gods believe in themselves, and that's enough. (And then there are the Auditors.)
- In the Nightside, an entire street is devoted to beings that can be worshiped, and worship is a path to power. That said, worship isn't the only way to gain power - Razor Eddie tolerates no worshipers of John Taylor, but the latter could end the world. God in an Abrahamic sense (and specifically Christian) also exists akin to the Dresden Files - sympathetically portrayed, but relatively indirect in acting (His angels are a different story).
- The entire point of American Gods. All gods are fueled and in-part defined-by belief in them and sacrifices made in their name. It's basically the new gods (of Media, the Internet, Cars, etc. all the things modern people put their faith in and "worship") and the old Gods (from Asian, European, Native American, and African pantheons), or rather, American versions of them created by the belief of settlers and immigrants. Odin appears as does, Anansi, Kali, Czernobog, Jesus (mentioned in passing, though not appearing in the book itself), Anubis, Thoth and a whole lot of others. Oh yes and Loki. Who is, along with Odin, the Big Bad planning on getting all the old and new gods killed in their names in order to reap the power of a massive divine sacrifice. There are also indications of someone (relatively benign and unthreatening) who is much much older than any of the gods still remembered today. It seems unconcerned with the conflict(s) of the book, viewing even the old gods as mayflies.
- The Book of All Hours - the Unkin. humans that experienced a unique event in their life that allowed them to touch the Vellum underneath reality. In the multiverse inscribed on the surface of the Vellum, these meta-humans have long since taken up different roles, presenting themselves to mortal humans in different ways in pursuit of power.
- In Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East and Book of Swords trilogies, there are several different levels of beings who are worshiped at various points:
- ARDNEH, who is initially worshiped by the West and is later worshiped as a god of justice, healing, mercy, and redemption throughout the world, although he was actually a very advanced and powerful artificial intelligence and denied that he was a god or should be worshiped, and died at the end of Empire.
- Orcus, King of all Demons, who founded The Empire of the East, and was ARDNEH's archenemy. In reality, he was just the most powerful demon, and like all demons was really a nuclear bomb that had been altered by ARDNEH.
- Draffut, who was eventually worshiped as a god of healing, even though he denied being a god, and was actually a highly evolved dog, although his healing powers were quite real. He was powerful enough to face Mars, god of war, in single combat, twice, and win once.
- The gods, who made the Swords and played the Game. They were very powerful, and could defeat demons with ease. They were, however not really gods, but actually the product of the dreams of men, and could be killed by the Swords they had made. They all eventually died when men stopped believing in them.
- The Emperor, a mysterious man who is believed by many to be a myth, and by others to be a simple clown or wandering jester, or perhaps a con-man or mountebank. A few know him to be a very powerful wizard. In reality he is the real God.
- In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series there are two godlike creatures. The Creator and The Dark One respectively. They both seem to exist outside of known reality and it is implied that they might be incarnations of Order and Chaos. However it is shown that in this universe human beings are capable of reaching this level of power as well through the proper tools.
- Geoph Essex's Jackrabbit Messiah appears to run on this trope: the few gods we get to see in action appear just as desperate and fallible as the humans. Several characters discuss the possibility that the gods are actually less powerful, in certain ways, than mortals.
Live Action Television
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Glorificus ("Glory" for short), was one of three gods who ruled a hell dimension, but was cast out by the other two when it appeared she'd become more powerful than them both. On Earth, she was trapped in the body of a human male, and had to exist in human form even when she was manifested; she also had to periodically drain people's sanity to keep from going more nuts. Her main superhuman attributes were immense strength and Nigh-Invulnerability. We also heard vaguely about "Higher Powers" and "Spirit Guides", who may be the same as Angel's Powers That Be.
- Angel featured the nebulous "Powers That Be", who were never seen, but who used various means to pass information to Team Angel, most notably painful visions. They were apparently on the side of good, but were often referred to as the "Powers That Screw You".
- One exception to the "unseen" rule was the rogue Power Jasmine. Jasmine herself is never referred to as a god, but her former role suggests that status, and she mind-controls anyone she encounters into worshipping her. She's also super-strong, but has to eat people to survive.
- In the last half of season 5 we were introduced to Illyria, an Old One in human form, who frequently refers to her/itself as a god (and once, "God to a god"). Initially she could manipulate the flow of time and was Nigh Invulnerable as well as super-strong, and could talk to plants, but her powers nearly killed her and had to be greatly reduced. It was never made clear precisely what relationship the various "gods", "Powers", and "Old Ones" had to each other, although Glorificus was explicitly said not to be a demon.
- Then there's Wolfram & Hart's "Senior Partners", who may or may not be the same as "the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart", who were bit players on the cosmic scene in Illyria's day.
- They are another throw away line says they were bit players because they feed off dark human emotions and when Illyria was around humans had not existed yet. Truly we are their all you can eat buffet
- Supernatural seems to be based on Henotheism - there are multiple pagan gods (who are scarily powerful but can still be defeated and killed), with the Judeo-Christian Creator God as the one that is actually omnipotent but inaccessible. Appropriately enough "Word of God" confirms American Gods, mentioned above, was a major influence on Supernatural, so it likely works on similar rules. Therefore, Kali and Ganesh were simply versions of the gods brought over by settlers. In America, a largely Christian country, an Judeo-Christian angel is more powerful. Had the fight taken place in India, it would have been a different result.
- Transformers has two canonically existing deities. Primus is the god of the Transformers, and embodies goodness and order; his body is the planet Cybertron. Unicron is his Evil Counterpart, a Planet Eater who embodies evil, chaos, and destruction. The two previously existed as The One, who made up the "sentient core of the universe". Other gods are present, but rarely mentioned; one of the known ones is the Chronarchitect, who exists outside of time and occasionally intervenes in order to steer events toward a Grand Plan.
- Also, each retelling of the Primus and Unicron story downplays the idea of others like them a bit more; Primus goes from one of a pantheon, to the last of his pantheon, to him and Unicron being all there is. What "The One" is and how it relates to Primus and Unicron varies with the retelling (it did create at least one of them, though.) The Chronarchitect is one of Primus and Unicron's kin... if they have kin. Confused yet?
Religion & Mythology
- Greek Mythology has three levels of gods. The Protogenoi are the consciousnesses of substances and abstract concepts, such as sky (Oranos), light (Aether), earth (Gaia), and destiny (Aithir). From the Protogenoi were born the Titans, who in turn were overthrown by their own offspring, the Olympians.
- Norse Mythology is rather vague on what the difference between a god and a giant is. The main rule of thumb appears to have been that gods were associated with the Aesir or Vanir familial groups, while non-god giantsnote weren't. It gets better: some sources list the elves and even the dwarves as families of the same sort of beings as the Aesir, Vanir and Jötnar (giants). One triptych goes: the Aesir have power, the Álfar (elves) have skill and the Vanir have knowledge.
- Yahweh/Jehovah of The Bible, who spends a large chunk of the Door Stopper trying to convince everyone and their mother that not only is he greater than all other gods, but that almost all of the "gods" he competes for worship with don't even exist in the first place.
"You are my witnesses," is the utterance of Jehovah, "even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior." - Isaiah 43:10-11
- According to modern scholarship on the matter, it seems there were points during the worship of Yahweh that he was not believed to be the only god, nor that he was all-powerful. This can be seen in the Bible, for example, his declaration of "You shall have no other gods before me," implies that there are other gods, and that it may even be okay for the Jews to worship them, as long as Yahweh is kept as the most important. Likewise, his actions do not appear to be that of an all-knowing, all-powerful being many times throughout scripture, but the most direct example of this is that he was unable to lead the Jews to victory over an enemy nation, because they had chariots of iron. Actually he was able and did lead them to victory if one reads further(it was the Hebrew's had a lack of resolve and blamed God) but the Bible makes more sense if you presume the God is neither all-powerful or all-knowing, even though his status as one of many gods vanishes fairly early on.
- The story of Jonah basically has Jonah winning over Ninevites because the Jewish God controlled a great fish - said Ninevites basically worshipped a Fish God.
- In Dungeons & Dragons the status of gods vary depending on world: Most of them Need Prayer Badly in some fashion, although not all. Gods are powerful but killable either by MacGuffin or by the sufficiently powerful (still no easy task though). In some campaign settings like the Forgotten Realms there is also an Overgod who oversees the pantheon, and appoints people to the various divine positions when necessary.
- The Classic D&D game, conversely, avoided the terms "god" or "deity" to placate Moral Guardians and set it apart from AD&D. Its "Immortals" were nearly all former mortals who'd managed to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and senior Immortals who didn't admit to such a past were so mind-bogglingly ancient that it was implied they just couldn't remember their mortal days. Once Immortal, they didn't technically need to be worshipped, but having devoted followers increased their influence over the world and status among their own kind, and some needed believers to become Immortal in the first place. Notably, the CD&D rules allowed for player character Immortals, so their powers and limitations were laid out explicitly by experience level.
- An even higher rank of beings were implied to exist, and to be as far beyond Immortals as they are beyond mortals. Their existence was never confirmed in-universe, only speculated about by Immortals who wondered why some of the greatest among their own number had gone away.
- The final scenario of the Wrath of the Immortals campaign featured one of those beings actually showing up very briefly. But there were never any game rules for them; there was theoretically a process for becoming one and thereby effectively "winning the game" after all (by going all the way from first-level mortal to highest-possible Immortal level twice with the same character), but the playing time requirements for actually doing so would have been prohibitive and the chance of success fairly low due to the obvious risk involved. Not to forget that as far as the Immortals know in-universe the only two of them who ever managed that feat anyway were promptly annihilated by blackballs...
- In Exalted, the gods were a slave race created by the even more powerful and ancient Primordials to keep Creation running while they played games. The gods were extremely unhappy with this arrangement, but were unable to attack the Primordials, so they granted power to mortals (the titular "Exalted") to fight them instead. The most powerful of gods, the Incarnae, represent celestial bodies — the Unconquered Sun, Luna, and the Five Maidens (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). But there are gods for everything, including individual grains of rice, and a lot of them are low-level bureaucrats trying to gather enough worship to live.
- The Great Gods of Chaos from Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 are omnipotent in their own plane of existence (the Warp), but their influence on the mortal realm is somewhat more limited. Mostly because they are in fact so powerful that they cannot manifest themselves in the limited dimensions of real-space, or the Materium, as it is referred in-universe. Despite this, they are still capable of leaving their mark on the world of men and are perhaps the most powerful beings in the setting to be given the divine moniker.
- Their description varies from enormous sentient vortices of Warp energy to actual physical beings who live in their realms in the Warp, sit on their thrones and generally act like up-scaled humans. It's mentioned that since it's impossible for mortals to truly perceive the Warp (what they see is an analogy created by their mind and different from person to person), both and neither of these descriptions are true.
- Each Chaos God represents (and gains power from) certain types of emotion (usually referred as anger, lust, despair and hope, but it's actually a bit more complex). While most people in the setting (well, everybody not worshiping them, really) regard them as evil, what with their followers usually trying to destroy civilization, from their point of view, they're not really evil, just chaotic and uncaring of mortals unless they can either be used to increase their power or are a threat to their power.
- The reason that the Chaos Gods are so evil is because each one represents pure emotion, totally unfettered and unrestrained. Consider Tzeentch, who amongst other things (Change, Sorcery, Knowledge and Ambition) is primarily the God of Hope. A "good guy", you would think? Hoping without any form of inhibition, without any restrictions. No upper limits - pure, uncontrolled hope for everything. No caring for others, no empathy or compassion, pure, undistilled hope. Hope without even the limit of attainment - actually achieving his goal is totally inimical to Tzeentch, for the end of a goal means the end of hope. Tzeentch is pure, unfettered ambition, with uncountable, interwoven schemes to the point of being mutually unattainable - one of his plans succeeding means that half a dozen fail, meaning half a dozen other succeed... Hope, as we think of it, is a positive emotion because it is limited. What we hope for is restricted by our morality, our own physical limitations and, more importantly, the fear of repercussion. We may want to punch some bloke's lights out, but we won't due to the fear of getting hit back. We think of other things. Tzeentch doesn't. He is nothing but a constant schemer, uninhibited by any form of morality, without even the restrictions of the laws of physics. But, most importantly at all, he has no fear of repercussion. He is a chaos god, and extra-dimensional, insubstantial being of unparalleled power. There is no fear of repercussion. THAT is how the God of Hope is evil.
- There are four main Chaos Gods (i.e., the Great Gods), but also a multitude of lesser gods, which are much weaker than the big 4 but may still have their own realm and daemonic servants.
- The gods were created by mortal emotions shaping the Warp, creating vortices of Warp energy that eventually gained sentience and became the the Chaos Gods. They gain power from the emotions associated with them and from souls (either those of their dead followers or those sacrificed to them), although it's likely that they are powerful enough to be self-sufficient (they would become a lot weaker without mortals to feed them, though).
- It may be possible for mortals to become lesser gods: Large group of people with similar mindsets may commit mass suicide and have their souls might fuse together in the warp to create a small-scale version of whatever the Chaos Gods are. It's hinted that the Emperor of Mankind was born this way, by many powerful psykers committing mass suicide and having their souls transferred into a human body.
- Meanwhile in Warhammer Fantasy, the Chaos Gods are the most active (and powerful) ones but not the only ones.
- In the Brazilian setting Tormenta, there are essentially 3 kinds of "gods": the first ones, Nothingness and Hollowness, which aren't considered gods, but created the world and possess great power. Below them is The Pantheon, composed by 20 deities considered the "true" gods. Each of them has a private plane in which they are invincible, but they can also create an avatar in other planes. Bellow them are "minor deities", who can be anyone with enough power (level 20+) and enough worshippers (there is actually a minor NPC who aims to become one by creating his own church). Both True and Minor gods need prayer to maintain they powers, and after a genocidal war the Elven Goddess ended up falling to minor deity status.
- In the White Wolf game line of Scion the parents of the PCs (and eventually the PCs themselves) are literally gods of various pantheons. They have removed themselves from the world of mortals and placed heavy rules regarding their involvement with it, for the sole reason that the more they spent time doing crazy shit that broke the rules of reality, the more they were bound into specific roles and personalities; the more power they used, the more people thought of them a certain way, the more they became that certain way. Also, those gods are now under siege by the Titans, vast incomprehensible realms of sheer conceptual power (such as Light, or Water, or Chaos) that are so immensely powerful and alien, they must manifest themselves in significantly less powerful (but still capable of laying siege to multiple pantheons of gods) avatars, just to have some kind of mind that could understand things like "winning" or "goals" or "death." (As a side note, killing an avatar of a titan is a BAD idea. When Odin killed Ymir, the titan of winter, the Ice Age ended instantly and most of the earth got flooded.).
- In the RuneQuest setting of Glorantha, the gods are/were powerful beings who arose before Time. After a massive war which created Death, killed many gods, let Chaos loose, and nearly destroyed the world, the Great Compromise created Time, which sealed away the gods and allowed mortal races to flourish. Mortals can gain magic from the gods, and even ritually "hero quest" through the acts of the gods prior to the Dawn of Time. Unless you're a monotheist from the west, in which case the Kingdom of Logic fell apart under the onslaught of Chaos, and the Prophet Malkion unified with the Creator to create Time and restore the universe. Unfortunately, Malkion's followers ended up in the same world as the pagans and their false gods. Or unless you're a dwarf, in which case Mostal the World Machine was destroyed ... you get the idea. Glorantha's that sort of place.
- In Nobilis, you play as a god. There are also several classes and categories of things that might be considered gods.
- Imperators (which come in a variety of classes, be it Angels, The Fallen, Aaron's Serpents or some other extremely powerful being), are powerful entities which carry different aspects of Creation with them. Their nature makes them the embodiment of parts of the universe that they have "domains" or control over.
- Nobles, who are ordinary mortals who have had a shard of an Imperator's soul imbued into their own. They have more limited control over certain domains, but that's still enough to let them reshape the world. The PCs will generally play as these.
- Magic: The Gathering
- There are a handful of beings that are mentioned as being "gods", such as Karona and the Eldrazi, as well as avatars from Lorwyn/Shadowmoor and occasionally angels.
- Yawgmoth, known as The Ineffable by his followers, was also known as the God of Phyrexia.
- Old planeswalkers were nothing short of Physical Gods themselves. Some, such as Serra, were worshiped by their followers as such.
- The Greek Mythology inspired Theros expansion features a pantheon of 15 gods; 1 major god for each color and 1 minor god for each color pair, including Erebos, God of the Dead and Thassa, God of the Sea. They are noted for featuring Gods Need Prayer Badly as a game mechanic.
- Puzzle And Dragons: Some of the mons are literally gods, which you may defeat and capture. Because of how the game works, though, you don't get much backstory on them besides 'they are gods'. Mons in the God category tend to be powerful but hard to level and maintain, and it's advised that when you get a God monster that you treat it with a 'grind now, profit later' mindset. Many of the god monsters in this game are named and modeled after actual classical gods, from the Roman, Egyptian, and Hindu pantheons, among others.
- The Elder Scrolls Series contains several varieties, from the Aedra (Mysterious to the point of people wondering if they even exist, with wildly divergent worship within various different cultures), the Daedra (Much more visible and human-like, interfering with the mortal realm in accordance with their aspects) to the Tribunal of Morrowind (Physical God like former mortals who took their divinity with profane tools.) There is even some in-universe debate over whether certain gods with overlapping roles in different pantheons are, in fact, different aspects of the same deities or not.
- In Touhou the word "God" (well, OK, "Goddess") doesn't carry too much weight. Thanks to the fact that monsters and even humans are practically Physical Gods, anyway, the Odd Job Gods are little more than Butt Monkeys of the game universe. Even the truly powerful goddesses can merely go toe-to-toe with some of the more powerful youkai, and Reimu canonically kicks in the door of The Rival Moriya Shrine, defeats its Shrine Maiden, and its Live-in Goddesses. You'd think that would hurt the ol' donation drive, to have your deity publicly beaten in her own temple by a rival deity's priestess? That said, this seems to mostly apply to the "lower gods"; the ones that inhabit the Earth and are part of the Myriad Gods. Yorihime is such an overpowered character because she's capable of summoning gods of far greater power than previously shown, which allowed her to effortlessly defeat every single character that went against her (including Reimu). Also, one must bear in my that the Spell Card rules that everyone follows specifically limits how much power the character can use in a fight, and it's always non-lethal.
- Huge variable in World of Warcraft. Troll Gods tend to be primal forces of nature made manifest and evil sort of things. The Old Gods are straight up Eldritch Abomination with some dead, some near dead like C'thun, and others more powerful. You can kill 2 of the 4 remaining ones, but it's hinted that the life force of the world is linked to them in a fundamental way that the entire world is now doomed. Dragon Aspects have god like powers, but are not gods. The Titans are more or less gods, with heavy Norse aspects. The Big Bad Saergas was their greatest warrior and led their mission of Ordering until he broke off. The Good Versus Evil is now becoming Order Versus Chaos suggesting they are not so different. The list of different gods could go on for a few more pages. Pretty much every species has a few of them, and there are a heck of a lot of them. Except humans and dwarves, who worship the Light, and Night elves who worship a single moon goddess.
- and then there are the Demigods...
- Night Elves actually believe in a spirit for every aspect of nature (think Shinto), Elune is just the spirit of the moon and is considered the most powerful one. Night Elf druids worship Cenarius and High/Blood Elves revere the sun god, probably named Belore.
- The RPG has Elune as by far the most powerful character in the setting, with a challenge rating set over 80. Since specifics about Elune are unknown, it's a mystery whether she has influence in any other part of the universe.
- Sinnoh's pantheon in Pokémon fits the description for henotheism to a T; Arceus is said to have created the region, afterward splitting into aspects representing time (Dialga), space (Palkia), will (Azelf), emotion (Mesprit), and knowledge (Uxie).
- Not just Sinnoh, but every region's legendary Pokemon. You have the gods of the seasons (Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres), land, sea, and sky (Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza), the new moon and the full moon (Darkrai and Cresselia), volcanos (Heatran), victory (Victini), wind, storms, and fertility (Tornadus, Thundurus, and Landorus) and balance (Reshiram, Zekrom, and Kyurem).
- In God of War the Gods are superpowered individuals that are not quite immortal, as Kratos is quite willing to prove. In a way this is consistent with Classical Mythology, in which the god's immortality was dependent on who was telling the story.
- In the Disciples series, each major race has their own deity. For humans, it's a little more complex, as they were created by Bethrezen, the favored angel of Highfather. However, after the fall of Bethrezen (he was set up by other angels), Highfather took over as the deity of humans. He is more often referred to as the Celestial Lord in Disciples III. The dwarves were created by and worship Wotan, who gets pissed off at the drop of a horned helmet and teaches his "children" Steam Punk-level technology and runic magic. The elves were created by Gallean, and they used to worship him and his girlfriend Solonielle, who also created the merfolk. That is, until Wotan killed Gallean, and Solonielle's attempts to save her lover resulted in her becoming the goddess of the undead. Bethrezen, driven mad by the hate and imprisonment, created demons and sent them to destroy the world. Other lesser gods are mentioned, such as the creator of the greenskins.
- In the Civilization IV mod Fall from Heaven II, there is only one God responsible for the creation of Erebus (the world). However, he is absent for the most part, letting his angels run around, call themselves gods, and generally screw up he lives of mortals in their endless wars with one another. There are, however, other religions which worship, for example, octopi. Oh, and The Devil is a former angel.
- In the Mardekverse, there are several classes of god (their names are always written in all caps, by the way). They are nonphysical entities who keep the balance and make sure the universe works out. They tend to take A Form You Are Comfortable With.
- Higher Creator Deities, such as YALORT, who create planets and invent lifeforms. YALORTnote is the creator of Belfan and Anshar, among others.
- Midlevel Elemental Deities, who each control one of the eight elements: KROGHMMnote for earth, CRYSOOSUNAnote for water, HWOUKnote for air, VOLKOSnote for fire, ONEIROSnote for aether, an unknown one for fignote , AREINDEEN for light and SHUMBRAnote for dark. They forge the Elemental Crystals that a Higher Creator requires to form a planet.
- The Lesser Archetype Deities represent the acme of a profession, skill, or facet of personality. They include AACIUPHInote , goddess of love, friendship and joy, LUTINUETnote , the deity of music, and PLOMHARGnote , the farmers' god.
- Overseer Deities such as GALARISnote , who is the god of death and who runs the Antilifenote , or SOLAK, the god of suns and stars.
- To create a world, a Higher Creation Deity must get the cooperation of SOLAK (for the star) and all of the Elemental Deities (for the Great Crystals; however, the Moral and Spiritual Element Crystals are unnecessary for non-life-bearing planets).
- There are no penalties for not worshipping any god, but the gods do appreciate prayer, and reward sincere followers with good fortune, natural skill and even magical abilities.
- Extra magical abilities.
- One amusing reference: ABOMONOTOROSnote , goddess of hatred and dislike, is used as an interjection of extreme dislike, as in "May ABOMONOTOROS glare at you!"
- Dragon Age: Origins has The Maker, the supreme deity that married the mortal Andraste, and allegedly "cast down the false gods". Other deities are also present, mainly the Old Gods, dragon gods that were worshiped by the Tevinter Imperium, trapped in the Deep Roads, but are currently zombified and leading the Darkspawn Horde.
- Notably, the game's theology is quite ambiguous. The Church of Andraste doesn't have any more genuine evidence for the existence of their deity than the religions of Real Life, leaving room for religious faith rather than any sort of certainty. The Old Gods are definitely real, but their true nature is unknown, and it's unclear whether they really deserve the title of gods or not. The same goes for the Dalish pantheon that may or may not somehow relate to the Old Gods, which seem to parallel the Dalish Forgotten Ones.
- The DLC for Dragon Age II reveals that the Golden City was real - and the powerful Tevinter Magisters were probably tricked into entering it by their Dragon god pals. Whether or not the Maker is real is up for debate, but SOMETHING imprisoned those intelligent blood magic using dragons. However the same DLC says that the "Golden City" was the Black City before the Magisters got there, which contradicts the standard mythology as much as it confirms and casts serious doubt on the normal interpretation of the Maker. In short, religion in the Dragon Age world is scary as hell.
- Ōkami's gods are a pantheon, with protagonist Amaterasu as the chief goddess of the sun. They don't age, and if they are killed, they can be still reincarnated a hundred years after if a wood sprite offers their power or a divine weapon (judging from the introduction, it could be either). They take the form of the twelve animals from the Chinese Zodiac plus a cat, all of them white with red markings. Their power is tied directly to prayer, and Amaterasu can use some of the abilities of any of the other gods. As of the DS Sequel Ōkamiden, the replacement/reincarnation is changed into all of the gods having children. Chibiterasu, the protagonist who is stated to be the kid of Amaterasu is much weaker and smaller (even lacking freedom like swimming and wall jumping) than his mother despite Amaterasu not being any smaller than Shiranui "at birth".
- Hyperdimension Neptunia has its residents from the four worlds worship their goddesses fervently. The catch? Three of the goddesses are caricatures of the three consoles and the fourth one is a Sega console that never got released (Sega Neptune).
- Shin Megami Tensei: Like Discworld and American Gods, all supernatural beings seem to exist on and draw power from the principals of Clap Your Hands If You Believe and Gods Need Prayer Badly. That said, most if not all can be taken down with a good old-fashioned ass-beating, though the belief of their followers can still bring them back. Certain evidence likewise implies that YHVH and Lucifer are the paragons of Law and Chaos insofar as they don't need worship explicitly to exist - neither can truly die as long as there are people who yearn for salvation or freedom.
- In the Persona sub-series, the greatest true gods seem to be Philemon and Nyarlathotep, and both are born from the human collective unconscious. Specifically, Philemon is the embodiment of all humanity's creative, exalting, and positive urges; while Nyarlathotep is the embodiment of humanity's most violent, degrading, and self-destructive urges. Their physical incarnations can be defeated but they can never be truly slain, merely weakened and discorporated for a time. Meanwhile, Persona 3 and Persona 4 kind of muddy the theological waters with other gods being behind the main conflicts, despite Word of God maintaining that Philemon (and presumably Nyarlathotep) is still around and watching over the characters.
- Tears To Tiara 2: Expanded on from the first game. Powerful lineages of the precursor races are worshiped as gods by humans. The people of Hispania mainly, tho not exclusively, worship the gods of Ba'al, of which Ashtarte is one. They appear on earth to teach and guide the people. They need prayer to be powerful. Watos is still missing.
- Mythological gods are referenced a few times in Sluggy Freelance, but, despite its Fantasy Kitchen Sink setting, in the main Sluggyverse we don't know of any having been active since ancient times (though there are a number of beings who are gods in all but name). The Dimension of Pain, however, did have a Goddess of Goodness, a Physical God powered by the amount of goodness in the world she's in. Too bad she lives in a world populated entirely by incredibly sadistic demons.
- Vanadys: Tales Of A Fallen Goddess has a fallen goddess as its titular caracter. While she is immortal, older than the world itself, and has great power, her status as a "fallen" means she's not as great or powerful as the other gods, some of whom she has a rather antagonistic relationship with. Apart from the outcast Vanadys, the gods have a distinct hierachy: The humanoid gods, who each have their area of responsibility (God of the Sun, Goddess of the Sea, Goddess of Wisdom and Knowledge, and so on) are all subject to the two highest gods, the Dragon and the Serpent. They themselves are subject to the being called "The Light," who is the creator of the gods and whom nobody knows much about.
- The backstory of the quest in The Order of the Stick is that the world was created by four pantheons of equal power but wildly different viewpoints. When they couldn't agree on the various ways that their monsters would be different, their divine powers accidentally created the Snarl, a being of pure divine anger (which wiped out one of the pantheons). Afterwards, the three remaining groups set up strict rules on what parts of the world they could each directly affect, resulting in the Northern, Southern, and Western Gods.
- The gods of Wildlife are determined to destroy or seal away the Eldritch Abomination A'zi, who just happens to be the protagonist of the story.
- The Old Gods of Cthulhu Slippers are vastly powerful and have taken over the world despite being terrible morons. They are actively worshipped as gods by their employees at Cthulhu Corp.
- Several gods have been mentioned in Beaches And Basilisks, ranging from Drooch, god of alcohol to Krysavi the dragon-god who created the islands in which the story takes place and who is revealed to be a giant robot.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the two seemingly-immortal Winged Unicorn princesses who raise the sun by day and the moon by night, respectively, and have ruled Equestria since time out of mind, are treated as gods and as royalty at various times by the other ponies; they have chariots and royal guards and a castle... and we get phrases like "Thank Celestia!" or "For Celestia's sake!" It gets better: Tartarus exists, and when Cerberus went missing once, Princess Celestia sent lost dog flyers. However, there was definitely a time before their rule, they're not all-knowing or all-powerful, and season premiere/finale villains are always more than they can dispose of with a wave of their horn, even if they're who put them in the can thousands of years ago.
- In Gargoyles it seems All Myths Are True. The most powerful of The Fair Folk are absolute rulers of the others with Reality Warper abilities but aren't quite worshipped, and a lot of mythological creatures who are unrelated in Real Life mythology are "Oberon's Children" in this show. However, once, a man figured out how to summon Anubis in hopes of getting his dead son back. We avert Everybody Hates Hades here; Anubis is a neutral Psychopomp figure. He's also everyone's lord of the dead; apparently, the Egyptians just happened to be the only people to get his name and look right.