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Video Game / Disciples

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Disciples is a trilogy of Turn-Based Strategy computer games set in the Dark Fantasy land of Nevendaar, a somewhat gothic Standard Fantasy Setting with four (and later five) main powers.

All units travel in parties which the player hires in cities. Each party consists of at least one unit, and at least one of these units is a leader unit, hired on their own at considerable more expense than other units, though they're usually more powerful anyways. All leader units have a leadership stat that determines how many other units can travel in their party.

The series began with Disciples: Sacred Lands in 1999. It featured the "First Great War", where the first four main factions of the game duke it out.

Disciples II: Dark Prophecy followed in 2002, and is the most beloved franchise instalment. It takes place a decade after the first, and, depending on the campaign you choose, it can follow the Empire's rebellion and the discovery of an heir to the Empire, the aftermath of the Legions' attempt to free their god, the Undead's attempt to resurrect Mortis' old lover, or just the Clans' attempts to rebuild and keep it together. It received three Expansion Packs: the Servants of the Dark and Guardians of the Light mainly added new campaigns and units, while the final one, Rise of the Elves, had made the elves playable and added a campaign for them.

Disciples III: Renaissance was developed by an altogether different company than the original and was released in 2010. It made multiple changes to the formula, with greater focus on RPG Elements, a hex-based grid battle system where some tiles can't be passed through and others convey bonuses, and the like. There was a campaign for the three races featured that made it into the game; the Empire, the Damned, and the Elves. The campaign centers around Inoel, an angel sent on an important mission by the Highfather. It also received an expansion pack bringing back the Undead called Resurrection.

Altogether, though, Disciples III was met with a terrible reception from both critics and the longtime fans. In response, it received and Updated Re-release in 2012 titled Reincarnation, which combines the plot of "Renaissance" and "Resurrection" into one package, reworks the gameplay in some parts and adds a few new elements, as well as putting the Mountain Clans back in the game. Ultimately, though, it still marked the end of the series...

... until 2021, when a fourth game, Disciples: Liberation, was released in October 21.

The series as a whole contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender: The Empire Acolyte wears a lot of robes and has a hood over their face, and so can pass for a young boy or girl. This is probably intentional; it can upgrade into either the male priest or female cleric line. The Legion's Cultist unit wears a face-concealing mask and white robes and can likewise upgrade into either the male sorcerer or female witch, but has a decidedly-male voice. This could just be because Evil Sounds Deep, however.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Both used and subverted. Each party can only have so many units in it, which is decided by the party leader's "Leadership" trait (which upgrades rarely), but there's no limit on parties except for money.
    • The Legions get hit with this hardest, since they have more large units (Their Support and Archery lines, and their special units) than other races.
  • Armored But Frail: Two examples, done differently:
    • Legions of the Damned Gargoyles have huge armor stat, but their health is way below what 2-slot units of their level have. Bypassing armor with Damage Over Time effects, certain spells and Shatter will make them much easier to kill.
    • Undead Hordes' Wraiths and their upgrades (and Werewolves to an extent). They are completely immune to Weapon attack source, allowing them to stand in the front row without fear, but their low health means they die quickly to non-Weapon damage.
  • Backstory: Further explored during the Disciples II's last expansion. Specifically, found here.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Legion's melee line, which lacks the awesome potential of the Empire and Undead lines, but has a nice 50% daily regeneration effect on their best fighters. Also, the Legion's Counselor leader; he's nothing special, but he's the only traditional archer the Legions have got, since their Archery line consists of sturdier, but more expensive and large-sized Gargoyles.
    • In Rise of the Elves, the Elves' Centaur Charger. Nothing too fancy, just a Level 2 unit that has 20 armor. This however makes them effective tanks shielding the back row who level up quickly, needing only 525 exp, and so gain stats quickly enough to help them keep up with more powerful units.
  • Came Back Wrong: Solionelle, AKA, Mortis.
  • Combat Tentacles: The Beast, Tiamat, and Kraken units.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Highfather of the Empire.
  • Demonic Possession: Most of the front-line infantry for the Legions of the Damned are humans possessed by demons. And a few of the other Legion units probably qualify as well.
  • Dem Bones: Some neutral units and of course many of the Undead Hordes' units. Every Undead cutscene only shows skeletons.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Mountain Clans, being slower and having some very unusual unit development (for example, their Mage line units don't fight, but their other three lines can all develop to hit the entire enemy party, like Mages) are harder to work with than other races, until you get used to them. Once you do, they can be a serious force to contend with.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After the angel Bethrezen creates the world of Nevendaar and populates it (with the help of other gods) with living beings, he goes to fetch the Highfather to show him the world, leaving the other angels in charge. The jealous angels sabotage Nevendaar, so that, when the Highfather sees it, it is engulfed by war. Without bothering to find out what happened, the Highfather punishes Bethrezen by sealing him for eternity in the molten core of his own world. No wonder Bethrezen grows bitter and insane, becoming this world's equivalent of The Devil.
  • Elemental Powers: All factions tend to focus on 1 or 2 of the following: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Death, Life, Mind and Weapon (the last is less an Element than it is the absence of an element, it is used for most Unit's melee/archery attacks).
    • Empire is Air (Lightning), and Life (healing).
    • Legion is mainly Fire with some Mind thrown in.
    • Mountain Clans is Water (Ice) and Earth.
    • Undead Hordes is mainly Death.
    • Elven Alliance is the most scattered, with the most prevalent being Air.
  • Expy: Several, from Warhammer Fantasy, and real life mythology:
    • Greenskins in Disciples (ie Goblins, Orcs, and Trolls), are obviously inspired by the Warhammer term for the same races (although Warhammer canon is a bit ambiguous whenever Trolls are Greenskins, or related to Ogres). Disciples Greenskins also consist of Ogres and Cyclopi.
    • Wotan is obviously based on Odin, but his focus on winter, and wolves, also point to him being based on Ulric from Warhammer.
    • Connecting with the above, Mountain Clans even have an unit called Wolf Lord, although he seems even more inspired by the (Warhammer 40,000) Space Wolves Wolf Lords, and Wulfen.
    • The Empire has elements of both Sigmar's Empire, and 40k's Imperium of Man. One example are the the Empires units of Witch Hunters, and their Inquisitor upgrades. The Empire also has also some similarities to Bretonnia.
    • The Elves also have similarities to Warhammer elves, most visible how the elven Queen is named Taladrielle, very similarly to Warhammer's High Elven Everqueens Alarielle and Astarielle. With how their gods are “dead”, and for a longer time, their culture was fallen, they also resemble the Eldar from Warhammer 40,000.
    • The Legions of the Damned, have many similarities to the forces of Chaos, with mutations caused by The Corruption, eventually turning them into demons, their forces being built from berserkers, and fallen champions of the Empire, and the Fiends resembling Beastmen.
    • The Undead Horde has many similarities to the Vampire Counts as well as Tomb Kings (and even more so the Undead army, from which the two were split), up to the civilization of Alkmaar resembling Nehekhara.
    • Solonielle/Mortis resembles several figures from Real Life Mythology, and Warhammer.
      • Before her transformation, as Solonielle, she resembled quite Isha, being the mother goddess of elves, and nature, connected to tears, as well as the mother of elves.
      • Her husbands murder, and her trying to resurrect him (including in one version, by putting back his body parts), makes her similar to Isis.
      • After the sun burned of her flesh, and she became the goddess of death and dead Mortis, ruling over the land of dead even called Nilfheim. she quite strongly resembles Hel from Norse mythology. Ironically though, there is a separate entity with the name Hela, serving Mortis as the leader of her forces, but that might be an avatar of some sort. Due to her connection to water, along with being a goddess of death and dead, she also resembles Marzanna, who also is ritually burned each year.
      • Overall, being a beautiful goddess of creation, who is burned, becomes a goddess of the Underworld/Netherworld, her beauty being destroyed and changed into a corpse-like entity, as well as rejected after transformation by her husband, makes Mortis very resembles Izanami from Japanese mythology.
      • From her name, as well as function of the goddess of death, Mortis resembles also Morai-Heg from Warhammer. She eve more resembles the goddess of dead Ereth Khial, who even got rejected by the main god of the pantheon she loved, but Mortis actually appeared before Ereth Khial.
      • Mortis' connection to disease, death, undeath, and previously nature and life, as well as even elements of her look (ie decayed, tree-branch like antlers), makes her resemble Nurgle.
    • Bethrezen is basically Satan, being especially to how Satan is described some Gnostic sects like Bogomilism and Catharism, where he is the creator of the world.
    • The High Father himself is visibly based on the Judeo-Christian God.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Almost everywhere. The Demons and Undead regularly fight each other, the campaigns sometimes give them civil wars, and many neutral or evil factions of the "Good Races" will fight each other or the Demons/Undead constantly.
  • Exposed to the Elements: The landscape changes to reflect who controls territory, but units never change their outfits. This can lead to situations where characters wear almost nothing in snowy mountain clan territory or Dwarfs wearing thick winter clothing in a scorched landscape controlled by the Legion.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Heard very frequently as part of overworld music tracks.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The three lord archetypes:
    • The Warlord is the Fighter. They start with their race's Melee hero, and their lord bonus is a Boring, but Practical increase to daily health regeneration.
    • The Mage Lord is, obviously, the Mage. They start with their race's Mage hero and the Mage Tower structure pre-built, and their lord bonus halves the cost for researching spells, along with allowing each spell to be cast twice each day. The Mage Lord is also the only lord type that can use level 5 magic, while the other two lord types are capped at level 4.
    • The Guildmaster is the Thief. They start with their race's Scout hero and the Guild structure pre-built, and their lord bonus allows them to use additional commands for thieves (such as assassinating a random unit or scrambling enemy formation), along with halving the cost of upgrading towns (not the cost of building structures in the capital).
  • Fisher King: The landscape changes to reflect who controls territory. The Empire's territory are healthy green fields, Demon territory is hellish with lava pools and magma, Undead territory is dead shriveled up dirt and trees, Dwarf territory is covered in snow. The Elven territory consists of autumn-like ochre wilds.
  • Giant Spider: There's one monster like this in the first game, and two monsters in the second.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The Legion's spells, and a lot of their unit's chatter, are in Latin.
  • Grimdark: This series does a very good job of bringing the mood of a dark world. The soundtrack (and the sound effects in general) are especially awesome in this regard.
  • Healing Potion: Several, of varying strengths.
  • The Horde: Undead Hordes as playable. A few of the neutral factions come off this way as well, especially the Greenskins (Goblins).
  • Infinity +1 Element:
    • Life element, due to the fact no unit in the game can have any form of immunity to it. For player-controlled units, Life element tends to come in the form of healing or buffing, but capitol guardians and super-bosses will also use it for unpreventable attacks.
    • Earth element to an extent - very few units have any kind of protection to it, but it is also quite rare in itself.
  • Jack of All Stats: The Empire, which is the most straight-forward race. They possess what is possibly the strongest melee line, a solid archery line and an average mage line, but most of all have Healers. The Elven Alliance arguably also qualify, but switch the melee and archery line around in terms of strength.
  • Level Editor
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Capital Guardians are universally Nigh-Invulnerable and hit for massive damage, though they can never leave the Capital. It takes a lot of effort to kill them.
  • Lizard Folk: One of two "Marshdweller" monsters.
  • Lord British Postulate: With lots of Level Grinding and serious abuse of stacked buffs or disabling effects, it's possible to kill the Capital Guardian units.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Solionelle's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Wotan for his attack on Gallean, which caused her to turn into Mortis.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • The Undead Horde's Nosferatu leader, who at first seems like a joke since his attack deals a mere 10 damage (although it does hit all enemies). Level him up enough, however, and he turns out to be a mage who can easily stand in the front row and is nearly impossible to kill, since his attacks also drain life. If only he had the overflow version like Elder Vampires...
    • The Mountain Clans as a whole. At first, their toughness is offset by their low initiative, forcing them to take hits other factions could avoid, as well as not having any mass damage outside of a specific hero. By higher levels, their troops are some of the strongest in the game, while a vast array of buffing spells can fix their weaknesses, and then some.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Mountain Clans are all about this trope; their units are always tougher in damage and HP than equivalent ones of other races, but they're also slower. Ironically, the sole exception to this with a respectable Initiative of 50, the Son of Ymir, is a giant made of ice.
  • Nightmare Face: High-level demons qualify. Also, the Wight.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted in all games.
  • The Medic: Imperial and Elven healing units.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: There are several different types of dragons in the series. They mainly differentiate by their color and attack type, although some have more HP than others. The Undead also have reanimated some dragons for use as heavy hitters. In Liberation each faction has a dragon among their highest tier units.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Mostly Wood Elves in earlier series (with occasional High Elves), though from the second game's last expansion, High Elves begin to show up just as often. The playable version of the Elves has different upgrade lines based on High Elves and Wood Elves, and part of their storyline revolves around the two factions of Elves' uneasy transition to becoming truly one people. By the time of Liberation the Elven Alliance formed between these two is still an uneasy one.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The Mountain Clans' Special units are all Giants, while the Empire has a similar Titan unit. Their upgrade path branches into mass damage Shock and Awe and single-target damage An Ice Person units. The Son of Ymir, the final upgrade of the single target path, is arguably one of the strongest units in the game. In Liberation there are very few giants left likely due to the Mountain Clans themselves going into decline thanks to their god Wotan's death at the hands of Mortis. The Ice Giants are aligned with the Elven Alliance and the Titans are humans mutated into artificial mockeries of giants thanks to an Artifact of Doom.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Mermaids are pretty much just monsters who swim around and eat people.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Greenskins race appears to include not only orcs but also goblins and trolls, despite goblins not actually having green skin. Besides ordinary orcs, there are also Orc Kings, who are much tougher and, according to their description, are smarter than the average orc.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Both vampires and elder vampires have very pale skin, the elder vampire also possessing glowing red eyes. Vampires can, however, be exposed to sunlight with no ill effects. They still drain life.
    • Based from the notes they are humans who reject the words of the Highfather but didn't worship demons either thus turning into these.
    • In Liberation Vampires are one of the Undead Horde's tier 4 units. This time around they are portrayed as undead Elven women. One of your possible companions Sharlea is a Vampire. One of the outcomes of her second personal quest is to turn the sister who betrayed her to her death into a Vampire as well and put her under Sharlea's thrall.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Werewolves are immune to Weapon damage (i.e. non-magical attacks), thus requiring the use of magic. Fortunately, any decent party will have at least one caster, and the front-line units can be set to "Defend", giving them a defence stat boost. Liberation also introduces Were Leopards. Unlike the Werewolves, Wereleopards are the result of nature magic and are aligned with the Elven Alliance.
  • Party in My Pocket: Only party leaders are visible in the overworld. In case of flying leaders one has to wonder how the non-flying party members make the trip.
  • Pre-existing Encounters: Just like player units, enemies are visible in the overworld before battle, represented by their party leader.
  • Shop Fodder: In the form of ancient relics, precious gems, and jewellery.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Undead Hordes are created by Mortis for exactly this purpose.
  • RPG Elements: All units get Experience Points, level up and stat-boosting potions, and the leaders are able to select equipment to boost their stats or give them abilities and will be able to choose new skills after levelling. A single powerful unit is thus way more important than in, say, Heroes of Might and Magic.
  • The Corruption: Watch how the cultist, the basic mages in the Legion slowly turn into a Demonologist to a Modeus.
  • The Legions of Hell: As a major playable faction.
  • The Witch Hunter: The Empire unit Squire can be upgraded to Witch Hunter, which is resistant to mental attacks. They are dressed in the garb usually associated with these kinds of characters.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: God of Evil is deconstructed since the "evil" gods only became evil because their "good" compatriots were jerks who treated them like garbage. This does not apply to their followers. Bethrezen's Legions of the Damned are by far the nastiest faction who gleefully corrupt and slaughter in Bethrezen's name and The Undead Hordes are utterly ruthless while following Mortis' will.

Sacred Lands contains examples of:

  • Bears Are Bad News: Mountain Clans' special unit in this game is a bear. It has high health and initiative, along with only costing 100 gold, but its damage is sub-par. Unlike other special units, bears can level up into yetis, which have similar, but higher, stat spread.
  • Crutch Character: Archers and Gargoyles for the Empire and Legions of the Damned respectively, due to not being able to level above level 2. They are good if unit level cap is 2, but if it is any higher, they are only really useful as garrison. Ghosts and Specters, meanwhile, avert this as their paralyzing attack is useful at any level, and they are crucial for taking out a Capital Guardian.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Taking out a capital - any capital - wins the scenario instantly, even if the scenario objectives were not achieved, and there is more than two factions. Of course, considering that beating Capital Guardians counts as Lord British Postulate (even more so in this game due to overleveling not being introduced yet, and combat being limited to 10 rounds at most), it is not a viable way to win ouside of very specific circumstances.
  • No Canon for the Wicked: Semi-averted, seeing as the ending of the Legions has Bethrezen breaking free and all non-demons being made into slaves or corpses, you can sort of see why the sequels didn't canonize it. Dark Prophecy instead used a mixture of the Empire (which is basically the exact opposite) and Legions endings; the demons DID succeed in allowing Bethrezen to possess the imperial heir, but the Empire and Mountain Clans sealed Bethrezen in the mines where the ritual was performed.
    • The Undead ending is a full aversion though, it involves the death of the Mountain Clans High King, and is completely canon; the event is even mentioned halfway through the Mountain Clan campaign and causes major issues for them even ten years later.

Dark Prophecy contains examples of:

  • Aggressive Negotiations: In the Rise of the Elves expansion, this has a tendency to happen whenever the elves and humans try to sit across the table from each other and make peace.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: For some unexplained reason, the ladies of the eleven royal lines are all blue-skinned.
  • Big Bad: Uther and Demon Uther for the Legions of the Damned and Empire respectively, as well as Niddhogg for the Mountain Clans and the elves for The Undead Hordes and vice versa
  • Book Ends: The beginning of the Legions' Dark Prophecy campaign relates how the demons have a different, and much more extreme measure of pain than humans do. The end of the same campaign mentions that their view of the flow of time is also much different.
  • Came Back Wrong: Gymner Cloudkeeper. His dad doesn't... take it well.
  • Combat Exclusive Healing: Priests and other healing units can only restore hit points during combat, requiring a slow health recovery between battles. However, the healer may still act during a round if all enemies are killed before the healer's turn.
  • Combat Medic: Elder Vampires distribute drained life points among the injured allies.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: The Fighter Leader units of both The Legions of the Damned (Duke) and The Empire (Pegasus Knight). Both start with the same stats and abilities.
  • Demonic Possession: Bethrezen does this to Uther. Or tries to at least; turns out Uther only got part of Bethrezen's evil and power crammed into him, but not Bethrezen himself.
  • Dual Boss: The final boss fight of Rise of the Elves involves fighting against Sir Allemon and Gumtik Bledwater together, along with their retinue.
  • Enemy Civil War: Demon Legions divide between loyal to Bethrezen and loyal to Uther, Undead Hordes fight the ones who break from Mortis influence under the leadership of Bone Lord.
    • The Narrator actually brings up the Enemy Civil War in the epilogue of the Legion's Dark Prophecy campaign; that it served to keep many innocents out of harm's way.
  • Expansion Pack: Three. Two of them, Servants of the Dark and Guardians of the Light, add campaigns for half the original four races (the evil and good races respectively), some units, and some missions, while the third, Rise of the Elves, adds a fifth race, elves.
    • The first two are actually one expansion, Gallean's Return, which was released in two separate packs at first.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In addition to the regular elf campaign, the Rise of the Elves expansion gives them a bonus campaign. One mission requires you to protect a diplomat. He then turns on you, requiring you to kill him. Problem is, the programmers forgot to disable the Escort Mission at this point, leaving you to lose by killing him or lose by letting him kill all your men.
  • The Heavy: Uther in Dark Prophecy. He's only the Big Bad during the Empire and Legions sagas, but his return to the land kicks off the events that begins the majority of the plot.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the final mission of the Empire's campaign in the Gallean's Return expansion, the demon Nebiros taunts the heroes by claiming that as long as Bethrezen's Well is standing, the Infernal Plague will ravage the land. The heroes then exclaim that destroying the Well is the key to saving the world. Nebiros has a moment of Visible Silence when he realizes that he just told the heroes what they needed to do to stop the evil plan.
  • One-Woman Wail: Mortis is still crying, and you can hear it as part of the background noise for the undead.
  • Only Sane Man: Morok is the only person to see through Uther's deception, but it's dismissed as paranoia when it's first brought up.
  • Pet the Dog: In one mission of the Undead campaign, a mermaid approaches your forces as a worshiper of Mortis' past self Solonielle and begs you to help her people. Mortis accepts the plea and orders the Undead to help her.
  • Shout-Out: The cheat codes are titles of famous rock songs ("ANOTHERBRICKINTHEWALL", PAINTITBLACK", "COMETOGETHER", etc).
  • Standalone Episode: The Mountain Clans' saga in Dark Prophecy. The Empire, Legions and Undead Hordes' sagas all effect each other in certain ways (The hordes attacking the elves, the hordes constantly searching for Uther), but the Clans go off by themselves by their fourth chapter.
  • Stripperiffic:
    • The elf queen Taladrielle. Little more than a stiff breeze would be required to reveal her nipples. Her successors all dress more modestly.
    • The Prophetess, and her Navel-Deep Neckline, which goes beyond her portrait's edge.
    • The barbarian Shamaness, which only appears to wear a strap across her breasts and Shoulders of Doom above her waist.
  • Villain Protagonist: The player during the Undead and Legion's campaign in any of the games and during the Elven campaign in Rise of the Elves.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Uther does this to you towards the end of the Empire and Legion campaigns

Renaissance contains examples of:

  • Apocalypse Maiden: Inoel
  • Back Stab: Ferre kills Haar-huus this way after the latter exhausts himself after defeating Bethrezen's Avatar.
  • Corrupt Church: The Imperial Inquisition.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Even despite being released six months later outside Russia, it came with some nasty bugs, including one that would have you spontaneously start playing your opponents in singleplayer.
  • Geo Effects: Certain hexes of the map will double the strength of one of the three types of attacks.
  • Healing Spring: The world map's fountains function like this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The ending of the Renaissance portrays Lambert, several human soldiers and elves holding the line to save their world from the total destruction. All is save as it was said. Lambert ultimately survives and shows up in Resurrection.
  • Jerkass Gods: The revelations in this game reveal that all of the gods except, oddly enough, the Satan expy Bethrezen and Mortis are Jerkass Gods what with them wanting to destroy the world and start over.
    • There were hints of this earlier, though — the Highfather's Disproportionate Retribution against Bethrezen for something he didn't even do, without bothering to find out what actually happened first. Wotan's murder of Gallean for daring to suggest that the Mountain Clans should be punished for unprovoked slaughter of Elven refugees they mistook for invaders. Gallean's rejection of Mortis after she went through hell to revive him.
  • Lava Adds Awesome: Seems to be the entire design philosophy behind the reworked Demons, the omnious latin and gothic feel having been entirely replaced with lava effects and spikes.
  • Playable Epilogue: Resurrection Act VIII, which happens after borderline impossible Climax Boss fight against Emperor Ferre, and the credits roll. It mostly consists of the player being given Myzrael in all of his glory and curb-stomping everything in the player's path, rescuing Lambert along the way.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Haar-huus
  • Start of Darkness: During Haar-huus' campaign you play through his transformation from noble Elven warrior to demonic servant thousands of years ago.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Lambert make his last stand as he try to prevent the demons from passing to the gate where Inoelle just left.

  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Both main "evil" gods; see Jerkass Woobie above for details.