Friday, June 24, 2011

Enigmundia: The Preternatural and the Supernatural

Upright pentagram, supposedly symbolic of the 5 wounds
received by Christ during his execution, but I don't see
how the hands (2) + feet (2) + spear in the side (1) would
be arranged into a star shape. Note that this is different
from the downward pentagram normally associated with
the dude with a goat's head who shall not be named.
Fighters and Thieves are easily dealt with using the Basic HERO System 6th Edition rulebook: weapon familiarities, combat levels, and skills. They're also easily handled in terms of setting -- once you decide the role each of them play, and the logical variants of each. Perhaps because there are clear parallels between fantasy fighters and thieves and modern equivalents, there's a quick way to grasp their essential natures and twist them this way and that.

But Clerics and Mages on the other hand, they're different. It could be argued that in some cultures they are the same. In other cultures, the classic D&D clerics and mages don't quite fit so neatly.

Is the medicine man of Native Americans a mage -- knowledgeable about remedies and physical ailments and human nature; or is he a cleric -- a healer who communes with higher realms of existence?

Is the mangkukulam of the Philippines a cleric of neutral or chaotic gods who grant their dark (insect-based) abilities, or a dabbler in occult knowledge passed down through generations?

Are Clerics and Mages opposed to one another?

Clerics and the realm of the Supernatural

In my setting, I'm assuming that the abilities of the clerics stem from the supernatural. The definition of supernatural here being "over/above nature" or "from God/Supreme Being/Creator".

This means that all their abilities are holy or god-given, and while they may be abused (making them subject to terrible punishments from the God they claim to serve) they stem from a divine source.

Clerics and the realm of the Preternatural

Right away, of course, we run into the problem of evil clerics. Their abilities (if we hew to the monotheistic paradigm which I've established I'm favoring in my setting) cannot come from a divine source. Their abilities stem from petitions granted by mischeivous, malevolent, and possibly diabolical entities who are not above nature, but are beyond our outside of it (ooh, outer gods here we come!).

Game mechanics-wise, the difference between the good and bad clerics will be negligible. Although, I can argue for evil cleric abilities to be cheaper with the HERO ability limitation known as Side Effects. In essence, more powerful abilities have a chance to have some harmful side effects on the cleric or his/her associates. This can be rationalized in the setting by having the supreme being as the only power than can create something out of nothing -- benefits without cost. All other beings, no matter how powerful, are subject to TANSTAAFL: healing someone means someone -- somewhere else -- gets sick or is cursed; food that appears for the party is actually taken from some place else; and so on.

So where does that leave the mages?

Magi and the Occult

Well, in my setting the mages are derived from the "wise men" and "practitioners of arcane and esoteric knowledge". They study lore that teaches how -- through the use of formulae including words and symbols and ritual and thought and memory and will -- the very rules by which the universe is governed can be manipulated.

Their studies do not necessarily make them evil or damned, but the paths walked to gain these powerful secrets are not always frequented by the upright or virtuous. And not all of them are human.

However, the usage of their power -- for good or for ill -- will certainly earn them the attention of the supernatural and preternatural entities and their supporters, so they will likely be cut from the cloth of benevolent visionaries and mad scientists and power-hungry despots.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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