Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Devastation of Demigods

In my last blog post, I talked about running a game where the player characters ar demigods  -- I used the term "fantasy superheroes" to describe them, and compared them to Marvel's Thor.  Though I don't want to run a "Thor" campaign, or even an "Asgard" campaign, I've begun to think of the world that such a campaign would exist in... and dang, if I didn't come across another Marvel comics illustration that captures the feel of what I want:

I like the idea of different "worlds" connected together by an "axis mundi" of a sort. The idea of climbing a "world tree" is very appealing, but again, it's very connected in the popular imagination to the Norse pantheon. Other possibilities that spring to mind are a cosmic dragon, clutching the worlds in its coils (which brings up images of Cthulhoid tentacles as well); a road, with hosts of heroes riding grimly to war against against an army of Giants; or a river, with tributaries, rapids, whirlpools, and waterfalls. All of them have possibilities... but I like the tree-metaphor. Many other European and Asian mythologies use the tree-metaphor, so I might keep it.

In Norse mythology, the number and nature of the "nine worlds" varies according to the source, but the term "the nine worlds" crops up in many cases (including the scholastic works of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in their seminal periodical, "The Mighty Thor").  Each of them is home to a particularly family of beings. Some of these worlds are:
  1. Asaheim: home of the Asgardian gods such as Odin and Thor.
  2. Vanaheim: home of the Vanir (Freya, Freyr, Njord)
  3. Jotunheim (home of the Jotuns, or giants)
  4. Midgard: home of men
  5. Alfheim: home of elves
  6. Hel: home of the dead, ruled by a goddess named Hel or Hela
  7. Svartalfheim: Home of the Dark Elves (who may be the same as the Dwarves, to the chagrin of many fans of R. A. Salvatore)
  8. Muspellheim: land of fire
  9. Niflheim: land of ice

None of these are detailed to any significant extent in Norse mythology, so I am pretty free to do what I want to make these playable worlds. For one thing, there's a fire world and an ice world, but no sea world.  Some random thoughts on these issues:

  1. Different families of gods living in different worlds. How do the gods of the sky-realm differ from the gods of the earth-realm or the air-realm?
  2. Dwarves: since they're obsessed with smithing and creating, make their world a sort of steampunk/gearpunk technology. Gloranthan dwarves (Mostali) have an idea that the world is a broken machine and they're trying to fix it.
  3. I see the area between the worlds as filled with weird, alien horrors (of a Lovecraftian variety), which is why the World Tree is the main path between the worlds.  
  4. There is no "ocean-heim". Does each world have its own sea, or are they all connected?
  5. How do ordinary mortals fit in? They won't be the main focus of the campaign, but do they even exist?
  6. What beings regularly travel between the realms?
This is a world-in-progress, and continues to evolve. Comments are much welcome.



thwaak said...

Actually, rather than a tree, I rather like the idea of a mystical ocean that will transport you from world to world, much like Tolkien's ocean that separated Middle Earth from Valinor.

One could sail the ocean round and round on each world without ever crossing over to another unless you know the 'route' which will allow you to cross.

Guy Hoyle said...

I've considered an ocean, which is also found in the Elric stories and games ("Sailor on the Seas of Fate). It's also reminiscent of the Spelljammer game.

Another possibility: the exact nature of the "axis mundi" varies from world o world. One group sees it as a great, writhing dragon with the worlds gripped in its coils; another sees it as a world-tree; another as an ocean; another, as a road. It manifests in different ways depending on the way you enter into it.


thwaak said...

If there is central world, a Midgard as it were, the method to get to another world - as you have said - could entirely depend on the specific world trying to be reached from that central point.

It would have the additional benefit of making that Midgard world contested ground and the source of a lot of conflict.

Anonymous said...

After some quick google fu it looks as though marvels dark elves are all armored goblinoids of some kind.

I'm actually sort of surprised they've never got around to expanding on that.