The god-killers were mentioned here and there in our 13 Cities campaign but they were not fully fleshed out because it was not necessary. As play progressed, we saw more how the 13 Cities operated, how gods were created, the churches’ power and parables about how gods died. Player characters came into contact with god-killers, who came from a northern continent called Occulum.
One night, after a game, me and Pete and Storn sat around and talked about Occulum. I envisioned a nation where the people rose up and killed their deities, founded a republic and sent out squads of god-killers to liberate other lands. Pete and Storn added details and philosophies. We decided that our next campaign would be about the Occularae, probably centered on a group of god-killers.
The first salvo was sent by Pete via e-mail as he was thinking of a character:
No More Fables…
In our land there are no more fables, merely allegories.
In the days when our Godkings first took us in their parental embrace, we were savages. They taught us to build, to cultivate, to husband, to domestic, to worship, to supplicate, and to genuflect.
And it was into these days that the Deva fell from Heaven. It arced across the night sky and plunged to our land. It left a crater. In the crater, there was a stone. The stone was as black as the moonless night and filled with tiny stars. We treated it as a gift from the God of Heaven. We built a shrine about the stone. Then, a hall about the shrine. Then, a keep about the hall.
And it was to this keep that one of the Godkings strode. He was mighty. He was arrogant. He was so beautiful that we could look upon him openly. He entered our keep. He strode through our hall. He sneered at our shrine. He touched our sacred rock.
He fell down dead.
Once it became clear that the world would not, in fact, end because of this demise. A whisper ran through us. This whisper became a tale. The tale became a story. The story became a banner.
And our rock became weapons. Forged by men. Wielded by men. To kill Gods.
Once the brutal yoke was thrown off, we moved – we thought, we adapted, we learned, we studied, we theorized, we proved, and we redefined.
We created humanist philosophy and natural philosophy and plumbed the depths of knowledge that our fickle dead gods had hidden from us.
And we began to see.
We found the Lyceum, The Academy, and The Congress. We organized the Orders of the 23-Fold Thought, The Deepening Sight, and Logos. We debated, we determined, we gained liberty, and we gained an objective.
An over-riding objective. One where our world was free of these charlatans called “Gods.”
And we have come from our forests and our plains and our bays to rid this world of a plague.
We are the Occularae: “The Sighted Ones.”
You call us: “Godkillers!”
And we call you: “The Blind.”
After that, I couldn’t stop myself and added in to the mix:
Long live the republic. May our nation leave a trail of dead gods and a foundation of human accomplishment that our descendants might build upon.
In the first days after the Five Slayings, there were intense debates as to how we should deal with the cultural detritus left over by thousands of years of worship and slavery. Should all mention of them in poetry and verse be expunged and their visages be scraped off of stone? Should we pass sweeping laws against our brothers and sisters in order to keep the Gorgon, the Bull, the Dragon, the Crone and the Huntress from ever being mentioned?
Should we wipe our gods from history itself?
In the end, we decided that to forget what we were enslaved to would one day allow them to rise again in another incarnation.
But the Five Slayers set the tone. They faded into our society, their names and identities left unknown. The populace demands icons, if not to worship, then to identify with, to remember past eras and achievements. This was how the 5 Icons were born.
Those in the Lyceum still look at the icons with distrust, thinking that they could, under the adulation of the populace, gain powers through worship. But, to this day, over a thousand years since their use, they have remained symbols of what humans can accomplish.
The spear that killed the Bull, the axe that killed the Dragon, the arrow that killed the Gorgon, the garrote that killed the Crone and the summoning circle that banished the Huntress remain with us. Through the Lyceum’s tireless vigilance, they have not gathered dogma but have remained with us – on the banners, shields of our soldiers and carved on the walls of our republic’s government buildings. They are not objects of worship but symbols of inspiration, reminding us all what is possible when we humans put our will to great deeds and take the time to gather the right tools to our purpose.
Philosophies of the Occularae
Philosophical Theists: The existence of gods does not matter as much as the culture that they have transmitted. Those traditions are worth keeping. These are people who still make small sacrifices to the Five Gods, facing the nearest step pyramid while doing so and keep the old holy days.
Humanist Jihadist: Gods are tyrannical by their very nature and should be killed along with any spirits who attempt to put themselves above humans. Once the gods are killed the cultures that they came from should be stamped out of existence, joining the republic’s culture of philosophy and reason (note that magic and sorcery are well within reason, as they are tools humans use).
Humanist Moderate: Gods are tyrannical and society’s evolution dictates that this will occur in time. By going into other lands and killing gods, we are creating a maelstrom of identity politics and destruction that will not help the people we are meaning to liberate. People must slay their own gods and we must be there to subtly support the blind when they open their eyes.
Rabid Theists or Pentad Loyalists: Killing the gods will bring ruin and damnation on our land and its people. We must prop up the children of the gods who have been left behind and seek guidance from their divine wisdom and grace.
Human-centered Theists: Godhood is the highest pinnacle of human achievement and should be encouraged, though once a human has made themselves into a god, we must observe and learn from the laws of the Han and the Druids to formalize a way to contain them and learn from their wisdom without devolving into worship.
The game will take part in the portion of Occulum that is occupied by 13 Cities’ armies and the players will be assassins and god-killers.
This really grabs me, unlike a lot of setting writing.
It’s worth looking at early post-revolutionary France. It seems like the GKs have a *lot* in common with Napoleonic idealists.
Good catch. I will do some reading on that.
This is really hot stuff. Can’t wait to hear about how it plays out.
Me too, man.
Just wanted to add this to Judd’s philosophies.
Secular Humanist: We do what we do for the present. We aid those whose Gods we kill so that they may be free. At our base, we are a peace-loving people and our primary focus is to liberate and improve humanity. We believe the radical idea that all humans are created equal. Under Gods we cannot realize this potential; ergo the Gods must go.
Rhetoricians: All of the good that we can create upon this world is based firmly in logic and reason. Emotions have their place in personal affairs, but in the ruling of entire populi there is no room for pathos. The Gods are part of the advancement of all humanity. When people realize that they are more than who they worship, they can progress. The elimination of the Gods is the logical step to free humanity and create an egalitarian society which in turn leads to a Golden Age of Reason.
The reason I bring these two into it is because I feel that Secular Humanism is the abiding philosophy with the others as sects. I bring this up because there has to be a visibly beneficial outcome of the philosophy for the majority to agree to so fantastical and radical an idea as a Democratic Republic. The democracy of Ancient Greece was primarily a peace-loving one. It was in this perceived state of peaceful co-existence that the modern foundations of liberty, free will, and naturalism were created. It is also why, despite their long and bloodied history, the Greeks fell so swiftly before the Romans.
I see Occulum as a federation of the original 5 city states that have each gained the status of Commonwealth. So it is a Federation of Five Commonwealths. I think the Occularae call their actual nation: Pentamerous.
This is great stuff. Truly. I like the tension that it creates between the various groups in that world.
I wonder, though, whether the Occularae culture is infused with tall poppy syndrome (particularly in reaction to the Human-centred Theists). Individual achievement could be viewed suspiciously.
Tall Poppy Syndrome, I have never heard of it. Where has it been in the real world?
It’s very common in Australia, but the phrase is used in New Zealand and the UK as well. Egalitarianism is strong in Australia, to the point that when someone over-achieves it can cause resentment from others. The tall poppy needs to be cut down, so to speak, because he’s growing tall but not taking the others with him. It’s about relative position at the expense of others.
I speculate that a culture like the Occularae that despises the powerful who set themselves up as lords over others would apply this as a cultural norm, to themselves as a nation and as individuals.
Hmmm… we established in fiction that the godkillers of the Occularae did retreat into obscurity… that is a very interesting choice and gives an interesting legacy for future generations of Occularae to follow/emulate.
Cool setting Judd. Really like it! Nuanced in a lovely fashion.
Note the “tall poppy syndrome” is a recognized social phenomenon in humans that has actually been studied and documented: turns out humans, as a group, are wired to prefer social equality in our societies, and that even if making someone else more equal to the rest of the group means we take a personal hit.
This is one article (PDF file) from Nature.