We played Dungeon World and in an effort to push things away from any kind of Tolkien vibe and more towards a Leiber/Vance end of the spectrum, I made up a creepy deity whose shrine they found in the Thieves’ Guild of Spanterhook called the Many-Handed God. When an NPC with damage from a weapon that almost had to be a misprint butchered 3/4’s of the party, one of the players made a deal with Death to return.
He returned Evil (mental note: I need a better deal) and a disciple of the Many-Handed God, described as a thieves’ deity whose real hands are hidden behind and has dozens of hands on danging from chains dangling from his body. I’m not sure why this deity pleased me so much as it was a riff on a character I played some years ago but it tickled my geek bone.
Before last week’s game was to begin, Anthony, the newly Evil’ed priest’s player, said, “I think I know why the priest turned to evil.”
And I didn’t say, “Um, because he had to because he made a deal with Death, who is a concrete entity with mysterious goals all his/her/its own.” I listened to my friend and roommate’s story about how the priest had come from a northern warrior culture where strength was prized above all, so when he died at the hands of a thief who worshiped the Many-Handed-God, he saw that this deity was stronger than his own and so he turned. “And you could see the seeds of his evil in the beginning of the game when I kicked that one thief’s corpse.” I nodded, kinda/sorta/vaguely remembering this key detail.
Once play began, Anthony began talking about the Many-Handed-God. “He prizes strength above all else…”
“Anthony, its a thief’s god. It prizes cunning.”
“Yes, cunning and strength! He sees trial-by-combat as a hole rite…”
“Maybe if its a knife fight in an alley…”
“Yes, and wishes his worshipers to be strong and…”
We clearly had very different ideas and to be perfectly honest, I was about to stop the game and call him out for being wrong about his ideas concerning this bullshit deity who I made up and was overly proud of. What the fuck?
Like many deities, the Many-Handed-God changed when adopted by his urban followers in the south. Whereas in the north his hands will have axes, spears, swords, a compass and a fist, the urban shrines have knives, poisons, coins and forged writs.
There was another moment worth posting here, where Anthony was asking Aaron questions about his character, wanting to know why they were adventuring together, as the Bonds hadn’t bound them too much. Aaron was really reticent to make anything up, his elf fighter had been butchered by the 9-damage mace misprint and while he loved his Ultra-Marine inspired take on the Paladin, he wasn’t about to become all invested. “Listen, Anthony, this is a first level paladin who might get struck down after a few bad die rolls. I’m not getting too attached. I’ll come up with stuff as we go.”
I interjected an suggested that Aaron’s shiny deity was in fact the Many-Handed-Gods’ father and so it was natural for a priest of one to adventure with a paladin of the other. Anthony was pleased with that but what Aaron said stuck with me.