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Current GM of Civilization III: A New World!

I'm also working on launching a new Divinus RP; stay tuned!

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I feel like each one of Aelius's "virtues" could have been a portfolio on its own. This system seems slightly unbalanced.

Edit: Just to clarify, I don't mean to specifically target the person who made Aelius. This is just an observation. He just happened to be one of the first gods I read about, and it was something I noticed.

It was suggested a few times that Aelius narrow it down, but at the time he was taking a niche that nobody else wanted so it was allowed in the end. Regarding the balance of it, there's the ruling that specific > broad as far as Portfolios go, so although he could have broken that down into 3 or 4 smaller Portfolios and been much more powerful over each aspect, as is he can just have some more shallow powers over all four under Virtue.

Here's a list of free Portfolios that seem interesting to me:

Space, storms, authority, law, hunting, dying (we have a god of death, as in the afterlife and the fate of dead souls, and a competing god of undeath, but neither focuses on reaping or the aspect of murder or dying itself), music, domestication/animal husbandry, luck, mana, love, lust, beauty, pride, envy, greed, fraud, wealth

Additionally we had someone apply with a god of cold, but @jetipster seems to have vanished. Unless he comes in here protesting otherwise, you can consider that on the list of open Portfolios.

Come say hi on the Discord! We can talk this over in more detail there; I'll PM you an invite link.
Kho and I have decided to talk out any remaining obstacles to his acceptance directly over Discord DMs, so there won't be a public re-review here anytime soon.

Before I returned from work, BBeast addressed your response, and I thank him for taking the time to do so and clarify my statements in such a succinct manner.

Because I know that almost everyone reads these public reviews and have their own things influenced by what I say about others' sheets, there nonetheless remain a few remarks that Kho made that warrant a response here for everybody to see.

If the GM team has personal issues with the practice of reusing previous characters, whatever the reason for reusing them, then that is a personal gripe and should not - in my view - be held against a sheet when judging whether it is to be accepted or not.

I certainly have biases, however this one against the recycling of characters is my own. When delivering these reviews, you may notice that I often switch between saying 'we' and 'I' because I try to make the distinction between my personal opinion and that of the GM collective. There are the occasional few topics on which a review's feedback comes from me alone, or from Mutton and BBeast without me, and I try to make such instances somewhat clear through my wording.

I understand that you believe that this act of recycling has resulted in actual issues, and I will cover those as we go through them.

Yes, and I'm glad that you were able to recognize that. I gave you as much feedback and candor as I did because I know you better than all of the other people that I've been reviewing, and I trusted you to not just rationalize my criticisms as being the spiteful and unwarranted judgements of someone who's salty over seeing a character that he doesn't personally like.

Martial Combat is not a broad portfolio. It is in fact exceedingly specific.

Agreed. If it wasn't clear, my objections of breadth were entirely directed at your description of Martial Combat because I thought that Seihdhara's powers (as described) surpassed the limits of such a Portfolio. I already told you this on Discord, but I'm repeating it here so that people don't scratch their heads and wonder why 'Martial Combat' was accused of being too broad. Short answer--it wasn't.

I would, firstly, like this Athena-Ares dichotomy to be done away with when it comes to Seihdhara and Narzhak.

The possibility of this dichotomy came up in some discussions on the Discord, and I had (erroneously, it now seems) thought that you were on board with it.

The word ascension refers to 'to going up'. This 'going up' refers to rising up through the sphere to the highest one of all, the Great Dark. It does not refer to teleportation. Returning to Galbar likewise refers to a manual journey downward, and not to teleportation.
This is all basicall this: A student finishes training under Seihdhara. Seihdhara gives them a grassblade. She tell them they can go home if they like, or if they want adventure they can set out on pilgrimage to the top of the world. The person then decides for themselves what they wish to do.

I think that you are still hazy on one very fundamental aspect of Spheres: traversing them is extremely hard. Ascending to Veradax is quite comparable to "ascending" to the Moon in real life. It will take divine intervention or an extremely powerful force of magic or technology for mortals to traverse the Spheres; this is something that even gods will struggle with in the beginning of the RP. Natural connections are unstable and highly unsafe, even Gateways are meant to often be somewhat difficult to traverse for mortals, and beings that leave their native Sphere can sometimes experience ill effects from doing so, because they're bound to the essence of their own plane and might well be unaccustomed to that of any other. For instance, any living being that were to pass through the Sky of Pyres would almost certainly die just because the aura of death is so potent there and the nebulae of smoke from the braziers is anathema to life itself. Other Spheres may well be much more habitable of course, but for another (more mild) example I point to Ehomakwoi and how the darkness of that cavernous Sphere of stone is such that mundane torches and the likes often don't even work there. (Good job Commodore, btw, I don't know if I ever praised you for that detail but I like it.)

The takeaway of this paragraph is that mortals won't simply walk up to the Seal, or go on pilgrimages to the Great Dark. Gods can abduct mortals to their Spheres, or eventually make Gateways that can perhaps allow entry to mortals under certain conditions, but from your tone and wording I don't think you realize the difficulty of travel and the implications of such challenges when it comes to thinking of how mortals will interact with the Spheres.

Most of the Spheres are very distant and inaccessible places to the mortals of Galbar, which is why we try so hard to emphasize that they should have a substantial effect upon the metaphysics lest they exist for the entire length of the RP whilst still managing to hardly contribute to the setting, like Arcon.

There's a monster lurkin' in the waters...'s creepin' up on us from below...

Oh God! There it is! It's a REVIEW! A beast of a review! The biggest one in the seven seas! Aaaaaaagh!

@Kho for Red Sonja

I'll try to address what I view as the crux of your remaining negative sentiments.

Take, for example, undead. Even if it only manifests after a very extended timespan soul decay would inevitably affect all of them, as there is no apparent limit to their permanence in that state. The length of that timespan is ultimately immaterial, given the roleplay revolves around immortal characters who operate over entire epochs of the world; sooner or later, we would reach its end. This could only be avoided if were truly extremely great, but, if taken too far, the whole notion would at length be rendered entirely irrelevant to all purposes. Having all undead be condemned to degrade into mindless husks would heavily impair the relevance of undeath as a divine aspect, or at least greatly limit the possible ways in which it could be explored and developed.

In response to this, and your earlier objection that it limits potentially interesting storylines, I'll reiterate what I said on Discord: literally nothing from Mk. II would have really been affected by the addition of soul decay, which means that the system is far from being overbearing or too restrictive for its own good. Furthermore, I don't think that this is necessarily in conflict with what Foe does.

My (subjective) opinion is that the entire system, and by extension soul decay, adds some interesting implications and storylines for the IC. Others may beg to differ, but many of the loudest voices in that debate don't have nearly as much vested interest in the precise mechanics of souls, or in how soul decay would even affect undead. They should've made a death god if they wanted to enforce their ideal model of souls, and on the offchance that they'd actually given serious thought and planning to an afterlife or to having undead before this conversation sprung up and the revelations of soul decay through a monkey wrench into their plans, all I can really say is 'woops'. That's the downside of planning really far ahead; it makes you inflexible and you frequently get monkey wrenches like this thrown into your secret plans by other peoples' stuff. Anybody whose plans were affected can adapt or change their plans to conform to the now much more detailed model, though in all honesty I doubt most will have to adapt or change their plans in the slightest.

Another concept that has been mentioned various times is the possibility of competing afterlives. Beyond having plenty of plot potential in itself, something like this could give a whole new dimension to an eventual soul crisis arc, making it a much more personal matter for any gods who engaged in it. However, once again this would be stymied if all souls were destined to crumble regardless of what happened to them. A variety of afterlives is meaningless if all their inhabitants are featureless shells without thought or memory. Remedying this by making them impermanent would somewhat defeat the concept of an afterlife proper.

Firstly, I will point out that nobody was even discussing an afterlife on the Discord. Nobody really even made an afterlife in Mk. II. An afterlife existed in Mk. I existed but was extremely vague and not very important for the story. This is something that's always been severely neglected in my opinion, so when nobody else was doing it this time I decided to take it upon myself to make a universal afterlife and codify the mechanics of death and souls.

So I very much doubt that I stomped on (or even altered) anybody's preexisting plans.

Even so, competing afterlives are not prohibited; they're just relegated to a thing that's very difficult and costly in terms of MP, and in the best scenario most such competing afterlives will be like minor exceptions to the near-universal afterlife enforced by Katharsos and the Sky of Pyres. I see no issues with this; he's the god of death and he's devoted his entire Sphere from the beginning to being the afterlife. It should take more than a whim and a couple of thoughts to try altering the system that he's established as the default and as the canon.

Notably, there already is an alternative afterlife as well in the form of Foe's Sphere. I think your objection here is completely unwarranted.

@Cyclone I been holding this back, but I think it is important to just propose an alternative instead of simply dismissing the opposing idea. My idea to square the concept of having infinite souls and giving Kath an important role is fairly simple, have it so that the burning process is what increases the sum total of soul-energy. So the soul stuff that originally went into that person breaks down into ash, but so does their memories, experiences, etc.

The reason I suggest this alternative is that it pull the focus away from no soul should ever leave the cycle, and allows for competing afterlives, while also maintaining Kath's afterlife and refocusing it on ensuring the cycle as a whole continues, rather than making sure that there is zero loss.

This is a reasonable alternative and it'd be a perfectly fine system if somewhere else were to design a similar Sphere and system; however, I personally don't like it. Katharsos' intense objection to the sequestering of souls is a big part of his persona, even if it's not so evident on his sheet. In my view this does nothing except lower the stakes and prevent a soul crisis, which you've repeatedly expressed dislike for but which the majority of us (myself included) are interested in.

Alternative afterlives and the sequestering of souls are possible under the current system, so really the only effect that your change would have is preventing a soul crisis plotline from ever happening (it's not even guaranteed to happen in the first place) and leaving Katharsos without any real reason to object to the sequestering of souls or the existence of undead that refuse to ever move on. I think that Katharsos' natural opposition to Foe and Anz (the likely culprits for 99% of soul sequestration) is a good thing to have because it allows for story interaction, so I'm naturally opposed to your idea because it'd indirectly remove this and leave me with that much less to write about.

...and as I said in my lengthy multi-paragraph series of Discord posts earlier today, that's the end of this conversation for now. I would have been done with reviews and the IC would have probably been up by now if I hadn't been distracted by debating souls and soul decay for the past three or four days, so for now I'm done arguing. Mutton, BBeast, and myself have talked over souls and we'll soon post an explanation of the broadstrokes of what we've decided in the wake of the debates.

I hope I didn't come across as angry or dismissive of anyone here. At times the debate got a bit heated on Discord, but all remained mostly civil and no harm comes from hearing your ideas and opinions. Thanks to those that weighed in, but for now we need to move past this conversation or we'll be stuck here in the pre-IC mud forever.
In essence, this amounts to emulating a natural process (aging and bodily damage leading to death) which normally occurs on its own. In such a system, a being would be weakened by having a compromised body, which leads to a decaying soul. But a compromised body results in weakness regardless of the state of the soul within; indeed, even in a cosmology where souls were absent altogether, physical harm would bring one closer to death, regardless of any ulterior circumstances. In addition, a soul's health being dependant on the body's condition could lead to some strange quandaries: would someone who has lost a limb have their soul decay at an accelerated rate? Would someone who has suffered from a severe disease, and then recovered, nevertheless die prematurely because the period of illness resulted in pieces of their soul sloughing away faster than normal?

It's not a thing that would come up or be mentioned often. It can explain how Loki's demons weaken souls and eat them and why Katharsos does what he does (among other things) while not being intrusive enough to warrant anybody taking note of it 99% of the time. I think you greatly overestimate how much this would affect other mechanics or the story at large.

...They might be able to extend their lifespan by some means, but they would have to keep themselves from rotting away in order to enjoy it, and no amount of consuming souls would help them with that. The lich in the example would need to, for instance, drain its victims' life force to strengthen its crumbling bones; that is not to say that it shouldn't be able to strip them of their souls for some purpose, but, as mentioned, fuelling its unlife with them alone would be a futile endeavour by the system's very rules.

If you weren't on the same page, I think we've come to decide that heroes are by default made immune to soul fraying. It's a mechanic that would only really matter for undead that stick around for a long time, or for mortals that find non-divine ways to extend their lifespan far beyond what is natural for them.

It's not very clear how this would fit into the workings of the soul as determined by the Sky of Pyres. If the decay is manifested in the soul falling apart, how would it be purified at Katharsos' hands? And, if souls crumble back into ash as they reach the end of their course, why would he need to redistribute their material by artificial means? Far from providing a justification for his work, soul decay might in fact place its usefulness into question.

The most obvious solution is that it'd be cruel to let a soul slowly go crazy and suffer as it degrades into ash over what we can imagine as a very long process. Katharsos is putting the dying horses out of their misery, so to speak. Furthermore, I'd imagined that a soul "fully degrading" would take extremely long lengths of time, so KAtharsos burning them would greatly accelerate this process and prevent the vast majority of souls being in a useless and half-degraded state at any given time.

One last note, not necessarily related to fraying but still linked with matters of death and the soul. I notice the OP still has this point, written before Katharsos was conceived:

<Snipped quote by Rules on Might spending>

Since in the new system death involves one's mind and memories being destroyed and scattered, eventually going to form new living beings, the feasibility of this might need to be revised.

This actually got raised as a point and discussed among us GMs as the other two talked over my sheet in our PM convo. We already have something of a consensus regarding it, I think.

That above point refers to taking a soul of a very recently dead person or creature and putting it back into a body prior to it being sucked up by the Vortex of Souls and eventually burnt. There's a backlog of souls sitting in the Sky of Pyres that could be rescued and the process a soul takes in order to get up to the Sky also takes time, so there's a vaguely defined (but finite) window that gives gods a reasonable chance to take this action.

Resurrecting something that died a really long time ago is rendered impossible if its soul was burnt, though. This imposes a bit of a ticking timer, which isn't something that I think to be necessarily bad.
The train keeps on chugging. We'll get back to station eventually!

@DracoLunaris for Azura
On soul decay, I propose this: An intact and healthy body inhibits the decay of the resident soul. Stuff like divine essence and the MP invested to make Heroes heroic further reinforces souls against decay to the extent of stopping decay entirely while they are alive. Part of making an immortal species is spending MP on their ability to keep their souls together indefinitely. Ad hoc solutions, such as those available to mortals, do not prevent this fraying, and self-made immortals will need to work to maintain their immortality (e.g. a lich needs to keep consuming souls so as to replenish the part of their soul which frays).

I quite like this.

On the death of powerful beings, typically their death is brought about by something which weakens the being to the extent that the being is too weak to not die. At this stage, stripped of power, the being (e.g. god, hero) is likely (although not certainly) too weak to resist the Sky of Pyres.

Though I didn't say so, this was more or less what I'd imagined as the counterpoint to the Discord argument of "ghost gods" running around indefinitely. I agree.

Considering the backlash to the idea of a soul crisis, I think we should ensure that we do have enough souls that natural population growth on Galbar will never deplete the reservoir. In this case, the limited number of souls only becomes an issue if someone attempts to horde billions of souls or the souls stop being recycled, that is, if IC events intentionally try to create a soul crisis. If Cyclone is wise he won't personally instigate a soul crisis. Leave that to the gods whose goals are to consume all of reality (*cough* Anzillu *cough*).

In case I haven't been clear (EDIT: In hindsight, I haven't been. My bad!), I figured this to be a given. The Architect would have brought in enough souls (by his estimation) to sustain life, and as animals etc. also have souls, it stands to reason that the rise of civilization and intelligent mortals will coincide with a decline of wildlife, thus keeping the souls in balance here.

The idea of a soul crisis is why Katharsos is said to oppose the "sequestering" of souls. So all of what you said lines up nicely with how I'd imagined things and I have no objections there.

Thank you for your input, BBeast. I bestow a chocolate-chip CyCookie to thee.

It was brought up in another discord I think, but what constitutes a soul? Can you make artificial souls? Clearly demons function (albeit poorly) without souls, so basic function isn't predicate on having a soul.

What if a god dumped might into making home grown souls? What if multiple gods established a system, we'll call it 'spirit', that does the same thing as souls?

My thinking was that soulless beings like demons and golems can be created, but that a mortal being designed to have a soul (like a human) simply cannot be born without some soul. Note some; going back to my earlier comments about some osuls being "larger," in times of scarcity the supply of soul ash could just be spread thinner, and it'd weaken the living beings born with smaller souls.

Creating an alternative to "souls" is a solution to the finite soul thing that I'd accept both OOC and IC; in fact, it has precedence because in Mk. II my god actually created beings with something called Flickers that acted as pseudo-souls. It should probably be a really difficult and big undertaking though; in Mk. II, Fate (that universe's equivalent to the Architect) took some grave exception to my god bending the universe's rules.
For clarity, the posts above are in response to a debate that sparked on the Discord. I pinned the message where it started so that anybody who cares can jump up to it and read through, but I also told everyone to post the gist of their arguments so that others can more easily see and that it'll be easier to keep track of what's decided.

There were a few things that came up, most related to Katharsos and the current model of souls and recycling souls as it was implied in my CS. Obviously I'm quite invested in the argument because Katharsos would become absolutely pointless were some of the proposed changes to be made, and for that reason I'm going to at least wait for @BBeast and @Muttonhawk to weigh in.

1. The souls in the universe were let in when the Architect opened up the hole to Beyond, allowing entry to the souls of both the gods and everything else. There is a finite number of souls in the universe; more cannot be created. This is why Katharsos has the Sky of Pyres and why he insists upon recycling them.

2. [This idea has since been REDACTED by Cyclone, who was swayed on the Discord, mainly through the argument that this means demigods make no sense.] Gods have souls too, just like mortals. This is supported because they were brought in alongside everything else, how some gods also have seemingly mundane backstories like having been a weatherman or a fish in their previous existence, by how Katharsos believes he must one day burn the souls of the other gods (and my OOC opinion that such an event would make a cool thing IC).

3. Souls decay and get worn down over time, which is why Katharsos believes that he must recycle them, and which can pose potentially big problems to immortal races/beings whose souls would invariably decay.

I feel like the finite soul thing simply contrives conflict in what I believe is an uninteresting way. The demon god and undeath god no longer become enemies or allies based on ideological grounds, but we will need to fight them because they are hogging a finite resource.

There isn't really any interesting outcome to a soul-shortage. It seems like it really just come down to having the artitect give us more souls, or bully demon boy or undeath god to shake some souls loose.

Edit : Further thoughts, My problem is that it seems like every other god has no reason to care about souls except at a seemingly random point when it suddenly an issue we need to worry about, and it will effectively force all humanity-sided characters to side with Kath since there isn't really any alternatives.

I have little to say other than that I fundamentally disagree with almost every premise asserted. Most of these arguments are subjective. Concerning the last point I will say that Katharsos is extremely logical and the very pinnacle of utilitarian in his thought, and it'd be rather unrealistic to expect everyone to take his side even if it ends up looking like the "correct" one from an OOC perspective. I could go on about this more, but it's not the main point.

I think the first big thing to answer is whether souls should be conserved or if they can be created, as in 1. Personally I think it'd drastically change Katharsos' character (and render his Sphere largely moot) if it turns out that souls can simply be created and that there's no necessity behind his actions. Furthermore, I don't think this is anything more than a thematic complaint, because the way Katharsos' system works is that the recycled "soul ash" just drifts back down to Galbar and sits around until it can clump back together into a soul and be a part of some nascent lifeform. Any god could just scoop up souls and use them; they're not monopolized. Though a crisis emerging from a lack of souls could be pushed back and handwaved indefinitely and until convenient (or explained away through other means; for instance, as mortal populations rise, wildlife and animal populations will fall, keeping the number of required souls somewhat constant), I maintain that it'd be an interesting plot arc that could go several ways and potentially even have an entire Age centered around it.

Issue number 2 can be brought back up again if needed, but at this point I think it's safe to say that we're mostly all on board with gods having "divine essence" that is distinct from other souls. This may have come to be because they were gods in a previous existence, or it may be because the Architect thought he didn't have enough helpers and he arbitrarily "promoted" some ordinary souls into divine essences. The net effect is that demigods make more sense in that they have some divine essence to distinguish them from other beings, and that what happens upon a god's death is somewhat uncertain, but that could be tackled IC; perhaps Katharsos is wrong in his belief that he can just recycle gods' divine essence like he can mortal souls.

Issue 3 is a big one that's still on the table. I was going to have Katharsos explore this IC, but now it's pretty clear that was a poor idea. I'll explain now what I've been thinking: souls are like ropes, and that over time they start to fray, so given immortality a mortal soul might grow weaker and this could manifest as a creeping madness or overall weakness. Some beings have larger souls than others, explaining how some beings are longer lived with little ill effect and how heroes can be created (just enlarge their soul as part of the process). The "soul fraying" would mainly come up if a mortal, say a human, used some means other than acquiring divinity or herodom to extend their lifespan far beyond what is natural, or with undead. As undead grow older and older, they start to become less predictable and more dangerously erratic, which doesn't seem incompatible with Foe and Mourner's Hollow) and is why Katharsos would be fundamentally opposed to permanent states of undeath.

I missed most of the discussion, so I'm coming in with a very limited perspective, but I gathered that souls are a finite resource. There's a 'pool' they're drawn from and recycled into when things are born and die.

However, what I'm not understanding is why this exists when we, as gods, can hocus-pocus things into existence. I understand we're not omnipotent, but we have the means to create. So why are souls so distinct?

You have a point in that the distinction is somewhat arbitrary, but in laying down the metaphysics for this universe the owners of the relevant Spheres get a big say in what is canon. In my case for Katharsos, souls being finite is a core idea. The obvious reason that I'm so opposed to that idea being overturned is that it largely renders Katharsos (as he's currently portrayed) unusable for the RP; he'd be transformed into something evil, which is the exact opposite of what I wanted him to be.

Ultimately the creation of souls can just be handwaved off as a power beyond the capacity of our gods, much like teleportation and time travel.

"It oculd lead to a Thanos situation where more souls are needed, so some gods see the solution as being to eradicate a significant fraction of life so as to free up souls
...or it could lead to trying to ask the Architect for more souls
OR it could lead to trying to free the souls trapped in the undead Sphere
see how many possibilities there are?"

Which really covers only pro-Kathy options.

I feel like this might be a bit much, one of the things that got Sartravius accepted was going with "source of all flames" instead of "source of all heat", which I take establishes some limits of just how influential a sphere can be, and if truly everyone needs to dance along with Kath or risk the death of everything, eh, that is a bit more serious than the latter case.

What would you expect or want for an "anti Katharsos" option? Killing him and putting someone more lenient in charge of the Sky of Pyres, someone who might simply "temper" souls rather than fully burn and recycle them? Not unreasonable. I quite expect for many gods to hate, defy, and misunderstand Katharsos; his conception was of a god that's incredibly benevolent (probably the most benevolent), wise, and even noble, but only if you're willing to accept his extremely detached and utilitarian view of the world. One can argue that he's borderline Satanic, so I'd say there's definitely a shade of gray and that he's not completely white.

I'm amenable to other solutions for such a potential arc, too. And see my previous comment about it being believable (and honestly preferable) that not every god have the foresight and emotional capacity to see things from Katharsos' perspective and take the pragmatic solution.
Can you post WIP sheets? I'd make a goddess of mana but I only have her sphere and portfolio down so far.

Yes, you can (and should) post your WIP as we’re about to close the window to further applicants. Are you on the Discord?
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