The sons of Bor hacked and chopped at Ymir's
body; from his flesh they formed rolling hills and
wide plains. From his bones they made the
mountains and from his hair they made the trees
and bushes. From the soil of his flesh the dwarves
crawled forth like maggots. The brothers threw Ymir's
skull into the air where it formed the heavens. Four dwarves
were made to hold it up. And when all those labors at last were
done, they threw Ymir's brains into the air to make the clouds.
Sparks and cinders from Muspellheim they threw into the sky also,
and so the stars came into being.
-- GURPS Religion, From Beginning to End (Norse Mythology)
In this episode, the gods create the Earth and its inhabitants. This is the great heyday of the Gods of Nature. Simultaneously, the gods set up their demesnes in Heaven, setting the stage for future interaction. This era introduces the regions of Heaven, the use of personal powers and creation powers, demesnes, combat, death, gaining mana, the Great Council of the Gods, and divine oaths.
Heaven is not just a single undifferentiated place, but is divided into realms which affect the gods' powers.
All gods and servitors have access to powers with which they can affect Heaven, Earth, or each other. The powers of the gods are defined by their spheres (both major and minor). Divine servitors each have unique powers which are not always fully known to the gods.
Divine powers are divided into three general categories:
There are some common rules which apply to all powers. Most sphere powers have a mana cost which must be payed immediately upon casting. Mana chips expended on powers should be placed in the nearest mana bowl. Unless otherwise mentioned, powers are instantaneous.
For every sphere card which a god has over the minimum necessary to cast a power, the mana cost is reduced by 10%. A sixth sphere card, because of its other unique powers, does not count for this cost reduction. Divine servitor powers (which are not based on spheres) have invariant costs.
Because there may be many percentage modifiers to a power's cost, the total may end up to be a fraction. Whenever this happens, round off to the nearest whole number (0.5 goes up), with a minimum cost of 1.
After Era Null, sphere cards may never be traded or given away. except to create lesser gods during the transition phases. Mana, however, is always freely transferable. Characters may give mana to others as gifts, loans, or in exchange for services. However, it may not be stolen, except through the use of specific powers.
Located in the Window on the World, the Earth map reflects the current status of events on Earth at all times. In addition to the actual map itself (with various markings and pieces to indicate terrain and populations), the Earth map is considered to also include the subsidiary papers kept next to it which indicate the current status of the races and cultures of Earth.
The Earth (and the Earth map) is a flat rectangle. For game purposes, the Earth map is divided into a 21x33 grid of squares. The two short sides are the north and south edges of Earth.
Each square on the Earth is considered to have a single type of base terrain. The five possible types are plains, forest, mountains, desert, and ocean/lake. Base terrain types are exclusive. In addition to a base terrain type, each square may have any number of special terrains in it (though only one of each type). Special terrains include rivers, chasms, springs, glaciers, game animals, fertile land, natural crossroads, mineral resources, landmarks, paradises, chaotic terrain, void gates, dead zones, plague zones, blessed lands, bad juju, and stonehenges. Cities and great cities also count as special terrain, though they only come into existence later during Era Centrum.
At least two referees will be stationed at the Earth map at all times to update changes. Players may not directly alter the Earth map themselves but must work through the referees. Situations and events on Earth do not actually exist until the referees make the actual changes to the Earth map.
Creation powers can be used to affect Earth during Era Aleph. Certain special rules apply to creation powers.
First, gods with sphere cards in common may work together, adding their sphere cards together in order to use higher level creation powers which the individual gods may not have been able to achieve. Each god involved in any such cooperation must have at least one card in the appropriate sphere in order to contribute. The mana cost may be shared among the gods in whatever manner they decide; each participant may contribute all, some, or none of the mana as long as the required amount is spent. When combining spheres, the gods involved do not receive mana discounts for having extra sphere cards; casting combined powers always costs full price.
Creation powers are normally used in the Window on the World. The deity speaks to the referees running the map of Earth and indicates exactly where his effect should take place. The results are immediately indicated on the map. If multiple gods are combining their powers, then all must be present at the time.
Because many gods may be competing for the attention of the Earth map referees, gods must line up and use their creation powers one at a time (or in groups if combining). After casting a single power, the god(s) must return to the end of the line. (GM's note: Yes, I understand that this may be boring, but if you want to make extensive changes to Earth's surface that's the price you pay.) Gods waiting in line are, of course, free to talk and interact in normal fashion.
Creation powers can be used in other parts of Heaven, but the god has less control over the effects. The god must spend the mana normally, write down the specific effects on a slip of paper (specifying the location on Earth in as much detail as he cares), and hand it to a referee. The referee will deliver it to the Earth map referees whenever it is convenient. Similarly, the Earth map referees will effect the actual changes whenever they get around to it, interpreting the location of the effect as they see fit.
Some special rules apply when creating races. This is the only time when multiple spheres can be combined together at one time. Once a race is created, its attributes can never be changed, so all gods involved in its creation must be present at the same time to cast Create Race and any additional Race spells.
When a race is first created, the creators must jointly designate a name for that race. They can also make up any other descriptions they like. A sufficiently interesting description will (at the discretion of the referees) allow the race to start with one extra population. The creators automatically get to place one free culture of that race on the Earth.
Beginning cultures have a population of 5, no knowledges, a primitive cultural level, poor wealth, and a religion which worships equally all of the gods who contributed sphere powers to its creation. (See rules for Era Centrum for details on these attributes.)
Once a race is created, any gods can create new cultures of that race using the generic power Create Culture. The new culture should be given a distinct name and will worship all the gods who contributed sphere powers to the race's creation plus the god who cast Create Culture.
A square occupied by a starting culture may not be affected by any further creation powers, so rival deities can't transform your race's home forest into an ocean. (Though they can affect the surrounding squares, turning that forest into an island.)
A demesne is a god's home territory. Only greater gods may build demesnes, though lesser gods automatically have access to their lord's demesne. A demesne may be created at any time, but a god may only have one.
Demesnes may be built in any region of Heaven, as long as the god can get to it. As long as he has a demesne, a greater god receives 50 mana at the end of each era.
A demesne is represented by a sign with the god's name attached to a wall or piece of furniture. A character is only in the demesne if she is touching the sign or the piece of furniture, or touching another character already in the demesne. A god or servitor may not enter a demesne unless invited by someone already inside. The only people who can enter a demesne without an invitation are the owner and his minions.
A character in a demesne may be attacked by those outside, but gains an extra five blocks. In addition, the owner of the demesne has double the normal number of hit points. These advantages do not apply if the attacker is already inside the demesne. If all defending characters inside a demesne are defeated in combat, then the demesne is destroyed.
An unoccupied demesne may also be attacked. It will be played by a referee and has 10 hit points and 5 blocks. If the attacker is, for some reason, inside the otherwise unoccupied demesne, her victory is automatic. If defeated, an unoccupied demesnes is destroyed.
There are two methods by which combat can be initiated, each of which will affect the fight's conduct.
The "proper" way to initiate combat is to challenge another character to a duel in the Hall of Doom. The challenger must name a time between ten and thirty minutes in the future. If either party fails to appear in the Hall of Doom at the appointed time, they are shamed and forfeit the right to vote in the next Great Council meeting. (Note that lesser gods and servitors, who don't vote in the Great Council anyway, thus lose nothing by declining a duel since they have no status at stake.) The challenged party may name a champion in his place, but the challenger must fight his own duels.
Immediately before a duel begins, the two combatants may prepare. Any combat power marked with a (D) may be used immediately prior to a duel. A combatant and his allies may cast any number of these powers onto the combatant just before a duel, and all will be effective during the upcoming combat. This is the only time in which a god or servitor may cast a combat power on a character other than himself.
Rather than initiate a formal duel, any god or servitor can simply announce her intention to attack another by stating in a loud, clear voice: "I am attacking [name of character]". Any other player in the room has five seconds to step forward and say "I will defend [name of character]". (If two individuals announce their intention to play bodyguard, the one closest to the challenger fills the role.) If no one chooses to defended the challenged party, he must fight for himself. Combat commences immediately, and neither party has the chance to cast combat powers in advance. The attacker gains no other combat advantage by using a sneak attack.
Because sneak attacks are considered cowardly and vile, the attacker is considered to have automatically violated a law of the Great Council (see below).
Combat between gods and/or servitors is always one-on-one. There are no group battles. Combat is resolved using rock-paper-scissors between the combatants. Each "hit" against an opponent inflicts one point of damage. Each god has five hit points (servitors may vary). When a character loses all of his hit points he must either surrender or die (see below).
This basic rule can be modified in many ways. First, some powers grant the user certain special moves known as tricks and blocks, which can only be used a certain number of times during the combat. A trick (fist closed, thumb up) beats rock, paper, scissors, and other tricks. Thus, two tricks beat each other, inflicting a point of damage on both combatants. A block (hand flat, palm facing forward) does no damage to the opponent, but prevents any damage from all moves including tricks.
During combat, each participant may use one combat power before each round. Combat powers are the only powers which can be used once combat has begun. Observers may not use powers to influence the combatants in any way until the combat is over.
Once combat has begun, it does not end until a combatant surrenders/dies, both participants agree to end it, or one participant uses a combat power which allows him to disengage. If a disengage power is used, the individual who used it may not be attacked again for ten minutes unless he agrees to it. Combatants immediately regain all lost hit points once a combat ends, even if they are attacked again immediately thereafter.
Any character who reaches zero hit points may choose to surrender rather than dying. The victor must accept the surrender, but may choose any one of the terms of surrender from the following list:
In addition to normal surrender terms, if the loser would normally have suffered true oblivion then he is permanently maimed. The victor must choose one of the following mutilations:
Note that mutilations are supposed to be obvious and must be role-played in some fashion to make the disadvantage clear to all other players.
When a god or servitor is killed in combat, she is banished to the Abyss for 30 minutes. Any divine objects which she was carrying must be left behind. While in the Abyss she is unable to use her powers, but may not be attacked by other players.
Dead characters are free to converse among themselves or any living character who might visit them in the Abyss. Though they are unable to use or gain mana, they do not actually lose any mana and are free to give or accept mana with anyone with whom they are in contact. After 30 minutes, the dead character comes back to life and must leave the Abyss.
Gods may only be permanently killed if they are obliterated. This can only be done using certain personal powers available from the sphere of Death, including the infamous Death Weapons, which can be carried by anyone. Any character killed by an opponent using a Death weapon or a power which causes oblivion is irrevocably dead.
Servitors may never be truly obliterated, since they are simply manifestations of the inherent nature of Heaven; if killed, another servitor will simply pop up in its place. If obliterated in combat, a servitor must go to the Abyss for 30 minutes, but then may return as a new servitor with a different name but with the exact same knowledge, powers, and goals.
If a god is obliterated, the player is essentially out of the game for the rest of that era. You may either leave the game or allow your dying spirit to linger in the Abyss before passing into the Void. While in the Abyss you have no mana or powers and can do nothing except talk to other players in the Abyss, though you're free to say anything you like. (Thus, murder is not a surefire way of silencing a person who knows too much.)
Unfortunately, every god obliterated increases the powers of the forces of the Void. Players of obliterated gods may return in the following era as demons. Demons are deadly creatures with unique powers unknown to the gods, bent on destroying both Heaven and Earth and returning all creation to the primal chaos.
One final note: Whoever obliterates a god must choose the means by which the body is disposed from the following list. The method chosen will provide mana to gods with the corresponding sphere of nature.
Once expended, mana is gone and never comes back. There are four ways to gain new mana, as described below:
First, mana may be received from other gods or servitors. Mana must normally be given freely, though a player can be forced to give some away through surrender terms mentioned above or certain specific powers.
Second, gods and servitors receive mana for the successful completion (or partial completion) of personal goals. Players who believe that they have satisfied the conditions of a personal goal should approach me or a designated referee to receive their mana.
Third, player contributions to the game, usually done during the transition phases, may earn extra mana for characters. Player contributions are detailed under the various transition phases.
Finally, gods receive mana from a variety of sources based on their spheres. Note that many of these sources (such as terrain and events) work no matter who is responsible for actually bringing about the circumstances that provided the source. Sphere sources are divided into four categories:
The Great Council is the ruling body of the gods, composed of the twelve greater gods. The Great Council may only be summoned by gods with the appropriate sphere power. The summoner must set the starting time of the Council meeting somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes from the time of summoning. All greater gods must be informed of the time of the Council meeting, but are free to ignore the summons.
The summoner serves as the leader of the Council meeting, though this is mainly a titular role. The leader may make the opening speech; no one may leave or interrupt him for the first three minutes. After that, everyone is free to do just about anything except initiate combat. Lesser gods and servitors may be present but may only speak if invited to do so by the leader or a majority of the Council. The leader may also end the Council meeting at any time, though it automatically ends 30 minutes after beginning unless all living greater gods are still present.
The Great Council as a whole has only two powers, described below. All decisions must be agreed to by a majority of the greater gods, i.e. seven. This number is invariant, no matter how many gods actually attend the meeting or are even alive.
Gods (but not servitors) may voluntarily swear binding oaths in the Hall of Doom. This may be done at any time as long as at least one other god is present and hears the oath. All Divine Oaths must be recorded by a referee, though they are otherwise not necessarily public knowledge. They may be on any topic.
If a god ever breaks a Divine Oath, she immediately loses 50 mana or half of her current mana total, whichever is greater.
After Era Aleph is over, players must report their final mana total to me. Transition Phase Secundus occurs over the next few months. During this time players create game contributions for Era Centrum and select their second personal goal.
Greater gods may create new lesser gods during this period, though they must take it upon themselves to find players for the roles.
Gods may also purchase new major sphere cards during this Transition Phase. A new major sphere card costs 100 mana. It can be from any sphere except ones in which another god has a monopoly. Minor sphere cards or the sixth card in a sphere may not be purchased.
The following player contributions will be needed for the next era. Each is worth 10 mana. The various contributions will be divided up among the gods at the end of Era Aleph. (Servitors will have specific contributions based on their role in Heaven.) Players should choose contributions that match their own talents or their character's spheres.