Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Building Part 3

My project to produce a template from which to create a fantasy RPG world based on Scripture and Christianity continues:

The Fall

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. — Revelations 12:9

The word Devil (diabolos in Greek) means 'the slanderer' or more literally 'the one who divides.' The word Satan means 'the adversary.' These are equated with the serpent from the Garden of Eden, who is (for the purposes of a fantasy RPG setting) is wonderfully called the great dragon. In Luke 10:18 Christ tells us that, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven." In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is called the Day Star ("Lucifer" in Latin) which proceeds the rising of the sun. This takes on significance when put in context of Christ's title the Sun of Righteousness.

Given all of these images, the Devil was a being of high importance (usually understood as an archangel). He rebels against God by reaching for godhood:
'I will ascend into heaven; I will place my throne above the stars of heaven. I will sit on a lofty mountain, on the lofty mountain to the north. I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the Most High.' — Isaiah 14: 13-14

In this rebellion he takes with him a group of angels. In doing so, he aligns himself with the nothingness from which creation comes. He becomes the personification of nothing. His actions try to pull creation away from God and back to the nothing from whence it came.

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You shall not die by death. For God knows in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5

As the serpent, Satan deceives Adam and Eve and gets them to follow in his sin of reaching for Godhood. When Eve gets her husband to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she and Adam sought knowledge. Specifically, they wanted the knowledge of evil — a world without God.

Thus, when creating a fantasy world, there needs to be an Adversary — a personification of Chaos bent on pulling the world away from God. Given the number of names associated with this being in Scripture, we are free name him according to the context of our world (translate "adversary" or "slanderer" into some version of elvish, for example). For purposes of world bulding, it is important to know that the name Adam means humanity. This story invites us to use it metaphorically. A fanstasy world does not need an Adam and an Eve per se; however it does need humanity to seek a world without God — the knowledge of evil. This pursuit is the result of a deception by the Adversary. To add flavor, one can use the metaphor suggested in Gensis 3:3. Eve tries to defend God by adding to the command of God to not eat of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil. She says to touch it is to die. Thus, the Adversary can use the good intentions of humanity to lead them to their fall — in trying to defend God, they come to know a world without God.


  1. I agree if you are building a world based around Scripture that you need an Adversary. I don't think that it has to be a individual every time. The important point is that there are higher beings than man that rebelled against God and now work towards corrupting the sentient beings of the settings.

    In addition one has be wary of how important to make the Adversary (whatever form this takes) to avoid the trap of viewing the world as a dualistic setup as in Zoroastrianism or Manichean sense.

  2. A direct adversarial, ahem, Adversary could prove to be limiting. In my experience, the conflict of the campaign's narrative is quickly shoved aside by conflict between the players.

    The only time I've succeeded was with a campaign based around the Tower of Babel. The novelty of the setting, rules tweaks and drinking from pottery with paper straws held their interest quite nicely! The Tower was a fun vertical dungeon to work on, since it was still being built by and preyed upon by monsters (it'd been years since any contact with the surface world). The villains were driven by one folly or another of reaching for Godhood.

    Umberto Eco's "Baudolino" might prove interesting. The unreliable narrator, searching for Prestor John, describes the monstrous heresies he encounters as actual monsters.

  3. Rob,

    Again, thanks for the criticism. I absolutely agree that dualism needs to be avoided. This is why the Adversary should be set up as a part of creation — an archangel, for example. Thus, despite his choice to become the personification of Chaos, he is in someway allowed this choice by God, because God created him.

  4. PipeDan,

    My intention is for the Adversary to be more of a background influence on the campaign and an explanatory figure as to why the world works the way it does.

    As far as "campaign narratives" go, I am not one to limit my players to write their own. If they seem absolutely uninterested in my pet dungeon/NPC/ be it. In my experience, the game is far more entertaining when players choose their goals and their archenemies.

    For example, I ran a super hero campaign years ago where the archvillan was supposed to be a minor throw away character that I didn't particularly care for. The players, however, came to really despise the guy and made it their goal to take him down. I don't think I've ever had more fun playing an archvillan.