Friday, May 29, 2020

Weird Revisited D&D Cosmic

This post first appeared in 2012...

Before I talked about the possibilities of fantasy gaming enlivened by concepts of gods borrowed from comic books. In that discussion, I neglected the abstract cosmic entities, peculiar to Marvel--several of whom were the creation of Jim Starlin. Adding these sorts of deity-level beings also suggests a way to revitalize the hoary old great wheel or develop a trippy planar travel sort of setting wholly different from Planescape.

Let's take a look at a few of Marvel's concepts given form:

The Living Tribunal has three faces representing equity, vengeance, and necessity, and he likes to go around judging things.  He might be the supreme being--or he might just be the supreme being's prosecutor.  He's probably lawful neutral (or maybe just lawful).

In a lot of fantasy Law and Chaos are in opposition.  In the Marvel cosmic entities pantheon, Lord Chaos and Master Order work in tandem, perhaps manipulating events to show the superiority of one side or the other? Maybe they're engaged in a debate or a game rather than a battle?  Separately, Lord Chaos has a visage that could easily hang above a humanoid altar and bald Master Order could easily be the patron of monks.

Chaos and Order also have a servant embodying both of their philosophies (perhaps the True Neutral of balance?) called the In-Betweener, who sometimes seems to pursue his own agenda.

Eon is a weird looking guy that guards the cosmic axis. (Maybe that's what the Great Wheel spins around?) He can also dole out "cosmic awareness" if he needs to.

That's just a few examples.  Perusing the list of the beings appearing in Marvel's various cosmic sagas out to offer a lot more ideas.


Judge Joe Kilmartin said...

I remember hearing on a podcast a while ago that the psionics rules in the OD&D supplements circa 1976 were a specific attempt to emulate Marvel Comics/Doctor Strange styled sorcery rather than the Vancian magic that Gary Gygax favoured. This was in an interview with one of the original playtesters /editors of that part of the rules. Defenses like "Tower of Indomitable Will" sound like something from a Steve Englehart comic.

JB said...

Much of my knowledge of Marvel’s cosmic beings comes directly from the original Marvel RPG (while I was and am a fan of Doc Strange, most of my DS comics dealt with more mundane stories/characters).

I think such beings fit in well with a D&D campaign (in fact, I’d consider them to be...mostly...on the level of a “demon prince” or “arch devil.” Meaning, of course, that they should easily crush any PC encountered).

Peter said...

The first comic I read was issue #3 of the Infinity Gauntlet ltd series, the one where all Marvel heroes "die". I was 7 years old at the time and a major fan of the Spider-Man animated series. Then I read issue #4, and encountered Eternity, Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, the Celestials and other cosmic entities.

In my last D&D campaign, the gods were more like the Eternals and DC's New Gods. But lately, I'm drifting back to those cosmic entities: Death, Galactus, Eternity, Infinity. These embody more fundamental concepts. D&D gods should be living concepts, not merely superpowered humanoids. And the Marvel cosmic entities are perfect models for that.

Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

There is a level of civilization development that would be needed to make worship of these "gods" believable.

The worshipers have to be advanced enough to be able to try to quantify these abstract concepts. So they would have to have moved away from gods as explanations for natural events. Otherwise it would seem like a weird juxtaposition of beliefs.

I always found it odd to try and introduce god and demi-god concepts because of how hard it is to keep players from questioning their purpose.

Trey said...

Well, I do know that anyone has every worshiped gods like these at least on a large scale, but the Ancient Greeks had a conception of them in 700 BC. And of course, the existence of alignment would suggest a concept of Law and Chaos. In general how gods work in D&D is such a fictional creation anyway, I don't see it as much of a stretch.

I've never had a player question a god concept!

Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

I think I see your point...

A Justicar might be devoted to making sure that society remains orderly. An Anarchist would be the opposite. Neither can be classified broadly as Good or Evil.

The Justicar could be serving unjust laws. The Anarchist could be rebelling against a despot.

This could result in a cult of sorts. Perhaps understanding that the gods governing these things have little interest in worshipers, other than the advancement of their particular set of ideals.

DC Comics also has Lords of Order and Chaos, but in that case I think they are thought to be humans that ascended to a higher state of being. The Dr. Fate comics tended to play fast and loose with the concepts.