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Author Topic: Deals with the Dead  (Read 1949 times)

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Offline Nobody

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Deals with the Dead
« on: March 31, 2005, 09:32:46 AM »
This thread is actually a tangent from another thread called Redefining Shamans. For a complete scope of the context, feel free to read Redefining Shamans in the flesh it out section.

Onto the topic at hand. The idea behind this thread is that theoretically a person could make deals with the spirits of the dead in order to gain power or something else. The gain to the living person would, in this case, be relatively obvious, however, what kind of gain could dead spirit recieve in return.

Now to clarify, the deal would not be made with the gods or a god. Simply a dead soul of a once living being. These deals could take any shape or form. The might be as formal as a contract, or as loose as an unspoken agreement.

So what would a spirit want in return for a favor?

-Nobody
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Offline MoonHunter

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I posted this, and then you created the tangent
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2005, 10:56:53 AM »
Quote from: "Nobody"
But what would the spirits get in turn? There would be some trade-off, no? What in the world would undead spirits want in return. Hmm.-Nobody


What would Undead Spirits want in return?  How about a voice? How about a hand. It would be a barter system... I will aid you if you do this for my descendent... or I will aid you if you tell my unrequented love that I loved her, or I will aid you if you can make sure that "this person" is taken care of... or I will serve you if you avenge my wrongful death (okay, the death might not of been wrongful.. but in the spirit's eyes). The deal could be a little long term, spirit, "You will help me once and I will serve you forever..." The deals and bartering can be quite complex.

Then there are more altruistic motives... I died of illness, I will use my spirit powers to make sure that never happens again... I had no children, I will make sure everyone is fertile when I am a spirit... I am a great chief, I wish to lend wisdom to my child... and the shaman is their anchor to the world and their hands/ channel for their power.

It could also be a payback... the shaman helped me in this life, therefore I will help him in the next, he gave me a love potion, so I will help him make love spells when I am dead, he saved me from being ill.  I loved this land, i will help the shaman protect it. I was a tiger in my last life, I can grant my friend the shaman tiger abilities in my current unlife.

Then there is the Shaman obligation... I was a shaman of the tribe before you... I will aid you in wisdom, power, and deal making.

Shamanism is all about the community and the art of the deal. Shamans interact with the spirit world, helping them and getting help in return. Shamans interact with their community, doing the spirit's bidding and helping people in the living time so they will be happy in the next. The Shaman stratles the two communities of the village... the living and the dead who are still hanging around.

Shamandry is about wisdom, because the spirit power of the shaman is all about the higher levels of existance. They realize if someone is "blocked" or has unresolved issues... that this person will be a ghost... so they take steps in the living time to make sure that does not happen. Unhappy ghosts will cause problems for the shaman and the living, so they will resolve these issues... sometimes before they occur.

That is what shamandry is about.
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Offline Cheka Man

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Deals with the Dead
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2005, 02:28:37 PM »
Some spirits might be in a Hell and want realese from it (which might bring the spellcaster to the attention of angry demons if the request is granted) others might want to be brought back as Undead. (Which would not go down well with law enforcement/the local people.)

Offline Scrasamax

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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2005, 03:30:03 PM »
What are the dead? They are the souls, and the fragmented memories of the living, and without the living, can the dead continue to exist?

With that conundrum, what the dead want is quite simple. They want to be remembered. Worship is rather out of the question, as they are not gods of any sort, but memorials and personal shrines would be nice. Grandfather Yuri, the village wisdom who guided the village through the plague and several orcish raids has much wisdom. Not many people remember him, or his deeds. He would help the local village again (extension of the loving the land from above posts) but only so long as they erected a small shrine, perhaps with a mural or fresco illustrating his deeds.

The village survives, and Grandfather Yuri becomes a stronger ghost because of the memoriam of the living, and the offerings of flowers and incense sometimes burned at his shrine.

One thing to note would be that the real gods would not allow too much of this ancestor worship to go one since it technically robs them of the worship of the living.


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Offline Nobody

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Deals with the Dead
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2005, 04:29:05 PM »
Well, first Scrasmax, if i had had the time during my last post, i would have said a lot of the things that you have mentioned. However, keep in mind, that all of us may have different ideas of what the spirit world might be. Maybe there IS a sort of hell.

Maybe that would be the bargain. Get out of hell by doing good deeds for the living. There may not even be a catch in the traditional sense. Just a mutual exchange.

The odd thing about this thread is that there are few ground rules. There is really no established authority on the fiction that is the after-life (i am not talking about actual religious beliefs). In light of that, I would have no ability to tell anybody that what they said does not make much sense. It makes as much sense as they think it does.

So with that said, lets try not to get too agressive. Keep the ideas bouncing off eachother.

For instance, in my particular realm, the dead are the magical signatures of sentient beings. They have a whole world apart from the living that has no relavance to what a live person might remember.

So maybe the dead would want sacrifices. In my realm, the dead gain power by being near to something as it dies. Maybe they would want lots of animal sacrifices. And not only want them, but require them to lend power. Or maybe there is something more.

I honestly don't know. Im trying to get ideas.

Also, About the Gods getting offended by ancestor worship, why would they care? And would they even have the power to. Usually there is a specific God in charge of the underworld, and i would not expect him to let the other Gods go around tramping around in his underworld without good reason. Besides, the God's are usually pretty pre-occupied dealing with competing Gods, not a few souls.

Or am i wrong? Lets get a few more thoughts here.

-Nobody
"I am just a figment of my imagination" -"Loki", Illusionist Trickster

Offline Ancient Gamer

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Deals with the Dead
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2005, 05:41:21 PM »
The idea that worship fuels the power of gods and their like is an old and good one (borderline cliche). Sometimes it can be good to think out of the box though.

MoonHunter's theory was very, very good, and covered much, but I'll try to cough up some more:

Sometimes the dead wants to feel. They want to dwell within the shaman, feel his emotions and his pain; be alive if just for a while. At some nights, when the stellar constellations are right, the Shaman permits this and he can be seen dancing in the darkness, laughing like a madman, possessed by a thousand craving souls.

(Plot possibility: "Bad Shaman" promise the dead the permanent possession of other living tribals or unfortunate adventurers,:wink: in exchange for mighty magics.)
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2005, 12:24:39 AM »
I've given thought to just this sort of thing over the past few years.  Some of these are (at least tangentially) at Midian's core.  

While I have avoided (intentionally) the True Nature of an immortal soul--leaving that the sole province of the setting's religions--there is some remnant spark that sometimes remains after death.  This can be anything from a raw energy used to power some magics, to phantoms little more than imprinted scenes of the past, endlessly repeating, to fully sentient spirits retaining all of their knowledge and personality from life. All of these various aspects can prove useful in the game.  

A necromancer can use various means to force a spirit's compliance.  This can range from magics that dominate a spirit into following your command, to more subtle arts like promising the sprit's release after capture in exchange for information.  Some examples of these methods are with the Angkou spell, which creates a guardian for an area by burying someone alive, ensuring their return as an angry spirit, and binding them to the site.  The spirit's rage does the rest. Also, a high-level necromancer can imprison the soul of someone that they slay. This allows the necromancer to bargain with the spirit for its release.  Depending on the religious beliefs of the victim, this can be quite effective.  A prime example is with followers of the Temple of Light. One of the basic tenets of that faith is that you are rewarded in the afterlife by joining--becoming "one"--with The Light.  To the faithful, having your soul imprisoned by a necromancer is far worse than the death itself.

Some imprisoned spirits would gladly have the chance at a form of immortality as part of a magic item, rather than the nothingness of death. It's not nearly as good as still being alive, but it beats the alternative.  Some spirits simply aren't given an option but to become a component in a magical craft.  A powerful alchemist can take the pieces and traits she wants from a trapped soul (especially one sacrificed for this purpose) and place them inside a magical item.  This can range from an essence of fire from an imprisoned elemental, to a fully sentient former mortal.  

Sometimes a spirit can simply be cajoled into service. That is, a shaman using Spirit Charm essentially talks a spirit into an item.  Any bargaining will be between the spirit and the shaman, and may simply be convincing the spirit to assist by wielding its power through the object.  Other shamanistic magics, such as the Tribal Totem, allow the shaman to "win" the spirit's aid by defeating it in battle--either before or after it dies. For example, a bear may be hunted & slain for the purposes of this ritual, and its spirit--as part of a carved likeness--would repel predatory animals from the village.  

It is also possible to secure the assistance of someone's spirit before they die. The Art of the Deal that MoonHunter coincidentally mentioned, allows a magically-binding contract to be entered.  Any agreement that can be met by the various parties can still mystically bind them in the afterlife. Of course, someone may not know exactly what they are getting themselves into, but that's their own fault for not reading the small print.

Some spirits can be dealt with by even beginning characters, if they are clever enough.  A ghost may be haunting an area because of a task left unfulfilled. Its cooperation may be gained if the pc's promise to aid it.  Alternatively, a spirit can be trapped on the wrong side of certain protective circles (but keeping it there until the circle is completed is enough of a task in itself), gaining the spirit's help in exchange for its freedom.
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2005, 12:27:14 AM »
As far as gods becomming upset over ancestor worship, in some societies, ancestor worship IS their religion.  In other cultures, worshiping the ancestors is a part of their diety-based faith.  The dead may act as intercessors for the gods, both conveying prayers and sending dreams as to what the gods wish to be done.
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Offline Maggot

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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2005, 02:56:41 AM »
What if these spirits actually begin to feed on the strength of the living in order  to sustain their ghostly auras? That might cause problems,no?
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Offline Cheka Man

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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2005, 07:06:45 AM »
Maybe spirits could drain small amounts of lifeforce from the people of a village or town, in exchange for protecting them against something really dangerous.

Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2005, 12:30:10 AM »
Or, it could juet be a "protection racket."  The spirits could only be pretending that they are protecting the town from greater otherworldly harm.  They may not even be the ghosts of the town's dead.  It would seem a simple matter for a group of Demons (or similar malevolent spirit) to convince a group of frightened vilagers to allow them too feed.  The could also play the role of the evil attacking spirits, being "driven away" by the "ghosts of our ancestors."
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Offline Maggot

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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2005, 03:20:51 AM »
But wouldn't the Shaman be able to see through such a ploy,given his ability to identify most spirits?
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2005, 10:07:21 PM »
That would depend on how astute the shaman is, and how much of clever tricksters the evil spirits are.  The spirits may never reveal themselves directly--especially to the shaman if he or she has an ability to discern their true nature--or the spirits may be all that the shaman knows.  That is, all of the shaman's mystic training is derived from knowledge that originated generations ago from the Demons themselves.
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