Gods and Monsters
Characters are gods—pieces of the unformed chaos from the time before creation, similar in many ways to humans but less limited in their individual potential. They are creatures of volition more than flesh; their bodies twist to match the spirits within, the world itself responds to their will, and the limits of each god’s physical prowess are set more their own self-image than by the petty physical laws that constrain everybody else. However, for all their power, gods are just as susceptible to anger, foolishness, and general poor decision-making as regular human beings. Throughout this book, we refer to gods and player characters interchangeably.
Moreover, gods face the constant threat of losing themselves and becoming creatures of mindless instinct and fury—monsters so heavy with power that the world around them warps to reflect their nature, the landscape blighted by their simple presence. Possessing the powers of a god with little inclination to listen to reason, a single monster can pose a significant threat to an entire region.
When creating characters, bear in mind the nature of the source material. Gods and demigods in myths and legends tend to have overwhelming physical prowess, are no more (or less) intelligent than an average human being, and exhibit the emotional maturity of an angry six-year-old. They make mistakes, give in to pride or anger, and follow through on every course of action, no matter how poorly judged, like a force of nature.
They behave this way partly because mythic figures exist to teach lessons—like “pride comes before a fall” or “punching people only makes it worse”—and partly because bad decisions make for more entertaining stories.
Which is all a wordy way of encouraging you to embrace the epic flaws and terrible decision-making common to mythic stories when making your character. Be impulsive. Get into trouble. Get elbow-deep in other people’s messes, even if you think it’s a bad idea—especially if you think so! It’s all true to genre; mythic stories and roleplaying games alike thrive on misadventure and huge failures.
Mythic characters, just like all other Fate characters, have a high concept and a trouble. The high concept should reflect the god’s self-image—are you a Thunder Goddess, a Thing of the Wild Places, or One Who Dances at the End of Time?
A god’s trouble, on the other hand, might be anything. It could be something as human as a Weakness for Alcohol, something slightly supernatural like being Subject to Summoning, or the sort of thing that ties directly into the nature of godly existence like being a Power Sink or having No Fine Control or an Unstable Form. Whatever it is, make sure it can come back again and again to make your life difficult.
Next, make up three more aspects with the phase trio from Fate Core (page 38) with two small modifications. First, when telling the stories of your characters’ previous adventures, think big. These are the stories of how gods founded civilization, stole fire, killed an unkillable beast, or sealed the evil giants beneath the earth.
All of the PCs and many of the NPCs are part of the same pantheon: a collection of gods who have developed pseudo-familial relationships. They cannot be an actual family—their origins are nothing so biological—but if they choose to see themselves as a family, then they will naturally begin to resemble one another as their appearances adjust to match their ideations.
The upshot of this for character generation is that it’s natural for a god to think of the other gods as their brothers and sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, and so on. The aspect Me Against My Sister, Me and My Sister Against Our Father is perfectly okay despite your character not really having a sister or father.
Gods use the six approaches from Fate Accelerated Edition, but here they have different names to better suit the genre, and they are arranged into three opposing pairs.
- Bold covers the doing of deeds with great fanfare, and generally making yourself the center of attention. It replaces the Flashy approach.
- Subtle is the opposite partner to Bold; it encompasses hiding, sneaking, subtle manipulation, and otherwise getting what you want by remaining unnoticed. It replaces Sneaky.
- Clever is the approach of quick thinking, fast talking, and improvisation. It is the same as the usual Clever approach.
- Mighty is the brute force approach, and the opposite of Clever. Whether you’re lifting, pulling, throwing, or smashing, Mighty is the approach to use. It replaces Forceful.
- Wise is action that relies on planning, preparedness, and knowledge of the world. It replaces Careful.
- Swift is the opposed partner of Wise, and deals with physical speed and precision. It replaces the Quick approach.
Just like in Fate Accelerated, you choose one approach to be rated at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2), two at Average (+1), and one at Mediocre (+0). Remember that your character’s abilities—especially their physical abilities—are several notches above those of mundane mortals. A scholarly god who only has a Mediocre rank in Mighty can still swordfight an entire village at once with a decent chance of success; she just won’t be the engine of destruction that a god with a Good rank in Mighty would be.
In each pair of approaches, one approach is ascendant and one is subordinate. A god’s ascendant approaches are those that reinforce the god’s mantle, the shell of identity they have constructed to hold their power. For now, just mark the higher approach in each pair as ascendant, and the other as subordinate. If the two approaches are rated the same, choose which you wish to be ascendant. We’ll talk more about the divine mantle soon.
Stunts and Refresh
Each god starts with 3 refresh and 3 free stunts. If you want to buy more stunts, you can do so by spending refresh, as normal. When choosing stunts, think about the epic scale and flavor of Gods and Monsters. Stunts that just give specific +2 bonuses to rolls often don’t do justice to the world; usually the PCs are better served by stunts which let you “make something true, do something cool, or otherwise ignore the usual rules in some way” (Fate Accelerated, page 32). That’s not to say that +2 bonuses don’t have their place, just that part of being a mythic figure is being able to do things impossible for anyone else.
- Because I can see the threads of destiny, once per session I can arrive in a scene at a moment of great import, even if it would be impossible for me to get there in time (or at all).
- Because I have buried a portion of myself under the Rugged Peaks, once per session I can bleed off excess intention into that region instead of my immediate environs.
- Because I am the inventor of archery, once per session I can turn one of my missed ranged attacks into a 2-shift hit.
- Because the blood in my veins is the blood of the earth, once per session when I take stress from a physical attack I can choose to spout lava everywhere, adding an appropriate situation aspect.
- Because I live in symbiotic union with a thorned vine, once per session I can make a melee attack into an adjacent zone.
- Because I am a god of war, I get a +2 bonus whenever a community opposes my actions with Warfare.
The Divine Mantle
The gods are creatures made from leftover pieces of the great primordial everything. This means that, along with their great physical might and their ability to attune portions of the world to their own natures, their bodies warp to match the nature of the mind that drives them—it was a spontaneously arising mind that shaped the chaos into form, after all, and in a similar fashion the gods too are shaped by their own thoughts.
But this kind of fluid existence is untenable. A god needs a touchstone, an anchor to hold their self steady against the whims and urges that threaten to rewrite their identity with every fleeting thought. This is their mantle: a loose shell of ideals and concepts that contains and channels the torrent of their consciousness, acting both as a bulwark for their identity and a source of power tied to that identity. A god’s mantle is a blending of self-image, the beliefs of mortals, and the nature of the world. A dedicated god can manage all of these elements and become exactly what they wish to be, but most drift among the range of identities encompassed by their mantle as their actions shape themselves and the world around them.
In game terms, a god’s mantle is a combination of their identity, the powers they wield, their link to the land, and their connection to the people of the world. A mantle offers boons but also comes with a geas—a limitation that comes with the god’s adopted identity.
As a god uses their approaches, they generate a weight of intention, which can cause their aspects—their physical and mental selves—to flex, in order to reflect their new outlook. And just as a river flowing in its course becomes deeper, faster, and stronger, a god’s intentions shape their own being into vehicles for expressing that intention. A god who solves problems with violence and feats of strength will find themselves becoming muscular and direct, able to crack stone by shouting or to part the sea with their bare hands—adaptations which favor solving problems through violence and feats of strength. Likewise, a god who favors a patient, considered approach might develop a third eye which can see the future, encouraging them to be even more patient in their planning.
This might seem like a limitless cycle of self-improvement, but there are drawbacks. Even as a god’s power grows, they accumulate strange defects of body, mind, and spirit—the detritus of their character writ large across their physical form. Given enough of these flaws, a god passes some mystic threshold and their nature dramatically changes; they fall into the well of their power and, upon being consumed by it, become a monster.
Transformation into a monster is quick, dramatic, and cataclysmic. The god loses themselves in their own power, and their body undergoes a violent metamorphosis as it seeks the ideal form with which to express its nature. Change bursts from them in an uncontrolled flood, devastating the immediate scenery, and their mind is irredeemably warped as the god’s mantle, intention, and self fuse into something new. Some monsters are intelligent, some are bestial, but none really think like people any more—they are near-perfect vehicles for their nature, and their behavior tends toward exaggerated versions of the traits that drove them to monsterhood in the first place.
Even then there are plenty of monsters who could be safely ignored, left to make their own way in the wilderness far from civilization, but without a mantle to mediate their will and power they constantly bleed their nature into their surroundings. Wherever a monster stays comes to resemble that monster over time—and this is never good.
Creating the Mantle
A god’s mantle is the meeting of their nature—shown through their aspects—and their actions, as shown by their approaches. To create your god’s mantle, take each of their ascendant approaches and link them to one of their aspects. Every ascendant approach must be linked to only one aspect and vice versa. An aspect linked with an ascendant approach is known as an ascendant aspect and should reflect the approach it is linked to. If necessary, adjust the name of the ascendant aspect to follow the ascendant approach. If your god’s ascendant approaches change during play, their ascendant aspects will change to match.
On the character sheet for your god, you’ll see three scales, one for each of the opposed approach pairs.
BOLD [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ]    [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ] SUBTLE
CLEVER [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ]    [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ] MIGHTY
WISE [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ]    [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ] SWIFT
These scales measure how far your god’s behavior is pulling them toward the different elements of their nature. This is their intention, a reflection of the way they approach the world that shapes their body to match the spirit within.
When you create your god, place a token, called an intention token, on the “1” space on the side of your god’s ascendant approach for each approach pair. The numbered spaces represent the tiers of each approach pair. At the start of each tale, mark the positions of your intention tokens on the track itself.
Your god’s intention will change as you play. Every time you spend a fate point to affect a roll for an action—whether to get a +2 bonus, to reroll, to power a stunt, or to do anything else—move the token one step toward the approach you are using on the appropriate track.
During a session, the positions of your intention tokens only matter if you push a token off its track, turning your god into a monster. At milestones, however, their positions determine your milestone tier, which affects your god’s boons and geas. Upon creating your god, you begin at milestone tier 1.
A god’s mantle also starts with two stations, sacred places in the world which act as touchstones of power. The act of storing power in stations allows gods to delay transformation into monsters, and the power stored there can be used to fuel the boons of their mantle. There are two types of stations: marked sub-regions and communities. As you determine your stations, mark them on the map.
Your first station is a sub-region that you feel reflects your link to the world at large; you can choose the refinement aspect or leave it up to the GM. This sub-region begins play as marked by you, meaning you can use its regional stunt.
Your second station is a community to which you have a strong connection. Again, you can make the community by assigning its approaches as if it was a PC (one Good, two Fair, two Average, one Mediocre) or leave it to the GM. A single community can act as a station for any number of gods.
It’s best if the whole pantheon is linked to the same community, or at least to a collection of communities close enough together that you can focus tales near the same place. However, if the gods have other strong reasons to work as a group, you can get away with scattering the communities of interest.
As part of their mantle, a god has a set of boons, powerful advantages that befit their godhood. When you create your god, though, you only need to invent the least of their gifts: their tier 1 boon.
First, choose a low-level persistent benefit related to your god’s overall concept: for example, the ability to see in pitch darkness, minor illusory cantrips, deep pockets filled with odds and ends, or invulnerability to naked flames.
Then, create a boon stunt following this template:
Because I am [something related to your god’s concept], I can spend a power point stored in my stations to get a +1 bonus when I [pick one: Boldly, Subtly, Mightily, Swiftly, Wisely, Cleverly] [pick one: attack, defend, overcome, create an advantage] while [describe a circumstance].
This boon stunt is weaker than a stunt, but as your god grows in power, you will receive more powerful boon stunts.
Boons and power points are described in more detail in the next chapter, Godly Power.
Each god also has a weakness called a geas. This is something they struggle with, a restriction or weakness antithetical to their nature that worsens as they grow in power. For now, choose one:
- Your god takes a -1 penalty when doing something that their nature resists. The circumstances for this penalty are often broader than a stunt, covering all actions done with a certain intent regardless of approach or action. For example, a god of war might take a penalty to peaceful negotiation, or a sun god might take a penalty to concealing their presence.
- Your god is entirely barred from a certain course of action unless there is an aspect in the scene that allows them to do it. For example, trickster god might be unable to attack until they have created an advantage on their target, or a god of destruction might be unable to do anything creative until they have created a situation aspect that reflects how the god has ruined of their surroundings.
As with boons, we’ll talk more about geasa in the next chapter, Godly Power.
Also, You’re Immortal
Your gods—and the monsters they can become—are immortal. Your character is a sentient, living piece of the fabric of reality, and as such is beyond mortal concerns like…well, mortality.
This doesn’t help you much in conflicts, as you can still be taken out like any other character. It just means that, if you are taken out, your opponent can’t kill you. They can chain you to a rock for eternity with only a liver-eating eagle for company. They can tie you up beneath a tree with poison dripping in your eyes. They can cut you into seven parts and seal your soul in a clay jar hidden beyond your sight. But they can’t kill you.
Mechanically, this means there is always a way back—whatever happens to you when you are taken out can be overcome later. It just means that your opponent gets what they want right now and will seriously inconvenience you in the process.
It might also affect the sort of consequences you choose to take in a physical conflict, depending on exactly where your character falls on the scale between “human but louder” and “numinous alien bodhisattva.” A god who simply fights with the sword or hammer might get a Broken Collarbone, but a more abstract being might be more likely to start Leaking Hope into the World when injured.
…Except When You’re Not
Eventually, most mythologies end with a “twilight of the gods”—a retreat from the world, or a final battle, or some other explanation of why the gods no longer interfere in the world of humankind. When such a twilight is in progress—perhaps to clear the way for future adventures of mortals in the world your gods have shaped—your immortality no longer applies. This vulnerability can have reasons as varied as the number of games anyone’s played—but, however it comes about, there will always come a time when gods and monsters alike can be slain, imprisoned forever, or otherwise made a static part of the world.