Gods and Monsters
Telling Your Tales, Changing the World
One of the key features of mythic stories is that they describe how the world gained its many qualities. They answer the question of “Why is that the way it is?”
In Gods and Monsters, the mythic feel remains but the order of events is reversed: The world responds to the potential for change at the heart of every god, so your gods’ actions leave lasting effects on the world around them. When you tell a story in Gods and Monsters, you’re telling the story of how something came to be, but you won’t know what that something is until you’re finished.
When your tale has reached a conclusion, think back over everything that occurred. As a group, come up with a fact about the world that their adventure explains. This is the explanation: the “…and that’s why…” that comes at the end of most mythic tales. Some examples might be:
- “…and that’s why crows are black.”
- “…and that’s where owlbears come from.”
- “…and that’s why no-one sails the Sea of Glass.”
When choosing an explanation, you have three broad options: something cosmetic with a global scope, something more potent but more local in effect, or something potent and global but that other parties will contest.
Cosmetic: Cosmetic changes are things like why crows are black, why roses have thorns, or why people speak different languages in different places. These things might affect the background of the world, but aren’t significant enough to function as aspects, nor do they count as marking. On the plus side, these changes can have global scope; if you determine that crows are red because they got soaked in carrion following a huge battle, then all crows everywhere are now red. Alternatively, you could declare that only the crows of this particular region are red, while others remain black. It’s up to you.
Potent and Local: The potent-but-local option makes a major change in a region or sub-region by creating or changing the region’s refinement aspect. The character most responsible for the change is considered to have marked the region, and gains access to its regional stunt.
Global: The “biggest” option is to create an aspect that applies to the entire world as a result of your actions, reflecting the outcome of your tale. Going forward, this aspect acts as a situation aspect in every scene, but it comes with two important conditions: First, this aspect doesn’t affect individual regions or sub-regions, so it doesn’t count as marking anything. Second, people will notice, and they won’t like it.
When you make a change this big, the next tale or two will focus on how others—gods, mortals, monsters, or some combination—attempt to undo your meddling. The tale after that will be about people seeking a new equilibrium in a changed world, and the problems it causes you. After that, the aspect you created fades into the background of “the way things are,” becoming just a fact of the world that people take for granted.
Sometimes the tale you’ve told won’t have a single clear explanation. Perhaps each god gained something different from it. Perhaps multiple events of note transpired and you want to make sure that each has the proper impact on the world. Maybe you just want a world where different cults take different lessons from the same myths. At times like these, it’s not the end of the world if you let more than one explanation ride on a single tale, but only let one of these explanations generate a new aspect. There can be other explanations, but those are only cosmetic.
Changing and Creating Regions
It is in the nature of gods to change the world with their actions. During play, the gods will split the world’s regions into a patchwork of sub-regions by marking them, done either by bleeding off intention or using a tale’s explanation.
Whenever a god creates or changes a region’s refinement, this creates a new sub-region within that region. If a god marks a region or sub-region that has been marked by another god, the previous god loses their mark.
Thorn is in the Forest Primeval when she is forced to bleed off some intention to avoid becoming a monster. In doing this, she narrates how the forest around her becomes a darker, more predatory place, and creates the Wild Wood, a sub-region of the Forest Primeval. Within the Wild Wood, the refinement Life In All Its Forms is replaced with Life Hungers for Life.
Whenever a god changes the refinement aspect of a sub-region, they can either alter the nature of the entire sub-region or create a new sub-region inside the old—their choice.
Herakhty and Cassia tell the tale of how they drove a road through the Wild Wood as part of their goal to create and bolster civilisation. When they do this, they could replace the refinement aspect Life Hungers for Life with The Wilderness Bows Before Mankind across the entire sub-region—which would effectively replace the Wild Wood with The Road, which remains a sub-region of the Forest Primeval. Otherwise, they could choose to make The Road a sub-region of the Wild Wood, creating the fairy-tale situation where the road is safe, but the moment you set foot off it you’re in mortal danger. Naturally, they choose the latter.
If the actions of the story support it, and the GM agrees, you can use an explanation of a tale to change the concept of a sub-region, splitting off from its parent region to become a completely new region. In this case, the group will need to invent a new regional stunt.
When your god has marked a sub-region, you gain access to the regional stunt of the parent region. If someone wipes out the marked sub-region—by changing its refinement aspect and choosing to replace the sub-region with a new one—then your god loses access to the stunt. Creating multiple sub-regions within one region doesn’t change how you use the regional stunt, but it does make it more difficult to cut you off from using it; you wouldn’t lose access to it until all of your sub-regions in that region were destroyed.
If your god uses an explanation to create a new region by changing the concept of an existing one, then you get access to whatever the new regional stunt turns out to be. In this case, the regional stunt will be much harder to take away from you because the entire region would have to be wiped off the map.
Destroying the Status Quo
At the end of a tale, you can choose to bleed off all the intention your god has accumulated, returning the tokens to where they were at the start of the tale—unless they became a monster, in which case they cannot be saved.
If you do this, count the number of steps on the track that each token moves, and note which approach the token moves away from. Bleeding off this energy has the usual effects—changing a region’s refinement aspect in an uncontrolled and negative way—but the intensity depends directly on the total number of steps the tokens moved:
- 1–2 steps: As normal. You mark the region, and the refinement aspect becomes something unpleasant based on the approaches you’ve bled off.
- 3–4 steps: This is bad. The refinement aspect on the region jumps straight to something hostile—coming here in future is going to be difficult and dangerous, and the mortal population will be starkly affected.
- 5–6 steps: Really bad. It’s just like 3–4 steps, except that either you affect a very large sub-region, or you hit multiple smaller sub-regions. Also, the power you create in the sub-region hates you and anything that reminds it of you.
- 7+ steps: Grossly irresponsible. Your drive to avoid the consequences of your actions by pouring your power back into the world causes numerous large sub-regions to spring up all over the region you affect and any other similar regions in the world—all forests, all oceans, all mountain ranges, and so on. All these sub-regions have the same hostile refinement aspect, and the creatures they spawn bear a special hatred for you and anything like you. Nice work.
This list is only guidance, of course. If you have a better idea of how to ruin a god’s day with the unintended consequences of their reckless use of power, go with that.
While gods can influence the scenery, they can also influence the communities of the world. Gods can change a community’s refinement aspect by bleeding off intention there or by using an explanation, just as if the community were a sub-region. They can also create a community’s trait aspect in the same manners. Note that communities are not sub-regions, even if you change their refinement aspect.
When a god uses their explanation to change a community’s refinement or trait aspect, they can instead improve one of the community’s approaches by one rank. In this way, a technologically minded god can drive the advancement of human knowledge.
As communities are active participants in the world, there are other ways to change them. They can be engaged in conflicts and pick up consequences, allowing the deity in a hurry to apply temporary aspects to them by pounding them into submission—socially or physically, as necessary. A community that concedes a conflict may offer social changes as part of the concession; these do not have the mechanical weight of aspects, but could still get the god what they want.
As a general rule, communities inherit their concept and refinement from their parent region or sub-region. If someone adjusts the refinement aspect of the sub-region, then all communities of that sub-region change theirs to match.
There is one exception: do not change the community’s refinement aspect if it has already been changed to something different from its parent region or sub-region’s. In this case, a god has invested time and effort into shaping that community according to their will—they have made it narratively important—and it’s poor form to let that get wiped out by someone bleeding off intention twenty miles away.
The gods in Gods and Monsters are fluid entities, stabilized by their connection to the world and their careful management of their own power. Change is less something they choose to do and more something that happens to them as they exercise their will on the world. At every milestone, in addition to gaining the usual benefits of the milestone, reassess your god’s mantle and the locations of their intention tokens.
First, slide each token that isn’t on a numbered space toward the tier 0 space until it arrives on a numbered tier space, where it stops.
Second, if any of the tokens have shifted to the subordinate side of a track during play, switch the subordinate and ascendant aspects of that pair; once you do this, rewrite your corresponding ascendant aspect to better match the new ascendant approach of that pair. For example, a god with Earth-Shaking Power (Mighty) whose token moves onto the Clever side of the scale might replace that aspect with Landslides and Sinkholes (Clever). If you find your god switching back and forth between aspects, you can either stick with one or two that work well or choose a new one each time.
If the token is on tier 0, you can choose any aspect at all to describe the ascendant aspect, but both approaches of that pair are considered subordinate until you swing one way or the other.
Finally, find the highest tier of your ascendant approaches. This tier is your milestone tier, which determines the strength of your boons and geas until your next milestone.
After his trials—both metaphorical and literal—in a wicked village, Herakhty reaches a milestone. He’s a cerebral god, with Wise, Clever, and Bold as his ascendant approaches, but he’s been consistently using quick wits over strength, and behaving in a reckless and flashy manner.
BOLD [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [*]    [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ] SUBTLE
CLEVER [ ]  [*] [ ]  [ ]    [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ] MIGHTY
WISE [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ]   [*] [ ]  [ ] [ ]  [ ] SWIFT
First, his tokens slide toward tier 0, leaving him with Clever at tier 2, and Bold and Swift at tier 1.
Second, because his token on the Wise/Swift track is now in Swift, his ascendant approach changes from Wise to Swift and the linked ascendant aspect changes from My Mind Contains Libraries (Wise) to Speed of Thought (Swift). His other ascendant aspects and approaches remain the same.
Finally, he notes that his Clever has risen to tier 2, which is now his highest tier. Until his next milestone, his milestone tier is tier 2.
Changing Your Mantle
At a major or significant milestone, you can choose to adjust your god’s mantle to better reflect their current nature. Perhaps their tier 2 boon doesn’t make any sense now their ascendant approach has changed. Perhaps their tier 3 boon doesn’t feel big enough.
Whatever the reason, talk to the GM and the rest of the group and adjust your god’s mantle accordingly. The gods are changeable, mercurial beings at the best of times, so clinging to a pre-set power framework that doesn’t quite fit makes no sense, in character or out.