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Interview with J. Todd Coleman About the Pantheon

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Tell us about the Crowfall universe. It seems like the Gods are a big part of the lore?

Absolutely… the Gods are the major driver behind the backstory of the game.

This idea was really born out of the core premise of the game – that players would not be locked to a single World, but instead would travel from one World to the next participating in a series of Campaigns.

When presented with an interesting design idea, like having players travel between Worlds, I always like to tie that idea back into the narrative. In this case, if players are going to be warriors that go from one World to the next to fight in these glorious, world-defining battles – what would be a good explanation for that?

How can we wrap that idea in narrative that seems logical, resonates with the game’s mythology, and

(ideally) gives us a jump-off point for more narrative, later?

And you found one?

Yes… or, at least, we found one that we’re really pleased with.

I basically lifted the idea from Norse mythology, and elevated the players from being warriors to immortal Champions of the Gods.

In the same way that a Valkyrie would appear before a dying warrior on the battleground and take them to Asgard to prepare them for Ragnarok, our Heroes start out as mortals who died on the battlefield and are offered a chance at Eternal life.

So would the inspiration from Norse mythology imply a full Pantheon of Gods?

Yeah, a Pantheon was necessary – if I just went with a single God, it doesn’t lay a good foundation for conflict. It’s always good to include a natural conflict for the players who want it. It gives a nice jump-off point for them to derive their own motivations.

I broke our Pantheon into three factions: Order, Chaos and Balance (I’m a huge Moorcock fan, obviously) and I crafted personalities and relationships between them to give the player a sense of starting the game “in media res.” I want these feuds to feel like they go back forever; these grudges were accumulated over thousands upon thousands of years. I also specifically write the lore from a third-party perspective, so that the original cause of every wrong is debatable… to give every faction a strong base for righteous indignation, so they can point fingers at everyone else for every problem, real and imagined.

My pantheon was also hugely inspired by Zelazney’s Amber series; I prefer Gods that are petty and self-serving. “Order” and “Chaos” can be equally terrible; that is much more interesting to me as a concept than “white hat” good guys and “black hat” villains.

What is the relationship between the Gods and these heroes?

It’s kind of grim, actually.

It starts with the Hunger. The Hunger is this destructive force that appeared at the center of the Universe, soon after the death of Gaea the Earth Mother. The idea of killing the Earth Mother goddess is pretty grim, itself, if you think about it.

The exact cause of her death isn’t specified in exact detail – a lot of people have a lot of different theories. But somehow it is tied to the Hunger, and as soon as the Hunger appeared it started to devour Worlds.

Again, I like to tie the narrative back into the core design of the game – in this case, the fact that so many of the Worlds have a natural “end” to their existence is a big deal. If planets are exploding, people would notice and comment on that. This game feature, then, needed to be tied into the game narrative at a deep, deep level.

The All-Father (our equivalent of Odin, or Zeus) disappeared shortly after the Hunger appeared, presumably to fight it. Is he… Dead? Missing? Corrupted? No one knows, and I’m not saying. (At least, not yet.)

How does the Hunger relate to the War of the Gods?

You would think that the All-Father’s children – the Gods -- would get together after his disappearance and say, “Hey, this is a big issue. Our Universe is threatened, and our father is dead. We have to deal with this.”

But of course, they don’t.

Instead, they start bickering about who should take over as the new King of the Gods. The bickering turns to fighting, and old grievances are brought back up, and before you know it they are going to War with each other… while the Universe is literally falling apart around them.

What role do the players take in this War?

When a great hero dies, they are approached by the Gods with an offer: accept the emptiness of death or accept eternal servitude as an immortal Champion.

These immortals are really a cross between a “champion” and a “grim reaper.” The mortals fear them, and see them as scavengers and harbingers of doom. They call them “Crows.”

How do the Crows fight for the Gods?

Basically, the Crows are sent to the Dying Worlds – the Worlds that have already been infected by the Hunger, and therefore soon to be destroyed – and to conquer it on behalf of one God, or one Faction (Order, Chaos or Balance).

In addition, they are to collect the Souls of the Damned and bring them back in sacrifice. These Worlds are haunted, so the only sentient creatures left are the trapped souls of mortals who have died.

Those souls act like a currency, of sorts – and as rare reagents. Once collected, master crafters can

“bind” these spirits into magic items, imbuing them with arcane powers.

Will one God ever win? Will there be a new King of the Gods?

Probably not. Not only would that be detrimental to gameplay, but I also like the idea that this fight is ultimately futile. It has a nice resonance to it; the players are basically pawns in this great struggle that may or may not ever end.

That said, I do like the idea of evolving the story over time – as players win and lose Campaigns. It would be interesting to kill off a God, or bring in some new players.

The player don’t usually have the ability to mold the story; but then again, the players don’t usually have the ability to “win” or “lose” Campaigns, or to change the World.

So, I guess the short answer is: I love the idea of having the story change, based on the actions of our players. We’ll have to see how that plays out over time!


Guest Writer