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Faith and the Divine

Source Planar Adventures pg. 71
Divinities have immense power and can intervene in the lives of mortal worshipers to grant miraculous boons. They can raise up realms and create life on a whim. What use, therefore, do divinities have for mortal life at all?

One use lies in the nature of the fundamental building block of the Outer Planes—quintessence. As detailed in The River of Souls, when a mortal dies, the soul eventually merges with the material of another plane (usually after spending time as a petitioner or outsider), expanding the plane’s size and counterbalancing its erosion by the Maelstrom. Thus, the very existence of the Outer Planes depends on the constant influx of souls. When a deity’s religion is widespread on the Material Plane, her realm reaps direct benefits in the form of more petitioners, which can, in time, increase the overall size of the planar realm.

But there’s an even more important role that mortals play: they provide faith. When a mortal has faith in a divinity, that power increasingly ties that mortal’s fate and soul to that divinity. The divinity does not directly gain power from this interaction—a deity with only one or even no worshipers can be as powerful as a deity with trillions of worshipers. A religion that is powerful and widespread, however, can expand a divinity’s influence in ways that the divinity cannot, due to the fact that the divine do not directly interfere in the affairs of mortals. A deity who has legions of worshipers will see her religion spread, and that spread of faith will directly translate into an increase of souls into her realm. Deities with few or no worshipers will, over time, see their realms eaten away by the Maelstrom, their armies dwindle, and their standing among the divine fade. Faith can meet a divinity’s emotional needs as well, be it the need for a self-centered deity to feel his ego bolstered, an extroverted deity to feel accepted and popular, a power-hungry deity to feel feared, or a benevolent deity to bask in the love of her children and family.

Some deities have no interest in faith. These divinities may seek widespread destruction (such as Rovagug, whose realm is also his prison, and who would be released into the Multiverse upon its destruction) or exist as a manifestation of the fact that all things must end (such as Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth are incalculably ancient, and they exist outside of the boundaries and restrictions of faith, souls, and the concept of quintessence entirely. Mortals still worship them, yet the Outer Gods have little interest in such worship, and in many cases these alien divinities may not even comprehend the concept of faith at all. Among the Outer Gods, only Nyarlathotep’s pursuit of faith provides a singular, ominous, and unnerving exception to this rule.