D&D General Homebrew Brainstorm: How Would You Approach a "Descendant Worship" Culture? (+)

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I think this is a fascinating idea. Personally, I'd make it not so much that children are sacred, but some future children, always a generation away from arriving and ushering in the age of these "new true gods." In that way, you can add some of the contradiction and paradox common to religious mysteries. The actual children born are considered "disappointments" by some sects and by others a generation that must adhere to these beliefs and work harder to make sure the generation they produce achieves this future.
Yeah. That's what I was thinking of. Every generation grows up being told they're a disappointment for not being God, but perpetually believes that their own children could be God so they can be redeemed through being a sort of "Mother Mary" figure.

Whether or not their version of a Messiah actually comes would be uncertain in the setting. The point would be that they believe they're coming and are trying to do everything they can to make that happen.
 

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Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I just realized a possible primary source of inspiration for this that can serve as a cultural motivation for practicing this form of Progeny Worship: the Roko's Basilisk thought experiment. The believers in the Unborn Gods believe that they'll punish anyone that doesn't worship them and do their best to bring them into existence as quickly as possible.

Yeah, that'll work. That's why the culture exists. They believe the gods are like Roko's Basilisk, and the fact that they know of their possible future existence obligates them into aiding in bringing them into existence.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
As a partial aside, but still relevant, I was watching the rugby (no surprise there) this morning (UK time) with Australia hosting South Africa. A representative of the Australian First People’s nation, upon whose land Adelaide was built, performed a Welcome to Country ceremony: as part of this she state, “we honour our ancestors, both past and yet to come.”

Regrettably, I don’t know enough about First Peoples’ views of ancestors and descendants to comment further, but the words made me think of your thread.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
This is a really neat concept! I have a few thoughts, but I'm going to really focus on how this would look in a D&D setting, and specifically how players and characters would interact with it.

I think one neat source of inspiration could be bees. Only one bee in a hive is giving birth, but all the bees work together to keep the hive functioning for future generations. Though 99.9% of the bees are not passing on their genetic material, if their traits and behaviors fit the environment, then it's more likely that more bees like them will be born. It's kind of like evolution through altruism.

I feel like a progeny-worshipping culture would work similarly. Their belief is that any child could be a good or messiah figure reborn. But those qualities will only be recognizable at a certain age (maybe 10 years old, just for a nice round number). To be safe, until the age of 10, every child is treated as if they could be a god.

In this society, those making important decisions are not the elders, but the children. As soon as they develop the ability to make decisions, children are asked to give advice on what crops to grow, what evils to prepare for, how to avoid plagues and other maladies. For pre-verbal children, their babbling and movements would be analyzed like portents and omens. For older children, there would of course be a host of adult advisers whispering in their ear.

Children who do develop magical abilities, but do not meet the other criteria of godhood, are still worshipped as saints or divine beings. So you could have sorcerers or planetouched characters who are treated as holy beings when they enter these communities.

Now this is D&D, so belief has consequences. In these societies, the children themselves can act as the material components for ritual spells. The children aren't sacrificed (in most communities), but rituals are enacted to cast Augury, Divination, Control Weather, and other spells. Of course, at 10 years of age, children can no longer be used for these rituals.

When characters enter a community, they will literally see children raised on a dais. Nurseries and school would be exalted places, carved with the images of the future gods. Children would walk on raised walkways above the mud and soil. They would be dressed in fantastic outfits, fed delicious treats, and adults would fall to their knees when a procession of children strolled by. Meanwhile, adults and the elderly would be toiling away, farming, building, and standing guard for the children.

When characters entered a palace, they would be dealing with a child ruler. At shops, shopkeepers would consult their children when characters attempt to haggle. Halfling and gnome characters may be mistaken for children themselves! Meanwhile, older characters, or characters from races that are traditionally long-lived (such as elves), would be treated like servants.

One more fun idea: these communities could have a practice in which nearly all births are scheduled for the same month. The whole month is filled with festivals calling to and worshipping these potential gods. It could be a festival of fortune-telling, luck, and rebirth. Fortunetellers and diviners from all over the realm gather at the center of this culture, and this of course draws adventurers from all over too! It could be a fun way to launch an adventure or campaign!
 


Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
Okay, after giving it some thought, I've settled on "The Unborn Gods" option, being a fantasy version of Roko's Basilisk. The culture will be attached to a divinely-blooded race of people known as the Godspawn that believe that all current gods are false and only they can give birth to the "true gods" that will save the world in some way. They'll be a religious cult (and by "cult", I mean the real-world version, not the unrealistic, stereotypical D&D version) that practices arranged marriages and ritualized eugenics in order to try and bring forth these unborn gods.
 

So, my current question when it comes to this idea is why would someone worship their unborn children. Here are my current ideas:
  1. The Unborn Gods. They believe that their children/other progeny will/can be gods/demigods. For whatever reason, this culture doesn't worship any existing deities and instead believe that "true gods" are yet to be born and will be descended from them. Perhaps this culture practices some kind of magical eugenics to select certain qualities they want their children to have in order to achieve this goal. This culture would also need a reason to believe why their unborn offspring could be gods, maybe because they already have some divine blood (being descended from Empyreans and/or commonly producing Divine Soul Sorcerers). Basically magic Nazis that believe in their children will/can be something like The Becoming God from Eberron.
  2. Aid in Fertility. They think venerating/worshipping their unborn children will somehow allow them to give birth (or make the birthing process easier). Maybe this culture for some reason believes that all the souls of people that will ever exist already exist and the souls of the unborn can choose how and when they want to be born, thus only choosing families they want to be born in, possibly ones that already "love"/"worship" them? This might make sense for some race that has difficulty reproducing, like Elves or maybe some artificial race (Autognomes? Warforged?) that believes that venerating/worshipping their unborn will make them more likely to give birth/reproduce.
  3. Children Are Innocent. They revere the perceived innocence that comes along with childhood, believing that children are perfect and adults are inherently sinful/imperfect. They could be attempting to use magic to either stop aging at a certain maturity or somehow return their minds to that level of maturity. How this society survives would be a wonder, but it might work for some species that don't need the common necessities.
So . . . what do you think? What other ideas do you have?

Awareness of the Flynn effect. And of the world just becoming less ignorant, less barbaric, and less overall garbage in general, despite the occasional temporary reversal or digression.

This could be extrapolated into belief in a hypothetical perfect being that will exist at timelike infinity.

It kind of overlaps with The Unborn Gods but it's significantly different in tone. My version is more closely linked to progress and futurism and is something that happens semi-automatically, whereas the Unborn Gods version is much more dystopian, stagnant, and reliant on active management (like the Bene Geserit)

Mine doesn't really work in settings with enforced medieval stasis, but it works in modern-ish settings

EDIT:
More downbeat aspects of my version could include a contempt for the present, as if the future were already here and they were put-upon to not have access to its technologies
 
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