Gods and Mortals

Another post in the same week? Bloody Hell, I must have too much spare time on my hands…

Anyway, in this post I’d thought I’d share some images I’ve managed to successfully create used StarryAI for the Rushlight rules. I seem to be getting the hang of using this software, although sometimes the prompts you put in don’t always bring back what you intend, but DO generate an image that can be used.

The FAQ’s for the App states, “You are the copyright owner of your creations as long as you have the right to use any initial images used in generating the creation.” As all the images I’ve generated have been via the App without using a base image, I am assuming that this means the below belong to me – which is quite cool.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to a couple of important NPC’s for the World of Rushlight, as well as the gods that were mentioned in my last post.

This is Sir Gideon, current Master of the Knights of Helios in Mourne. A straightfoward and somewhat humourless man, Sir Gideon is a master combatant, although those who face him sometimes underestimate him, due to his age.

This is Lord Eldyn, the current ruler of the city-state of Port Eidyn, which whilst physically located on the east cost of Norland, is not actually part of Norland. In Port Eidyn, anything can be bought or sold… as long as you have the coin. Lord Eldyn oversees the running of this port city, ensuring that it remains neutral in any conflicts. It is alleged that he has formed a pact with a Storm Hag to protect the port from those who would plunder its wealth. Whilst no proof of this exists, the number of hostile vessels that have been wrecked off its shores does lend some credence to this rumour…

As you might have guessed, tis is Helios, Lord of Light, the primary deity worshipped in the civilised lands.

And this is his sister, Selen, the Silver Princess, goddess of the moon and patron of those who hunt the evils that stalk the night.

Next up, the four rebellious deities that were banished by Helios and became known as the Whispering Gods.

This is Cyrene, Muse of Ruinous Obsession, Goddess of Forbidden Knowledge.

Kaustos, Lord of Fiery Destruction, God of Slaughter.

Mavia, Lady of Discord and Insanity, Goddess of Madness.

And finally, Morbus, the Plague Lord, God of Pestilence.

The two mortals were one of the four images initially generated by the program, but the initial images generated for the six gods were almost but not quite right. What I did with these was to choose the best of the four initial images, then use the ‘Evolve’ function, which generates a further four images based on the image chosen – so kind of like variations on a theme. The images above were the ones that I felt best represented the deities concerned.

The World of Rushlight

As I’ve been beavering away on the background for this setting, I thought I’d share a little more of the history of this world, events which occurred prior to the current age. Let me know what you think!

Many centuries ago, a civilisation arose, centred on the Aurassic Islands to the North of the Isle of Mourne. It was a civilisation of great scholars and brought forth an age of great prosperity and learning.

The primary deity worshipped by this civilisation was Helios, the Lord of Light, and the people of this civilisation called themselves Solarians, in honour of their god.

However, the volcanic islands that the Solarians occupied were not blessed with much in the way of natural resources and as the less civilised lands to their South were inhabited by warring tribes of barbarians, trade with these lands was all but impossible.

Aurelian, leader of the Council of Sages, proposed that as the barbaric people of the South refused to trade, and did not realise the benefits this would garner them, perhaps their resources should be taken by force.

This did not sit well with the Council, as they had always promoted the idea of diplomacy over aggression, but Aurelian’s arguments began to sway the more power-hungry members of the council.

Whether Aurelian was influenced by one of the lesser gods of the Solarian pantheon, whispering in his ear as he slept, is unknown, but Aurelian plotted behind the scenes and began to subtly discredit those who opposed his views. In cases where this was not successful, he employed more direct means and a spate of ‘accidental’ deaths occurred, until his will was unopposed.

Aurelian then declared himself the first emperor of Solaria and thus rose the Solarian Empire, borne of blood and violence.

The Rise of the Solarian Empire

The Solarian Empire spread southwards from the Aurassic Islands, initially occupying the Isle of Mourne and imposing its rule on the peoples of this land and taking their resources as their own.

However, this was not enough for Aurelian, and his eyes fell upon the greater continent of Ortania.

As the soldiers of the Solarian Empire were highly trained, dedicated and many, bolstered by the conscripts from the lands it had conquered, the Solarian legions invaded Ortania, slowly but surely increasing their hold on the lands of men, until most of the continent was under their control.

The Seeds of Destruction

The Solarian Empire held sway for many centuries, occupying Mourne and much of Ortania, ruled by a dynasty of emperors from the capital city of Heliopolis, on the largest of the volcanic Aurassic Islands.

However, trouble was brewing.

Emperor Magnus had stated that the sun would never set on the Solarian Empire, as it was blessed by Helios himself, and therefore the worship of any god other than Helios was declared heresy.

As the emperor’s word was law, there followed a period in which the worship of gods other than Helios was brutally suppressed.

Whilst most of the populace bowed down to this, the worshippers of the moon goddess Selene merely removed themselves from public view, continuing their worship and practices in secret.

Some of the lesser gods of the Solarian pantheon approached Helios, arguing that this monopoly of worship was unfair and would diminish their powers. Helios listened to their pleas, but was proud of what his worshippers had achieved.

‘Look at what my followers have created,’ he said, ‘An empire that spans the World. What have your followers done of note? Nothing that compares to this. Had you been less afraid to employ you godly might, you might not now be in the position of losing it.’

Kaustos, Lord of Fiery Destruction, gathered together a group of disaffected lesser gods, stating that unless something was done, they faced extinction, as their powers would dwindle as their worshippers turned away from them. As the Solarian Empire was the seat of the Church of Helios’ power, he reasoned that its destruction would break Helios’ hold, allowing the populace to worship whichever god they chose.

Whilst many of the gathered gods balked at such extreme measures, a handful were swayed by his rhetoric – Mavia, Lady of Discord and Insanity; Morbus, the Plague Lord; and Cyrene, Muse of Ruinous Obsession.

Realising that Heliopolis was not only the wellspring of the Church of Helios, but also the lynchpin that held the Solarian Empire together, they chose this as their target. As Helios kept a careful watch upon his favoured city, they knew that they must be subtle with their machinations, starting small, to ensure that once Helios eventually realised what was happening, it would be too late to prevent it.

Morbus descended upon the continent of Ortania, infusing part of his essence into the smallest of agents – the humble flea. Thus, the plague known as the Yellow Death began to spread across the land, carried unwittingly to other shores on the backs of rats.

Cyrene then began her part, posing as a well-travelled scholar returned from distant lands, carrying with her ancient tomes of arcane knowledge – knowledge that she speculated may hold the cure to the Yellow Death. Of course, this was merely a ruse, as the books contained forbidden lore, lore that corrupted those that read it, causing them to believe that the ends justified the means, no matter what the cost.

Mavia manifested as a courtesan, whose ethereal beauty caught the eye of the Emperor, and was soon sharing his bed. She shared the supposed rumours and gossip that she had overheard, causing the emperor to become paranoid and fearful that those he considered his trusted advisors were plotting to overthrow him.

And whilst these individual strands began to weave together, Kaustos laboured beneath the ground, using his powers to reignite the long-dormant volcano that cast its looming shadow over the great city of Heliopolis.

The Fall of Heliopolis

Disease ran rampant through the Empire, finally reaching the streets of Heliopolis, where the dead lay where they fell, their bodies covered with weeping yellow sores.

The emperor, having dispatched assassins to rid himself of his perceived enemies, had finally succumbed to madness and locked himself away in his palace, refusing to acknowledge that any problems existed beyond its walls.

Those sages who had searched within the forbidden texts, believing they had discovered a cure, rashly performed a sorcerous ritual to restore those who had perished to life. And the dead did rise, as unliving abominations who stalked the streets, preying on those who still drew breath.

And above the city, ominous clouds of smoke rose from the mountain…

The priests of Helios cried out to their god, asking why he had forsaken them. Helios looked down, shocked not only by what he saw, but also that he had failed to notice it sooner.

Realising that these occurrences were not of natural origin, Helios descended from his throne into the city that bore his name.

Extending his senses, he caught the scent of godly power, and stalked through the streets, seeking those who had wrought this damage.

The three conspirators, sending his presence, retreated beneath the mountain, joining Kaustos in the fire-lit chamber.

Helios confronted the rebel gods below the mountain, entreating them to end their destruction, but was rebuffed.

Tremors shook the city of Helipolis, as the gods unleashed their powers upon one another, seeking victory. However, the mortal plane was not meant for such displays of godly might, causing the now-active volcano to erupt with such magnitude that it not only destroyed Heliopolis, but most of the island on which it stood, leaving nothing behind except for a smoking caldera.

The Retreat of the Gods

Whilst Helios had emerged triumphant, much of his godly might had been expended in the battle.

However, realising that his own pride and hubris has caused this chain of events, he made a vow that he would protect his people, his world, from these rebel gods for eternity. He gathered the remnants of his power about him and banished the rebels gods outside of existence, imprisoned forever more beyond the realm of Man.

This took a heavy toll on him and he returned above much diminished, no longer able to manifest upon the mortal plane.

These rebellious deities – Kaustos, Mavia, Morbus and Cyrene – whose names were soon lost to antiquity, became known collectively as the Whispering Gods.

They wait beyond the walls of existence, sending dreams through cracks in reality, to those minds receptive to their will, their only goal to escape from their prison and wreak dire vengeance upon the world of Man.

Electric Dreams

Strangely, two of the blogs I follow have both recently posted regarding the use of AI generated artwork – namely Harry over at War Across the Ages and Dave Morris (he of White Dwarf, Dragon Warriors – amongst many other things – fame) at Fabled Lands.

Now, whilst I do consider myself a “reasonable” artist (i.e. things I draw usually look like what they are supposed to), people won’t be banging down my door for an original Winstanley.

Having seen what could be achieved utilising an AI art program, and based on Harry’s recommendations, I decided to download and give StarryAI a try, as the rules I’m currently adapting could do with some artwork.

What you have to remember is that StarryAI is a computer program, so the more ‘prompts’ (i.e. instructions) you give it, the closer to what you want you’re going to get.

For example, if you put in ‘Medieval pirate port city,’ which I thought was pretty straight-forward, you get this;

Which, whilst cool, wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

However, one you get the hang of what kind of input the program needs, you can get closer to what you want.

So, in the Rushlight settting, the Whispering Gods can imbue mortals with some of their power, creating avatars that can act on their behalf.

The avatar of Kaustos, lord of fiery destruction, for example, is known as the Burning Knight.

Now, as I ideally wanted a medieval style illustration, my prompts were ‘evil burning knight, medieval illustration, woodcut, Gustav Dore.’ Of the four pictures I got back, the one below was the best;

Having seemed to have got the ‘prompts’ right, I tried for the Avatar of Mavia, lady of discord and insanity, more commonly known as the Pied Piper. Of the pictures the program returned, the one below struck a chord, although the piper doesn’t appear to be piping;

As I said to Harry in the comments on his original post, whilst I can see the utility of using such programs, I can’t see it ever replacing human artists. An AI can compare various pieces of artwork accessible on the web and create art that apes this, but lacking imagination or a human perpective, they’ll always be something not quite right about it.

However, if you’re writing a Call of Cthulhu adventure and what some unique and slightly disturbing artwork for free, StarryAI has got your back;