For all its mystery and magic, perhaps the most surprising trait of Escarnum is this: it is a world wholly without gods.
Powerful astral beings abound, both celestial and infernal. Ideological orders and zealous cults are hardly unknown. Some—the former kobold tyrant, the Church of the White Staff—have convinced entire nations to worship them. But the fact remains: in this world, nothing exists that is rightly called a god.
One might similarly expect divine magic to be absent from the world, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, divine magic thrives, found even in those who have scarcely heard of gods, much less petitioned them directly.
Thus the truth of divinity in this world becomes clear; it is not granted to mortals, but born of them. Divine magic—the will to alter reality itself—is not granted in exchange for worship, but manifested though personal conviction.
In this world, every soul who commands divine power is nothing short of an avatar of their own beliefs—whether for good ends, or for evil.
Divinity in the World
The divine power source itself does not require any mechanical changes to suit the nature of Escarnum. Of course, the concept of a patron deity who grants holy magic doesn’t make sense here, but there are no special rules needed to shift the understanding of divine power from worship to conviction.
For some, this conviction does indeed take the form of an organised religion with a deific figure at its head. However, the difference is that divinity itself comes from the mortals who believe, not the god they believe in. Rituals and prayers are not transactional—offerings to a god who grants power in return—but rather effective methods of reinforcing the devotion that creates such power.
The Mechanics of Devotion
Instead of choosing a deity, divine Escarnum characters should determine the philosophy or ideals they wish to champion, then choose one or more domains that embody those beliefs. Feats and other rules that relate to domains can then be used normally. The GM might wish to impose a limit of 2-4 domains per character, both to limit mechanical complications and to encourage players to distil their philosophy to its most important ideals.
For the purpose of game rules that require a specific deity, the GM should look at the domains and ideals associated with the deity in question, and map the requirements to domains accordingly. (We recommend being permissive as a rule, as flavour requirements like these are rarely of mechanical significance.)
Moral Codes and Fallen Champions
As in core 4th Edition content, Escarnum leaves the idea of “falling” for narrative spaces only. While organisations may lay out specific moral codes, a character isn’t made to lose divine power just by breaking rules or changing religious fealty. No matter how their ideals shift, a character’s divine power remains as long as their conviction stays strong.
Accordingly, if you want to explore this narrative space, a crisis of faith is a clear reason that a divine character might lose their powers in Escarnum. They can’t be denied by a patron, but they can certainly be stolen by doubt and insecurity.
Belief and Reality
Gods don’t exist in the world of Escarnum. But, powerful conviction can manifest to change reality in the form of divine power. Therefore, does it not also follow that enough divine power, devoted to belief in the same god figure, might in fact cause it to become real?
This concept has certainly not escaped the notice of Almish scholars, and is the topic of much discussion. No such thing has been documented thus far, of course, but it certainly appears to be a logical conclusion.