Intervention & Summoning
A common question asked by mortals of their gods is "why do you not intervene"? When evil is happening in the world, why do the gods of Good not step forward and take an active hand in the world of their faithful servants? The answer is more complicated than many realise.
Even the most uninformed of planar scholars is aware of how the Great Wheel is divided. There are Inner Planes and Outer Planes, which are separate and divided from each other. The Outer Planes, floating in the medium of the Astral, are the planes of Thought and Belief - where the gods dwell. The Inner Planes, upon the mists of the Ethereal, are the planes of the Elemental and the Material.
The Outer Planes are aligned, and divided by their alignment. As time passes, individual planes grow and shrink. As the power of Law grows, the planes of Chaos may lose some ground to the likes of Baator and the Seven Mounting Heavens. This is the result of a constant and timeless war that has raged throughout the Outer Planes for as long as they have existed: a war of ideology and influence. Although it is by no means static and is in fact ever-changing, this endless war has produced a vast cosmic Balance. If either of the four sides were to truly and permanently upset this Balance, the multiverse would become a sterile and empty place.
It is this very Balance that makes divine intervention so rare. The gap between the Outer and Inner Planes is vast; for a planar being to bridge that gap and touch the Material requires an enormous expenditure of power on their part. And because the Balance is always taut and standing on a knife's edge, an unwise expenditure of cosmic power could have disastrous consequences. It may seem callous for a god of Good to stay his hand and allow a city of innocents to perish: but what if, expending his strength, that god became indirectly responsible for an entire world falling to the forces of Evil elsewhere in the multiverse?
There is another factor at work, also. At any given time, an endless conflict is being fought between the forces of the multiverse. What most mortals who beg for divine aid do not realise is that drawing the attention of any of those forces - Law or Chaos, Good or Evil - is the last thing they could want. Being summoned, after all, is not the same as choosing to manifest in a world. Will the saving of their city by the forces of Good seem worth it when the forces of Evil or Chaos take it as a provocation, and their world becomes the latest battleground of cosmic forces?
Besides the factors given above, there are also logistical concerns for creatures of less than godlike power. Most demons and devils, for example, are able to Teleport Without Error at will. This ability is restricted, however, to the Lower Planes. If they wish to enter the Inner or Upper Planes, they must do this by more mundane means. A lesser demon or devil may well be assigned to travel to a specific Material Plane to work their evil deeds. Some, such as the Nabassu, are created specifically for the purpose of being sent to the Material. For them, however, it will be a long and arduous journey: requiring the use of natural portals or other such arrangements.
This being the case, it should be clear why greater powers do not take this route: if you are a Balor, is the time and effort it will take to reach Faerun really worth it? Beings of great power have far better things to do with their time than trudge through the planes. It is far more efficient to send lesser agents to the plane to prepare the ground, or to tempt magic-users into summoning you - perhaps with the eventual aim of opening a Gate through which a proper invasion can be staged.
Some worlds, for one reason or another, may be more in the grasp of a particular force at one time - Good or Evil, Law or Chaos. In such worlds, it becomes much easier for a planar entity to manifest themselves in that world. Indeed, this is the eventual aim of all the deities of the Outer Planes: to expand their power by adding the souls of Material petitioners to their realms. The more servants they have in a world, the greater their power is there.
There are many ways in which extraplanar creatures can be conjured into the Material Plane, many depending on factors such as the strength of one Alignment in the world, or the presence of willing conjurers. When dealing with demons, for example, some common examples include:
- Sorcerors may conjure a demon to expand their own power.
- Cultists that worship Demon Lords may perform rituals to call their servants forth, or even to open gateways that many demons can cross.
- Unholy pacts formed in the past may draw demons to a certain bloodline.
- The work of faithful servants in the past may have resulted in a ruin which will activate to open a gateway to the Abyss when the conditions are right.
- A curse visited on the unlucky may draw a specific demon to them; or an artifact belonging to that demon, such as the Ring of Guxx.
- Abyssal artifacts left by Demon Lords to spread their influence may be activated by the unwitting or the desperate.
- On a world that is strongly influenced by the Abyss, even the presence of sufficient emotion and desperation may be enough to call forth demons or other supernatural phenomena.
- Demons may come to the Material "on foot", by less reliable means - most commonly, Nabassu.
- A demon that has successfully arrived on the Material may attempt to Gate in lesser demons it holds in thrall (though they may or may not come). Summoned demons are usually forbidden from doing this by the terms of their agreement, as the summoned demons would not serve the conjurer.
Why The Heavens?
A canny observer may ask why it is that the gods choose to reside in the Outer Planes. If their principal interest is within the Material, why hide themselves in a realm so far away from their followers - behind a barrier they can cross only with great difficulty? The answer is manifold. Many gods come to be in the Outer Planes; those created entirely by belief. Others, however, may have their origins as mortals - or magical beings elevated to godhood by the belief of their followers. Why do they choose to leave the Material Plane?
As a newly-ascended deity - anything above demigod status - your energies are tied to the power of belief. It is what fuels you and gives you your power. The Outer Planes are the realms of belief; it seems only reasonable, then, that a deity will be associated with the Outer Planes. From a practical standpoint, your physical form on the Material is just a shell - an avatar of your will. If it is destroyed, you will inevitably reform on your home plane.
This being the case, it makes sense for a deity to fortify their position, carving out a part of the Outer Planes associated with their alignment to turn into their personal realm. After all, a deity can be permanently slain only on their home plane - so why not ensure your home is as fortified as possible? There is another practical reason as well: your followers, when they die, will become petitioners. Their usefulness to you is not exhausted by death; as long as you can protect them, their belief will continue to fuel you. All the more reason to keep them safe.
This, then, is why newly-minted deities choose to dwell on the Outer Planes. From a certain point of view, it is not a choice at all. When you become a deity, your "self" resides in the Outer Planes. The body you once considered to be yourself is just an avatar, an offshoot controlled by that greater power.