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Imagine a world when some men have risen to the title of gods. By buying power from others, people can become more powerful. Everyone is born with 1 "point" of power and the more you collect, the stronger you get; gods have several thousand points.

To be clear, each human is born with 1 point of power; this is the only source of new points. Points can be given freely, but can not be taken by force. If someone dies, all points they own are destroyed.

Gods are immortal, near unkillable and can even come back from the dead if strong enough. They can mark normal people as their "chosen" which lets their chosen borrow elements of the gods powers (primarily healing and precognition).

Gods can sense where their chosen are, hear their prayers and send mental responses. Having followers has no magical benefits for the god. In fact, each chosen carries a small cost in terms of power.

The question is this: Why would a god bother with having chosen at all? I'm having difficulty coming up with a good reason for it. The ideal reason would give gods reasons to want more followers (both chosen and unchosen).

The ego stroking inherent in a cult praying to you would work from some gods, but a less ego focused answer would be ideal.

As a lot of people have been confused on this point, think of points like objects. They can't be split or shared. You can give points you have to others, but you can't take them back (unless they give them back).

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, L.Dutch, Mołot, Azuaron, Hohmannfan Apr 4 '17 at 12:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ After you give a 'power' to your god, can you cancel it and give it to other god? What happen to a god if all his followers die? The last question gives big hint to why you should share your powers to the chosen(s) $\endgroup$ – Vylix Apr 4 '17 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ There's a slight inconsistency in your description: If someone dies, all their power points are lost. However, you also stated that someone with enough power can return from the dead. How does that work? Is there a small time frame in which power can be used before one dies? Perhaps a more fitting explanation would be to allow gods to resurrect by revoking the borrowed power. That would also answer your question partly: Your chosen are essentially (1) a safety deposity box and (2) a failsafe. $\endgroup$ – Sazanami Apr 4 '17 at 6:55
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    $\begingroup$ You've painted yourself into a corner with In fact, each chosen [follower?] carries a small cost in terms of power. - in that case there is only a disadvantage. In Pratchett's "Small Gods", gods are powered by belief. The more followers a god has and the more fervently they believe the more powerful the god is. As for mortals becoming gods, I can recommend looking at Erickson's Malazan series to see what you think of his notions of "Asecndancy". Ancient Greek myth also examined the idea of a blurred line between mortality and godhood. Also maybe look at Iain M Banks' "subliming". $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Apr 4 '17 at 9:50
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    $\begingroup$ Your power system sounds a lot like Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker (minus the chosen part). $\endgroup$ – Martin Ender Apr 4 '17 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Pablo That's "Small Gods"! May Om forgive your error, Brutha. $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Apr 4 '17 at 12:57
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An alternative answer to @Paul's focus on economics is that having followers to do your bidding can be much more efficient than doing it yourself.

Having 100 high priests spreading word of your glory and earning you points will be much more effective than having powerless mortals doing it.

Would you rather follow a god who you only hear from when they want your points, or one whose high priest came through and healed everyone in your local hospital yesterday?

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  • $\begingroup$ priests an an investment... +1 $\endgroup$ – Dan Wears Prada Apr 4 '17 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ "Would you rather follow a god who you only hear from when they want your points", What, like the God of Abraham? - As Alice said in Through the Looking Glass "The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day." $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 19 '18 at 22:40
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Think of a typical Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) organizational structure: the person at the top (analogous to your "god") will want to recruit as many people to the organization as possible as their points flow upward, ultimately making him stronger.

Regardless of how powerful he is, it is unlikely that he can recruit more effectively on his own than if he had a team of recruiters, each able to demonstrate his power to some extent - his prophets, if you will. The incentive for these prophets is clear: the more powerful their god becomes, the more powerful they will be, so this is more an investment than a relationship of belief.

The nature of this relationship will mean that points must scale: increasing a god's total from 1 to 2 should yield the same increase in power as an increase from 999 to 1,000. If this is not true, then the law of diminishing returns means that at some point, it would be more beneficial to "invest" points in a young start-up and level that god up to the big leagues.

Alternatively, having a team of "chosen" could make for great fodder if the gods ever decided to square off and thin the competition.

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If, by worship, a human gives the "1 point" to a god, and the god becomes that much more powerful,then it becomes more of a question of economics than anything else. Even if the one point is revocable, it becomes a sort of currency.

Two things to look at would be literature on Leadership and on basic Macroeconomics. There are good and bad leaders, some are in it for ego and power, some want to get good things done. Your point currency increases both types.

Likewise, people theoretically want to buy things that will improve their lives. Buying into this or that religion may give access to the bank of powers offered by the god. Depending on the god's bailywick, it would almost devolve into a Linux vs Microsoft thing. Or Android vs Apple, if you like. it would all be down to perceived benefits.

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Points cannot be given permanently

I think Urbourous is a pretty neat guy. I transfer my point to him. At the next full moon it is preordained that I have the opportunity to take back my point. But since we are best buds, my point remains with him.

But then Urbourous runs over my pet basset hound in his magically-empowered Chevy van. I no longer think he is a neat guy. At the next full moon my point returns to me and his van loses it's magical powers.

Every month or so there is an opportunity for points to revert to their original owners. Thus your gods remaining in a state of power is dependent on retaining the faith of their followers.

You should think about whether the decision to transfer points is conscious. Likewise for the decision to take points back every month. This will determine whether points can be transferred under duress. You say I cannot take points by force, but can I take them by torture?

Your gods have room for 3 broad classes of followers.

  1. Followers whose points the god has.

Benefit: More power for me!

Responsibility: They must be kept happy to retain power. I must expend some time and energy to do this.

  1. Empowered followers (chosen) in whom the god has given a fraction of their points.

Benefit: I can risk these followers lives without risking losing all my points. I just risk losing their points.

Responsibility: I lose power when I select chosens. I also put those points at risk when I send them into danger.

  1. Lay followers. These guys support the god but have not transferred their points. They can be called upon for points if needed though.

Benefit: Keeps my potential store of points spread out. If I keep all the points for myself they could all be lost when I die. If I am powerful enough to resurrect then I can replenish my supply from my lay followers afterwards.

Responsibility: Again these guys must be kept happy or else they will find a new diety. I must expend some time and energy to do this.

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The Chosen are the missionaries, going out among the people to get converts. They borrow a small amount of the gods power to entice people to become followers, reaping a larger harvest of faith points through signs, wonders, and persuasion. Or depending on the attributes of the god, through fear and intimidation.

By increasing the gods power they increase their own status and power, and some may attempt to embezzle power to attain their own godhood.
Though since if the god in question found out this was going on, it would be very dangerous to the Chosen.

Edit:
I don't know what population density is like in this world, but if it only takes a couple thousand believers to become a god, then it would be possible, or even likely, that very charismatic people would be able to recruit a core group of believers, and then though a lot of persuasion, and possibly trickery, bootstrap them selves up to godhood.

It might be that a few thousand believers is to low of a mark.

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  • $\begingroup$ That warlord would be, in no small part, wasting his time. If you've given your power to a god, renouncing that god won't get it back. The only way to get it back is if that god gives it back. That said, I have been considering raising the target amounts; there's a reason I avoided any numbers in the question. $\endgroup$ – qwertyu63 Apr 4 '17 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @qwertyu63 Ah, that part about not being able to take them back wasn't there the last time I read the question. I saw the part about the points being able to be given freely, and assumed that meant they could be given and taken back. Since you just added that, I may have to go back and rework a few things. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Apr 4 '17 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ @qwertyu63 Ok, so I removed the warlord part, though not being able to renounce a god actually makes for an interesting problem. If I was a war god, and I can't convince people to come follow me, then they have no use to me, while at the same time give power to my rivals. Killing any other gods followers just seems like a good strategy, while unaligned people can be spared if they will willingly become a follower. I don't know why any god would ever give up points... $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Apr 4 '17 at 13:45
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Since people can ascend to godhood there will be different reasonings behind their need for chosens. We could describe multiple shades of gods, but for the sake of simplicity let's stick with 2.

The Egotistical God would, in addition to many already good answers, logically want power. If the person wanted to ascend to godhood, it was most likely for power in the first place. Having many followers would be an extension to that power. Also having a god that doesn't want followers (read: share its power), could make for an interesting deity.

The Altruistic God would want to help people. If these people can find comfort in their religion, their god would be happy. Like a billionaire giving away a lot of money to charity. The chosen are not servants, but they have been given support, unity and some nice magic out of pure altruism. Like most altruistic people, the god would find joy in just "giving". Which ironically could also be an egotistical need. Also people can be altruistic, free-giving, but still seek fame.

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It's unclear from your question whether your power points are given permanently or if they can be revoked and awarded to another.

Assuming it is a permanent one-time transfer then what you end up with is gods that behave some what like modern contract based corporations (think mobile phones or insurance) who will give new customers the best deals and ignore their 'loyal' customers. If points are given permanently then once you have converted someone the only reason to continue treating them nicely is so they don't bad mouth you and reduce further conversion chances. In fact to eliminate this chance entirely your better option is to just kill people once they have given you their point, though explaining where your followers are might be difficult. I think this is definitely a point you would need to consider because a loner god who just harvests points by doing good deeds and then kills his followers off would actually seem a workable model (assuming permanent point assigning, and points which persist after the death of the giver)

However another restriction slightly contradicts this, points must be given freely. Being a tyrant is not very beneficial in this case as you can't steal or force points from people. Sure you can threaten or torture people until they give you their point, but this will only work on certain people and for so long before resistance arises. And once resistance arises they can all pool their points into one individual to give them the power to overthrow you. If points can be revoked then this feeds into this further as you would soon lose support of those you had threatened unless they were continually under threat.

So what you end up with is a system that actually favours 'good' gods but allows the odd 'bad' god (which may not be a bad thing as this does line up nicely with most polytheistic religions).

As for why a god would have followers the most logical answer is that they spread the word and convert new people and gather more points and power for the god. Not everyone would become chosen (as this would greatly dilute the gods power) but enough to keep the number of followers growing (or if points can be revoked, to also keep the current followers happy). Gods will also benefit from being able to sense and communicate with their chosen, giving them a degree of omnipresence and the ability to react to multiple threats/events at once.

For the chosen the benefit is obvious, they get power, position and privilege with less effort then going and finding their own followers would be.

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Let's reverse that question: Why people need gods? Because the gods may create a chosen one that will serve as basic health system and disaster prevention. So people can survive without a god but the harsher the environment the more they need one.

Now, as anyone can become a god the pre-existing one can only fear that there will be human that will want to kill them. Let's call him Kratos.
Kratos slowly avenge his family gaining a nice fanbase that give him 1UP's. In the same time the gods can relay on steady income of up as Kratos is killing their followers.
In the end it will be a fight between a god that can't max his stats (no more EXP) versus the guy who's fame is gaining momentum.
So god would like to have a much followers as possible to, in the event of their death, be remembered and could be revived with a few points to cast.

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People are more likely to believe if they see the benefit from it. If, even as a god, you simply can't be everywhere, then having chosen, even if they are only slightly more powerful than the average person, would be a persuasion factor. Presence is important. Even if the common people once believed in you, given you their points, unless you show presence, new people might not want to give you points. I mean, would you pledge parts of your income, which you cant voluntarily change anfterwards, to an organization that does nothing for you?

If your priests or "chosen" help or subjugate people, they are more likely to be inclined to give you their points. And even if they don't give you their points, at least they won't give them to your enemies.

It is also possible to use the status of "chosen" as a reward for people to follow your code of conduct more to your liking.

However, all of this is a double-edged blade: after all, they could take the points in your stead. Although, that might be a permanent thing to consider, as long as anyone can be given points.

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