Monday, June 21, 2021

The Machinations of Lesser Gods


The New Gods dominate Nova Babylonia, but in their shadows skulk a host of lesser powers. Tutelary deities, minor spirits, demons and other creatures, they squabble among themselves to sweep up what little the New Gods leave them. Following the cataclysmic events of Babylon Blues, these lesser powers have a chance to step into the spotlight. In Babylon Red, the members of Team Black Watch find themselves contending with such powers—alongside the New Gods.

Previously, I discussed the thinking behind the New Gods. While they remain the primary antagonists of the series, the events of Babylon Blues left them weakened. Many of their soldiers were slaughtered, their credibility took a major blow, and their human supporters taken off the board. This leaves a massive power vacuum, one which all sides are struggling to fill. Not even the New Gods have the power to seize it all. That leaves room for the minor powers to grow. And when false gods march, war follows.

In Wolves of Babylon, the first entry in Babylon Red, we see the immediate aftermath of this power struggle. Karim Mustafa, an Elect of Galen the White, is sucked into a conflict between his deity, the Court of Shadows, and the Street Wolves. The Street Wolves are a newly-introduced group, a minor faction that is seeking to expand its power and influence following the devastation of Babylon Blues.

In this story, I aimed to capture the attitudes of the minor powers towards humanity. Galen the White is a tutelary spirit who wants to live in peace with humans, and is willing to take a stand against the New Gods. The Street Wolves are seeking to expand by absorbing other gods, and are willing to throw down with the New Gods. Other minor powers want to stay away from the conflict between the New Gods, but will seize opportunities to claim areas vacated they vacate.

The New Gods have noticed this too.

While the New Gods are powerful, they must also be measured. Acting directly against another New God is tantamount to declaring war. The events of Red River demonstrates what happens when the New Gods go to war. In these turbulent times, the New Gods will think twice about picking a fight with another faction.

The lesser powers are a different story.

With the power of the New Gods diminished, the minor powers become more useful to the New Gods. Some are potential targets for recruitment. Some can be hired muscle or cannon fodder. Still others can be deployed as pawns and cat’s paws in their incessant power schemes. Proxy wars become the preferred alternative to outright conflict.

The arrangement benefits both sides—or so they think. Minor powers that prove themselves worthy to the New Gods enjoy their wealth, status and protection. In exchange, they have to carry out the New Gods’ dirty work. As for the New Gods, they have an extra source of recruits, income, and on occasion, expendable troops. An attack from a proxy is treated as far less severe than one from a rival god. It must, or outright war will break out, a war that will benefit only those who stay on the sidelines.

Proxy warfare through pawns and minor gods becomes a running theme in Babylon Red. The minor powers step into the limelight as actors with influence over the story universe and the unfolding conflict. The logic of proxy warfare requires that the New Gods deal with the lesser powers. Some factions choose to recruit minor powers, or hire them as mercenaries or muscle. Other gods may shun them altogether, or forcibly press them into service. Either way, the minor powers can no longer be ignored.

Team Black Watch is used to battling the New Gods and their armies. But with new actors in play, these battle-hardened operators need to adjust their tactics. Now that they no longer have government backing, or a Christian mystic with the ability to neutralize supernatural powers, even fighting minor demons becomes extremely risky.

The team (and the reader) knows what to expect when facing the New Gods. But they are less knowledgeable of the minor powers, especially those that emerged after Babylon Blues. From mystery comes peril, especially in a horror setting. The devil you don’t know will kill you. The operators must study the emerging powers and adapt to them.

Constant chaos underlies Babylon Red. Danger is everywhere. Monsters prowl the streets for souls. With the introduction of the minor powers, the danger is ratcheted up another notch. What you don’t know will kill you, but the process of learning more about the minor powers may also kill you. This is the essential strategic dilemma the members of Team Black Watch faces, one they must resolve with every encounter.

Of course, the existence of New Gods and minor powers imply that there were once Old Gods. The faiths of a bygone world and era. Yuri Yamamoto is living proof that believers are still around. But what about the power behind his faith?

He’s still around. And make no mistake: even without Yuri Yamamoto, he still acts upon the world, in ways too grand and subtle for the Dark Powers of Babylon.

Eager to learn more? Check out Babylon Red on IndieGoGo here!

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