In order to understand the various types of deity that exist in the multiverse, the different levels of power they command, and the ways in which humans and other mortals can elevate themselves to godhood, one must understand four principles. They are: dominion, consecration, ascension & transcendence.
WHAT IS DOMINION?
Dominion is the eternal principle from which a god derives power. It is that one thing for which their passion and interest is limitless. For some gods, like Tiamat, their dominion is obvious - Queen of Dragons. For others, it is because they hold sway over a throneplane, like Pha Rann ruling over Heaven. For others, it is because sentient creatures approach some aspect of life in such a focused manner that it counts as worship. An example of this later type are the god saints Cuthbert and Kargoth, worshiped by paladins of either Creation or Warp. There are gods that touch each of these. Tiamat rules the dragons, is lord of the first plane of Hell, and is worshiped by the people of Morbatten.
While dominions are eternal and limitless, they also define the extent of a god's power. When a creature enters that dominion, the god knows everything about them. When a creature uses the power of that dominion, the god knows everything about the nature of their power in that place. Where dominions occur, gods are omnipotent and omnipresent within that dominion.
There are sub-dominions. Continuing the Tiamat example, the God of Scrying - Corth K'ven - was gifted dominion over wyverns and dragonkin. Corth K'ven brought Scrying, as a dominion, into Tiamat's dominion. Tiamat in turn gifted this other dominion to Corth. In the Morbatten stories, Alerius hopes to bring the fire giants as another dominion to Tiamat, as well as the medusae. Because the universes are infinite, there are as many dominions as the gods allow. There are even redundant dominions where more than one god might claim the same thing, essentially. However, a dominion ultimately determines a god's power relative to other gods.
The Gates of Creation, Chaos, and Warp stand by themselves as their own dominions. Dominion is not bounded by time. Once a dominion is established, it is eternal even if the god abandons it or is slain.
WHAT IS CONSECRATION?
Consecration is the principle by which a sentient being dedicates their life to a god, essentially committing it to that god as an act of worship. There are 3 types of consecration:
- Act of Faith - this is a conversion whereby the worshiper completes a divine ritual that makes the totality of their life actions and experience part of a god's dominion. Using a normal person, Joe, as an example. Before consecration, Joe accidentally crossed many dominions. When hoping for a fair shot, he crossed Joust's dominion. When studying martial arts, he crossed Imperius. When he got married and had kids, he crossed Pha Rann's for creation. When he marveled at the natural beauty of the world and power inherent in nature, he crossed Krentismar. When Joe emigrated to Morbatten, he decided to consecrate himself to Tiamat. All of his former actions did and still cross the respective gods, but because Joe is now 100% Tiamat's, these same actions now function like a sub-dominion. He moves through them, but the power of his faith accrues to Tiamat, not Pha Rann. In other words, when he has a child now, he praises Tiamat, not Pha Rann.
- Binding - When Joe and his wife next have children, the new children are bound to Tiamat because their parents are. Note that this is not a function of some religious marriage ceremony. It is the faith of the parents that makes it happen. The parents will reaffirm the child's consecration first chance at a shrine or Temple. But, also when the children are older in the Coming of Age ceremony. Many sentient creatures are bound by their race. The minotaurs, for example, are bound to Baphtomet. They can be excommunicated, they can leave for another god, but they are still bound to Baphtomet. The Drow are bound to Lolth in this same way. Orcs are bound to Gruustir. The denizens of Creation, Chaos, and Warp are similarly bound to the nexal gods of those realms' gates. Racial binding and the faith of any given individual are not a given. Drow do not have to worship Lolth. Orcs do not have to worship Gruustir. But, whether they like it or not, their life enhances their gods.
- Holy Places - Whether a sentient being worships a god or not, when they enter a consecrated place, they move closer to that god's dominion. The definition of this can be as broad or narrow as the god's power supports challenges from other gods. On the narrow perspective, temple-building worshippers like the Drow and Morbattanians build Temples and Shrines as places of consecration. Such places bring those in the temple 1 step closer to that god. Prayers and acts of faith are many times more powerful and easier to enact in a holy place because they are 1 step closer. For other gods, like Pha Rann, he set the stars of the universes in motion and there is a holiness in their light shining upon worlds and granting them power to live, procreate, and endure. Even more narrow is Asmodeus' assertion that when sentient creatures manipulate others for selfish and evil purposes, that they are in his holy place. In other words, Holy Places are as creative as a god and that god's worshippers.
- Death - Once ascended, it is nearly impossible to kill a god. To do so, the entire dominion must be either destroyed or severed from the god's actual real self. Gods killed any number of steps from their throneplane/dominion revive based on how many steps removed they were. Gods can actually be slain in Tehra and because of this, most gods choose to send avatars rather than actually go. Even when they chose direct intervention, the god will most often render aid from the ethereal rather than risk themselves. It's not just death they are concerned about... the closer they move to Tehra the more they actually age.
Tehran worship, because of what Alerius calls the Consecration Principle, funnels Tehran power directly to the god. Whatever inherent or innate power a god has, it is amplified through Tehran worship. Once a god obtains this, it is impossible to let it go. Not because it is addictive, but because it creates a cycle of faith. Those worshipping a god, grant that god more power. When the god lends aid to the worshipper, the worshipper becomes more powerful. This positive reinforcement engenders conversion of others and the cycle becomes social, cultural, and enduring. For Tiamat and others, it works. Other gods, like Baphtomet and Lolth, had to learn that overindulgence and over-involvement quickly unravels the cycle because of the inherent nature of Chaos and Warp.
Struggles between different gods occur ferociously on Tehra. When taken to an extreme, a Cascade occurs. This is a pile on where the worshippers of one god receive aid against another. Because of that aid, the other god sends additional help. Eventually, allies get involved. It spirals up and escalates. If many oppositional gods are involved, and Tehra is an oppositional world, then a Cascade can occur where the pile on creates a ferocious vortex of divine intervention mixing the Creation, Chaos, and Warp together in ways that have not occurred since before the separation of the nexal dominions.
Consecration is limited to the consecrated being's life. When they die, their souls return to their god's dominion and whatever "afterlife" exists. Worshippers of Tiamat believe that they reincarnate as dragons and serve Her on Her Throneplane forever, for example.
- Ascension is when a Tehran becomes a god with their own dominion. They will fall into either Creation, Chaos, or Warp.
- Transcendence is when a god's worshiper becomes powerful enough to understand and be changed by their god's dominion. Buddha's enlightenment, Hercules and other demi-gods going to Olympus, the resurrection of Christ, etc., are examples of transcendence in our own religions and mythologies.
With a focus on Tiamat's doctrine, Transcendence occurs as shown in the book, Dar Tania. Dar was just another girl before she heard Tiamat's voice. By Tiamat's power, she changed. Tiamat desires her priestesses to interact with the faithful as if Tiamat. As such, sexual maturity, beauty, grace, and lethality all become factors. Not every god desires this for its worshippers, clerics, and servants. But, for Tiamat, the transcended grow in stature, become stronger, and begin separating from the River's flow. It strengthens their faith and divine power, but it also disconnects them from the people they serve. The picture below shows Dar before and after her transcendence.
Ascension is an entirely different thing. It is available to ANY Tehran. Only Tehrans may ascend to immortality. This is because of Tehra (the universe, not the planet) having a balance of Creation, Chaos, and Warp plus TIME/magic moving through its space. In every other realm, ascension happens within a god's dominion as that god decrees. Because they were part of that god's dominion, they neither add or subtract from that god's dominion. Tehrans add to it. This is why Tehra is so precious, and fought over by the gods. Even though Tiamat considers it Her throneplane, many gods have a stake in Tehra.
As a sentient being increases in power and knowledge (note that we're not talking about the power to command armies or have wealth here), they begin to see the world through a different lens. The prospect of death, mortality, and their legacy begins to weigh on them... or they have something they love so much that they cannot leave their life's work unfinished. This drive becomes heightened in some Tehrans. Eventually, they begin to pursue immortality.
Because the gods are interested in acquiring the worship of these rare jewels sparkling with desire from Tehra, the god most interested in that mortal's life work contacts them. This is considered a Rite, and is named the First Rite by Tania. After all, if a mortal cannot withstand an eternal dominion for the thing they love when offered by a god closest to that thing they love... they are not cut out for immortality. It's a pass/fail proposition. Most Tehrans, if they worship a god, join or at least pledge their fealty to their chosen god in the First Rite.
The Second Rite is Opposition. It manifests as a test, as shown with Rojo in Bomoki's Gate. A militant religion concerned with oblivion would exactly meet Rojo's expectation of opposition - a creature of entropy. However, for Corth K'Ven, his Second Rite was Isolation. The God of Scrying would be terrified of Isolation, Loneliness, Alone-ness. A dominion's strength cannot be one-sided. The Second Rite tests the Ascendant's purpose against opposition. Most of the time, this is where the Ascension Rite ends: the Ascendant joins their chosen god's dominion because Opposition is a terrible test.
For a rare few, also shown by Rojo, they go on to challenge the nexal Gates and earn an independent dominion. Those who fail, fall into Oblivion. For those that succeed, they gain a dominion free any other god. Regardless of dominion or allegiance, the Gods draw from each of the three gates. These additional rites are not literally a confrontation with the Gates (though it could be). The rites are a "coming to terms" with how Creation, Chaos, and Warp interact with the chosen dominion. A dominion's strength, like eldar will, is equal to the Ascendant's focus and passion for their captured dominion. Like any other god's, it is augmented and magnified by Tehran faith moving through it. Yes, there are many gods. Some are independent and represent tiny dominions, like the God of Gardening, or the God of the Fireball Spell. Most are aligned with a more powerful or all-encompassing god. The capture of a dominion enables its Oppositional dominion as well... though it may be some time before such a dominion is claimed, if ever. The God Saints Cuthbert and Kargoth represent this oppositional structure.
Some desired dominions require many Rites. Using Rojo as an example who seeks to unify metallic and colored dragons, Proffered Love and Opposition are not enough. Metallic dragons do not desire a non-All Father god over them. As such, Rojo will have many Rites ahead of him. Each success captures a new aspect of the desired dominion but also increases the risk to the Ascendant should they fail. Each success increases their dominion, but failure means they die. At any time, the Ascendant can end the Ascension by pledging to another god. Because these happen outside of Tehran Time, the Ascendant goes missing and may not reappear for millennia, if ever. A faithful cleric can force Ascension to the First Rite if the Ascendant worships that god and their First Rite is assured. This is what happened with Rojo when Dar Ana realized he was dying at the hands of a chaos fiend.
A few Ascendants complete their First Rite and then choose to linger in Tehra, like the patriarchs and other eldar. Dar Ana, in the time of Malcor, is another example of this. They function as unascended gods, not entirely mortal anymore but also subject to death.