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Lord Ao (pronounced: /ˈAY-oh[2]) was the Overgod of the worlds of Abeir-Toril and the Realmsian embodiment of The Balance, showing no aspects of any extremes. As Overgod, all deities and primordials of Abeir and Toril,[1][4][8][9] even those who also operated in other spheres and planes, such as Lolth and Tyr, were subject to him. To be more precise, only aspects of gods directly connected with Abeir-Toril were under the power of the Hidden One.[1][10]

If it were not for Ao's involvement in the Time of Troubles, he would likely have remained unknown to the mortals of Faerûn.[1]

Know ye that there is one god above all the gods of Faerun, a being known as Ao, the One Who Is Hidden. Ao it was, so we are told, who created the gods, to bring order out of chaos, so that our world could exist, each beast in its place and each plant in its niche, all in harmony. Standard talk, I know, but evidently true.[11]
— Elminster.

Description[]

Ao only took physical form once, during the Time of Troubles. In that instance, he took the form of a cryptic and incredibly imposing being, towering over 12 feet (3.7 meters) tall. Otherwise however, the Overpower's appearance reflected his nature as a being of balance. He was ageless (neither young nor old), and had a beard and hair of purest white with an absolutely average visage, even and symmetrical, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. He wore a black robe dotted by millions of stars and moons, arranged in a not-quite-perceptible pattern but which had a beautiful and harmonious feel.[2][9] Otherwise, he was envisioned as a very literal beard in the sky, with only a face and hands.[4]

Personality[]

Ao would see that which sets us all apart from the beasts: the magnificence of deed and achievement, love and friendship and aiding one another-that which soars above mere survival. And so, of course, ye come into the picture.
— Elminster[11]

Ao held himself aloof from most events as an eternal, rarely-interfering observer.[12] He didn't care what the deities or primordials were doing as long as they upheld their individual portfolios and did not completely ignore their worshipers,[1] and did not care to be challenged on his verdicts.[9][7] When a deity did something that wasn't accounted for by his or her portfolio, Ao would punish that deity, and such punishments were usually harsh.[3] He did not see every divine role as beneficial to its bearer, and indeed might even grant godhood as a form of penalty.[9] He cared even less about the day-to-day goings-on of mortals[2] and some theorized that he didn't want to be known by them.[1]

Despite his deliberate indifference, Ao was not emotionless. Even he was known to smile upon exceptional oration, and could be impressed by a great act of self-sacrifice,[13] being known to bring back deities when they died in service to their ethos.[14] In contrast, he was angered by petty behavior and pointless demands for self-destructive displays from mortals for their own aggrandizement.[8][9][15]

It was unclear if Ao was omniscient, with everything that occurred being according to his grand designs, if his plans merely followed the general trajectory he aimed for, or if he could be outright mistaken, if his plans could do more harm than good and the Overgod would be compelled to change his mind.[8]

Powers[]

Theoretically, Ao could do anything he wanted.[2] He was often credited as being the creator of the cosmos,[6] and once separated Abeir-Toril into their specific worlds.[8] He existed beyond concepts such as alignment[6] and divine rank,[2] and was more powerful than all the gods and primordials of Abeir-Toril combined.[2][3][16] He could damage deities permanently,[7] demote them at will, and had the power to create new gods from sentient beings (if they accepted the responsibilities of godhood).[2]

In addition, unlike the gods under him, Ao did not need the worship of mortals and did not desire it either,[2] whereas those "normal" gods who did not receive the worship of mortals could die from lack of it.[10] Ao initiated this after the Time of Troubles in order to enforce his will that the gods act as guardians of the Balance, rather than kings of mortals.[3][8]

Weaknesses[]

Ao's powers were also limited to the sphere of Abeir-Toril, and he could not control or influence something from beyond it.[1] For gods that had divine bonds to dimensions or crystal spheres beyond Realmspace, he could only sever their connections to his.[2] Ao was not necessarily invulnerable or undefeatable within Realmspace either; other overpowers potentially existed within the world of Toril, though it was unclear if these were merely other versions of him, and if they were not, what relations they had with each other.[17]

Though Ao was considered to be more powerful than all the other gods in Toril, able to confine them all to avatar-like forms,[16] it was not impossible for his will to be opposed. The restrictions he placed during the Avatar Crisis (whether or not he could place harsher ones) applied only to the incarnations of divinity rather than the individuals that held them, allowing Waukeen to escape with the help of Celestian, a non-Realmsian god of interplanar travel (which Ao may or may not have known).[18] Even more pressingly, by some sources, Mystra was an overgoddess in waiting, and were it in her nature to desire such power, she may have had the capacity to claim such a position.[19]

Given that overdeities became stronger when more deities were under their dominion, the outright decrease of gods would not be helpful to him. His punishment during the Time of Troubles might have played a part in the Torilian gods seeking to expand into the Outer Planes,[20] and it was not uncommon (if incredibly risky) for gods that suffered under despotic overgods to simply abandon their area of control all together.[3]

Activities[]

Keepers of the Balance, you have summoned me needlessly.... Cyric is Lord of Murder, so he should strive to blot out even the lives of gods. Mask is Lord of Intrigue, so he should strive to conceal such deeds. It is your responsibility to stand against Cyric—just as it is his to destroy you if you fail. Such is the way of the Balance.
— Lord Ao speaking to the Circle of Greater Powers[21]

Despite their great might, overpowers acted less like grand puppeteers and more as supervisors.[22] Ao existed both to ensure the deities within his purview abided by the rules of the cosmos[3] and to protect the Realms from influences beyond its cosmos. He had to report such developments to a "luminous being" that existed beyond the normal cosmology.[2][23]

Another of his functions was to decide which interloper deities were allowed in the sphere of Abeir-Toril and which mortals could be raised to godhood. If Ao didn't allow it, a being could not ascend to divinity, and an interloper deity could not enter the sphere or affect it in any way, regardless of how powerful it was.[10] He was also able to decide which dead gods—gods that had lost their connection with the sphere of Abeir-Toril—were to be revived or returned to the sphere, and allow such development if he deemed it necessary.[2]

Ao established rules concerning the management of the divine.[24] For instance:

  • No two gods in the same pantheon could have identical portfolios.
  • When two gods clashed, one of three results occurred:
    • One god faded from the Realms.
    • Both gods merged.
    • One (or both) god(s) altered their portfolio(s) sufficiently that both could remain in or join the Faerûnian pantheon.

These rules were more problematic than they were worth, because they encouraged the gods to battle among themselves for supremacy.[1] During the Second Sundering, Ao discarded such rules, reassigned portfolios, and created more flexible rules.[8][25]

Relationships[]

Do not thank me, evil Cyric. Being given the role of God of Strife and Death is no gift. It is eternal punishment. At first, you will enjoy it, for it is the only thing you are suited to. But you will find it wearisome in the end. The freedom you seek lies not with godly power. You serve me now... and your worshipers.
— Ao to Cyric.[8]

Despite having power over all the gods of Toril and having to report the world's developments to a "luminous being",[2][23] Ao did not truly serve anyone, nor was he truly served.[6]

Torm's martyrdom in slaying Bane was such that even Ao was impressed.[13] Ao punished Tyr with blindness partially for allowing discord among Toril's gods.[26]

Worshipers[]

The cult of Ao was led by "ministers" instead of clerics, as these cultists never received any spells from the Overgod. The cult was more philosophical than religious in nature.[2]

Among the known cults of Ao were a cult in Waterdeep, and another in Zazesspur, Tethyr. This cult was remarkable for the fact that its ministers could cast divine spells, but in the end it was revealed that those individuals received their divine powers from Cyric and not from Ao.[2]

The gods of the established faiths of Faerûn informed their priests about the fact that Ao did not interact with mortals. Because of this, members of other faiths neither feared nor spoke out against the cults of Ao.[2]

History[]

Minister of Ao

A minister of Ao in a ceremonial garb of the church.

Creation of the World[]

There were no exact accounts on how he created the universe, but nonetheless he was credited for the deed.[6] In some traditions, Ao just created the sphere that covered Realmspace, and the goddesses Selûne and Shar, and they later went to create all the worlds and stars, and other heavenly bodies.[27][28] In other accounts, it was Ao who directly created all that exists, not only Realmspace, but also the worlds and heavenly bodies, and even the Astral Sea, using the raw energy of the phlogiston.[29] Ao himself claimed to be the creator of the gods, though not of the Realms themselves.[30]

The Tearfall[]

During the Days of Thunder, when the batrachi were losing their war against the titans, they performed a powerful summoning ritual and released several primordials from their ancient prisons. The gods quickly moved against their ancient foes, and those battles caused the worldwide catastrophes that destroyed the batrachi civilization. A primordial known as "Asgorath the World-Shaper", determined to destroy the world if she couldn't control it, threw an ice moon at the planet, creating the Sea of Fallen Stars. This event was known as the Tearfall.[31]

Before the world was completely destroyed, Lord Ao intervened and sundered the original world of Abeir-Toril into two twin worlds, Abeir and Toril, giving the former to the primordials and the latter (the original world) to the gods, ending the conflict.[31] The Tablets of Fate were created by Ao after the Tearfall as a way to maintain the new worlds of Abeir and Toril apart, and to ensure a balance between the forces of Law and Chaos, as well as between the gods and the primordials.[8]

The Mulhorandi and Untheric pantheons[]

When the Imaskari captured the ancestors of the Mulan peoples from another world and brought them to Toril, Ao contacted the ancient being Ptah, and invited the Mulhorandi and Untheric gods to manifest in Toril. With help and permission from Ao, these deities were able to follow their worshipers and end their servitude.[32][33]

The Time of Troubles[]

I created gods to serve the Balance, not to twist it to your own ends. But this point was lost on you. You saw the tablets as a set of rules by which to play juvenile games of prestige and pomp. Then when the rules became inconvenient, you stole them.
— Ao regarding his stolen tablets.[8]

In 1358 DR,[34] the gods Bane and Myrkul stole the Tablets of Fate from Ao and hid them in Faerûn,[12] wrongly suspecting that some of the Overgod's power was derived from these tablets.[35] When Ao discovered the Tablets of Fate were missing he summoned all the deities and asked for those guilty to hand them over. When no one stood forward to admit to stealing the Tablets of Fate, Ao cast down all the gods from the heavens, taking their divine power in the process. He stated the reason for this was primarily that he was displeased with the gods treating the world as if it was for their own amusement, rather than the purpose they were created, though the theft of the Tablets were part of it. Ao tasked Helm with guarding the Celestial Stairways that would lead the deities back into their divine realms.[36]

Luna, the avatar of Selûne, who'd already been dwelling in Waterdeep as a mortal before the other gods were cast down and had missed these events, believed Ao responsible for the gods' turmoil. She informed her friend Kyriani of the One Who Is Hidden, but no more than that. Somehow, Khelben Arunsun knew more about Ao and he explained to Kyriani that Ao had brought order out of chaos so that the world could exist and had assigned the gods their parts in the balance of nature, which were inscribed upon the Tablets of Fate. However, known to few mortals, the gods had come to neglect their duties and fallen out of favor with Ao, leading to dissension and chaos.[4] Later, Luna sighted the Celestial Stairway rising from Mount Waterdeep and showed it to her friends, declaring it meant someone had or was about to cross between the mortal realm and the planes and the realms of the gods. She wondered if Lord Ao had put it there as part of a plan.[37]

After valiant heroes (among them the mortals Cyric, Kelemvor, and Midnight) recovered the Tablets of Fate and returned them to Ao, the Overgod himself destroyed the Tablets of Fate, grinding them into powder. Though the Tablets had been returned, by then, as Ao had seen it, the gods had proven they were indiffirent to their actual duties. This act however, while meant to teach them a lesson,[23][8] unraveled the laws of Realmspace, beginning the chaotic Era of Upheaval.[8]

Many cults of Ao arose after the Time of Troubles, but disappeared as quickly in the following years.[2] By 1372 DR, even written records about Ao had disappeared,[1] and by 1479 DR all the cults of Ao had vanished from Faerûn altogether.[6]

The Second Sundering[]

Great stories remain to be told in this era but they are not the tales of gods and god-like beings. They are the tales of mortal heroes, taking a stand to preserve the world they love.
— The word of Ao by the end of the Era of Upheaval.[8]

It was not known how long Ao expected the warring of the gods to last, but nonetheless in 1482 DR, he began the Second Sundering, as a way to restore the worlds of Toril and Abeir after the ravages of the Spellplague.[8][38] During the Second Sundering, Ao recreated and rewrote the Tablets of Fate, inscribing the names and purposes of the gods and primordials he chose to serve in a new, inclusive divine reality.[8]

Rumors & Legends[]

Some believed that the Shadow of Ao, a powerful artifact that had the power to split a world in two, was related to the Tearfall. It was believed to be located somewhere in Laerakond.[39]

Appendix[]

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Background[]

Ao may be named for the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, which is a title of God and Jesus Christ in Christianity.

Appearances[]

Novels & Short Stories

Referenced only
Tantras

Video Games

Further Reading[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. Edited by Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 4. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 30. ISBN 978-0786903849.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Colin McComb (October 1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc.), p. 168. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Dan Mishkin (July 1990). “Dark of the Moon”. In Elliot S. Maggin ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #20 (DC Comics) (20)., pp. 6, 9.
  5. BioWare, Floodgate Entertainment (June 2003). Designed by Brent Knowles, Rick Ernst. Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. Atari.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 74. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Steve Kenson, et al. (November 2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7869-6580-9.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 Ed Greenwood, Erin M. Evans, Paul S. Kemp, R.A. Salvatore, Richard Lee Byers, Troy Denning, James Wyatt (August 21th, 2012). What is the Sundering? (Part 1). Retrieved on September 7th, 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Ed Greenwood (1989). Waterdeep (adventure). (TSR, Inc), pp. 40–41. ISBN 0-88038-757-2.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 4. ISBN 978-0786903849.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ed Greenwood (1989). Waterdeep (adventure). (TSR, Inc), p. 13. ISBN 0-88038-757-2.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 23. ISBN 978-0786903849.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. Edited by Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 74. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
  14. Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-0786903849.
  15. Ed Greenwood (1989). Waterdeep (adventure). (TSR, Inc), p. 2. ISBN 0-88038-757-2.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 15. ISBN 978-0786903849.
  17. Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), Running the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 61. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
  18. Dale Donovan (May 1998). For Duty & Deity. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 4. ISBN 0-7869-1234-0.
  19. Ed Greenwood/The Hooded One (2010-06-16). Questions for Ed Greenwood (2010). Candlekeep Forum. Retrieved on 2022-12-31.
  20. Colin McComb (October 1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 160, 164. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  21. James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 62–63. ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
  22. Colin McComb (October 1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc.), p. 38. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Troy Denning (July 2003). Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 345. ISBN 0-7869-3111-6.
  24. Error on call to Template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified. Eric L. Boyd. Eric Boyd on Pantheons of the Realms. Archived from [ the original] on 2002-06-25. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  25. Steve Kenson, et al. (November 2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-7869-6580-9.
  26. Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. Edited by Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 79. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
  27. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 260. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  28. Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 141. ISBN 978-0786903849.
  29. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  30. Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 37. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 31. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  32. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 185. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  33. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 31. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  34. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 142, 144. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  35. Scott Ciencin (April 1989). Shadowdale. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 68–70. ISBN 0-8803-8730-0.
  36. Scott Ciencin (April 1989). Shadowdale. (TSR, Inc.), chap. 0, pp. 4–5, 8. ISBN 0-8803-8730-0.
  37. Dan Mishkin (September 1990). “Total Eclipse”. In Elliot S. Maggin ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #22 (DC Comics) (22)., pp. 15–16.
  38. Paul S. Kemp (2012-08-20). The Sundering. Retrieved on 2016-12-13.
  39. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 210. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.

Connections[]


Deities of the Post–Second Sundering Era
Ao the Overgod
Faerûnian Pantheon
Akadi | Amaunator | Asmodeus | Auril | Azuth | Bane | Beshaba | Bhaal | Chauntea | Cyric | Deneir | Eldath | Gond | Grumbar | Gwaeron | Helm | Hoar | Ilmater | Istishia | Jergal | Kelemvor | Kossuth | Lathander | Leira | Lliira | Loviatar | Malar | Mask | Mielikki | Milil | Myrkul | Mystra | Oghma | Red Knight | Savras | Selûne | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talona | Talos | Tempus | Torm | Tymora | Tyr | Umberlee | Valkur | Waukeen
The Morndinsamman
Abbathor | Berronar Truesilver | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Deep Duerra | Dugmaren Brightmantle | Dumathoin | Gorm Gulthyn | Haela Brightaxe | Laduguer | Marthammor Duin | Moradin | Sharindlar | Vergadain
The Seldarine
Aerdrie Faenya | Angharradh | Corellon | Deep Sashelas | Erevan | Fenmarel Mestarine | Hanali Celanil | Labelas Enoreth | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Shevarash | Solonor Thelandira
The Dark Seldarine
Eilistraee | Kiaransalee | Lolth | Selvetarm | Vhaeraun
Yondalla's Children
Arvoreen | Brandobaris | Cyrrollalee | Sheela Peryroyl | Urogalan | Yondalla
Lords of the Golden Hills
Baervan Wildwanderer | Baravar Cloakshadow | Callarduran Smoothhands | Flandal Steelskin | Gaerdal Ironhand | Garl Glittergold | Nebelun | Segojan Earthcaller | Urdlen
Orc Pantheon
Bahgtru | Gruumsh | Ilneval | Luthic | Shargaas | Yurtrus
Mulhorandi pantheon
Anhur | Bast | Geb | Hathor | Horus | Isis | Nephthys | Osiris | Re | Sebek | Set | Thoth
Other gods of Faerûn
Bahamut | Enlil | Finder Wyvernspur | Ghaunadaur | Gilgeam | Lurue | Moander | Nobanion | Raven Queen | Tiamat



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