The Gods of Norrath are a curious bunch. Apparently they got tired of being farmed for loot in EQ1, so they decided to leave the planet en masse. In (or because of) their absence, various things exploded; a moon, the game's main continent, the political balance of power, etc. EQ2 opened after several hundred years of this chaos. The Gods made their triumphant return to the planet a few years into the game, where players promptly began farming them for loot once again. Someone seriously needs to teach these guys how to diety.
Choosing a god
Lyriana has been looking around for stuff to work on after attempting to hit EQ2's Kingdom of Sky expansion and discovering that it appears to consist largely of group content, with some token repeatable rep questlines for soloers. This meant a focus on learning enemy NPC languages (which are needed for some high level quests), completing legend and lore quests (dissect members of an NPC race via mass slaughter, to add them to the list of targets for a powerful special attack), and general exploring. At some point, I remembered that I had yet to choose a religion.
Norrath is currently populated with fourteen various Gods, some good (Mithaniel Marr, god of the Plane of Valor), some neutral (Solusek Ro, hailing from the Plane of Fire), some Evil (Bertoxxulous, from the Plane of Disease). In exchange for characters' devotion, the Gods bestow you with a non-combat pet that offers slight bonuses to one or two stats related to the God's area, a cloak with the God's emblem and some special effect, and the ability to pray for favors (generally buffs) and miracles (generally active abilities like nukes/heals/etc).
Though I didn't entirely disregard the in-game bonuses, this type of decision is one of relatively few places in a game where I do stop and think about what my character would want. It's not like I have some huge connection to the lore - I'm not sure what a Fae would do - but some race/class combinations "feel" correct to me and some "feel" incorrect, even if the game allows them without penalty. What exactly would a Fae who had become a Dirge, a bard who sings songs of despair, misery, and lamentation, choose to worship?
Lyriana is a good-aligned character, so all of the evil gods were out. Mithaniel Marr and Bristlebane (the Trickster) offer reasonable stat bonuses, but neither valor nor mirth felt quite right either. The stormy Karana had a reasonable mix of gameplay benefits, but Dirges have nothing to do with storms. Brell, God of the Underground, also has some nice abilities but absolutely nothing to do with the above-ground flying race of Fae. The Fae have close ties with Tunare, Goddess of Growth, but that didn't seem like quite the right fit either - the Fae are upbeat and lighthearted as a people, and something about Lyriana had convinced her to take a darker outlook on life.
I settled on the concept of fate. A character with a strong belief in fate and destiny might feel a stronger pull away from tales of heroism and triumph, such as a Troubadour might sing, and towards songs of despair and tragedy, like the Dirge. It's not a matter of reveling in sorrow, as a more evil-inclined individual who chooses to dwell on death might. Rather, it's a belief that these things happen for a reason, and feeling a pull to understand and communicate that destiny. Norrath does not currently have a diety of fate and/or destiny. Still, thinking about the Pantheon in the context of what would appeal to someone like Lyriana, in the context of what might have put her on the path she is on, left one obvious answer.
Lyriana chose to worship The Tribunal, the neutral Council of Justice. Their concept of neutral justice - looking beyond the outcome for good or for ill - fit with my concept of Lyriana's personality and motivation. She would not revel in seeing evil escape punishment anymore than she would rejoice in the death of a hero. However, she would understand and respect the process of ensuring justice, in the same way that she would understand that fate had led good people to a sad end.
More story than players realize
Players often criticize the MMO genre for a lack of storytelling. Stopping the action to tell a tale can be problematic in a game that is designed around repetition - scripted events are going to be much less impressive the 10th time you re-watch them, and having the enemies respawn minutes later destroys the immersion value of players' accomplishments. However, actually attempting to advance the game world plot forward carries its own challenges - Wrath's "phased" questlines are brilliant for story progression but a nightmare for logistics, as players who are on different stages of the quest are physically separated from their groupmates.
But perhaps we're not looking hard enough. I'm not much of a role-player - indeed, I'm not sure I could tell you anything about what motivates Greenwiz or Allarond - but this relatively simple in-game choice was enough to convince me to construct a story of my own.
To be sure, game design helped with that. If there had been a God of Strength, Agility, and Double Attacking, I might have picked that one and been done with it. As it was, almost every choice offered enough perks to be worth considering, and that left me free to choose on considerations beyond min-maxing.
The overall effect isn't perfect. EQ2's quest dialog system is fun, but there's generally only one conversation that gets me from talking to the questgiver to actually receiving a quest. There are also still a number of missing chapters in Lyriana's life - what was it that drew her to the path she is on? Still, it says something about the genre in general and the world of Norrath in particular that I can now come here and tell you more about Lyriana, a four-month old character, than about Greenwiz, a four-year old character. Perhaps there is more story to this genre than we realize.
Lyriana's new Altar to the Tribunal, and the shrouded Tribunal's Bailiff companion pet