Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Worldbuilding: Deities


Yeah, I know. Long story short, I was busy entering writing contests. Also, I don't have a scanner of my own any more, and I can't really be bothered wrangling through using someone else's, so screw it!

Pictureless interweb log time!

So, deities. They are a pain in the butt. I like having a lot of them, but I hate coming up with a lot of them and I don't want some kind of dumb bloated pantheon like Forgotten Realms or people who worship dinosaurs. (Have you ever tried to worship dinosaurs? There are so many dinosaurs and you better pay your respects to every one of them if you don't want to show up in the afterlife and run into an angry Eustreptospondylus or something who wants to put its foot so up your arse it'll step on your breakfast.)

So far I have devised a system that goes something like this:

  1. Unless I decide otherwise, all races have a large pantheon with at least several demigods, saints etc. in case I need something very specific, like a god of coats. I won't mention them much, though.
  2. Some deities will show up in several pantheons. This is partly for convenience, and partly because I can easily see this happening as people travel around. Humands respecting the dwarf god(s), elves liking human gods, countries with different cultures sharing some gods, etc.
  3. I will not have every member of a race worship the same pantheon. I find it hard to believe that you can have a bunch of humans who believe beehive hairdos are in led by a dude calling himself the Alchemist-King and a magocracy on the other far side of the continent who are basically the French with a fixation on robots, and then say they both worship Pelor or whatever. No, screw that.
  4. However, I will not give each specific area its own huge fleshed-out pantheon, and since there's going to be a lot of bleed going on it won't come up much anyway.

What ends up happening, at least in my games, is that everyone focuses on the "core" human pantheon and everything else gets a passing mention.

Actually, one particularly odd thing that happens is I never really fleshed out the evil gods. All the villains have been demons and things. I should do something about that.

For now, I think I'll list some of the deities I have and why I have them, and maybe some ones I'm thinking of making (or cribbing):

Eironeous, The Archpaladin

Alignment: Lawful Good

Symbol: A raised longsword crossing a lightning bolt

Domains: Glory, Good, Inquisition, Law, Nobility, War

Favoured Weapon: Longsword

Eironeous is the paladin's paladin. On a perfect day, his to-do list would go something like: 1) have breakfast 2) right some wrongs 3) find a demon 4) kick it's arse 5) fist-pump 6) go home and read a good book. Eironeous encourages his followers to do everything they can to make sure good and justice prevail, and also to punch evil in the face when necessary. If you can do both at the same time, that's even better.

Most of Eironeous' exploits (according to the Book of Eironeous, anyway) usually involve the titular ur-paladin encountering an evil being and then curb-stomping it in a variety of entertaining ways, like drop-kicking a pit fiend into the sky. He is a force to be reckoned with and feared if at all possible, and his followers like it that way. Speaking of, his followers are mostly paladins, but he counts clerics and warriors among his number as well. They make excellent watchmen, guards and diplomats, because Eironeous also teaches that there's a time and place for hostilities, and it comes after negotiations and mercy. He is a pretty honorable guy.

He is definitely not a manlier Heironeous with the H shaved off.

Why: Because I felt the setting needed a paladin god, and a certain other deity worked after I tweaked him a little. It has worked out fairly well, especially now that less of my current players insist that paladins were designed to be played by tools and "proper" paladins should be mentally retarded religious zealots and unplayable.

Iroth, God of Retribution

Alignment: Lawful Neutral

Symbol: Two gloves, one iron and one velvet, clutching a mace

Domains: Destruction, Law, Protection, Strength

Favoured Weapon: Mace

Iroth is complicated, but if you have a trouble worshipping a dude with two heads maybe you should look elsewhere.

On a related note, Iroth has two aspects. Both exact revenge and just punishment on those who transgress the law, and favour good over evil because the latter is more likely to do so; the trick is that one head tends to focus on rigidly following existing laws (both local law and Irothian law) and one tends to get angry a lot and take the law into his own hands. The important thing is that there's law somewhere in there, even if you're hitting people about the head with it.

Naturally, some clerics find it difficult to deal with this conflict of interest, but most agree that there's a time and place for both – specifically, the kinder law-abiding approach for lawful communities and the great big angry vigilante approach for lawless areas and, just sometimes, when nobody's looking.

Individual followers tend to focus on only one aspect. Normally the kinder Lawful Good version is the popular one, though the Lawful Neutral beast beneath is never far away. Clerics wear sweet robes (white on one side and red on the other) and flat caps.

Also, Iroth is normally depicted as being about six inches tall. Nobody is sure why.

Why: I think I came up with this little dude ages ago in high school when all my ideas were shit. I guess I thought it was funny. Actually, I still kind of like the little guy.

Paiia, the Sun Goddess

Alignment: Neutral Good

Symbol: She is a sun god, you will never guess

Domains: Good, Healing, Sun, probably some others

Favoured Weapon: Mace

Paiia is... okay, let me break this down for you really quick for once.

Paiia is basically Pelor, only a hot lady with four arms.

Why: Basically, I wanted to use Pelor as a sort of "standard" popular deity that everyone liked, but I didn't want to actually use the core gods, so I made a few changes. I might have stolen part of the name and arm thing from some three-eyed weirdo from Deities & Demigods, though I didn't use that part. I'm actually thinking of fleshing her out more, and I might in a later post.

While I'm here, whose fucking idea was it to make the Healing domain? It's nice and all, especially for fluff, but it's kind of useless considering every cleric worth his salt can cast Cures spontaneously anyway. Makes me sad. Oh well.

St. Vanis, Who Is Kind Of A Dick God of Valor

Alignment: Lawful Good

Symbol: Two swords crossing a shield

Domains: Good, Law, War, Protection, Nobility

Favoured Weapon: Mace (my, crushing skulls is popular, isn't it)

St. Vanis, supposedly a knight of Eironeous in ancient times sponsored by the big guy himself, is a god of wisdom and protection and general niceness. His followers do things in the name of other things, like truth and honor and justice.

Unfortunately a lot of his church is based on tradition, and so a lot of the clergy are set in their ways. A lot of them dislike new things, like that new-fangled music and children (especially ones on lawns). Some of the really old-fashioned also have a rather dated view of women as fragile things in need of protection.

On a related note, lately the church has gained a reputation for being out-of-touch and kind of a bunch of dicks. Certain high-ups in the church heirarchy proposing that various goddesses are really just demigods and suchlike doesn't help.

Most people are waiting for the old guard to shut up and die already so the new people with modern mindsets can come in and stop the church losing all the girls to Eironeous and ruining their sweet parties.

Of course, in a lot of places St. Vanis is respected and less radically conservative, but that isn't interesting now is it?

Why: Saw St. Cuthbert, decided to make a version that is a little more, er, "seperate" to the other paladin-ish deities by being kind of a dick. Not his fault though! He is still pretty cool. Also, yes, it was funny.

Valen, Goddess of Love

Alignment: Chaotic Good

Symbol: A red rose

Domains: Charm, Good, Luck, Protection

Favoured Weapon: Don't say mace, don't say maDagger

Valen is a goddess of love and beauty and creativity and things. I'm going to be honest here: Valen comes up a lot, but I never wrote down a lot of the specifics.

Also I have not been able to take her as seriously after one or two games featured the NPC Polyquet, a ghaele follower of Valen who spoke like a valley girl and said words like "Tubular!" and "Mondo!".

Why: Needed more deities that weren't lawful good.

Actually, looking back, it seems like the pantheons of my setting are quite overlooked. I haven't even written down much of the "core" human pantheon and I am missing evil gods because I tend to just make them demon lords instead. Oops.

A few players have been telling me I should look at Pathfinder and steal some things from there. Also, by players I mean player, and by player I mean Pathfinder fanboy. (I kid! ;)) I might poke around later for some deity ideas from other settings I like, anyway.

I might look into my own settings, even. I had a steampunk setting I ran a couple of games in, with deities that worked out pretty well - humans had a smaller, more fleshed-out pantheon based on the idea that all their gods had two aspects that were unrelated or didn't go together well, like "magic and physical strength" or "invention and entropy" or "the deep ocean and imperialism" or "racial discrimination and being handsome". Could steal a couple of them, if it's possible to steal from yourself.

Tell you what... I remember writing a bunch of terrible ideas for deities years ago in high school. Let me dig up my notes and sift through the chainmail bikinis and badly-drawn tits to see if I can find any gems.

Or, you know, something to laugh at.

For now, expect an update soon now that I no longer have to worry about pictures as often and I'm not rushing to try and post one before August finishes.


Mozai said...

Thought about farming out your stick-figure drawing to a contractor? I hear Rich Burlew isn't doing much since he lost to Forgotten Realms for that "make our new campaign setting" contest that TSR had.

For making Gods... D&D gods have always been a bit fucked up because the writers only think about the vast minority that is hero-type people... so you get "god of paladins." That's like having a "god of assistants to the chief financial officers."

Where's the god of Level-0 Commoners? Or the god of NPC classes like Aristocrat?

Also, I wanna see a timid & sensitive loving god worshiped by orcs, just for a greenskin tusked barbarian in a viking helmet and a sledgehammer whose battle cry is "YOU MADE BABY JEGUS CRY!"

Ettin said...

"That's like having a "god of assistants to the chief financial officers.""

Well the way my setting is, this actually seems like a viable idea. Hmmm...

Laki, God of Assistants

Alignment: True Neutral

Symbol: A brown nose

Domains: Air, Community, Competition, Glory, Law

Favoured Weapon: A tongue

Well... maybe not.

"Where's the god of Level-0 Commoners? Or the god of NPC classes like Aristocrat?"

For the record, when I say god of paladins I really just mean a god with a dogma that can suit the paladin lifestyle, since the paladin needs an actual source of his belief like the cleric but also requires a specific kind of deity (Weirdly, Valen has had a lot of paladins despite being CG. Probably because I stole bits of her from some FR god.)

Most regular people just worship Pelor or something, at least in the core 3.5 "setting".


god of Level-0 Commoners

Bob, God of 0-level Commoners

Alignment: True Neutral

Symbol: Whatever starting equipment you can afford

Domains: Community, none of his followers have levels though

Favoured Enemy: Cats

There's also a god of beggars in Deities & Demigods, I think.

god of NPC classes like Aristocrat?

Richard P. Wifflebottom, Gentleman of Leisure

Alignment: Lawful Neutral

Symbol: A monocle

Domains: Nobility, Nobility, Protection, Nobility, War

Favoured Weapon: A cane

"Also, I wanna see a timid & sensitive loving god worshiped by orcs, just for a greenskin tusked barbarian in a viking helmet and a sledgehammer whose battle cry is "YOU MADE BABY JEGUS CRY!"

I haven't even decided for sure that orcs in my setting are like that. There are a few different ways I can go and I haven't settled on one.

Sounds a bit like this giant lady though.

Anonymous said...

Saints are only a Catholic church thing. No religion in the world, not even the Protestant ones, have Saints.

They may have heroes, and legends, and demi-gods, but no saints.

Anyway, have a free tip: Study real religions and see what they do, instead of copying D&D and D&D clones, if you want to be unique.

Ettin said...

In that case, I will start by letting them have saints.


Disgruntled said...

Bahaha! I didn't even know Iroth was half a foot tall. That's pretty hilarious.

Ettin said...

I think I will rewrite these a little and post them again soon.

Also while I am here, if it wasn't clear: No, choosing to steal from real life rather than D&D (which steals from real life anyway) doesn't make me unique. It just makes my sources slightly harder to work out.