Saturday, September 11, 2010

Worldbuilding: It's Not Silly If It's Religion

I've stopped to think, I've trawled through all my notes looking for any deities I made up for specific purposes, stolen from both D&D and real-world religions in my quest to not be original, and consulted some friends. Let's do this!

The strange thing about tabletop deities is that they seem to have a lot more deities for "adventurer"-type stuff than, say, farming and fertility. It's out of necessity, of course: That is how D&D rolls. It's not Farmville d20, it is about going into dungeons, finding some dragons and killing them to death. It might just seem that way because the player needs to know which gods will approve of his habits of kicking down doors, entering the lairs of evil beings and stealing their shit, anyway.

But having a long list of deities who are mostly about "commoner" things like farming wheat, protecting children and prostitution is boring, I guess. I will actually try and include some of that later, really, but let's start with some evil deities I whipped up to see how they work:

Soapizdun, The Immaculate One
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Domains: Destruction, Evil, Madness, Water

The Immaculate One was once known as Laundrethian, a minor deity of cleanliness and water humans would often say small prayers to as they did the washing. Laundrethian liked things to be extremely neat and tidy. One day he explored the dark realms beyond known reality - nobody is quite sure why, though as a deity he probably did it because he could - and vanished for a hundred years, returning as a twisted, evil mockery of his former self.

Soapizdun is an insane deity who wants everything to be as clean and neat as possible, devoid of any chaos or filth. As the usual culprit in any "dirtying" event is an intelligent being Soapizdun aims to ensure everything will stay clean forever the only way possible: The complete and total annihilation of all life in the multiverse.

In another world, the Immaculate One would be imprisoned by an alliance of deities and lie trapped in a prison realm somewhere, while insane cultists did strange things in strange temples and were stabbed in the head by adventurers trying to save the world. Unfortunately Soapizdun is already in self-imposed imprisonment, constantly cleaning and re-cleaning his own deific realm, and also it is theologically impossible to take him seriously. His followers are all insane and eventually kill themselves by scrubbing too hard.

Soapizdun appears as a handsome, extremely clean humanoid, constantly dripping water and clad in simple robes of pure white. He has tentacled arms and wears a set of trousers on his head. His holy symbol is a washboard.

Note: One of my players (let's call him Ferret) suggested this when I was trying to come up with evil deities. I am pretty sure he wasn't serious. Well, too bad. Also, I remember at least three settings which contained imprisoned evil deities and thought I would have one.

Yzzyx, the Dark Creative
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Domains: Creation, Darkness, Dream, Evil, Knowledge

Yzzyx is believed to have once been an oracle deity of a long-dead pantheon. As his brothers out, Yzzyx (if that was his name) decided to simply retire and spend his remaining days quietly contemplating the mysteries of the cosmos. After that... well, some say he just saw too much and became corrupted, while others believe that the original deity passed away quietly to wherever gods go and something crept into his dreams to take his place.

Whatever happened, the almost alien being now known as Yzzyx is a deity of nightmares and dark creativity. His flock are, mostly, monsters and extra-planar creatures, though a few bards Yzzyx has been working on in their sleep can be found across the land if you look hard enough. Unlike most evil deities, Yzzyx is not very active, and it is by choice: He is still content to meditate in his mysterious realm and contemplate unspeakable atrocities. Sometimes, his maddening dreams will touch the minds of artists and "inspire" them, and sometimes they will just spawn monsters of their own accord. Sometimes these monsters are said to emerge from the paintings of those he inspires, causing some to wonder if Yzzyx is inactive or just playing an extremely long-term game.

Yzzyx is portrayed as a handsome, bald man in golden robes, meditating with his hands on his knees and his eyes shut serenely. Around his head, a sickening purple void pulses around a single staring eye. His symbols are as varied as the creatures that revere him, but the most common variant is a spiral made from bristles.

Some old depictions also include a circle-within-a-box symbol on his forehead associated with two ancient deities from different dead civilisations - Dodoni, an oracle, and Boccaseus, a patron of cheesemakers. Mentioning this to a group of theologians is a great way to start an argument.

Note: Another pal of mine thought up the basics for this one, but I added a bunch of things. He did not like my suggestion that Yzzyx may be a sentient hunk of cheese left behind by Boccaseus, though.

Seokore, the Restless Lady
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Domains: Charm, Death, Earth, Knowledge

Seokore is one of quite a few lesser powers of death or the undead. She is the ruler of the Devamanteum, a mysterious realm associated with the deaths of gods and powerful extraplanar beings. From here Seokore watches over the remnants of these beings (though most think they actually end up on the Astral) and records their histories and secrets.

Seokore is not the original ruler of this realm. That was Thantis, an ancient lesser deity who used to guard the underworld realms. After being tasked to watch over the lone Devamanteum, Thantis grew bored and eventually kidnapped Seokore, then a minor deity of cats and leisure and daughter of an archon and the beauty goddess Valen, thinking he could get a wife and a pet at the same time. When Valen sent her strongest champion to retrieve her, Thantis made her eat some of the berries in his realm, claiming that anyone who ate food from the Devamanteum would be unable to return to the realm of the living.

Valen's champion declared that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard and broke Thantis' neck.

Since then Seokore has taken over the role, believing that if the Devamanteum were left unattended it might be plundered and the deities themselves would be in danger. Also, Thantis, who knew the secrets of the place better than anyone, could possibly use it to return to the world, and he would be extremely upset.

For now, Seokore watches over the Devamanteum, but she yearns to return to her mother's side and often leaves the place in the hands of her proxies while she visits the upper planes. Over time she has become depressed and sullen with the burden of her duty, though, and though she is glad her lazy daughter is out of her realm's basement and getting some experience, her mother is constantly searching for a way to free her.

Most of Seokore's followers are necromancers with some extraplanar heritage, though some just like her laid-back approach and lack of exposed rotting flesh. Though most of her followers are evil nowadays, she has a very small following of good-aligned people (who often worship Valen as well) who see it as their duty to remind the world of her goodness, much like Seokore makes sure the secrets of the dead are hidden but never forgotten.

Seokore normally appears as an attractive humanoid female with some cat features and long, dark hair, wrapped in tattered robes. Her appearance has been marred by sleepless yellow eyes and a sad expression, and she is usually drenched in cold water. Her symbol is a silver triangular mirror.

Note: Ex-patron of a player in one of my games, so here is a proper writeup. JUST FOR YOU, RAN.

Zoxxoth
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Domains: Death, Destruction, Evil, War

Zoxxoth is known by many names - The Heartless One, the Lord of Nightmares, the Black King, the Prince of Evil, the Eater of Hope, etc. Most of his names boil down to this: Zoxxoth is kind of a dick.

Lesser evil gods have tragic backstories, or at least a strange love of the evil deeds they commit. Not Zoxxoth. Zoxxoth was rotten to the core from the day he emerged from the void and every atrocity he commits is for one single reason: because he can. There is no point to seeking any deep meaning in Zoxxoth's teachings, which are seemingly designed to drive people to hopelessness and despair at a cold, uncaring universe. Zoxxoth is just a huge tool in every possible way.

Every one of Zoxxoth's followers, be they marauding barbarians or calculating aristocrats, is a douchebag. This would probably be a requirement if any deity actually used the word "douchebag". They believe that there is no point to anything that doesn't serve their own needs, and if they get their kicks from torture, rape and murder, then why not indulge themselves?

Zoxxoth has made an enemy of nearly every single other deity ever, but frankly he doesn't really give a shit.

Zoxxoth appears as a smooth, grey-skinned man reclining so hard in a black throne that he is sinking into it. He has an extra, longer set of arms in place of his legs and a gaping, bloody hole in his chest where a heart should be. His symbol is a human heart with a knife jammed into it.

Note: Sometimes you don't need a complicated evil god with a specific agenda or lofty goals or some kind of insanity. Sometimes you just need a tool.


Are these the deities I am looking for? Maybe. I am just throwing ideas out there right now. Hopefully some of them are alright and by the end of this I will take the good ideas and combine them into a cohesive whole. No lawful evil deities yet, but honestly I will probably do the usual and use the shit out of Asmodeus. That dude is a bro.

Oh, and I think I am going to ditch the "pantheons" idea for the most part and make nearly all the gods I describe universal - their faiths can be found in all sorts of countries and races. There will be lesser gods, of course, and a lot of regions might have their own lesser deities, but I really don't need to list all of them. Just the important ones will do.

Stay tuned, because I am going to try and get this done in, oh, let's say a week. That means posts!

To wrap up, I would like to present something I found in Wikipedia's article on Abbathor, dwarven god of greed, which may be the best thing I have ever read on Wikipedia:

The beard shirt of Dunforth

The legendary dwarf hero Dunforth wove his beard into a shirt, forsaking all other forms of armor. The dwarven god of battle, Clangeddin Silverbeard, was so impressed by this gesture that he invested Dunforth's beard with power, making it strong as chain mail. Abbathor conspired with Vergadain to trick Dunforth into gambling his beard away. Shamed as only a beardless dwarf can be, Dunforth tried to redeem himself by single-handedly exterminating an orc village. Though he slew thirty of his foes, the overwhelming number of orcs eventually felled the armorless Dunforth, and the beard shirt remains as part of Abbathor's hoard.

9 comments:

Ran said...

Aww, you left out the evil God of Butlers.

But yay! Seokore!

Jenx said...

Beard shirt...oh dear lord that sounds like something /tg/ would do in a fit of retardation.

Ettin said...

I wonder if he could have it magically enchanted into a +1 beard shirt of fire resistance.

ProfessorCirno said...

A goddess of death, corpses, and necromancy, who's a cat girl?

Does she also have 2 red ponytails?

YOU AND YOUR TOUHOUS.

Ettin said...

Cirno:

It was Ran's idea, no idea if he was thinking of a Touhou.

And I totally didn't say catgirl! For all you know she could be a cat in a robe.

Anonymous said...

tl;dr, but I did skim through enough to say this: you've got a moderate to severe case of Lovecraftian Naming Syndrome. Srsly, Yzzyx? I love Colossal Cave Adventure as much as the next person, but that name is going to invite *shudder* player nicknaming, and there goes as that dramatic tension. Example:
-"In the dark you can see, faintly glowing the symbol of Yzzyx, while on the altar-"
-"Wait? Who?"
-"Yzzyx ... the evil god of creation and dreams?"
-"Oh! Right! Baldie-locks! Continue, please."

The only cure for Lovecraftian Naming Syndrome is spending half a decade learning linguistics or spending 5 minutes looking up the names of people and gods from extinct civilizations and then mashing the letters around. To wit:

Ansamium
Warad-kinshar
Tiakibal
Damishu
Ditana
Sin-nadin
Belnasir

Etc, etc

(Then again, what do I know? I'm just zis guy, you know?)

Ettin said...

Yeah, it is pretty much a placeholder.

I am not too fussed about dramatic tension though, at least not yet. (If I was Soapizdun wouldn't be there!)

Also I think you made that syndrome name up just now.

ProfessorCirno said...

Silliness?

IN AN ETTIN GAME?!

:O

Ettin said...

Actually it just occured to me that that is how Seokore's name was made anyway.


Heh.