by Paul W. Will (AKA Koordar)
The contents of this article are suitable for use with AD&D (tm TSR
Hobbies Inc.) but are easily adaptable to any other major FRPG.
In considering the writing of this article, several
questions/problems became apparent. First was classification of Deities. Second came the requirement of keeping the record keeping simple in a complicated business (DMs already have their jobs cut out for them). And finally; the correlate of such information previously set forth in both the AD & D system and the fine pages of The Dragon Magazine (tm TSR Hobbies Inc.)
With these things in mind; to work.
Gods; gods of war, passion, harvest, chance and more have been the
back-drop for countless civilizations in the past. The flavor of a country and the personalities of it's peoples all find some root in the otherworldly personages and legends of their religions. Any AD&D (tm TSR Hobbies Inc.) campaign gains something special when such things are carefully interwoven into their fabric, but this is no easy task; and can detract from a game as easily as not.
To add a religious note to your campaign there are two strategies; 1) Use a pantheon from the DDG. 2) Create your own, taylor made pantheon(s).
As for the first method, I suggest that you research the era and
and area(s) of power, as well as the legends and tales of the pantheon in question, in depth. Grasp firmly the concepts and theologies before implementing them. As far as general advice goes; that is the extent of it.
Should you choose the second method however (and probably if not)
this article should be of interest to you.
Let us discuss the basics of deity-hood. Gods are divided into five
groups (as I have concluded from information derived from the DDG, Dragon #68, and subsequent issues) in order of potence:
Greater (as per TD #68) Major* Minor** Lesser (as per TD #68) Demi-god (as per TD#68) Saint (as per TD #71)
As Mr. Gygax has, in his 'deities of the Flaeness' series described
some of his gods as being 'Major' and 'Minor' without further information given I will take this opportunity to give my own versions of these:
Anti-magic shell (2) Protection from evil/good, Command 3rd effect (2) +2, 30' radius Control weather Quest (2) Cure critical wounds (2) Remove curse Death spell (1) Remove fear Dispel (evil/good, Restoration (2) illusion, magic) (6 each) Resurrection (5) Fly Shape change (2) Gate (2) Summon # Globe of invulnerability (1) Symbol (2) Heal (2) Time stop (1) Holy/Unholy word (2) Trap the soul (2) Improved invisibility True seeing (4) Improved phantasmal forces Wish (2) Polymorph other (4)
* * Maximum hit dice of 35, no more than 5 creatures. * *
Minor Gods: Anti-magic shell (2) Polymorph other (2) Command 3rd effect (2) Protection from evil/good Control weather (2) +2, 25' radius Cure critical wounds (1) Quest (1) Cure serious wounds (3) Remove curse Death spell (1) Remove fear Dispel (evil/good, Restoration (2) illusion, magic) (4) Resurrection (4) Fly Summon # Gate (2) Symbol (2) Heal (2) Trap the soul (1) Holy/unholy word (2) True seeing (3) Improved invisibility Wish (1) Phantasmal forces * * Maximum hit dice of 30, no more than 4 creatures. * * With this errata out of the way, onward . .. What, other than the obvious powers stated, differs each rank of gods from the others? That is a question that is arduous to answer in a generality. Some say it is the number and power of their worshipers, this I say is a misleading if not unworkable idea. Which came first; the god or the believer? Obviously this is something that you will have to define for yourself, but I operate on the precept that the god(s) was first, shortly followed by everything they created. Another misconception (at least in my opinion) is that divine beings gain power directly from their worshipers and in direct proportion to the number of their faithful. If this were the case any mortal might claim divinity simply because he or she had cowed a few handfulls of weaker creatures into paying homage to the character in question. This sort of behaviour, shows plainly that the requirements for deifacation must be up-graded. Gods are their own power-sources, or tap into great power stores un-attainable to mortals, for their spell abilities. It is part of their nature; why else would men (creatures capable of attaining great power themselves [in the form of high levels]) live in awe of any god? This leads to yet another strange question: why then, if gods are self-sufficient for their existence, would 'Divine Beings' solicit even the recognition of men? First I must lay down here a postulate that I hold to be true and workable in gaming. 1) any divine creature has the proverbial 'snowball's chance in hell' to manifest it's-self in any way on a plane (material plane, that is) where it has no supplicants. By this rule a god has effectively zero influence on a world where he/she is without priests. Clerics might well be sent to far lands (worlds), there to introduce their gods doctrines. A god does not cease to exist merely because no-one believes in him any longer, the god in question would simply take truck to planes where he or she finds the fields more verdant. Thus on any reality where a god has the slightest interest he or she would actively seek to spread-the-faith. Priests are charged to do so, and are benefitted with spell capabilities to aid in this task. The phrase: "Wherever goest thou faithful; there shall I be.', is an applicable statement here. The god without a flock is able only to manifest on it's native plane, a dangerous place indeed for a god, but any gods reason for opening material worlds to itself are sure to be deeper than 'just to be there'. Some gods are greedy and desire the wealth of their worlds, other gods are curious, some wish to propagate their views, still others simply feel a need for lesser creatures to pay them homage. A god might simply be bored; eternity is a long time, and what about spiteful gods; might they not seek only their nemisis' failure in that enemy god's dealings with man? Other reasons are plentiful, referees should give each god his or her own purpose for association with man; a task that could (should with respect to at least a handfull of any pantheon's gods) be tied into THE BIG PICTURE. What are the origins of your world, cosmos or multiverse? Devise it. Was it the Big-Bang, a mating of celestial beings, or did the Cosmic Dung Beetle roll amorphous materials into planets? Are the stars other suns, carnal creatures thrust into the sky, or cracks and chinks in a great universe encircling wall? The multiverse, is it divergent realities stemming from Day One (ala Zelazny), or the results of two ultimate beings unknowingly trying to create Everything, in the same spot at the same time? It stands to reason that the Creator(s) is a Greater god, or perhaps a group of Greater and Major Gods. As for the rest consider the following; Greater God: A) The most powerful Outer Realm creature of its alignment, or B) Any of the most powerful Perpetual Beings. Major God: A) An Outer Realm creature of great power, or B) The offspring of a Greater God. Minor God: A) An Outer Realm creature of average power, or B) The offspring of a Major God. Lesser God: A) An Outer Realm creature of little power, or B) The offspring of a Minor God. Demi-God: A) Any half-divine mortal who has shown ample merit to his/her divine parent and granted immortality. Saint: A) Any true mortal who shows extreme potential through the service of his/her Deity, and been granted an eternal afterlife, or B) Any Demi-God not yet ascended. I define the Outer Realm as "that which existed before the creation, and which still exists beyond the borders of the creation." A "Perpetual Being" is one the "is because it is." More to the point let me give an example: Loroth is the "God of the Good Earth," he cane to be when the earth did and he represents all that is alive. His priests take joy in life and its continuance, he is a Perpetual Being because he is the physical embodiment of something that may one day cease to exist (would this cause him to fade from existence?). His twin, Mortis (God of Death), skips through Time, existing only in the instant when something dies and within eyesight of that thing. He too is a Perpetual Being, and may one day be no more. Neither could exist without the other. Further I have made mention of the Ascendance of Demi-Gods, this takes place at the death of the mortal body of the Demi-God. After the usual Astral Journey (DDG page 11) upon its arrival at the proper plane, if it is the same plane as is native to its Divine parent then it will become a full-fledged Demi-God. Until this time it is treated as having only the powers of a Saint. Should the half-mortal choose in its life to serve a cause other then that of its Divine parent's, then there would be slim chance of another God granting him/her immortality, and thus would remain but a Saint eternally. Feel free to alter the definitions as necessary, but remember, the difference bewixt various ranks of Deities must be more then just the number of Wishes they can crank-out in a day…. Pantheons all have one thing in common. That is that they each reflect their respective civilizations. Of the dozen or so pantheon/cultures that I examined in preparation of this work I found that eleven had war-gods, seven had sun-gods, six; gods of sea. Further there were five each, gods of thunder, storms, and love. Fully one-third included gods of wind, death, nature, air, running waters, and a king of gods. These things can tell one much about these cultures, if not of the nature of man. War seems to be at the foremost of man's thoughts, so he epitomizes a god of destruction. The sun was a wonder to early man, thus a deity represented it or vise-versa, be that god a cruel and glaring one, or a warm and kind one. Likewise many cultures were based on their sea-faring merchants or soldiers, they would naturally imagine a god of the waters, who must surely watch over them, and be in control of the seas depths and ravaging nature. Love (taken in any context) is frequently thought of as a gift of a specific supernatural being. Air and wind gods are attributes of sailing cultures, death and nature are mysteries and thus deified. River-based cultures, of course, boast of river-gods, and prevalent in family or monarch oriented cultures there are found a "Ruler of the Gods." The latter is often a patriarch or matriarch, or even a matched set, this lets the church help in controlling the lower castes. As can now be seen, a coherent pantheon should be representative of the culture(s) that gave rise to it (also vise-versa), and must set an example for the whole civilization. As stated previously, some pantheons' rulers are patri-/matri-archial. These pantheons have historically involved incestuous relationships (again the lifestyles of the devout would, detrimentally, reflect this). Although occasionally a new being might be brought into the scene (perhaps from the pantheon of a conquered nation), the nature and origins of these interlopers would likely be jumbled or varied from church to church. Here is a list of possible spheres of power for deities compiled from twelve pantheons, and followed by a few additions of my own device, the first three are more "Role-Types" commonly evidenced. Creator Ruler Subverter War Sun Fire Sea Thunder Storms Death Love Wind Mature Air Running Waters Rain Underworld* Undead Poetry Music Magic Animal
Archery Theft Luck Earth Fertility Sky Night Smything
Knowledge Law Gambling Agriculture Punishment Motherhood Guardian-of-dead Wealth Evil Beauty Combat Hunting Strength
Moon Racing/Speed Winter Spring Fall/Harvest Summer Cities Darkness
Devil* Mountains Youth (eternal) Forests Fate Medicine/Healing Chance Chaos Life Good Gifts Justice Multi-purpose Time Gravity Wine Competition Travel * Not necessarily representative of a single plane, but possibly in charge of all of the dead souls of mortals. Representative of animal(s) held as sacred.
The gods of a pantheon need not be of a single alignment, nor even
a group of related alignments. In my own campaign, my two pantheons each represent a plethora of view-points and the full range of alignments.
Let the priest, and indeed the priesthood, fit the god. Little
details do count; the priests of Loroth (God of the Good Earth) never wear shoes that their feet never leave the ground. The priests of Woolio (Duke of the Drunk, and God of Gravity) must start the day with a ritual called "Hair of the Dog" lest they be struck with mystic fits of migraine…. Woolio, by the way, invented gravity so he could fall, well, um, down.
The spells that each Deity can grant should be closely related to
the Deity's philosophy, and sphere of power, thus Loroth cannot grant such spells as Levitation, nor Wind Walk. Woolio's priests are at a loss to cast such spells as Neutralize Poison (alcohol is after all a poison, and the reverse of this spell cast by Woolio's adherants causes the victim to be quite intoxicated…), and True Seeing.
Gods have to be limited in both the type and number of spells that
they can grant to their priests. The former so that the spells that their priests cast conform to the theology. The latter so that priests will usually choose at least on extremely potent god and possible on or two additional gods, this will serve to simulate the side-byside style of worship so common in pantheon religions. I offer this chart regarding the number of spells each god can grant.
Spell Level: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Deity Rank: Greater: 12
12 12 9 7 5 3 Major: 12 12 9 7 5 3 1 Minor: 12 9 7 5 3 1 - Lesser: 9 7 5 3 1 - - Demi-God 7 5 3 1 - - - Saint: 5 3 1 - - - -
According to the AD&D system a Cleric gains his/her spells through
prayer, meditation, and study. First and Second level spells are gained from the teachings of the church, wether by rote chants, reading prayer books or similar means. Third, Fourth, and Fifth level spells are communicated to the Cleric via the Deity's servants: Saints, Devas, lesser Devils or Demons, etc., as the priest prays. Finally Sixth and Seventh level spells are granted by the deity itself.
Utilizing the rules outlined in this text observe the following
Laurus the True is an eleventh level Cleric with a 14 Wisdom who
worships a Major God, a Lesser God, and a Saint of the Major God. Laurus chooses the following numbers of spells from his deities:
Divinity: Major Lesser Saint Spell Level: 1 3 3 1 2 2 2 0 3 1 1 2 4
1 2 - 5 0 2 - 6 1 - -
To receive the Sixth level spells he is in direct communication
with the Major Deity. The Major Deity sends a deva with the Third and Fourth level spells.
A deva servitor of the Lesser God brings the Third through Fifth
level spells requested by the priest.
Finally the Saint himself (at least in spirit) visits the priest
with the Third level spells and possible any news of import.
In this scenario the priest would likely have a very close
relationship with the Saint, as the Saint consults with him on each day bringing spell-knowledge.
The next step in meshing religion and Deities into the campaign is
to list each of the cities in it. Once such a list is complete, count the churches in each city, adding them to the list categorically by location. Now define whether each of the churches are mono- or poly- theistic in beliefs. I recommend that such a list be patterned after the example below.
KINGDOM CITY ALIGN- PRIM- SECOND- TE RTI-
MENT ARY ARY A RY
Southeron Portsmouth CG(N) Imparte Publius As sorte
Ghar-Dun N Ithain Woolio
Velton Velton NG Loroth Oberik Go ram
The categories of Kingdom and City are self explanatory. Alignment
is that of the Deity, or a consolidation of the Deities involved (obviously no church should house more than a "one place" difference between the alignments of its Deities [see DMG page 37, Alignment Factors]). In the above example (the Southeron Kingdom, City of Portsmouth), Imparte (the Benefactress) is Chaotic Good, Publius (the Speaker) is Chaotic Neutral with Good tendencies, and Assorte is Chaotic Neutral. All are of similar alignment, and their Credos are not dissimilar, so a Cleric of one, might also recognize one or both of the others. In this instance Imparte enjoys the position of "Most Exalted", having the majority of direct followers. The church is designated as Chaotic Good with Neutral tendencies, as this is the direction of the most "counts", rational as follows.
Inclinations are: Good, Evil, Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral.
The Primary Deity registers three (3) "counts" for each of its
Inclinations. The Secondary Deity registers two (2) for each of its Inclinations, and the Tertiary Deity but one (1).
Tendencies are only half the normal value.
Add these "counts" up, the alignment is then derived from the
Inclinations with the most "counts". In Portsmouth all of the Inclinations are of Good, Chaos, and Neutral.
Inclinations Good Chaotic Neutral Deity: Imparte 3 3 0 Publius 1 2 2 Assorte 0 1 1
Totals: 4 6 3
The results: Chaotic Good (heavy on the Chaos) with Neutral
Setting churches up like this will make the task of choosing
Deities much easier for the Cleric, as most priest will want to be associated with just such an established organization. It also gives the DM more control of the religious groups, and a better method of recording them.
The Rules set forth in this article should facilitate religion
simulation, promote pantheonism, and greatly enhance any game while keeping the effort at a minimum.
I hope you enjoy, and bid you good gaming.