Thirsty Thursday: Let’s Homebrew a Warlock Patron

You have a connection with the spirits of your deceased forebears. Your ancestors may include particularly skilled mages or warriors who can grant you a measure of their expertise, or you may draw on the wisdom of intelligent nobles or clever sages. Although perhaps not as strong individually as other patrons, together they wield immense power and have blessed you with their protection.

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I often get ideas for doing homebrew material from people asking about a particular concept. I think the universal introduction of class options in 5e was one of the best design decisions possible, and it opens up a lot of space for designing flavorful themes that would have been restricted to prestige classes or heroic paths in the previous two editions.

One idea someone suggested on Facebook was that of gaining magical power from one’s ancestors. Although they don’t fit with the assumed definition of a Patron, it still makes sense that they could give some supernatural abilities, and so I thought it would be a good idea to put together.

Warlock Patron – The Ancestors
You have a connection with the spirits of your deceased forebears. Your ancestors may include particularly skilled mages or warriors who can grant you a measure of their expertise, or you may draw on the wisdom of intelligent nobles or clever sages. Although perhaps not as strong individually as other patrons, together they wield immense power and have blessed you with their protection.

Expanded Spell List: The Ancestors let you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you:

  • 1st – heroism, shield of faith
  • 2nd – aid, warding bond
  • 3rd – clairvoyance, spirit guardians
  • 4th – arcane eye, guardian of the faith
  • 5th – commune with nature, legend lore

The spell list here is made of supportive and defensive options, but still not ones that give direct healing ability. All of these things feel like things spirits could accomplish fairly easily, whether that’s looking at things far away or intercepting harm for you.

Ancestral Knowledge: Starting at 1st level, you learn an additional language and gain a single additional skill proficiency of your choice. Whenever you finish a long rest, you may exchange your chosen skill proficiency for a different one.

The 1st-level Warlock feature is usually combat-relevant, but I thought a skill-based option feels more characteristic of calling on your ancestors. It also gives some flexibility in that you can switch this option, making it more interactive and versatile than other warlock features.

Protective Spirit: Starting at 6th level, you can call on your ancestors to take attacks for you. When a creature attempts to attack you, you may use your reaction to summon a guardian spirit in your image. If the attack roll would be successful, roll another d20. If the roll is 11 or higher, the attack strikes the spirit, which harmlessly absorbs the blow and then dissipates. If the initial attack roll was unsuccessful or the d20 roll was 10 or lower, the protective spirit remains with you for up to 1 minute or until it is struck by an attack. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

The 6th-level Warlock feature is a defensive or utility feature meant for combat use. Here, I liked the idea of a modified mirror image and the potential of completely avoiding an attack. There’s still a bit of counterplay as enemies can work around it or use weak attacks to try to “waste” it.

Spiritual Shell: Starting at 10th level, your ancestors provide you a measure of protection from the energies of both life and death. You gain resistance to necrotic and radiant damage. Additionally, you become more resilient thanks to their intervention. Whenever you would regain hit points, you may add your Constitution modifier to the amount regained if you would not already.

The 10th-level Warlock feature is always a fairly passive defensive one. This one is a bit more powerful than the Fiend’s damage resistance, but it lacks the flexibility and deals with two fairly rare damage types. Because of this, I liked the idea of providing another minor passive benefit when your allies help you out.

Ancestral Reunion: Starting at 14th level, you may summon a whole host of your ancestors to imperil your foes. As an action, choose either a single creature you can see or a cube within line of sight with an area no greater than 15 feet on a side. If you choose a single creature and the creature is not undead, it takes 10d10 necrotic damage as an army of spirits tears at its body. If you choose an area, each creature within that area that is not undead or a construct takes 2d10 necrotic damage. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Finally, the 14th-level Warlock feature is the big one: major combat application, usually based on removing a single enemy from battle or dealing massive amounts of damage to them. However, variety is the spice of life, and I wanted the ability to be a bit more flexible in terms of its targets. Why not give it an area option? As a trade-off, the trigger requires your action, making it worse than the Fiend’s Hurl through Hell, it doesn’t temporarily remove the target from combat, and the damage type is probably a bit worse.

What sort of homebrew material would you like to see?

World-Building, Part 10: Pantheons–Have to Generate Them All

The important distinction is that instead of each god for each race being separate from one another, they’re essentially the same god but interpreted differently.

Seven races for seven primary deities, along with a couple of leftover ones to add variety to my group. Now that I have different cultures established, I can also start thinking about how they would interpret the different gods. See, in most D&D settings, each race has its own creator god or goddess and a whole host of other associated gods, but I have two problems with that approach: 1) it leads to a multiplicity of gods with similar portfolios (nearly every race is going to have a death god, for example), and 2) it’s hard to remember them all. Instead, we’re going to have each race / culture all accept these same deities but give them different names. To make things easier, we’ll borrow names from other settings / mythologies. The important distinction is that instead of each god for each race being separate from one another, they’re essentially the same god but interpreted differently.

As an example, let’s look at one of my deities and see how I developed its religion in different directions depending on the culture under consideration. How about Mortu?

In Druskan society, he would be worshipped as a powerful god, but he is not one of the Seven and so a bit more marginalized than some of the others. However, in other cultures he might look a bit different. In Khemta, he becomes a jackal-headed god of the dead reminiscent of Anubis. Additionally, he is worshipped under two other aspects, considered still the same god but as separate personalities and cults: Sethis the predator, god of violence and cruelty, and Ophois the hunter and provider. I decide that this particular religious practice (aspects) is highly characteristic of Khemta, so they will be a “more religious” culture than some others.

Moving elsewhere, I decide that the lykans of Elenas revere two primary deities: the Packlord and the Den Mother. The Khemtans might assume that these two deities are simply the separated aspects of Inapa, their Death God (predator and provider), but Druskans might look at these deities as a different interpretation of Bel and his consort Sangua. The lykans probably don’t care one way or another; their gods are their own and while they might find comparative religion interesting they would be content with their own practices.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that in this setting I assume that the gods are to some degree inaccessible. They can (and occasionally do) communicate with their followers, but their messages are generally vague, and it’s not the kind of setting where you just shift a few planes and speak directly to them–mortals can’t quite wrap their minds around the gods and their nature even during interactions. This also prevents easy answers from determining who’s “right” about the Khemtan religion, lykan gods, or what have you. As far as mortals can tell, all of them have just as much claim to truth as the others.

We can expand this process to other gods. The draconians see Clarumar as a great shining dragon, while the Druskans might depict him as a feathery winged paladin. Although Primideus’ sacrifice has made him one of the marginalized gods in Druska, Ishva might be the chief god of Elon. By calling on these cultural analogues for my different regions, I can quickly sketch out how each deity might be a little different in different regions (or just come up with it when my players come to it).

This is about all I have to say about the cosmological side of things, though I’m sure more could be developed. I’ve tried to keep my examples brief just to give a feel for things without burdening the posts with too many details. Now that we know generally what the world should look like and how its gods interact, we might want to shift our attention to smaller units of detail.

Next: let’s build a faction!

World-Building, Part 9: Places and Names

We now have a great deal figured out regarding our pantheon and creatures of the world. Returning here, we can assign some stereotypes and establish some general naming rules to make each region feel a little bit different.

We now have a great deal figured out regarding our pantheon and creatures of the world. Returning here, we can assign some stereotypes and establish some general naming rules to make each region feel a little bit different.

First, let’s update our map, shall we?

Druskan Empire West.jpg

Druskan Empire East.jpg

Those look so much better, don’t they?

Remember that we’re treating this world like a fantasy-analogue Roman Empire, so we have the Khemta-Elenas alliance as Macedonia-Egypt, the Dvergaric Holds as Slavic regions, the Barbaric Coasts as Northern Africa, and Hibernas and Eire as uncontrolled Gaul / Iberian / Britannic analogues (it doesn’t match one-to-one). Elon corresponds with Parthia, a unique culture and empire on Druska’s border that remains unconquered.

In our world, people have a habit of naming settlements “Whatever”-“town.” You can substitute the suffix, but whether it’s “-ton,” “-ville,” or “-burgh,” people have done that in many cultures. The temptation would have been to use “-polis,” given my Mediterranean roots, but for Druskan cities I decided I’d rather use “-bad” as their generic city ending. This also doesn’t mean that all Druskan cities will have this as an ending, but as you can see from the map a lot of them do.

For several of these cities, I borrowed Greek or Latin names to give them a more archaic feel, but the names are also intended to say something about the place. “Auricbad,” for instance, or “Gold City,” is a Druskan settlement that has over the years grown into a refuge for the “gold dwarves” (named for their lighter skin tones) who want to join the empire. These dvergar are outcasts in their home or just hope to make a profit, and the city is essentially named after them. “Thalassabad” or “Sea City” is home to the finest minotaur sailing ships and the wealthiest port in Krata.

Other words try to give a different feel to other areas of the empire. The Elpanic cities, somewhat similarly to Greek words that have rules for ending them, all deliberately end in “s.” “Darakhem” comes from “Darakh,” intended to represent “dragon” in whatever language also uses sobekhi for lizardfolk, and the more or less Middle English “-hame” or home. Nearby you can also see “Hibernian Darakh,” a city that apparently had the same name but over time was labeled differently to avoid confusion. Both of these are cities with sizeable draconian populations, as you might have guessed. Sharagzir is an orc term, chosen to represent one of their settlements deep into the Empire. You can also notice that, partly due to its vast size and partly due to its militaristic history, Druska encompasses a lot more linguistic variations within its borders–they’ve conquered a lot of people, and in many cases they slightly modified or maybe even left unchanged the names in existence.

I know this seems wordy and maybe even too precise, but thinking about how different languages sound can help you create areas that feel like they actually have different cultures.

Next: we talk through different pantheons based on what we have so far.

Thirsty Thursday: Homebrew an Undead Race

In the interest of varying the content a bit, I’ve decided to run homebrew RPG material on Thursdays, along with an explanation of the choices I made in designing it. For our first one, we’re going to look at the concept of an undead PC, an idea that has a lot of thematic resonance with the Forsaken of Warcraft or stories about heroes whom even death could not stop.

What do we need in an undead race? They need to be biologically distinct from the living–poison, lack of breathing, and decay shouldn’t affect them in the same way it does living creatures. In D&D terms, that’s a huge advantage, so we need to balance it with some kind of drawback. The general design of 5e races includes ability score modifiers, generally totaling to +3, one or two “major” racial features that give the race its feel, one or two minor features (usually under the subrace) that further distinguish the race, and one or two appropriate skill or tool proficiencies. Races may also have a “ribbon” feature that doesn’t affect power too much but provides another opportunity to distinguish the race. These are rough guidelines, certainly, and I’m aware that some have tried to develop a numerical system that quanitifies this more precisely, but this pretty well describes all of the PHB races.

For myself, I like 5e’s design choice to include subraces, so I also want to leave an opportunity for that. We’re developing an undead race, so I’ll go with a more skeletal and a more zombified option as our two subraces.

I present to you The Risen.

Magic does not always have positive outcomes. Sometimes the living suffer destruction through an unwitting hand, but it often births new (if derivative) intelligent life. The Risen are among them.

Rumors vary as to the actual origin of these creatures. Whether the unfortunate victims of a curse gone awry or rotting material accidentally given sapience and animation by necromantic energy, the Risen possess the same desire for recognition and belonging shared by living creatures. In their quest for acceptance, many of them have banded together for protection, forming small societies based on the organization of other creatures. Most sapients want nothing to do with them, but they often find more open minds on the road to adventure. Their unnerving qualities and lack of actual life often prove advantages when delving dungeons.

 Risen Racial Traits

As a Risen, you possess the following racial traits and choose the Withered or the Wasted subrace:

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
  • Size. Risen, for whatever reason, are about the same height as elves, though their emaciated builds mean that they weigh considerably less. Your size is Medium.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t distinguish color in the darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Unholy Fortitude. You have resistance to poison and necrotic damage and advantage on saving throws against poison or the poisoned condition. (Major racial feature–strong defensive ability)
  • Unliving Humanoid. Although your creature type is humanoid, you are considered undead for the purposes of any effects that can target them or restrictions on beneficial effects (such as a cure wounds spell). You do not heal naturally during a short or long rest unless you have access to at least 1 lb. of fresh meat, which you must consume while you rest. You cannot be magically aged, and Risen have no known drawbacks to old age—though they are recent enough that no one truly knows what an “old” Risen might look like. (Overall, this is a major drawback because it opens the range of things that can hurt you and [minorly] restricts long-term healing. We include this so we can have more power in our subrace options. The not aging part is an example of a “ribbon.”)
  • Languages. You speak Common and one other standard language of your choice, determined by your previous life experiences. Risen remember some of what they used to be.
  • Subrace. Two Risen subraces are known to exist—the corpse-like Withered and skeletal Wasted. Choose one:

Withered

As a withered Risen, you have a zombie-like appearance. Though you still possess most of your flesh, muscle and bone may be showing through the occasional wound. Undeath has nevertheless distorted your features, and the living may fear you and your ravenous hunger.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2. (This gets us to +3.)
  • Biting Fangs. You gain a bite attack that deals 1d4 piercing damage + your Strength modifier as an action. If you are grappling, you can use this attack as a bonus action. (This is another major racial feature, enabled because of our drawback above. Its synergy with Cannibalize below is actually pretty good, especially considering the restrictions on healing from Unliving Humanoid.)
  • Cannibalize. After making a successful bite attack that deals damage, you can immediately spend 1 Hit Die to heal. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1). When you finish a long rest, you regain all expended uses. (Useful synergy with Biting Fangs, bumping them together up to a major racial feature.)
  • Horrific Visage. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill. (Here’s our skill proficiency. Basically everyone gets at least one.)

Wasted

As a wasted Risen, you look almost like a skeleton, though many are still covered in viscous fluids that ooze from their bones. Unencumbered by flesh, you are nimbler than other creatures and dance across the battlefield on your bony legs.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2. (Again, this gets us to +3.)
  • Nimble Bones. You gain proficiency in the Acrobatics and Athletics skills. (Wasted get two skill proficiencies due to having only one other major feature.)
  • Oozing Touch. You learn the poison spray cantrip and have advantage on checks made to escape grapples or the restrained condition. Constitution is your ability score for this cantrip. (Major racial feature with two benefits.)

 

Like this content? You can find this race and other homebrewed material here.

World-Building, Part 8: Calling All Creatures

These creature groupings need some filling out, so let’s look at what to add.

When we left off, I’d decided on broadening my “races” to three closely related (from the gods’ perspective) creatures each clustered on one of the deities I have, separated by size. Here are the deities I have, followed by a label for their chosen race:

  • Clarumar – “dragonkin”
  • Bel – “humankin”
  • Prudenta – “feykin”
  • Mara – “lizardkin”
  • Nothura – “goblinkin”
  • Clothamar – dvergar
  • Sangua – “beastfolk”

Other than Clothamar, all of them need some filling out, so let’s look at what to add.

Clarumar is pretty easy. The Small race is going to be filled by kobolds (though I rename to wyrds to avoid etymological similar with goblins), Medium is dragonborn, and Large are simply the bigger draconians (as in the Dragonlance creatures or like the drakonids of Warcraft). Perhaps they’re dracotaurs, with four legs and two arms? At any rate, any of these work, and I can decide when my players encounter them.

Mara is also pretty easy. Various supplements have added Small and Large lizardfolk (duskscales and blackscales, respectively), so we can label Medium-size lizardfolk as “murkscales” and finish that.

For goblins, I need to decide which three I want for this cluster. Goblins are obvious as the Small type. Hobgoblins are out (as a distinct species, at least) because orcs are basically the same thing and get to be the Medium type. For Large, I could go with bigger bugbears or ogres, but I eventually settle on trolls as the representative here. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m using the troll stats directly from the Monster Manual. But it does raise interesting questions about the connection between them–does the orc’s “Relentless Endurance” feature come from a measure of regeneration that the smaller creature shares with trolls? Do trolls still have the incredible regeneration attributed to them?

Beastfolk are going to be a bit more complicated. As it is, I have lykans (gnolls) as a Medium race, centaurs as Large, and minotaurs that could probably go either Medium or Large. I could have them as more of an exception, with a Medium, Medium+, and Large race featured, but I don’t really like that solution. Humanoid animals are a fantasy trope, and “beastfolk” to me feels like it should be broader than just a few particular animals. For my Small race, then, I need a name, and I settle on “gutterkin.” The subraces for all of these beastfolk will have traits of a certain mammal; here, I’ll include rats, moles, and foxes with potential for expansion. The Medium race will have lykans as a subrace, and in a nod to the mongrelfolk of D&D I give them that name as a race. Satyrs will be a part of this grouping, which gives me a convenient place for them. The Large races will be collectively known as “taurics,” with minotaur and centaur subraces (and more if I need them, like the lion-like wemics). All of these lend themselves to further expansion if I need it, which is helpful as a DM.

The last two groups give me some trouble. “Feykin” are going to be elves and two related races, while “humankin” don’t seem to have options for the Small race. I’m fine with the feykin as halflings, elves, and “high ogres” (whatever that means, but think the irda from Dragonlance), and humans can have humans and ogres, but that leaves a gap for my Small race. I pretty much have to swap halflings into the “humankin” group, don’t I? Luckily, I have a Small magical race that feels very fey-like waiting to swap into their place: gnomes. This is bothersome, because I’ve already had Clothamar’s peoples neatly settled and arranged, and now I have to fix this, but it seems inescapable. On the other hand, I really like svirfneblin and its etymological kinship to dvergar, and gnomes are supposed to be earth spirits in traditional mythology.

It’s apparent that I’ve switched a number of names that I didn’t feel made sense from a world-building perspective, but here I find real-world examples instructive: what if gnomes can be under Prudenta and Clothamar, as slightly different Small magical creatures that people once confused for one another? If you think about Columbus meeting “Indians” in the New World, it’s the same thing here. The PHB gnomes will be more fey-like, while the svirfneblin will be deep gnomes or true gnomes and the creations of Clothamar. Apparently whichever Druskan met the fey gnomes first, he or she believed they were basically the same as the more familiar svirfneblin.

For my own purposes, I want to add and change a few names to make them feel better, but this is what I end up having.

The beastfolk of Sangua include gutterkin, mongrels, and taurics.
The dragonspawn of Clarumar include urds, draconians (dragonborn), and drakonids.
The earthkin of Clothamar include the deep gnomes (svirfneblin), dwarves (dvergar), and goliaths (riesegzver).
The feykin of Prudenta include gnomes, elves, and anakim (high ogres).
The gorgunni of Nothura include goblins, orcs, and trolls.
The raveners of Bel include halflings, humans, and ogres.
The sobehki of Mara include duskscales, murkscales, and blackscales.

I really like this. The main problem is that I don’t have stats for a number of these, but so long as my players aren’t looking to use them, that’s less important.

Next: we continue filling out the world based on these races and cultures.

World-Building, Part 7: Chosen Peoples

What if each of these gods created a “type” of creature as they would reckon it, but as mortals their creations classified themselves differently based on size? What if, by the reckoning of deities, they’re really the same “people”?

Disclaimer at the beginning: This is a very rough post. To be sure, I’d really prefer to share the finished product with you, and you may leave this post confused or frustrated with how incomplete it feels. However, the idea behind these entries is to show you the process, and sometimes world-building gets messy. Trust that I do eventually answer most of these questions and have these things settled (and tune in for the next update!).

Last time, I settled on a creation myth that explains a lot about the deities of my world and how they view their creations. (It also makes my player’s chosen deity of Primideus pretty cool, if you’re into self-sacrifice and all of that.) While I gave you the end result of that creation myth, which might have suggested how I answer the questions in this post, I still need to work out the specifics.

But as written, it doesn’t really work. I have far more than 7 sapient races that need to be considered in this creation myth, and only 7 deities to do this. I have to figure out some way to group them–let’s just start again with a list of the most basic creatures I need for a generic D&D approach.

  • Humans
  • Elves
  • Dvergar
  • Halflings
  • Gnomes
  • Tieflings
  • Orcs
  • Beastfolk (centaurs and minotaurs)
  • Ogres
  • Dragonborn
  • Goblins
  • Kobolds

And the list continues. Okay, let’s see if there are any similarities–looking at this list, I can see that dvergar and gnomes feel pretty similar, as do orcs and goblins and dragonborn and kobolds.

Wait: what if each of these gods created a “type” of creature as they would reckon it, but as mortals their creations classified themselves differently based on size? Each of these pairs has a Medium race and a Small race–what if, by the reckoning of deities, they’re really the same “people”? Elves and halflings might go together, our current beastfolk might have a smaller version that includes gnolls–this seems to make a lot of sense.

However, we can make this even more orderly: a number of sapient races would be Large size (or at least larger than others in that “kind”), so we can even add ogres or trolls to one line and goliaths from Elemental Evil to our dvergaric type. This makes it more symmetrical and gives me even more room to account for sapient races. If I establish this as a truth about our world, we can work out who goes where according to our cosmological scheme. Let’s see the deities again and where we can assign different races.

  • Clarumar – kobolds, dragonborn, ???
  • Bel – goblins and orcs? ogres?
  • Prudenta – halflings, elves, ???
  • Mara – something sea-related?
  • Nothura – humans?
  • Clothamar – gnomes, dwarves, goliaths
  • Sangua – beastfolk (gnolls, centaurs, minotaurs)

It’s rough, but this sort of works? Certainly there are gaps, depending on what I want to put where, but that also provides opportunities for further world-building. Let’s at least settle the Medium size races for each deity before we move along.

I go back and forth for ages on Bel and Nothura. I like the idea of Bel as Gruumsh the orc god, but I also think the Druskans would feel better with Bel as their king. Perhaps they’ve merely adopted the worship, but I’m not entirely satisfied with that answer. Nothura as queen of goblin-kind also likely makes them less peaceful and patriarchal, but that might deviate too much. It doesn’t help that I think of Sangua as Bel’s consort due to their similar temperaments, and goblinoids feel closer to beastfolk than humans, not that it should matter. We could make Sangua the patron of goblinoids and Nothura the patron of beastfolk, but ultimately I couldn’t have the Lady of Beasts not have beastfolk in her domain.

You may be asking where hobgoblins are, and the answer is that orcs are pretty goblinoid already and I see no reason to have two of essentially the same creature. (If it makes you feel better, I’ll eventually include a nod to them elsewhere.) Similarly, do bugbears exist? I don’t know–my players haven’t encountered one yet, but if they did then genetically speaking it would be the same as an orc.

Mara would have a lot of options, I suppose–merrow, sahuagin, aquatic elves (or even something more exotic like Darfellan or Hadozee)–but I don’t want anything too exotic. Lizardfolk would be interesting, but I already have the sobekhi as dragonborn. You know what? Maybe they’re not that anymore. Dragonborn are going to be their own thing, while the lizardfolk will make up another of the Seven Races.

Here’s what we have, then:

  • Clarumar – kobolds, dragonborn, Large dragon-like race
  • Bel – ???, humans, ???
  • Prudenta – halflings, elves, ???
  • Mara – ???, lizardfolk, ???
  • Nothura – goblins, orcs, ogres?
  • Clothamar – gnomes, dwarves, goliaths
  • Sangua – ???, gnolls, centaurs and minotaurs?

There’s progress, but it still looks pretty rough. I don’t have Small or Large races for most of my deities, though the Medium ones have been worked out. With all of these missing pieces, I might have abandoned this approach, except looking at Clothamar’s line reminds me that this idea will work. There’s a pleasant symmetry there, so if I can just get the pieces in place for the others, this will make sense.

I know that I still don’t have explanations for some things, like dragons and fey and so on, but they’re a bit beyond the realm of “mortals,” and I don’t really need answers to those questions right away. We can surmise that they’re creations under a different time scale or with different purposes, and my players might never encounter anything along those lines.

Question for readers: who do you think works better as the patron of our humans and our orcs? As constructed, we must have Bel for one and Nothura for another–both have some advantages and both fit awkwardly in another sense.

Next: back-filling our scheme to include other races, Large and Small.

World-Building, Part 6: Children of the Gods

These races are the particularly favored children of different major gods–we’re going to use that as an explanation for all of these different races.

I now have an idea about explaining something that one of my players would find important, and she’s helped me work out the cosmology of this setting. This is also leading me to additional answers about how things were created, which, after all, is an important job for the gods to have done. There’s still the lingering question of why there should be so many different races, but now that we know who these gods are we can think about why there might be such variety.

In Green Ronin’s Hamunaptra setting, the reason there are seven primary player races is that these races are the particularly favored children of different major gods–halflings for Osiris, gnomes for Set, and so on (they also replaced half-orcs with jackal-headed gnolls). Humans are so different and so adaptable because all of the gods had a hand in creating them, so they weren’t favored by any one in particular. I rather like this idea–it’s downright Tolkien-esque when you consider how the Dwarves of Middle-earth came into being–so we’re going to use each sapient race as a divine creation as an explanation for all of these different races.

This opens up my creation myth and starts answering my questions about Primideus. In looking back to my pantheon, it’s easy to think they’ll fight with one another. What if one of their major fights at the beginning of creation was about which race should be dominant? And what if true sapience is only provided by a divine “spark,” and none of the gods were willing to empower their own creations for fear that the others would take advantage of them weakening themselves? The reason Primideus is the “first god” is that he was the only one who cared enough about these lifeless creations to sacrifice his divine power for them. All of the sapient creatures of the world have him to thank for their existence.

Now I have a creation myth and an explanation for my player’s god and the status of his church in the world. Most people would rather pay homage to their racial deity, and those don’t preach nearly as much about self-sacrifice. This sounds pretty good, but I can go further in figuring out which god wanted what to be created. In fact, I already have a number of gods roughly equal to the number of player races; maybe I just need to match them up to one another in some way. Clothamar makes sense as the dvergaric god, considering they live underground, are quite smart, and have metallurgical secrets, while this also provides a bit of a twist in making them distinct from “Lawful Good followers of fatherly Moradin.” Prudenta would work well as an elven goddess of the moon. Clarumar the Shining One might be seen like Bahamut to the dragonborn–a shining sun dragon. Bel could be like Gruumsh, a cruel and powerful lord who sees the orcs as his chosen people.

But past that, it’s quickly apparent that this won’t do. I still have at least beastfolk (and that’s lumping centaurs and minotaurs together), humans, gnomes, and halflings,* but that makes the numbers not quite work, as I only have 3 deities remaining–Sangua, Mara, and Nothura. Sangua probably works for beastfolk, although so would Nothura, but Mara doesn’t fit very well with the others remaining and the others don’t particularly fit with whichever goddess is left over between our nature goddesses. Mortu would not have created any of the races on his own (he’s different), and Primideus can’t favor any one in particular, so there are too many. That also doesn’t account for all of the other sapient creatures–goblins, kobolds, lizardfolk, and so on. I have to find some explanation for them and all of this diversity.

If it was something that would never come up or that players could never answer, it might not matter. For me, though, this is pretty important to figure out for my own satisfaction and continued world-building. There’s no real reason behind it, and the numbers don’t line up with the creation myth that I actually like. Maybe there’s a way I can group them together. After all, if I can reduce the number of “races,” I can get to something where each one has an associated racial patron, and I can also use that as a starting point for building racial / cultural pantheons if I need them later. What might some of these groups have in common?

I start comparing different sapient fantasy creatures, especially those designed for PCs (or were in older editions), and I come to a useful realization. I actually do have some similarities between certain ones, and I can make a weird statement about my world now.

And just for fun, here’s the creation myth we’re now using for this world.

As the Seven rule all things, so they also have favored children among the sapient races. The oldest Druskan creation myth tells of the gods’ council after the world’s creation. They wanted worshipers who would serve them in the mortal world and beyond, mortals with a spark of the divine, but all disagreed on what kind of creatures to have. Bel favored a strong and robust people, full of martial knowledge and stern purpose. His consort Sangua desired that these people instead emulate the beasts of the earth, while their sister Mara wanted a people to rule both sea and soil. Clarumar designed a people whose skin would reflect the shining sun, and Clothamar shaped a people suited to digging in the earth, hiding their secrets in the deepest places. Prudenta favored the gift of magic for these worshipers, and Nothura last of all hoped for a fertile people in whom the spark of life would never be extinguished.

Each created examples of their race in secret, but none would back down from their designs for the world. Seeking to resolve this deadlock, they asked the only two gods who had remained silent to involve themselves in the discussion. Mortu deferred immediately, claiming that all souls would be his regardless of their mortal form. Primideus, however, offered to settle the issue by agreeing with all: all of these creatures were worthy of a place in this world.

At this suggestion conflict erupted again. None of the gods were willing to risk their own essence to empower a people who would compete with other races. As the Seven squabbled, Primideus took their creations one by one, placing each within the newly shaped world. After arranging them all, he sacrificed his blood to ensoul each of the Seven Races, giving of himself to ensure that these creatures would all find their place. Broken by his wounds, he returned to the council and told them of his work.

Next: Size really does matter–and provides a nice way to condense them.

* Tieflings aren’t really a problem because they’re probably an offshoot of humanity, and adding them in just exacerbates the problem I had.