World-Building, Part 5: Of Gods and Players

“What deities can I choose?” She’s already decided on playing a Life Domain Cleric. She tells me about her character–not necessarily the kind of person who would be in a mainstream religion, but someone with a soft spot for those who are oppressed or in need. I need to make this choice cool for her.

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“What deities can I choose?”

It’s now several months since I sketched out this Druskan setting, and a handful of players have been involved in the game. Our first group lasted a couple of months, and we reset for the summer with a few new ones. With the fall coming up, our schedule changed again, and so it meant losing a couple of my players and replacing them with others. (Thankfully, this is all over Roll20, so I have less in the way of physical logistics.)

I haven’t thought much about that question to this point. To be sure, that first set had a paladin who nominally worshiped Lathander, but that’s kind of boring to me, and I’ve begun thinking about making this world more my own anyway.

“I was looking at things online, and I really think I’d like to be a Cleric of Ilmater.”

She’s already decided on playing a Life Domain Cleric, which will give them the support they’re lacking in their current group. It’s an interesting (if unusual) choice, and I like the idea. She tells me about her character–not necessarily the kind of person who would be in a mainstream religion, but someone with a soft spot for those who are oppressed or in need. I need to make this choice cool for her.

“I hadn’t worked too much of this out, but at least in this setting that god would be known as Primideus.” Although I’m keeping the personality very similar, the name asks some obvious questions: why would a god of sacrifice and suffering be the “first god”? Why might his religion be on the fringes and not particularly celebrated while other gods enjoy more prestige and popularity? And how will he interact with other deities, and what effect will this have on my world’s cosmology?

I didn’t really need answers to these questions until I had a player who cared, but I wanted to make it interesting to learn. How large a pantheon would I need? What about all of my other cultures? Do they need their own gods?

To answer some of these questions, I needed to return to my PHB. Seven domains…that sounds like seven deities to me. There’s already a god of light, but let’s rename him from Lathander to Clarumar, the Shining One. I don’t like the idea entirely of giving just one domain, so let’s also provide the War Domain and make him a god of tactics. (Think Bahamut for tropes.) Better, we can do this for each of our deities–a brief title provides a feel for them. Primideus will become the Suffering One, and none of the other domains seem like a good fit, so we’ll assign him Knowledge as well. He can be a god of wisdom through hard experience and the kind of knowledge gained through introspection and philosophy. Although I don’t know a whole lot about the deities right now, I’ll fill out the rest of the pantheon with these titles. Here’s the list, omitting Clarumar and Primideus whom we’ve already discussed.

  • Bel, the Triumphant One, Lord of Storms and Battle – Tempest and War
  • Prudenta, the Wise One, Lady of Enlightenment – Knowledge, Light (think Artemis or Diana)
  • Mara, the Changing One, Queen of the Seas – Tempest and Trickery
  • Nothura, the Giving One, Lady of Creation – Life and Nature
  • Clothamar, the Cloaked One, Lord of Secrecy – Knowledge and Trickery
  • Sangua, the Bloody One, Lady of Beasts – Nature and War

Oh, but there’s another domain I’ve forgotten: the Dungeon Master’s Guide Death Domain, so I need a god for it. I settle on Mortu, the Final One, Ruler of the Dead, and assign him both Death and Knowledge (of the archived and preserved sort–and yes, this means I have four different types of knowledge over which different gods preside).

Between all of them, I have at least two deities for each domain (with Knowledge and War being used an additional time each, not counting Mortu being tacked on because he’s different and unique), and no deity has the same two domains as another. This feels good (and semi-symmetrical) to me, though I still haven’t exactly figured out why Primideus would be the “first.”

What if he fully embodied the sacrifice he encourages in his followers? What if the reason he’s not served very often is also related to that–that he’s not as powerful as he once was and his faith isn’t very exciting?

What if he’s only “the first” to mortals, and it’s a linguistic legacy of something amazing he did for them?

Next: meeting the gods answers a lot of questions about my world’s inhabitants.

Author: lpivellius

I am a gamer of all kinds. Sometimes I write about them.

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