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.

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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!

Author: lpivellius

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

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