A Tight-Knit Pantheon

I mentioned Keith Davies’ polyhedral pantheons in a previous post. Using the process, here is an example using the smallest die in the traditional dice bad; the d4. You only generate eight different gods with this method and their abilities are very closely related. Don't let that fool you, it can still generate a fun pantheon ready to drop into a one-shot setting or part of your campaign.

My modified version of his process is this:

  1. Choose a polyhedron.
  2. Set some values for certain points and faces.
  3. Randomly assign a domain to remaining points and faces.
  4. Group domains for each god.
  5. Determine Alignment for each god.
  6. Determine the name and ‘chosen weapon’ of each god.

1. Choose a polyhedron: d4.

2. Set some values for certain points and faces:

For this step and the next, I made a diagram. Basically, I flattened a d4, numbered the faces, and assigned letters to the points.

d4pp

It may be easier to visualize if you think of point “D” as the top of the pyramid.

I want to ensure that I no god gets ‘weird’ alignment domains, so I am going to assign Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil. This prevents results like Lawful Chaos. I set the values like this: Law Domain for 1, Good Domain for 2, Evil Domain for C, and Chaos Domain for D.

3. Randomly assign a domain to remaining points and faces:

That leaves us to randomly pick 4 out of the remaining 18 standard domains to map out our pantheon. (For our purposes, we are not going to worry about Subdomains yet.) I use a d20 to roll against the remaining list of domains. A result of 1 or 20 is re-rolled.

Roll Domain
1 re-roll
2 Air Domain
3 Animal Domain
4 Death Domain
5 Destruction Domain
6 Earth Domain
7 Fire Domain
8 Healing Domain
9 Knowledge Domain
10 Luck Domain
11 Magic Domain
12 Plant Domain
13 Protection Domain
14 Strength Domain
15 Sun Domain
16 Travel Domain
17 Trickery Domain
18 War Domain
19 Water Domain
20 re-roll

I rolled Animal, Strength, Knowledge, Water. Going in order: 3 is Animal, 4 is Strength, A is Knowledge, and B is Water.

4. Group domain for each god:

Keith does a better job of explaining grouping than I can, so I'll explain by example. Basically, start with face 1 and group the points that touch face 1. Looking at the diagram, face 1 is touched by points A, B, and C. That means our first god will have the domains associated with 1, A, B, and C. In other words, Law, Knowledge, Water, and Evil. Law will be the primary domain for this god.

Then move on to face 2 and group the points that touch face 2, namely, A, B, D. So this god will have a primary domain of Good and the secondary domains of Chaos, Knowledge, and Water.

Continue with face 3 and face 4 in the same way. To determine the last four gods, I start with point A and group it with the faces that touch point A. This results in A, 2, 1, 3 or Knowledge (primary domain), Good, Law, and Animal.

Then continue the process with points B, C, and D.

To make the process less confusing, I used a spreadsheet that Keith will include with his polyhedral pantheons pdf. Here are the results in a form that is easier to read. Domains in bold represent the primary domain for each deity.

1 - Lawful,Knowledge, Water, Evil
2 - Good,Chaotic, Knowledge, Water
3 - Animal, Knowledge, Chaotic, Evil
4 - Strength, Water, Evil, Chaotic
A - Knowledge, Good, Lawful, Animal
B - Water, Good, Lawful, Strength
C - Evil, Animal, Lawful, Strength
D - Chaotic, Strength, Good, Animal

So there we are, eight different gods that are closely related, but still different.

5. Determine the Alignment:

There is no reason that you couldn't just randomly determine the domains and just pick an alignment for each deity. I chose to set alignment domains at the beginning to prevent weird results, so I’m going to use the alignment domains of each god to determine the alignment.

1 – Lawful Evil, 2 – Chaotic Good, 3 – Chaotic Evil, 4 – Chaotic Evil
A – Lawful Good, B – Lawful Good, C – Lawful Evil, D – Chaotic Good

6. Determine the Name and Chosen Weapon of each god:

I randomly determined the names, but put some thought into the chosen weapon. Since there is a lot of water, I wanted to pick weapons that made sense to a pantheon that lives near water. Here are my results:

DEITY

AL

NON-ALIGNMENT DOMAINS

FAVORED WEAPON

Camalanth LG Animal, Knowledge spear
Clawata LG Strength, Water dagger
Broadhead CG Knowledge, Water Kusarigama
Galelile CG Animal, Strength quaterstaff
Villefred CE Animal, Knowledge short sword
Helica CE Strength, Water maul
L'Sak LE Knowledge, Water spear
Nagelot LE Animal, Strength net

With these eight gods, there’s something to work with for a one shot or the beginning of a campaign. Looking at subdomains, you can make Galelile different from Nagelot in more ways than just alignment.

As an unrepentant worldbuilder, there many different directions this can take, especially pondering over my initial thoughts of placing these gods with a community that lives near the water.

More worldbuilding in the next post.

One God, Many Faces

How I view the gods has changed over the years. When I started playing, we were in Greyhawk. Being young, having a character worship a god was a really big deal. I had a couple of players write "God" as the deity of their character. Most of the time it was blank. I even found a character sheet from 1984 of a Human Paladin character that had the word "None" scrawled next to Religion. (This was one of the yellow AD&D character sheets.) The deity was left blank. The big deal about the choice of deity was the feeling that no one was interested in roleplaying how a character worshiped at all. The cleric was just another magic-user with better weapons and armor who was indispensable in a dungeon crawl.

As we starting to mix elements of 1e, 2e and Dragonlance into the mix, we finally had an in-game reason to care about deities. This concern about religion was limited to clerics, but it was a big deal, nonetheless. Choosing a deity affected the weapons and spells a cleric could access, so we not only decided to be choosy, but we began to build our own worlds with a sense of who the deities were.

This is where I, as an adult that loves RPGs, would like to say that my 12, 13, and 14 years old selves were not really into the possibilities of a pantheon for the granted spells and powers, but for elements of story, added plot tension and seeds for higher-level adventures. I would love to say that, but it would be a lie. Bless my little munchkin heart, I kept trying to design the equivalent of Meteor Swarm for all my clerics.

Some of this reverted back to apathy with Spelljammer. All the clerics were followers of Ptah because no one wanted to lose their spells.

It wasn't until I played in college that I really saw how religion and deities could add fun playable things to a game. I encountered a man about four years older than me that had cool stories about his pantheon and the way ordinary worshipers, not just clerics, found favor and performed epic deeds. He also ran an Ars Magica game that was extraordinarily fun. Looking back, I can see a bit of influence of Ars Magica on how he ran spellcasters, both arcane and divine.

My later games, up until my hiatus, featured groups of gods that weren't a list of retreaded Greek and Roman gods that controlled one sphere of influence. My deities were powerful beings that had their own plots and schemes and battles with each other. In making them into super-high level characters, they took on a depth that transcended spells, rituals, how prayers were said and sticking to alignment. These gods were dynamic characters that changed over time.

That brings me to my two favorite deities, that weren't my creation: Paladine and Ptah.

I knew that Paladine was Good and that meant many in the party would probably choose him as the patron deity. But not only was he good, he was a dragon that loved to do things in humanoid form. I wondered why he would choose to live as anything *but* a dragon, especially a bumbling wizard named Fizban the Fabulous. I never read the books, so all I knew was the mention that he was thought to be Huma and that he actually was Fizban showing restraint in using his mighty powers. I don't remember how we figured out that he was also Bahamut, the platinum dragon.

I loved it because he wasn't Greek and he didn't fit into the stories of the saints I read in college. I wanted to read the books, but never managed to get one.  He was good because of his self-control, not because he attacked evil and overcame them with all his power. That still remains cool to me.

Then, there was Ptah. I read everything I could about the real Egyptian god hoping to use it. Ankhs were everywhere in all spheres, even the Space 1889 sphere. (I put a large Ankh monument on Venus in that sphere). He didn't live in the Outer Planes, but the ethereal. The Ethereal Plane, by my definition, was everywhere, so it made sense that Ptah was everywhere. He was the god of creation, so that attracted elves to his cause. He was the god of blacksmiths, so he attracted dwarven worshipers. As Hephaestus in real life and in my game world, he was the god of artisans, so he even had Gnome believers.

Ptah was everywhere and he was unavoidable. Was that Arcane trader wearing an ankh? Was that a flying pyramid? Who was that En Sabah Nur guy that is looking for a ship? Even the neogi and beholders knew that Ptah was nothing to be trifled with.

Ptah simply was. I had the hard-core worshipers chant something like Ptah is, Ptah was, Ptah will incessantly. It drove everyone crazy and made one of the characters question their belief. 🙂

Anyway, that the two favorite deities. One because of story, the other because he was inescapable. Next time, it will be a foray into edition wars. Oh noez!