The Design & Development article series premiered on the D&D website back in September 2005, and has been a staple ever since. With the approach of 4th Edition, and our designers and developers focused on the new edition, this column will be the primary vehicle for 4th Edition coverage. We’ll not only give you peeks at what’s forthcoming, but also the “how” and “why.”
Keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The family of gods for 4th Edition is a mix of old and new. You'll see familiar faces like Corellon, Moradin, and Pelor, and some new faces as well, like Zehir, Torog, and Bane.
Before I explain what the Forgotten Realms' god of tyranny and war is doing rubbing shoulders with Pelor, let me say a bit about our thinking when we created a pantheon in the first place.
There was a time when the team working on "the world" of D&D thought we could get away with creating general rules useful to clerics regardless of which pantheon existed in the campaign, and then presenting a variety of fictional and historical pantheons for DMs to adopt or adapt as they saw fit. I believe it was Stacy Longstreet, the senior D&D art director, who pointed out that this solution would leave us in a bit of a bind.
When we wanted to put a temple in an adventure, what god would it be dedicated to? We could make Generic Evil Temples™, but that would sap a lot of the flavor out of our adventures, and rob us of specific plot hooks and story lines based on the portfolios and histories of these gods.
When we wanted to illustrate a cleric in one of our books, what holy symbol would the cleric hold? Again, we could rely on a stable of generic symbols (maybe the Zapf Dingbat font?), but at the cost of a lot of flavor.
We ended up creating a new pantheon. At first, we used some of the gods from 3rd Edition as placeholder names -- we thought we'd come up with new names for [Pelor] the sun god and [Moradin] the god of the forge. Ultimately we decided that using some familiar faces was preferable to giving our players a whole new set of names to learn. Besides, if a god looks like an elf and took out the orc-god's eye like a certain well-known elf god, why not call him Corellon?
Corellon: The elf god is a good example of a god who kept his well-earned place in the D&D pantheon. But "the elf god" shouldn't be taken to literally. Sure, he's often depicted as an elf or an eladrin, and many eladrin in particular revere him. But he's equally popular among human wizards, and even dwarves who practice the finer arts are prone to offering him prayers. One of our goals with the new pantheon was to loosen the tight associations between gods and races that has in the past led to the creation of whole pantheons full of elf, dwarf, orc, and goblin deities. Corellon is still associated with elfy things like arcane magic and the Feywild, and he still hates Lolth and the drow. But his appeal is a little broader now.
Bahamut: Here's another example of a familiar, draconic face showing up in a somewhat new light. Maybe it was the Platinum Knight prestige class in Draconomicon that did it, but something convinced me a long time ago that Bahamut was a much cooler god of paladins than Heironeous ever was. Like Corellon, Bahamut's not just for dragons any more. He's the god of justice, protection, and honor, and many paladins of all races worship him. Many metallic dragons revere him as well, thinking of him as the first of their kind. Some legends about Bahamut describe him as literally a shining platinum dragon, while others describe him as a more anthropomorphic deity, who's called the Platinum Dragon as a title of respect. Exhorting his followers to protect the weak, liberate the oppressed, and defend just order, Bahamut stands as the exemplar of the paladin's ideal.
Bane: Here's another god whose placeholder name just stuck, despite some reservations. We wanted an evil war god in the pantheon, and without Heironeous, Hextor didn't make a lot of sense. We wanted the kind of heavily militaristic god whose temples you might find among non-evil societies who have spent long years at war, as well as among hobgoblins. We wanted a god who embodied just the sort of tyrannical dictatorship that Bane stands for in the Forgotten Realms. We started calling him Bane as a placeholder. He went through a number of different, unsatisfying names. Finally, someone said we should just call him Bane. So Bane he remained.
Like chocolate and peanut butter, we think Bane and Bahamut are two great tastes that taste great together. Does that mean you have to use them in your 4th Edition game? Of course not. But we think that, when you see these gods in action in our core books and adventures, you'll agree that they belong in their new places of honor in the pantheon of the D&D game.