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Gods and Pantheons
By James Wyatt

T his week, continuing to put the "wandering" in "Wandering Monsters," let's talk about gods and pantheons in D&D.

Deities & Demigods

I always get a kick out of looking at the level advancement table for clerics in the original Player's Handbook. In those days, every level had an associated title, so when you reached 9th level ("name level"), you'd be called a high priest (or high priestess—the text acknowledges both possibilities). Along the way, though, you'd go from being a curate at 4th level to a lama at 7th and a patriarch (or matriarch) at 8th. I just love that little detour into Tibetan Buddhism at 7th level. Like there was an assumed crisis of faith built right in to the level progression. Or a moment of spiritual insight, whatever.

Leaving that table aside, the assumption from the early days of D&D (at least since the publication of Gods, Demigods, and Heroes in 1976) was that the world of D&D was a polytheistic one, where clerics might serve one of many deities in a pantheon, and multiple pantheons might even compete for worshipers. It's certainly a helpful assumption in a world where you want good adventurers to face off against Evil High Priests in temples dedicated to evil.

(An aside to address a pet peeve of mine: While it's true that polytheistic religions can be said to follow a pantheon of gods, that does not make them pantheistic. Pantheism properly defined is the belief that the universe itself is God or a manifestation of God. "Pantheon" combines the roots "pan" (everything) and "theos" (god) to mean "all the gods." Pantheism combines the same roots to mean "all is God.")

The polytheistic assumptions of D&D are not without their difficulties. First of all, they've led to some cognitive dissonance about the cleric from the very beginning. Also according to that original PH, "The class of cleric bears a certain resemblance to religious orders of knighthood of medieval times." So medieval Christian knights shape the look and abilities of this class that otherwise exists in a polytheistic world, raising all sorts of questions about why they're prohibited from using edged weapons, why they look more like warriors than priests, and so on. Similarly, for the length of 1st Edition, there was a significant demand for some way to differentiate clerics of one deity from those of any other, which resulted in the 2nd Edition system of spheres of influence, where clerics of two faiths could be so different as to be hardly recognizable as clerics.

Alternative Approaches

I was a religion major in college and have a seminary degree, so for a long time I wished that D&D had a more realistic depiction of religious life. Polytheistic religions are complicated things, and in the real world they're not about choosing one deity to follow from among a fixed group. And when I started working at Wizards of the Coast, I finally had a chance to do something about it. The 3rd Edition Deities and Demigods includes some sections that at least begin to address the variety of religious experience and expression. Here's a brief excerpt from chapter 1:

In a fantasy setting, as in the real world, religion can take many forms. The standard assumption, as described in the Player's Handbook, is that multiple deities loosely grouped together form a pantheon, a collection of gods not united by a single doctrine or philosophy. Deities and Demigods refers to this model as a loose pantheon. Other groups of deities, such as the Pharaonic deities, also form a pantheon, but their worship is more closely interrelated. All the deities show at least some respect for a particular philosophical principle or overdeity. In the case of the Pharaonic pantheon, for example, the deities are keenly interested in Ma'at, the principle of divine order in the universe. These pantheons are called tight pantheons.

Not all religions in a fantasy world need to revolve around a pantheon of deities. In your campaign, you can create monotheistic religions (worship of a single deity), dualistic systems (centered around two deities or forces), mystery cults (involving personal devotion to a single deity, usually as part of a pantheon system), animistic religions (revering the spirits inherent in nature), or even forces and philosophies that do not center on deities.

We're not going to change the default assumptions of D&D regarding (loose) pantheons of deities, but I do want to make sure that the game is open to whatever kind of religious system the DM wants to create for his or her own world.

The world of Eberron, by the way, took some stabs at expressing some of these variant models of faith. The Sovereign Host, the primary religion of Khorvaire, is a tight pantheon rather than a loose one. The Blood of Vol and the Path of Light are philosophical systems. And the Silver Flame is a monotheistic faith.

Divine Intervention

One of the things that differentiates D&D religion from the real world is the fact of clerics walking around and unambiguously manifesting the power of multiple, perhaps competing deities. It's not really possible, in that context, to argue that one god or group of gods exists and another does not—not when the other one has a cleric wielding power at least as great as this one does.

Eberron got around that issue by positing that the gods are much more remote from the world than they have been portrayed in other worlds. Yes, clerics of various deities or philosophies manifest magical power, but the source of that power is more ambiguous—it might be just another form of the magic that wizards wield. No avatars of Onatar or the Fury walk the world to prove their own existence.

In a world like the Forgotten Realms, by contrast, the gods have a long history of meddling quite directly in human affairs. In one particular instance, called the Time of Troubles or the Avatar Crisis, the gods were stripped of their divinity and banished to the Material Plane in human form for a time. During that crisis, some gods died, some mortals ascended to take their place, and some gods claimed new spheres of influence for their portfolios.

With the Sundering unfolding right now in a series of novels by six of our top authors, the relationship between the gods and the world is changing. Our goal is to restore some of the sense of mystery that Ed Greenwood cherished in the original Forgotten Realms—the plethora of local cults and strange religions that meant players were never quite sure whose rites they were interrupting when they stumbled into a hidden temple on their adventures. We want to emphasize the idea that, whatever turmoil and upheaval the gods are experiencing in their own realms, mortal understanding of those affairs is highly limited.

Yes, many (maybe most) temples devoted to Lathander started worshiping him as Amaunator after the Spellplague. Maybe they were privy to a revelation of a change in the god's actual nature and name. But some people never made the change. Like people who never upgrade their computer's operating system, they kept using the same old prayers and iconography, kept chanting the name of Lathander—and kept receiving clerical power along the way.

What Do You Think?

There's a rambling collection of thoughts about religions in the worlds of D&D. What are your thoughts?

Previous Poll Results

Do you think the concept of tiers of play is useful as a description of how characters’ capabilities improve?
No, I think it’s worse than useless. 168 5%
No, it doesn’t help me at all. 343 11%
Yes, it’s a useful framing device for giving DM advice. 2063 66%
Yes, and I think there should be rules impact when you enter a new tier. 548 17%
Total 3122 100%

Tying to last week’s column: If characters in the expert tier (levels 5–10) gain levels at a rate that we call the baseline, how fast should characters in the apprentice tier (levels 1–4) advance?
Much faster 277 9%
Faster 1685 54%
Same rate 965 31%
Slower 141 4%
Much slower 30 1
Total 3098 100%

If characters in the expert tier (levels 5–10) gain levels at a rate that we call the baseline, how fast should characters in the paragon tier (levels 11–16) advance?
Much faster 13 0%
Faster 66 2%
Same rate 1325 42%
Slower 1550 49%
Much slower 144 5%
Total 2896 100%

And if characters in the expert tier (levels 5–10) gain levels at a rate that we call the baseline, how fast should characters in the epic tier (levels 17–20) advance?
Much faster 30 1%
Faster 45 1%
Same rate 742 24%
Slower 1009 32%
Much slower 1274 41%
Total 3100 100%

What are appropriate stakes for an apprentice-level (1–4) adventure? (Choose the last one that you think applies.)
Keep the rats away from the tavern’s food supplies! 150 5%
Keep the goblins from raiding the village! 1651 53%
Keep the brigands from interfering with inter-city trade! 759 24%
Keep the orcs from razing the town! 389 12%
Keep the plotters from overthrowing the sovereign! 80 3%
Keep the demons from overrunning the world! 84 3%
Total 3113 100%

What are appropriate stakes for an expert-level (5–10) adventure? (Choose the last one that you think applies.)
Keep the rats away from the tavern’s food supplies! 9 0%
Keep the goblins from raiding the village! 56 2%
Keep the brigands from interfering with inter-city trade! 493 16%
Keep the orcs from razing the town! 1635 52%
Keep the plotters from overthrowing the sovereign! 812 26%
Keep the demons from overrunning the world! 105 3%
Total 3110 100%

What are appropriate stakes for a paragon-level (11–16) adventure? (Choose the last one that you think applies.)
Keep the rats away from the tavern’s food supplies! 21 1%
Keep the goblins from raiding the village! 12 0%
Keep the brigands from interfering with inter-city trade! 35 1%
Keep the orcs from razing the town! 164 5%
Keep the plotters from overthrowing the sovereign! 2042 65%
Keep the demons from overrunning the world! 835 27%
Total 3109 100%

What are appropriate stakes for an epic-level (17–20) adventure? (Choose the last one that you think applies.)
Keep the rats away from the tavern’s food supplies! 63 2%
Keep the goblins from raiding the village! 2 0%
Keep the brigands from interfering with inter-city trade! 8 0%
Keep the orcs from razing the town! 14 0%
Keep the plotters from overthrowing the sovereign! 126 4%
Keep the demons from overrunning the world! 2890 92%
Total 3103 100%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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I think that when DMs create campaign settings, they should give some thought to the races. For example, in the most recent setting I created (for my group's transition from 4E to Next) I put this in place:

Humans - Bi-theistic worship of a paternal sun/sky god and his consort, the earth goddess. Rumors of other gods existing are usually put down harshly by the orthodox temples, which denounce these as false gods. Clerics of these other gods are assumed to have gotten their magical powers through pacts with fiends.

Elves - no religion, at least not in the human sense. They revere the Summer Court which rules the Feywild, but not in the same way that humans worship gods. Being fiercely individualistic, elves tend to develop and follow personal codes of ethics, with which they constantly tinker over their long lives.

Dwarves - ancestor-worship. Dwarves pray to their fore-fathers for protection and guidance, especially to Moradin, the legendary First... (see all)
Posted By: D17 (2/22/2014 5:57:33 PM)


Even as a PC I almost always twist the gods around. "I'm a LG cleric of MonsterGod because my cult says we need to keep MonsterGod slumbering" or "I am a TN cleric of Vecna; I'm just a spy and I need my secrets to stay secret so I only whisper them to the Lord of Secrets" to "I create an adversarial dualistic pantheon by picking two random gods" to the lesson of Dragonlance "no, no, Tiamat and Bahamut are DEFINITELY the two prime divinities."

I think that religion is one of the areas that the DMG and campaign tools REALLY need to focus on. Because of the moral panics, the hobby stayed away from it, but now is the time to flesh it out.
Posted By: mordicai (2/22/2014 8:38:26 AM)


I can't comment on my own comment. Anyway, wanted to apologize for all the typos, I have a wrist splint on and was typing hurriedly.
Posted By: OskarOisinson (2/20/2014 4:40:57 PM)


In my opinion, the core rule books should feature a default pantheon or list of domains for the players that just want to play straight out of the published material. For everyone who wants to create their own worlds or make changes to the existing worlds, there should be tips and suggestions on how to play different types of deities so that they have a more believable feel.
In the stories of the Greek gods, the gods walked the earth and meddled in human lives frequently. They were also often petty, cruel, and self obsessed. In the stories it sounded more like the Greeks didn’t worship them out of reverence, but out of fear or to gain favor. The gods themselves were basically unaligned since they could fall under any alignment given their mood, so the common soldier could justify to themselves that it was ok to slaughter and conquer because they were doing it in the name of the god of war. This type of meddling god doesn’t work as well if it’s say a strictly lawful good god, b... (see all)
Posted By: Dreadthorn (2/20/2014 12:28:16 PM)


@Sword_of_Spirit: Yeah, I was wondering about something similar: The campaign I run that has any sort of religion uses something very similar to Shinto.

In Shinto, to my understanding, different things can possess divine essence. Things inhabited by this divine essence (certain land formations, objects, trees, mountains, ancestors in general, and at times other living things) are called "kami", and "kami" is often translated as "god" but the concept is different from, say, Ancient Greek or Judeo-Christian gods (they aren't the soul creator and arbiter over their domain, and they aren't immortal or omniscient). Such spirits, like with the souls of the dead, can prove beneficial to others thru veneration, and can turn sour under other circumstances. "Gods" and "demons" are thus the same thing in different states.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (2/20/2014 7:04:49 AM)


I want to call that animism. If we're lucky, this Deities & Demigods will explain some alternatives to the monolithic polytheism which dominated previous versions. For instance, isolated shrines in both oriental and pre-Christian European religion contrast with the state temples modeled in the prior books' treatment of the Egyptian, Greek, and perhaps not as appropriately, Norse mythologies.
Posted By: RadperT (2/22/2014 12:39:41 AM)


I was the first DM for my group, and set a precedence with our first serious game: It took place in the Astral Sea, and was directly concerned with the gods. The game ended with the players killing Bane, and one of them stole his portfolio. Recently, I finished a game where the players killed Gruumsh, and of them, who turned out to be Gruumsh's child, actually took the mantle of godhood.

We've been very seriously talking about pulling back, a lot, to the point where the gods are much, much more ambiguous. We're basically destroying most of our existing world to make room for a more unclear world, which will coincide with our (probable) switch from 4th to Next.
Posted By: skywise32 (2/19/2014 8:35:24 PM)


I much prefer the idea of domains instead of deities. It allows an explanation of why you could run into two religions, both of who promote Lawfulness, but which have different names for the powers, different rites, and even a different view on how proactive they should be in pursuit of enforcement.
Posted By: Rlyehable (2/19/2014 6:07:29 PM)


Here's my little plug for changing the 'Divine Power Source' to 'Patronal Power' which could include Divine, Primal, Elemental, Shadow, and possibly Arcane here and there (warlocks).

So you'd essentially have Martial, Arcane, Psionic, and Patronal. Martial is derived from the body. It is the ability to physically manipulate the world as a discrete entity.
Arcane is derived from the mind. It is the ability to mentally manipulate the world by re-weaving the strands of causality, it follows the laws of the first two laws of thermodynamics (equal and opposite reactions = price to paid, and entropy increases = the universe is becoming more disorderly).
Patronal is derived from the soul. It is the ability embody things that come from the realms of ideals, primal and elemental forces, etc.
Psionic comes from within through a balance of Mind, Body, and Soul. It can augment the other forms and/or and is very diverse in application but less potent than any one of the ... (see all)
Posted By: OskarOisinson (2/19/2014 3:52:13 PM)


I'd like to see the definition of gods in DnD expanded to include other powerful supernatural beings like Archfiends, Fey Lords, Primordials and the unique beings that pop up. They are just as powerful and often have worshipers. Instead of giving the current gods special rights to the term that rightly should apply to all of them, take a page out of 2e and call them Powers, or BECMI and call them Immortals, or give a new name entirely to their "creature type." Then "gods" can be applied to any of the uber-beings in DnD. It makes sense. It expands more than it contradicts past lore, and it makes sense of the demon prince worshiping cults mentioned a while ago.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (2/19/2014 1:10:47 PM)


Religion is always one of my favorite topics in D+D, so this article was fun. However, I think that too many of the poll questions should've been multiple-choice instead of single-choice.
One thing I've personally hit on with my games is the idea of there not being any Evil deities. Neutral/Unaligned deities are alright, but none have an actually Evil alignment—that's what archfiends are for. And this all stems from an idea that Evil is less of a metaphysical force than it is a corruption/insufficiency of Good. Therefore, I feel giving Evil an even footing with Good contradicts that.
That's not to say there isn't any sectarian strife in the Material Plane. Deities in my games are more tangible than in Eberron, but not interventionist like Faerun. They're more likely to communicate through angels and prophets than transforming into some virgin's husband and seducing her to get their (frustratingly ambiguous) messages heard.
I think this also allows for some crises of fait... (see all)
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (2/19/2014 11:32:44 AM)


YOUTUBIOUS, chaotic neutral god of internet comment systems, is displeased with your lousy offering WotC.

We know you read the comments and we appreciate it. We love to interact and share our opinions beneath these weekly articles. We are your engaging audience.

Please make the comment system easier and more enjoyable for us all!

Posted By: RC-0775 (2/19/2014 11:05:24 AM)



I've always felt that walking, talking, meddling gods were a major detriment to making the Players feel special and powerful. But then again, we've always steered clear of epic tier play as well.

I like the ambiguity required for faith. If you KNOW the gods are running around up there, then faith is a silly concept and it takes much less personal strength to do what you think is right.
Posted By: RC-0775 (2/19/2014 11:00:46 AM)


I remain a fan of the BECMI/RC model of the cleric as a character who derives his power from devotion to a cause or philosophy, with the statement that "The D nD game does not deal with the ethical and philosophical beliefs of the characters in the game". Add "have to" after that not, and we're golden. The cleric as developed in the ADnD strand of the game, barring the occasional exception, requires too many assumptions about gods, magic and worldbuilding, IMO.
Posted By: Matthew_L._Martin (2/19/2014 10:56:18 AM)


If Gods are going to be assumed in DnD, then we can say the Good and Evil, Law and Chaos also exists, therefore Alignment has a place in the core of DnD. I hope the core focuses more on rules interaction than flavor, leaving the splat books for the fluff.
Posted By: strider13x (2/19/2014 10:47:43 AM)


Here, here!
Posted By: RC-0775 (2/19/2014 11:01:21 AM)


I'm a big fan of the Basic DnD approach to alignment, with a simple focus on law, chaos and neutrality. I like the way this integrates with Mystara's pantheon of deities, dividing them into three alignment categories while still leaving tremendous freedom to these beings in terms of good and evil actions.

This makes a lot of sense to me, since what is good or evil depends pretty heavily on your perception. Why should it any different for a deity?
Posted By: BadMike (2/19/2014 3:50:38 PM)


No thanks, Alignments are crutches and outdated, they don't belong anywhere near the 'Core' game. At best, assigning them to Supernatural entities such as Deities and their servitors would be acceptable, but not to PC's or NPC's unless they were powerful (as in Epic level) forces of the same nature.
Posted By: LupusRegalis (2/20/2014 2:45:46 AM)


I could be wrong, but I took that to mean that alignments would have a philosophical place in the cosmology, not that there would be any game mechanics tied to it.

Heaven forbid! (bada chsh! a little divine humor there....)
Posted By: RC-0775 (2/20/2014 9:34:04 AM)


Typically, I'd consider the default DnD model as henotheistic. That is, accepting multiple gods but only worshiping one. This can take multiple forms and be described in multiple ways, but generally I think it fits better than calling the default polytheistic.

As to the poll, the first question should be multiple choice. Dominant for who? The Humans of Nerath? A loose pantheon. The Humans and Tieflings of former Bael Turath? A tight pantheon. The Dragonborn of Arkhosia? Dualism between Bahamut and Tiamat. The Halflings? A combination of a tight pantheon, animism, and folklore. The Eladrin? A combination of animism, non-theistic philosophies, and ancestor worship. The Minotaur? Monotheism. And so on.
Posted By: Melete (2/19/2014 10:44:00 AM)


Thanks for mentioning Eberron. The way that setting treats religion should be made possible by Next. It allows for a lot of roleplaying opportunities, for religious intrigue, heresies, corruption, and the uncertainty as to the existence of a life beyond this one (a driving force behind the Blood of Vol, the Undying Court, and the Tairnadal faiths). As such, I like the idea of putting faith, rather than the focus of that faith, in the centre.

That said, but I can fully appreciate that others enjoy the Forgotten Realms approach of deities becoming actively involved in the lives of their followers, and in leading their churches After all, great epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey rely on this. Core should take into account both possibilities, and allow the individual setting to decide, if at all possible.

Posted By: Syltorian (2/19/2014 8:21:42 AM)


The impact of religion on culture should not be ignored, either. In my homebrew campaign, I've stolen the polytheistic deities from some DnD worlds, but other nations may have a monotheistic approach, and this creates huge conflicts. I also implement the sort of "competition for worship" thing, so that if the monotheists converted enough folks, the polytheistic deities would lose power (not unlike in American Gods).
Posted By: JoeyLast (2/19/2014 8:14:25 AM)


The main reason I refuse to play in the Forgotten Realms is the ever-changing, overly meddlesome, bloated pantheon! I love the Eberron approach of actually have different religions rather than just different gods. If the new edition provides support for a variety of religious systems, it will be a good step in the right direction... if the Sundering fixes the pantheon problem, I suppose I could give it another shot (but I'm skeptical).
Posted By: Osgood (2/19/2014 8:05:42 AM)


Honestly, I'm not a big fan of deities to begin with: in my campaign setting, the gods may or may not even exist, and certainly have no impact on the mortal world. Too much Deus Ex Machina fuel behind their (lack of) intervention in any given scenario to justify keeping them around as potentially active forces. I think Dragon Age did it well -- we still don't know if the Maker does, or ever did, exist at all.
Posted By: Krayt1 (2/19/2014 7:20:51 AM)


Eberron religions have an approach that suits religious intrigue and mystery plots, and is my favorite one. Thank you for mentioning it James.
Posted By: PaladinNicolas (2/19/2014 6:16:52 AM)


I just have a request: please take Asmodeus down from godhood.
Posted By: SirAntoine (2/19/2014 5:48:55 AM)


In our little, house-bound campaign that uses the Forgotten Realms as its campaign setting, the only players that will pay close attention to the various goals of the deities are those players that choose to role play clerics, paladins, avengers, rune priests and invokers. Even then, only a stickler for alignment like myself will choose to employ weapons, armor and various spells based upon what I consider to be appropriate for the character. Everyone else tends to ignore the fact that a deity of the light, such as Lathander, would probably recoil in horror if a priest of Lathander chose to cast a shadow magic spell or to animate the dead.

A loose pantheon is fine by me, just as long as the official list of Faerunian deities is ready by the time the new edition of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide and Player's Guide becomes available. While my non-divine power source characters are not especially religious, they still prefer to know which deities are available for wor... (see all)
Posted By: arnvid2008 (2/19/2014 5:01:34 AM)


My home campaign features a tight "pantheon" of sorts, where there are eight different manifestations (Faces) of the goddess Lolth. This being an entirely Drow campaign, I wanted to make religious life (and church politics) in the city more interesting without creating a whole pantheon of different gods. So one cleric might hear the whispers of The Dancer in Flames, Lolth's avatar of passion and the crafts, or another might worship The Lady in Armor, Lolth as a conqueror and protector. The most prevalent face shown is The Spider Queen.
All of the goddess's faces are female and evil, and they grant different cleric domains or spheres.
Posted By: Ashtoret (2/19/2014 4:52:25 AM)


Religion can make wonders for a game and its settings. Just look at RuneQuest's Cults.
Posted By: rabindranath72 (2/19/2014 3:48:24 AM)


One of my all time favorite DnD books was Faiths of Eberron. I steal and world ideas from that in every campaign I run. More, please!
Posted By: Aavarius (2/19/2014 3:45:51 AM)


James, as someone whose day job is teaching religion majors and seminarians, I appreciate this article very much. I think that D-N-D has historically supported different "celestial populations" pretty well, and your survey of various published campaign settings bears that out.

As for whether advice and even rules regarding religion belong in the DMG or in a supplement, Gary Gygax wrote in the foreword to the AD-N-D Deities-n-Demigods: "When work first commenced on ADVANCED DUNGEONS-N-DRAGONS Fantasy Adventure Game, one particular aspect of fantasy role playing was foremost in my mind: there was either a general neglect of deities or else an even worse use by abuse. That is, game masters tended to ignore deities which were supposedly served and worshiped by characters in the campaign, or else they had gods popping up at the slightest whim of player characters in order to rescue them from perilous situations, grant wishes, and generally step-and-fetch. ... DEITI... (see all)
Posted By: CHeard (2/19/2014 1:51:21 AM)


Dark Sun isn't atheistic...People in that world worship nature spirits, (aka primordials) and people also worship the sorcerer kings. Some even worship 'forgotten' and illegal gods.
Posted By: seti (2/19/2014 1:57:04 AM)


Seti, I'm not sure why, but the system doesn't want me to reply to your comment. So I'll reply to myself. :-) According to the 4e Dark Sun Campaign Guide, one of the fundamental defining features of the setting is that "Today, Athas is a world without deities." That's what I meant by "atheistic." In terms of the campaign cosmology at the "present moment" from an in-game perspective, Athas has no gods--regardless of what individual denizens of Athas might do or believe or whatever. Athasians who worship dead, forgotten, or illicit gods are worshiping entities that don't exist, at least not any more (or the DM has decided to depart from the campaign guide on this point, or the gods are returning, or whatever).
Posted By: CHeard (2/19/2014 2:15:40 AM)


4e never had a Deities and Demigods book. That was wrong. 5e should have one, that really delves into all these issues, ideas, and ways of DMing them. A nice 200 page hard cover should do it.

The default assumption for clerics in the PHB should be domains. But, a whole other book for DMs (and some PCs) to really get into their imaginary religious/philosophical expression would help a lot of gaming groups. What if some people really want a world like the western world (europe, middle east, the americas, etc.), where fewer than 3-4 major religions ever came into contact, and when they did it was always bloody and horrible?

What if others want something more philosophical like Taoism, Confucianism, and some branches of Buddhism do be dominant?

What if others want something like Greek myths, or classic DnD gods like Bahamut, or something quite godless; like Dark Sun or Middle Earth? There needs to be a way for clerics to make mechanical sense, whether the... (see all)
Posted By: seti (2/19/2014 1:39:17 AM)


I like your comment and agree with most of your sentiments, but have to point out that Middle Earth wasn't exactly "godless"--certainly not as Tolkien envisioned it in the Silmarillion. Ilúvatar (the God figure) and Melkor (the Satan figure) don't figure much into the storyline of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, but that's in large part because of the whole "heroism from below" theme of those works.
Posted By: CHeard (2/19/2014 1:55:37 AM)


Sorry, never read the Silmarillion. I figured gods didn't play much into Tolkien's fiction...For whatever reasons. It would have been hard to write about 'fictitious' deities back in the 30's, I'd guess. People like Lovecraft did it, but they were all EVIL gods, bent on destroying the earth, and worshiped by 'degenerates'. It's cool to hear that Tolkien did have good and evil forces/deities at work in the background, though.
Posted By: seti (2/19/2014 2:02:56 AM)


Tolkien was deeply religious, and infused all of his works with his understanding of Christian values--but not in such a ham-handed way as C.S. Lewis did with Narnia. Lovecraft, on the other hand, was an atheist, and his "elder gods" and so on were not really gods, but aliens. Think Far Realm in D-n-D terms. They could be worshiped by cultists, but those cultists were deluded, or at least this is the overall trend in Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos stories. (Other writers since then, especially Derleth, have injected more mysticism into the mythos.)
Posted By: CHeard (2/19/2014 2:08:44 AM)


I feel like they already did this in the playtest packet. A cleric can simply choose domains and go, with no mechanics tied to an actual deity.

I like the idea that "divine" magic is a manifestation of inner strength and conviction in whatever, gods or no gods, and I think the last playtest allowed for this perfectly.
Posted By: RC-0775 (2/19/2014 11:09:08 AM)


I have always been curious as to why Gary Gygax chose to make Greyhawk polytheistic in the first place.
Posted By: Fallen_Star_02 (2/19/2014 12:40:10 AM)


Basically, he thought some things were too big and important to be treated in a petty way as part of game. For example, there is an implied Christian underpinning to the priests/cleric (who got "crosses" long before they got "holy symbols"), but he did want people drafting up stats for Satan as a literal foe or anything like that. Bear in mind that this is also a man who disliked celebrating Christmas, because it was really just Saturnalia with a different name to lure in the pagan converts.

It was probably a bit short-sighted on his part. He basically ceded the field without a fight where realistic religion is concerned. I don't think he realized how quickly the game would move away from anything remotely historical.

There are some religions where it makes sense to give deities stats. Baldur was slain by an arrow of mistletoe. Aphrodite was wounded in the battle of Troy (which is when Zeus decreed that things were getting ridiculous and the Ol... (see all)
Posted By: longwinded (2/19/2014 1:29:59 AM)


Gary explained it this way in his foreword to the ADnD Deities and Demigods: "Experienced players ... already know how important alignment is, how necessary the deity is to the cleric, and how interaction of the various alignments depends upon the entities which lead them. ... Diabolical and demoniac deities are important to the campaign milieu. Without Evil, what does Good have to strive against?" In other words: polytheism helps to make the alignment system "true" in the in-game world. Gary was no relativist, and his game world was not relativistic. Evil and Good and Law and Chaos were real things in his D-N-D, not labels that only had meaning relative to one's own outlook. Also, I take from his comments that he saw polytheism as necessary to help explain why clerics of different alignments, especially opposing ones, could all have divine powers. A monotheistic milieu might have a hard time with that, although Tolkien has an answer based on Dante and Milton ... bu... (see all)
Posted By: CHeard (2/19/2014 1:38:59 AM)


I think Gygax didn't want to open the can of worms that is religion. Most people (at least in the western hemisphere) are super devout about their monotheism's, and therefore would view anything polytheistic like mythology. (And 'harmless'). He didn't want people burning DnD books, lol.

After all, walk into any library and notice how religion and mythology are right next to each other, but Jesus and God and Muhammad are in one section...And Zeus, Ra, and Thor are in the other. If libraries mixed the two, there'd be a lot more fires. And violence. Imagine if libraries were bombed like planned parenthood. It'd totally happen, even though this is the US of A and it's 2014.
Posted By: seti (2/19/2014 1:53:26 AM)



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