Monthly Archives: December 2009

Ye Gods!

Ye Gods!

One of my favorite memories of AD&D, First Edition, was the section in the original Deities&Demigods regarding non-human deities — by which I mean the gods of the hobgoblins, trolls, kobolds, and so on. The long series of articles in "Dragon" expanding those individual deities to full racial pantheons was even better. While most real-world deities were a poor fit for the clockwork, number-driven, if-it-has-stats-we-can-kill-it world of Dungeons & Dragons, those gods made up explicitly for the game fit perfectly. Further, racial pantheons made the world feel more real — it makes sense to me that elves would have one god of fire and orcs another.

Third edition tried to straddle a line between "Gods are really, really, high-powered monsters" and "Gods are abstract entities". The 3e Deities & Demigods book created insanely powerful gods, a 20 level ranking system for deities, and all sorts of other Asberger-friendly content, then made those rules 100% different from the Epic rules, making it nigh-impossible to go on a god-killing expedition because everything was done and scaled differently. Fourth Edition just said "To hell with it" and de-statted gods, which has its pros and cons, but it also did something I really dislike — it created a one-size-fits-all universal pantheon, turning racial gods like Moradin and Corellon into Generic Deities worshipped by all. This was due, in part, to the anti-worldbuilding, the DM should just create "encounters" and chain them into "delves", attitude which infests the 4e rules. It’s easier to have a shared, but vague and inchoate, "assumed world" when you don’t have to worry that some uppity DM, who might still have delusions that a game is better when it takes place in a world, not a sound stage, will create his own gods. Racial pantheons are a clarion call to creativity; once you see that there’s orc gods and dragon gods, it’s hard to not start thinking of treant gods and merfolk gods and flumph gods. And, hey, maybe there’s multiple pantheons of human gods, and that might mean nations, and cultures, and languages, and pretty soon we’ve left the track entirely and we’re drawing maps and writing histories and, sin of all sins, giving stats to things the players aren’t supposed to kill. Cats and dogs, living together! But I digress.

Anyway, the focus of this next series of articles is going to be racial and cultural gods, done up in the 4e style, with Channel Divinity powers, etc. Because I’m trying to leverage my time (proactively and synergistically!), I’m going to focus on rounding out a few corners of my world. Making these gods into generic, "Sure, orcs and dwarves both worship the same guy!" gods should not be very difficult at all, if that’s what floats your boat.

Anyway, since my current game world is a classic Sword & Sorcery realm, owing a lot to Robert Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and Fritz Lieber, it has a nation of serpent worshippers, a supposedly human kingdom whose ruling family are all tainted with Yuan-Ti blood. The pantheon they worship is followed by the humans, the Yuan-Ti, and the surrounding lizardmen.

Read on!

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