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Yora
2010-03-21, 04:24 PM
I'm interested in how people handle deities and religion in their games, in ways different from the Grayhawk and Forgotten Realms polytheism, in which all deities are simply extremely powerful outsiders?

I'm still undecided about how I want to handle it in my homebrew setting. Eberron has a fresh and new approach, but it doesn't really suit me that much. Planescape is also awsome, with having no deity worship at all. But then, I like deities, so I start this discussion about how you create religions for your games.

This includes nature of deities, number of deities, the types of priests that serve the deities, and how religion affects everyday life for both PCs and the common people.

Zombimode
2010-03-21, 05:07 PM
In my Forgotten Realms gods are metaphysical entities not to understood by mortals. They are existent, have influence on the world which is open to intepretation by the mortals but in most cases it is possible to depict a consistent behaviour in a given diety.

Thats on the players side of the screen.
On the other sides of the screen it turns out that the vast majority of gods (well personalities like "Tyr" or "Cyric") are in fact created by those who worship them. The god of justice is a blind onehanded guy named Tyr because the humans who originaly worshiped the concept of justice personalized it as such.

You could say, most gods are a product of the functionings of the Outer Planes. The outer planes are more or less a blank page to be filled by the mental activity of the inhabitans of the material plane. If the only living beeings would be oozes, then the outer planes would look... well I dont know, probably very boring considering that oozes dont have much mental activity to begin with. But seeing as the mentaly most active live forms are humanoids its hardly suprising to see so many humanoid outsiders and places resembling humanoid civilisation. But I am off the rails now...

Back to gods.
There are exceptions of course.

Frist would be AO. AO doesnt have a personality, AO dont have influence, it isnt actually anything you could interact with. AO is more akin to the platonian Demiurge, the aristotelian First Cause, and their later christian and islamice expressions.

Then you have odd things like Moradin, Gruumsh and Corellon Larethian who are "ascended" Creator Races. Those three are much more like what gods are in "canon" FR.
There are other strange godlike beeings I cant remember right now.

But the above covers the basics.

J.Gellert
2010-03-21, 05:16 PM
I follow a different way - Gods may or may not exist, and all stories involving them among mortals come from a time eons ago. Only the most ancient of the immortal creatures can verify their truth - and these creatures really are gods in their own right (for example, the oldest of the fallen angels have their own church).

Additionally, all magic comes from the same source, there is no distinction between "arcane" or "divine". Most priests aren't even casters - I don't buy into that aspect of D&D. Almost all other classes aren't defined by what they do for a living.

J.Gellert
2010-03-21, 05:25 PM
Some more details.

Deities are not universal all across the world, though neighboring kingdoms may share a pantheon, or even worship the same gods with different names and slightly modified dogmas. This is particularly pronounced among more primitive lands where there is no unified church to battle heresy.

Among the chief kingdoms in my campaign setting is a pantheon of 18 deities. 9 of them are female, and each of them is the goddess of a specific aspect of the natural world (goddess of the forests, goddess of the sea, goddess of fire, etc). The other 9 are male, and each of them watches over a human activity or attribute (god of valor, god of commerce, god of justice).

The people of the western kingdoms acknowledge the existence of the entire pantheon and respect all 18 gods. That means there is no such thing as a man's "Patron Deity", as in the Forgotten Realms.

In other lands, people worship more "real" gods, like the "fey-like" spirits of lakes and rivers, ancient dragons, or demons.

PairO'Dice Lost
2010-03-21, 05:40 PM
Generally, I draw a distinction between the god as the individual and the god as the center of a religion. A god is a very real individual, essentially a very powerful outsider, with feelings, an agenda, a personality, etc. If you want to, you can absolutely head to the planes and chat with Pelor or Tiamat or whomever you want. However, they are shaped by their religions, so if the church of Obad Hai suddenly started believing that he was a wrathful god whose purpose is to punish violators of nature, he'd go from being a neutral god of nature who completely believes that balance is right approach, to being a neutral evil god of nature who completely believes that vengeance is the right approach. In this way, the god-as-head-of-the-church and the god-as-independent-planar-being are interrelated and -dependent, but neither one is completely the truth.

Geiger Counter
2010-03-21, 05:44 PM
But seeing as the mentaly most active live forms are humanoids its hardly suprising to see so many humanoid outsiders and places resembling humanoid civilisation.

check page 9 of the PHB, humanoids are not the most mentally active group.

Oh and Personally I draw largely from classical myths and each type of creature was created by a divine being that is interested with it's success, though some of the newer deities take away their followers to follow a particular concept. The gods basically treat the mortal races as if they were running them as a sports team.

Lord Vukodlak
2010-03-21, 05:48 PM
In my setting there are two types of deities, the Elder Gods and the Old Ones, we will start with the Elder Gods who I will simply refer to as gods.

I make the assumption that it being a polytheism setting most people pray to more then one god. Though many folk may have a favored deity. Only clerics and other divine casters tend to worship one deity exclusively.

An actually state religion in any area is uncommon, though different churches may have more influence in politics in some areas then in others.

A gods power is also not simply gathered by direct worship but by the strength of its portfolio. You don't have to worship a deity to grant it power but any action that acts in line with that gods portfolio and ethos could count as a small prayer.
So for example, all tyrants, and all those who use the law for selfish ends at the expense of the freedom and dignity of others give power to the god of tyrants.
While all champions of justice could be considered followers to Kalar even if they never heard of him.

There are also certain rules, special barriers prevent the gods from directly interfering in the affairs of the material plane. They act through mortals and lesser agents.

Becoming a god is a tricky matter, you must be given divine essence, enough to attain demi-godhood[divine rank 1] and from there gather worship and strengthen your portfolio.
Millions of people in The Garr Empire, praise its first emperor Shao'Garr. He was even known as the God Emperor. But has he was never actually true deity(perhaps a quasi-deity with divine rank 0) he never became a god himself.

A elder god may have come into existence and one of the primal forces of the world such as in the case of the gods of magic, the dead, and nature.
While other gods such as those governing, tyranny, justice, strength or healing were once mortal.

The gods are an everyday part of life, most people believe and have faith that they influence the world around them. It is known by most they can no directly interfere but they can push things in certain directions. People believe and do have visions and receive messages from the gods to guide them.

Then we come to the second type of deity, the old ones or elder evils.
These gods are ancient and attained their power by simply existing long enough to gather the necessary divine essence. They are essentially the most ancient and powerful members of their kind who have risen to divine power. They gain influence through there worship but do not gain divine power.

The various monstrous deities fall in here, such as the ones who govern, beholders, Krakens, mind flayers, Aboleth, Yuan-ti's, Driders(who are there own race in my setting) etc. Atach-Nacha for example is a Drider[or similar spider creature] of tremendous age and power. While the Yuan-ti's revere Yig as their lord.
Many of them are simply demi-gods but all divine beings share the same trait of being unkillable.
A group of high level adventures could shatter Glaaki's physical form but his spirit would simply rejuvenate into a new body. Only another divine being or someone possessing a shard of the godslayer sword could kill a god.

Because they do not depend on the existence and lives of mortal beings they are universally hated by the Elder Gods who have driven most of them into hiding.

As much as a priest of Kalar(god of justice) and a priest of Blackhand(god of tyranny) hate one another they would put aside their differences to combat the forces of the old ones.

Because many of them have only demi-god status, they can actually safely hide on and slumber on the material plane deep underground or on the ocean bottom until the time comes when the stars are right and they rise again. The barriers that keep the Elder Gods from directly interfering also keep them from exterminating the Old Ones from the world. Other old ones particularly the most powerful hide beyond the stars or in the deepest pits of the astral, ethereal and shadow plane.

Zombimode
2010-03-21, 05:51 PM
check page 9 of the PHB, humanoids are not the most mentally active group.

I dont have a 3.5 PHB (I assume thats what you mean) at hand. Could you elaborate what you are refering to?

Firkraag: Thats an interessting concept too. Actually I would handle it in similar way, but I (and my group) happen to like devine spellcasters, so thats not an option.

Swordgleam
2010-03-21, 05:56 PM
My homebrew 4e setting is post apoc, so there's not a lot of people, and the gods got pretty disrupted by the apocalypse as well. My gods talk to their followers on a daily basis - they have few enough living followers that it's hardly a strain. They aren't nearly omnipotent or omniscient, but they are still powerful.

To give an example, our Cleric of the Raven Queen can't just smite undead or raise corpses at a whim (any more than his class features would normally allow), but he can ask, "Is so-and-so's soul in your domain?" and have a pretty good idea of whether or not a certain person is dead. It doesn't require fancy ritual, just a few minutes of meditation.

On the other hand, the Raven Queen asks him to do things fairly often - not heal a dying NPC, destroy something she considers to be an abomination, etc.

Geiger Counter
2010-03-21, 06:00 PM
I dont have a 3.5 PHB (I assume thats what you mean) at hand. Could you elaborate what you are refering to?

Firkraag: Thats an interessting concept too. Actually I would handle it in similar way, but I (and my group) happen to like devine spellcasters, so thats not an option.

Basically many dragons, undead and aberrations have much higher mental stats than humanoids, so one would think that individually they have a greater impact on the outer planes

Zombimode
2010-03-21, 06:14 PM
No, not really. Its a matter of mass too. A gold dragon might be incredible more intelligent than most humanoids, but they are soooo few in comprasion. To give you some rough numbers: I estimate the combined population of all humanoid species in the Realms to be several hundred millions, while the number of all dragons is less then 2000, maybe even less then 1000.

Plus, mental activity is not only dependent on mental scores. The realm of feelings, creativity, emotions etc. are part of it.

Undead and aberrations dont count, as they are not really living beeings.

Geiger Counter
2010-03-21, 06:34 PM
No, not really. Its a matter of mass too. A gold dragon might be incredible more intelligent than most humanoids, but they are soooo few in comprasion. To give you some rough numbers: I estimate the combined population of all humanoid species in the Realms to be several hundred millions, while the number of all dragons is less then 2000, maybe even less then 1000.

In Eberron there is an entire continent of Dragons.


Plus, mental activity is not only dependent on mental scores. The realm of feelings, creativity, emotions etc. are part of it.

I'd have to say that is just wrong. Compare humans to any other animals, we are the most intelligent and the most creative and capable of the most complex emotions. Higher creativity and mental complexity is usually just granted with higher intellectual capacity. Data from star trek is an example of not really understanding what emotions are, desire to have emotions is an emotion for crying out loud. Giving a robot emotions, which are just hardwired programming is a heck of a lot easier than giving it rational thought.


Undead and aberrations dont count, as they are not really living beeings.

Okay you re just plain wrong about aberrations. With Undead it's more complicated, But I believe Orcus have grown in power from his many undead worshippers

PairO'Dice Lost
2010-03-21, 06:42 PM
In Eberron there is an entire continent of Dragons.

He's speaking specifically of FR, though, so in that case his numbers are about right. On the rest, I agree with your points.

Evard
2010-03-21, 06:49 PM
I usually make everyone pick a deity no matter what and if they do anything that would make them mad... Like a CG fighter who burned down a orphanage got a visit from his CG Deity about doing bad

Zombimode
2010-03-21, 06:59 PM
In general: telling people that they are "wrong" about their own settings doesnt make any sense at all. I am the creator of my setting, how can I be wrong about it?

To the points:


In Eberron there is an entire continent of Dragons.

So? I dont use the Eberron Setting. If I make a statement on the number of living dragons in my setting you can trust this number to be true.


I'd have to say that is just wrong. Compare humans to any other animals, we are the most intelligent and the most creative and capable of the most complex emotions. Higher creativity and mental complexity is usually just granted with higher intellectual capacity. Data from star trek is an example of not really understanding what emotions are, desire to have emotions is an emotion for crying out loud. Giving a robot emotions, which are just hardwired programming is a heck of a lot harder than giving it rational thought.

While it may be true that a certain level of intelligence is necessary for complex emmotions and personalities, there is no necessity for beeings of even higher intelligence having likewise more complex emmotions and presonalities.
If we are citing characters of fiction, I will bring on Dr. Manhattan who is incredible intelligent, but barely has any emmotions or personality.


Okay you re just plain wrong about aberrations. With Undead it's more complicated, But I believe Orcus have grown in power from his many undead worshippers

1. If I say that aberrations arent living beeings, then you can trust this statement to be true for my setting.
2. This is not a edition specific thread. I dont use the 3.5 ruleset, so specific rules lawering does not apply anyway.

Orcus dont exist in my world. Undead dont have any effect on the outer planes. This is a fact in my setting.


He's speaking specifically of FR, though, so in that case his numbers are about right. On the rest, I agree with your points.

More precisely: Im speaking of MY Forgotten Realms, not "canon" FR. If I would, I wouldnt participating in this thread (this is a paradox).

Darth Stabber
2010-03-21, 07:04 PM
What players in my games never realize is the way I run it, all clerics are clerics of a cause. The gods have very few to whom they grant spells, namely favored souls, the rest have their power fueled by belief, and the gods can't strip clerics of their power, only believing that you should be stripped of your power can cause that.

Geiger Counter
2010-03-21, 07:15 PM
No, not really. Its a matter of mass too. A gold dragon might be incredible more intelligent than most humanoids, but they are soooo few in comprasion. To give you some rough numbers: I estimate the combined population of all humanoid species in the Realms to be several hundred millions, while the number of all dragons is less then 2000, maybe even less then 1000.


So? I dont use the Eberron Setting. If I make a statement on the number of living dragons in my setting you can trust this number to be true.

These two statements really show a case of double think. First you rather matter of factly state that there simply aren't as many dragons as humanoid as if this is the case for all settings. Then I site eberron as an example against this and you act as though I was arguing against your campaign specifically, which I clearly wasn't. If your house ruling is so extensive it no longer resembles RAW I have no Idea why you would bother arguing about RAW.

Zombimode
2010-03-21, 07:28 PM
First you rather matter of factly state that there simply aren't as many dragons as humanoid as if this is the case for all settings.

I didnt, and I dont know how you can read this from my posting. This is a thread about how different DMs handle godhood, deities etc. at their table.
Of course anything I write in here refers to my own setting. Why would you assume otherwise?
I even pointed it out in the first line of my initial posting.


Then I site eberron as an example against this and you act as though I was arguing against your campaign specifically, which I clearly wasn't. If your house ruling is so extensive it no longer resembles RAW I have no Idea why you would bother arguing about RAW.

You may have missed the point of the thread.

Bringing the term "RAW" in this thread doesnt make sense either, as this is obviously not a thread devoted to a rules question.

Draz74
2010-03-21, 07:42 PM
In my setting, everyone worships the same pantheon, but different races/groups might have very different interpretations of them.

So every culture pretty much agrees on how many gods there are, the symbols that represent them, and more or less on what their portfolios are. But their names, physical appearances (if any), personality, and especially relative importance are bitterly argued over by overzealous priests from various religions.

The orcs tend to portray all the gods, if they have humanoid forms at all, as orcs. Same with every other humanoid culture. More noble cultures tend to paint deities in polarizing colors, labeling some of them "pure good" and labeling others black-hearted villains (but which gods are on which side, again, varies from religion to religion). More ruthless or cruel cultures, meanwhile, tend to tell stories about deities doing more reprehensible things -- or, even more commonly, just being plain amoral, harshly "neutral" in classic D&D terms.

The more enlightened religions tend to arrive at the final conclusion that all of the gods have their place and should be respected (not villified, at least not all the time), but that none of them are the paragon of ideal behavior either.

And if you actually manage to meet any of these gods? Well, they seem to be strikingly inconsistent individuals. Sometimes their actions will support one religion's portrayal of them; other times, their portrayals from other religions. Their personalities don't seem to have the stable ego that mortals have.

The setting is pseudo-West African, so the gods are represented by animals. Leopard, Elephant, Monkey, Crocodile, Spider, Antelope, Macaw, and about four more (I haven't finished working on this pantheon) -- those are the universally-agreed-upon symbols of this setting's Gods.

The portfolios, meanwhile, are all morally ambiguous enough to be good or bad depending on how they are skewed.

Demigods are a whole separate system, but I won't get into that.

Jallorn
2010-03-21, 07:58 PM
I like the idea of Small Gods, that gods start as almost nothing, and then gain power when worshiped, and depend upon that power, also deriving their form from what is believed of them.

Zanatos777
2010-03-21, 08:14 PM
I follow the Greek model (since I use the Greek pantheon plus some customs). Most people worship all the gods to some extent and clerics devote themselves more to a single god or goddess. Everyone for instance has a small shrine to Zeus and Hestia (goddess of home and hearth for those who don't know) in their homes. Also major cities have a patron deity, usually Zeus, Athena, Apollo, or Poseidon.

I also allow worshiping concepts but it is considered heretical by the priests of the deities (the deities themselves don't care they don't gain power from worship).

Actually one of the major conflicts in one of my games is over a new pair of deities who are widely known as the Queen of Evil (not actually evil) and The Hateful Prince (very evil), both are only lesser deities but they live on the plane (the Prince hides himself though). Their followers are considered heretics against the Olympians and are executed on the spot or enslaved. A major organization claimed to serve all the Olympians in hunting down these heretics (it works sort of like the Spanish Inquisition but the Inquisitors kill and enslave the accused) but the PCs just discovered that they are actually a front for the Hateful Prince to weaken the Emerald Queen (another name for the Queen of Evil). Of course the Olympians are blissfully unaware of what is occurring due to the world's position in the multiverse.

Its weird but they like it.

fryplink
2010-03-21, 08:30 PM
In my house-multiverse, deities are simply any creature who has amassed more power than their form can contain, so they break it into tiny chunks and deposit those chunks into their followers which becomes divine spell casting, more followers means they can have more power, but their followers actions "taint" the chunk of power handed, so if they deviate from the gods power he looses it (and so does the cleric, this loss powers ur-priests, because they capture the loose chunk) its a bit more complicated, the gods dont have portfolios, domains are just areas of study that the cleric has looked into (meaning you can have any domain as long as they make sense together)

mostly gods are mortals/outsiders with so much power the anti-trust laws of the universe require them to break themselves into chunks, and since the power chunks touch the souls of their followers, they enforce their opinion

Geiger Counter
2010-03-21, 08:37 PM
@Zombimode
You say my dragons are X
My response is okay, my dragons are Y
Your response is so what? Don't tell me how to run my campaign

Which was an odd and rude response.

"In general: telling people that they are "wrong" about their own settings doesnt make any sense at all. I am the creator of my setting, how can I be wrong about it?"

Actually it's very possible to be wrong about your own campaign setting if it lacks internal consistency. Aberrations are living, usually sapient organisms who often have their own gods, saying they aren't alive or don't effect the outerplanes the same as other living sapient organisms requires a hefty explanation.

Tinydwarfman
2010-03-21, 09:38 PM
Gods are primal forces that govern everything from beliefs to the elements. They are created by the worship of that ideal, or simply the being of a physical thing. Atheists are those who refuse to worship these beings, as they would likely refuse to serve an extremely powerful wizard or king. Everybody acknowledges that these gods exist, but some also believe that there is an all powerful God (that is, with a capital G) that rules over everything.

Geiger Counter
2010-03-21, 09:49 PM
Gods are primal forces that govern everything from beliefs to the elements. They are created by the worship of that ideal, or simply the being of a physical thing. Atheists are those who refuse to worship these beings, as they would likely refuse to serve an extremely powerful wizard or king. Everybody acknowledges that these gods exist, but some also believe that there is an all powerful God (that is, with a capital G) that rules over everything.

I believe you are referring to the Athar.
And no refusing to worship gods which you know to exist does not make you an atheist.
Abandoning/criticizing your former religion makes you an apostate.
You are a misotheist if you hate gods.
If you are a dystheist you do not believe a god is wholly good, which is the opposite of eutheism where you believe a god is wholly good.
Antitheists are against the worship of gods whether they exist or not.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-03-21, 09:51 PM
I usually involve deities in my games, but that's more because I have a preference for divinely-powered characters.

Tinydwarfman
2010-03-21, 09:57 PM
I believe you are referring to the Athar.
And no refusing to worship gods which you know to exist does not make you an atheist.
Abandoning/criticizing your former religion makes you an apostate.
You are a misotheist if you hate gods.
If you are a dystheist you do not believe a god is wholly good, which is the opposite of eutheism where you believe a god is wholly good.
Antitheists are against the worship of gods whether they exist or not.

I know that's not what Atheist means, I'm talking about the role atheists normally fill in a world where god is unknown to exist. Though you are right, I should have said Anti-theist.

What is Athar though?

PairO'Dice Lost
2010-03-21, 09:59 PM
What is Athar though?

The Athar are a faction in Planescape who, as you so aptly put it, "refuse to worship [gods] as they would likely refuse to serve an extremely powerful wizard or king."

shadow_archmagi
2010-03-21, 10:01 PM
In my campaigns religion is pretty much ignored 90% of the time

I really need to put some work into building a decent paladin, or at least some evil cultists

Serpentine
2010-03-21, 10:05 PM
I take inspiration from Pratchet's Discworld concept of religion, to a degree. There's a bit of Tamora Pierce's Tortall series, too.
Not totally - a deity doesn't have to start from something small and depend on belief for its very existance, for example, although they can and belief certainly helps them to maintain their godhood.
It's more the simultaneous existence of multiple realities part of it: the sun is a giant ball of burning gases, it is a glowing ball of dung being pushed along by an enormous dung beetle, and it is a shining man driving a luminescent chariot across the sky, all at once.
The gods are both real and mutable. They occasionally come down in physical form to hang out on the Material Plane for a bit. It messes with spellcasting, but is still a pretty exciting time - Bacchus is particularly fun. Most of them have some personal artifact that they retrieve when on this jaunt and give to someone worthy when they leave. Sometime in the past there was a disastrous war on the Material Plane by the gods. As a result, trips there are almost always pleasure only.
On the other hand, a number of distinct deities can be merely aspects of the same greater gods - even when they differ quite dramatically. For example, I'm working on (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7465974) a greater Trickster Deity. I'm mostly focussing on his North American-type aspect, based on Kokopelli. This one is perhaps the most close to the Trickster Deity, but still in this area he is generally considered a deity of fertility, luck (good and bad) and thinking-around-corners. Other aspects of this deity include Garl Glittergold and Loki - even their own Clerics are rarely, if ever, aware of this unifying deity.
This basically keeps going on for other major archetypes of divinity: there is another American-style god called Inti who is part of the same over-deity as Pelor. The Burning Hate could very well be part of that as well. Goddesses of Earth and Motherhood are united, as well, and their sex is mutable.

Um... That'll do, I guess.

Dimers
2010-03-21, 11:04 PM
In my homebrew gameworld, the gods are the most powerful spirits. The spirit plane existed long before the physical, and many of the gods have been around an incomprehensibly long time. (They themselves can't comprehend it, since only a couple of them have much better memory for details than humans do.) Eventually one deity became the planet in a sort of grand experimentation. Other deities have manifested themselves likewise (the sun, one of the moons, that moon's shadow, a sea on the planet) but many have not, existing primarily in the spirit world. The planet-god created life on Itself, and other gods copied and expanded on that work.

The materialization led to a far-reaching war for resources between various spirits. The more intellectual, canny and wise deities began to use physical creatures as allies in this war -- since the gods are far from omnipotent/omniscient, they wanted thousands of extra eyes and hands, even if those belong to weak and demanding creatures. Thus, priests came to be, entering covenants with various deities to wield power on their behalf. Each deity's preferences and goals shape the kind of people they enter contracts with. The sun goddess is dedicated to civilization and accurate seeing, so her ordinants are required to help others and to never dull their minds' eyes. The warleader/spymaster goddess accepts priests who are very talented in machination but who have some (usually secret) weakness she can use to manipulate them. The 'bad guys' in the war initially focused on tactics in other areas than alliance, and now the world's inhabitants are quite set against them, but they too occasionally make contracts with desperate folk.

A lot of human concerns are covered by these gods' "portfolios", to borrow a Forgotten Realms concept. A lot aren't, though. There's a goddess of the sun and a demon of storms, but nobody to whom you'd send a prayer for lifegiving rain. That's because the gods came before, and exist independently of, material creatures. Deities will ally with mere mortals but can't be said to need them.

Each deity has their own way of formalizing their covenants, but almost all involve personal contact. It's not unusual for an ordinant to speak directly with his deity, face-to-face, a couple times in his life. That means the gods' messages don't get interpreted by mortals -- they get clarified the next time the avatar comes calling. Gods have a lot more to deal with than the material world*, so discussion about points of dogma, strategies, emergencies and so forth is still far from instantaneous, but it's much better off than in most fantasy worlds.

Ordinants channel power from ... how to describe this ... spirit-world golems? ... from spirit slaves created by the deity for the specific purpose of following around ordinants and feeding them power. Making sure that the channel is free of corrupting influences is slow work, and difficult for people who don't have an innate feel for magic (i.e. 95 percent of priests). So divine spellcasting is slow and careful. Arcane magic is almost always fast, but it's dangerous to use, and is social anathema to boot. Commoners trust priestly magic because it's too slow to have combat applications, as well as because most deities promote interdependence and civilization.

I've conceptualized about thirty mostly-spirit beings with enough power to be called gods, and a few of their underlings. They vary tremendously in power, intellect, physical manifestation, interests/goals, philosophy, methodology, and so on. Two are consorts of each other; one is a patron of technology, with the potential to eventually destroy the very idea of godhood; some have their own domains in the spirit plane; some are very human in seeming, while others are simply abstract or are more closely related to nonhumans. I expect the pantheon to include about fifty major players before my brain stops accepting new applications.

* For example, the Dreamlands didn't even exist 3000 years ago. The gods created that at the intersection of the planes of Thought and Spirit. They've been experimenting with its boundaries, qualities, and inhabitants, all as a way of creating a fallback position should the Big Ol' Spirit War Thing turn sour. It is, quite frankly, a more promising avenue than material alliances are, so more of their attention goes to that project.

Yora
2010-03-22, 08:55 AM
So far, I have decided for my setting that there are "true" greater gods and smaller demigods.

Though many of the faithful get it wrong, it's general concensus among priests and scholars, that divinity is panentheistic, that is, devine energy, escence, spirit, or whatever it is, is within everything that exists, has existed, or will come to exist. But it's not something that can be percieved by either mundane, or even magical means.
A "deity" is not so much a creature, but one way, point of view, aspect, or philosophy of how the divine escence influences the physical world. They are basic foundations of the nature of the multiverse. Generally, seven deities are recognized as greater gods, but in fact they are really all just diferent ways of looking at the universal divinity. (Which I believe is similar to the hinuist brahman, but I might have gotten that partly wrong.)
The three major deities are logic, rationality, purpose, and order, usually represented by the Sun; emotion, instinct, and freedom, represented by the Moon; and infinity of space and time, uncertainty, and the unknown, represented by the Ocean.
The four minor deities are the perpetual origin of new life and growth, represented by the element Water; death, inevitablity, stability, and restrain, represneted by Earth; activity, vitality, and motivation, represented by Fire; and emptyness, lack of activity, and silence, reprsented by Air.

These seven deities appear in most cultures, but there are great differences on how they are presented in mythology, what roles they play within a culture, and how important they are to each other. Some cultures have the Moon and everything it represents as their main deity, but the Sun is almost never mentioned in scripture or rituals. Or the deity of emptyness might be seen as an evil force of suffering, while in another culture it is percieved as liberation from the restrictions of physical existance, or as a protector that shields the faithful from the eyes of enemies. The greater gods are not creatures, even though they are usually presented as such for practical reasons. Most people are aware of this, but there are also numerous people who don't quite get it, and are usually seen as quite simple-minded by others.
Commonly priests devote their lives and faith to one of these aspects and believe that contemplation on and devotion to this aspect is the best way of becoming closer to the universal source of all divinity. At least for them and likeminded people.

On the other end, there are the demigods. Unlike greater gods, these are actual creatures, but usually of tremendous physical and magical power. They are the most powerful lords of the spirit world and demon lords of the outer planes. They gain divinity of being the focus and object of the faith of their followers. It may be either through devotion, love, or fear that other spirits and demons (and mortals in some cases) show for them, but it is their attention, submission, and awe that creates the demigods divinity. As a result, most demigods are increddibly old beings and often started their existance as spirits of entire forests, seas, or mountains. But in theory, as happend in some few cases, even minor spirits can gain such a large number of devoted followers that they eventually reach divinity as well.
It is actually this concentration of divinity that allows the priests of demigods to cast spells, and not the demigods own personal power. But their divinity grants them a very high awareness of everything that happens in their domain, and they can reshape the landscape by their own will to a degree that depends on their power as a demigod.
Worshippers of demigods are less common than those of greater gods, but to them a demigod is a deity that actually knows about you and (hopefully) cares for your personal plight. Worship of the greater gods may be a nice spiritual exercise, but only a demigod will actually appreciate your faith and reward it. I'd say they are rather similar to the greek gods and especially the mystery cults.

Below the demigods are the common spirits and demons. They serve the same roles as lesser spirits do in animistic religions like shinto, or traditional religions in australia and parts of africa. They are incorporeal people in most regards and you rather wish to be on their good side to have their support in times of need, rather in angering them and causing them to curse you and your village.

My only problem now is, that I also have some traditional D&D deities I'd like to incorporate into the setting, but I'm mostly at a total loss about what to do with them? Maybe making them more specialized and specific versions of the greater gods, but I'm not too happy with that.

Mark Hall
2010-03-22, 01:42 PM
In one sense, deities are "really powerful outsiders". However, that's part of it, IMO... they're individuals, and react, in a large part, like individuals. Which means that many of them are not going to get upset if you pay attention to other deities, no matter how close you are.

Let us say you have a wife, and she is an awesome accountant. Now, quite obviously, in addition to all the things you count on a spouse for, you have her do the taxes, because she's so good at it. If, however, some pipes spring a leak in the basement, you call over your buddy, the plumber. Sure, your spouse isn't incompetent... she can make logical judgements of what needs to be done as well as anyone... but your buddy knows plumbing, and will do it faster and cheaper than you and your spouse could hope to.

Now, is your spouse gonna get mad that you asked your buddy for help, instead of relying solely on her? Only if she a) doesn't like your buddy, specifically or b) is a crazy psycho hose-beast who can't stand you paying attention to anyone who isn't her. I see the relationship between gods and their worshipers, including their priests.

For most worshipers, it's a friendship thing. You're in a relationship with your deity, but it's not an exclusive thing... you can have other friends, and so long as you don't completely ignore them, they're still your friends. There's only really a problem if your friends hate each other so much you can't really be friends with both of them.

For priests, it's more like being a husband or wife. You run all important decisions by them, even though they trust you to make the right one on your own. When you act, you are often acting in their name as well as yours. Your other friends have to be more or less ok to them (they may not LIKE them, but if they hate them, there's gonna be trouble). Being married usually doesn't preclude you having other friends, and being a priest usually doesn't preclude you from worshiping other gods, especially when those other gods are specialists in whatever you're asking for help with... but you don't go asking your wife's enemies for help, unless you've got no other choice.

arguskos
2010-03-22, 02:25 PM
Ok, in my current campaign: Gods are textbook Grewhawk deities, for the most part. If you had Plane Shift, you could go chat up Boccob or whatever.

In my actual personal unfinished campaign world, the gods are one of the first things I finished (after figuring out races/landmasses/broad historical overview/etc, the big picture stuff). Each of the major (and minor) species has their own deity or pantheon, but the way these gods interact with mortals is... complex. For example, humanity (in this setting, a highly xenophobic warlike people ruled by a theocracy) worships a group of gods called the Nine-Faced Lords. There are actually ten of them, notably (and I stole the names SHAMELESSLY from fiction, cause I liked them). The Nine-Faced Lords speak through the Emperor of Intolar, the human nation. Upon the ascension of an Emperor to the throne, their personality is obliterated by the divine power flowing through them as the Nine-Faced Lords use him as a conduit to issue divine edicts to the Empire. Each of the ten gods in the pantheon has primacy in the decision making of the Emperor for 10 years (each Emperor rules for 100 years exactly, then the divine forces sustaining him consume him, and a successor must be found) with the other nine gods serving as a council of advisors to the prime deity. The Lords shuffle through who has primacy on a randomly determined basis and don't share who is prime at any given moment to the Empire. Priests of the Nine-Faced Lords worship one specific god. Divine messages are not unheard of, and the Lords take as active a hand as is possible in the world of their children.

Each of the other races in this world have a similarly complex system of deific attention. Some gods are incarnate upon the world, most are not. Some are highly active, some are but shadows of thought for all they interact with the world. A rare few gods actually exist amongst the common folk, though this is rare. Most of the incarnate deities are rulers or kings or whatnot. Only one or two actually walk the world and make themselves known amongst the common peoples.

This is something I could yak about all day, and in the interest of doing other stuff today, I will just stop here. Should anyone be interested, I'd be happy to expound at length about this topic.

dragonfan6490
2010-03-22, 04:25 PM
In my campaign world, featured in my sig <insert shameless self-advertising> there are three deities worshipped by mortals. Each of them are more or less unreachable by mortals, they are essentially over deities. These three in turn pay homage/are aspects of the creator deity, simply called the Word, who is the actual over deity.

Now thats not to say that Thor, Zues and their ilk aren't part of my setting, on the contrary, they are incredibly powerful beings that live mostly on the material plane. They are not however, worshipped. They are more or less quasi deities in my setting.

Elfin
2010-03-22, 05:51 PM
In the homebrew world I use for most of my home games, the world is -though most don't realize it - essentially dualistic, a constant battleground of two enigmatic forces, often referred to as the Light and the Dark by those who know of them (though they don't really represent light and darkness, merely embodying complete opposites). These forces seem to have no clear purpose other than dominating the multiverse (neither one is good or evil, and neither even has any apparent ideology), and no-one, not even the gods, know exactly what or why they are.

As an aside, the "few who know" are basically the gods and the dragons, the latter being a race created to keep the balance between the two forces. Their origins aren't clear, though they claim that they are a creation of a third force which embodies balance - they're also quite special because they are exempt from the struggles of the Light and Dark, which include everyone else - even though nearly all these pawns are unaware.

That brings us to the gods, spirits who are referred to as "the Children of the Skies". These are divided into two groups, the Elder Gods and the Gods of the Stars, being the creations of the Dark and Light, respectively, to govern the world and especially the mortal races("the Children of the World"). (These were not actually present at the time of the gods' creation, a la Tolkien, but were to awaken in the future at an indeterminate time.)

The main difference between these groups is that the first believes in watching and ruling the mortal races directly, while the other group believes in guiding them indirectly, and from afar (there are good and evil gods in both groups, but such moralities are immaterial to the struggles of the two Powers).

In any case, these differences of opinion brought the gods into constant conflict; in the earlier of the world's ages, the Elder Gods reigned supreme (hence the name), but at last, long story short, there was an enormous war which ended with the dominance of the Gods of the Stars, the creation of the world as we know it, and the imprisonment of the Elder Gods across the multiverse.

TaintedLight
2010-03-22, 06:05 PM
The campaign setting I'm brewing up did a few things to turn Greyhawk's pantheon and organization on its head.

Firstly, the "greater" deities are the draconic gods, with Io being an "overdeity", Bahamut and Tiamat occupying the tier just beneath the granddaddy dragon, and the rest of the gods in a third tier all their own. Now, I put "greater" and "overdeity" in scarequotes because I don't use any mechanical concept of a more powerful deity to denote rank or any such nonsense. Deities like Heironeous and Obad Hai are "lesser" deities and "demigods" by the same reasoning.

The gods do exist, but their presence is not nearly as directly felt on the players' side of the screen as it is in my notes and my mind. Clerics have faith and they receive spells, but it's a rare individual indeed who speaks with Chronepsis or Kord, either through dreams or through a herald of that god.

One of the things I'm trying to implement is a church system that is more fluid than the traditional "one god, one church" and its allied churches. As an example, there is a pantheon called the Four Pillars of War. The Pillars are, by name, Kord, Heironeous, Hextor, and Erythnul. Devotees of the Pillars as an organized whole worship the pantheon for its strength and because they believe in force of arms as the best method to approach all their challenges in the world. For those worshippers, moral guidance is less important than the fact that the Pillars are strong gods with strong tenets. Someone who worships just one or two of them is probably drawing a bit more moral inspiration from the gods. Jim worships the Steadfast (Heironeous) and the Champion (Kord) because he believes in the goodness of a martial cause or the ability of strength-at-arms to benefit all creatures and banish evil. You can cook up a similar agenda for worshippers of any combination of them.

That's the only one I have so far, but I like the concept. I just fear that it may be lost on my players if none of them choose those pantheons or the deities that make them up :(.

As for deity mechanics? Totally irrelevant. Having stats implies that a deity can fail at a task. If I want a deity to fail a skill check or something, I fudge it. Those are aspects of deific being that the players will never see because breaking out a statblock as per Deities and Demigods is just stupid. Thus, until the players have a chance of challenging a god, I allow them to be forces of nature that I can use for whatever purpose I want.

Rainbownaga
2010-03-22, 11:41 PM
I believe you are referring to the Athar.
And no refusing to worship gods which you know to exist does not make you an atheist.
Abandoning/criticizing your former religion makes you an apostate.
You are a misotheist if you hate gods.
If you are a dystheist you do not believe a god is wholly good, which is the opposite of eutheism where you believe a god is wholly good.
Antitheists are against the worship of gods whether they exist or not.

Not believing that the 'gods' are truly 'Gods' does make you an atheist however, since you semantically deny that the believed Gods are gods.

And if you believe their is a greater God, you are still a theist (more so than most since d&d seems more deist than theist) of a type similar to Plato, or to the various brands of Gnosticism which included Cathars, who the Athars were apparently based.


Personally, I like the idea of the Athars; since they worship a Platonic God, their is no real way to prove (or DM need to decide) whether the being they worship really exists or not, and the more apparent the 'real gods' are, the easier it is to dismiss them as just powerful outsiders.


In my campaign I have a lawful-Neutral monotheistic sun-god and a pantheism of demons and nature spirits for those that choose chaos. Neither side is overtly evil and the relationship between them shifts between Detente and open war and persecution.

Geiger Counter
2010-03-22, 11:54 PM
Not believing that the 'gods' are truly 'Gods' does make you an atheist
From dictionary dot com
An atheist is a person who believes that there is no God.

So yeah you're wrong.

Innis Cabal
2010-03-22, 11:57 PM
From dictionary dot com
An atheist is a person who believes that there is no God.

So yeah you're wrong.

No, he's not. He never said that the character didn't acknowledge other entities as gods. Merely that the "Gods" weren't. Its semantics. But he's not actually wrong.

Dimers
2010-03-23, 12:06 AM
The three major deities are logic, rationality, purpose, and order, usually represented by the Sun; emotion, instinct, and freedom, represented by the Moon; and infinity of space and time, uncertainty, and the unknown, represented by the Ocean.
The four minor deities are the perpetual origin of new life and growth, represented by the element Water; death, inevitablity, stability, and restrain, represneted by Earth; activity, vitality, and motivation, represented by Fire; and emptyness, lack of activity, and silence, reprsented by Air.

That arrangement sounds flavorful and easy to pick up. I'd enjoy exploring the nature of religion in that campaign world. I don't have a valuable answer to your new question -- just wanted to give a little feedback.

Jarawara
2010-03-23, 11:14 AM
A quick question: A magician casts a spell. Does that prove the existence of a deity or higher power?

No?

So then you see this "cleric" casting spells in town. Does that prove the existence of his deity?

Are you sure he's even a cleric, and not just a charlatan, a magician posing as the voice of a false god?

Are you sure *you're* even a cleric, and not just a charlatan???

In my campaign world, the gods are unproven entities. The magic that is available to wizards is surprisingly similar to the magic available to clerics. While one could claim that the "magic" clerics use must obviously come from a higher source... maybe that's the same as where the magic the wizards use comes from as well. And since we all know wizards gain their powers from trafficking with demons... *gulp*

"God" usually comes to speak to the PC cleric from time to time - in dreams, visions, and times of stress. Taking hard drugs can also help you see god. Usually the visions are unclear, ambiguous, and has a tendency to go off topic, as if the subconscious mind is taking the "message" and sorting it into a dream. You know how a dream can turn rather wacky and off topic? Well, God just showed up in your dream, told you of a great evil that must be smitten, told you where to find the weapon that can defeat said great evil, and then told you to wear more pink frills in your clothing, and then danced around the room holding an infinite number of ale mugs in one hand, and your former girlfriend in the other, doesn't she look pretty in pink frills... *blink, blink* Uh, what was I just dreaming about?

Try telling the party about your dream the next day, evil, smite, weapons, pink frills, infinite ale, girls, more pink frills... all the while keeping an absolute and solid faith in the existence of your god.

Once you realize that you had to "edit" your dream to make it sound more believable to your friends, you then realize that father Monahaim probably edited his visions when he was teaching you all about your god in the first place. A shaky foundation to your whole set of beliefs, yes?

Yet you still cast spells. How? Oops, remember those demons and offworldly powers those wizards gain their powers from? :smalleek:

Then there's the case of the party that proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the god of the orcs (name deleted to protect his identity) and the human warlord god (name deleted) was the same entity. And then proved that the human god (name deleted) and the elvish god (name deleted, 'cause it sounded silly) was also one and the same. Just who are these gods that seemingly serve different roles on different days of the week? Just how many roles do each of these entities play? How many "gods" are there? Is there perhaps only one, playing the part of multiple gods to better be accepted by each culture?

And if they (or "it") lied about who they were, then what else did they lie about? If these "gods" are masquerading in different guises, just what is their actual true self? Are they "gods" at all, or something else entirely? Do they empower their clerics with spellcasting ability, or do they just manipulate their worshipers for their own dark design?

Or... did that party that supposedly proved how our gods are all fake and are lying and manipulating us... maybe they are wrong, possibly with their own agenda, trying to shake us from our faith in the almighty. Do not listen to these blasphemers, theirs are not the words of the faithful, their souls will burn in the everlasting rage of our father and savior. Heed my words, for they are the only true words of the only true god. Heed my words, for by following my lead, everlasting life and the kingdom of heaven will be yours.

Oh, and that cleric over there, preaching the words of a false god - He gets his spellcasting powers from demons, just like those evil wizards. Only we get the true powers of god. Listen only to me.

And wear more pink frills.

BadJuJu
2010-03-23, 11:53 AM
There is but One God, Ao is his name, and Mohammed is his Prophet. Had a game revolve around this bad mofo. Ur-Priest/Bard/and the Class that lest you talk people into following you, can't remember the name. Forgotten Relms. Threw the world into a huge Holy War. Was great.

Lapak
2010-03-23, 12:26 PM
I've been putting together a mechanical structure for gods lately that was designed with an E6 environment in mind, but parts of it are applicable across the board. I was attempting to model gods from classic mythologies in a D&D environment, where Thor was on the one hand a God of Thunder and on the other hand a guy who went out and slew Giants.

Basically, there is a sliding scale where divine power has an inverse relationship with freedom to act, intertwined with the concept that the divine role and the divine individual are two different things. Apollo, for example, is on the one hand Apollo-the-person, who might have children or want revenge or be petty or whatever, and at the same time is Apollo-the-Sun-God, whose existence drives the Sun across the sky every day.

The higher up on the scale you are, the less time and freedom the individual facet has: Apollo-the-person can only run around during the time when Apollo-the-Sun-God doesn't need to be exerting power to maintain the world. Apollo-the-person can 'steal' time and power from the Sun God role, but if he does so horrible things happen: the sun drifts too close to the earth and burns it, or drifts away and freezes it, or goes backward and throws the human realms into chaos, or so on. This makes most gods pretty likely to do their jobs.

Now, a demigod has a lot less power and a lot more freedom. Bhaal (from FR) would be a demigod in my system, where Bhaal-the-person is basically doing his thing full time. He's not as puissant as Apollo when he exerts himself, but he doesn't need to oversee every murder or anything; he just needs to promote the idea of it through his own actions. Lesser Powers fall in the middle, where a god of Trade might end up causing poverty in a particular government when he wanders off-task but he won't destroy the world in the process. But if Ceres, Greater Goddess of Agriculture, gets upset by having her daughter kidnapped? Well, nothing can grow until Ceres-the-person is placated and willing to function in her role as Ceres-the-god.

Since I was building this for E6, I worked it out mechanically by giving the various divine tiers superior level advancement through special worship-granted XP (which is where religion ties into this, and why the gods would want to promote it.) Modeling Thor-the-person, (Lesser Power) God of Thunder, as a 15th-level character with a couple of unique powers and artifacts in a world where famous heroes are level 6 works out pretty well.

Piedmon_Sama
2010-03-23, 04:15 PM
In the actual ancient world, particularly in the Celtic and early Germanic world, people tended to associate deities with a certain place. E.g, a grove or clearing where the deity was believed to reside would be a Sacred Place where rituals and offerings were enacted. The same holds true for the ancient Mycenaean world, where we see in Homer and Virgil that idols are strongly associated with the actual presence of the deity. In ancient Sumeria and Mesoamerica, armies would assemble with the literal presence of their deity, as priests actually carried out its idol to survey the field and inspire the men.

So in my campaign setting, there is a strong belief in "genii," or "numina," which are the spirits of a certain place. Nymphs, Dryads and Nyads are considered "numina," and along with other Fay are thought of as very minor deities, everything lumped together under the broad category of "Immortals," "Spirits," or "Daimons." Elves are not only included under the category of Fay, but are the rulers of what we might consider the Fairy Kingdom, a huge enchanted country on the far side of Giant and Troll-haunted mountains east of the main human country.

There are believed to be countless numina. Every individual household has its own little god to pray to for luck or protection. Certain events and festivals, such as the Flower Festival held every Spring in the southern parts of the Empire, have their patron deities. Free Cities or Towns represent themselves through iconic figures, generally a woman in the figure of a goddess, who represents the corporate identity of the city, and offerings are often symbollically made to the "persona" of the town. (Despite the influence of a massive Imperial government, the City-State is still the quintessential political unit in peoples' mindsets). Certain lauded ideals, such as Justicia, Disciplina, Virtutis, Sciens, Fidelitis, Sapiens, etc., are personified in a similar way and commonly worshipped, especially by persons whose career is defined by certain virtues (Legionnaires communally worship Disciplina). None of these figures have a "personality" or any kind of mythology or stories surrounding them. They merely represent concepts, corporations, a family, a locality, etc. on a metaphysical level which are "worshipped," both for the sake of communal and cultural identity and for common good fortune.

Above or astride this world of logo-personae and unseen spirits are the more colorful Nine Divines. Yes, those Nine Divines. From Elder Scrolls. I have a player who insisted on this. Akatosh, the Dragon-God of Time; Zenithaar, the Patron of Commerce and Labor; Arkay, Ordainer of Death and Rebirth; and some other dudes who don't matter; these form the "Ancient Eight," who are believed to be primal deities going back to the origin of the Luxan (Imperial) Race. Ninth and most popular of all these deities, however, is Talos Augustus, once the mortal man named Tiber Septim. In an age of civil war roughly one-hundred and eighty years ago, Tiber Septim rallied the flagging spirits of the then-dying Luxan Republic and overcame a host of contenders to reunite the Heartland and all the Provinces in triumph.

In his own lifetime, Tiber Septim was awarded the titles of First Citizen For Life, Father and Savior of the Country, Favored of the Gods, Imperator (a rank equivalent to "Generalissimo") of the Armies in Perpetuity, and without officially renouncing its power the Senate waited on Septim's commands hand and foot. It wasn't until after his death, however, that Septim was officially deified and declared the direct descendent of all-powerful Akatosh, as the mythical warrior-founder of the Luxan Race had been. His title, "Augustus," denotes one who is favored to achieve victory: thus by teleological reasoning, the heir of the Augustus is the one who wins, and whoever "Has the Victory," is the heir of the Augustus. The title of Imperator and Augustus has not stayed solely within the direct line of Tiber Septim; in fact pretty much all the Luxan nobility are related to him somehow by now. "Right of Conquest" is a very literal and real thing concerning the inheritance, leading to a very ugly history of private and public battles for the divine throne.

Theologically, all Emperors are considered to merge into a greater godhead of heroic ancestors upon death. The common belief throughout the mortal world is that most will dwell in the Underworld forever, a place of gloom and darkness, forever severed from the mortal world. Only heroic and famed individuals are worthy to sit at the table of the gods. This means that, on theological ground, no sanctioned cult in the Empire can acknowledge the belief in ghosts or undead. In fact, they must insist that none since the transgressions of Orpheus and Aeneas can exit the underworld--the House of the Dead is sealed from the Land of the Living forever. Nevertheless, folk stories and wives' tales of spooks and spirits remain common, especially amongst the rural folk. In the once-heathen north, many holidays and rituals still include symbollic offerings to the departed, despite the orthodox position that they cannot rise to walk the land.

The word "cult" is in no way a pejoritive in Imperial Religion. The Imperial Cult dnotes worship of the Godhead Talos Augustus and his living representative, the Emperor. Every creature living in the realm of the Empire is considered a member of the "Imperial Cult." Virtually every person is a member of multiple cults, making offerings depending on the occasion and context. A few "unofficial" cults include the spreading religions of the drunken god Dionysus, the beautiful warrior Mithras, and the protective mother Isis. So long as the officially sanctioned gods are given their preserve, the Empire has no official injunction against new cults, despite the grumbling of much of the priesthood.

For the last two generations, it has been formally acknowledged that Luxor is now an Imperium, and no longer even on paper a Republic. It is the common wisdom that a Republic is simply not equipped to run a vast and multicultural Empire, and just as each Province is its own small dictatorship under a Proconsul or Praetor, so is the Heartland now under the open rule of the Emperor. This relegates the ancient Senate to the showy but toothless business of "religious and cultural proprieties." In the Republican Age, there were ten Tribunes with the power to check the Senate's decree within each one's specific sphere (there was a Tribune of the Plebes and a Tribune of the Legions, for example); now these offices are rolled up into the person of the Emperor, which means that aside from him the Senate can enforce its decrees without remittance to the ancient Assemblies. The Senate, particularly its two Consuls (who are still elected by the common people) are in charge of organizing holidays, religious feasts and games. Thus the holy days are massive public affairs with a very carnival-like atmosphere, shows filling the amphitheaters and streets, and deadly games going around the hour in the Great Circus.

In the Empire, there is not one organized priesthood. The Emperor serves as a kind of High Priest in public functions, and all civic roles (from the Senate down to the magistrate of a town ward) have some role in religious ceremonies (which usually involve the sacrifice of some animal, the offering of burning incense or myrrh, the chanting of poems or hymns before and offering of gifts and cameos to painted stone or wood idols of various gods or a local patron numina.

In the great cities (metropoles) one can find full-blown temples, usually called Basilica (the word technically means a courthouse or the seat of a judge). Cathedrals are an expanded, modern form of Basilica with a great steeple and high-vaulted roofing added to the long courthouse, as well as turrets or buttresses. These great structures each have their own in-house priesthood, called Flamines, who offer daily sacrifices (usually just burning myrh and singing a chant, but sometimes giving the axe to an ox, the knife to a chicken, the lance to a pig, etc.) There is no official hierarchy between temples or shrines, each being a unit in isolation; but the Flamine of a great metropolitan temple certainly has more sacrosanctity and weightier responsibilities than the tender of a humble country shrine, and the latter would defer to the former in most any matter.

Above the mass of priests, and the slightly smaller mast of flamines, is the College of Flamines Maior, which constitute the high priesthood. Most of these august wiseheads are former politicians and senators who have a "semi-retirement" in their merely religious functions, ordering repairs or funds to this or that basilica, sending priests hither and thither where needed, etc. Among the Flamines Maior is one Pontifex, literally "the bridge-maker" (between earthly and divine), who is considered the representative of one of the Nine Divines on earth. The Emperor himself is a Pontifex (of Talos Augustus), and the eight others are drawn from the most pious and wise flamines of Luxor.

Metagame-wise, there are precisely six Clerics on earth and two of them are Imperials who serve the Nine Divines. "Godtouched," is the common name for these champions, who are chosen by the invisible hand of a god to channel its power on earth. Invariably Godtouched, with their powerful combat abilities, are leaders in war and tend to be born during historical moments of crisis in the Empire. If they live in ages of peace, then they are usually great heroes or monster-slayers, chasing dragons and giants in the distant mountains.

There are, in contrast, perhaps as many as 100 Druids. They are priests and leaders for the Gallitec, or Gallitian tribes who fled into the far North and West nearly 200 years ago. The ancient lands of the Druidic Tribes are now Imperial Provinces, and most of the Gallitian ethnos are thoroughly Luxanized in culture and beliefs. In that time, however, the Druids practiced an ancient religion of human sacrifice taught to them by the Elves, to draw power out of the earth and stars in offerings of burned flesh and spilled blood. The fantastic and cruel rites of those "wild" tribes were the stuff of Imperial Nightmare, and all their holy places were leveled and all writings of the ancient religion annihilated in the great war and migration. The Druids who emerged alive, however, discovered a new source of power--in pacts with primal spirits or deities that represented a certain species of animal. Every Druid, at the end of his training, makes a pact with a certain animal-spirit and gains one as his companion and protector. Most Druids will make more than one such pact during their career.

Far from wishing for vengeance, however, the Druids have discovered (or perhaps regained) a more peaceful philosophy which encourages a simple life amongst the wilds. No Druid today wishes to go back to the old hierarchical existence of their fathers, and only a small minority of free tribesmen want to renew the war. The Druidic Order is organized into four Great Groves and several smaller Circles, but their authority is entirely voluntary-based. Every Druid is expected to serve of his own free will, and any can retire or retreat into contemplation and solitude when they wish. The Druids acknowledge the existence of the Nine Divines and respect their power, but they revere their specific animal protector or, in the ancient custom, certain natural locations themselves are worshipped as Sacred Places with a local spirit attached to it.