View Full Version : Worldbuilding: ditching the pantheon?

2008-09-16, 04:29 PM
A continuation of thought exercises for my 4e campaign setting.

One design conceit I chose early on was to ditch the pantheon of gods that is central to many campaign settings. Instead, one creator god crafted the world, then disappeared/was killed/etc. In the god's absence, the world flooded with divine power. The celestial ranks, missing their leader, retreated and awaited a sign of their creator's will.

The divine spark flowed through the world, creating streams that aligned with certain ideals. In time, those that committed themselves to those ideals found themselves able to tap into those streams of power. Even more impressive are those whose presence in the world altered the flows of power, causing power to flow to them and enabling them to do great things.

Shards of power exist everywhere, from many sources. Those who amass power find themselves drawn to more powerful causes. In time, the ripples caused by their presence extend beyond the world, and they answer a higher calling, taking part in the greater struggle of the cosmos.

The effects of all of this are clearly felt in the daily lives of the everyday folk. A religion exists to celebrate the Guiding Light of the creator, a figure local priests assure the congregation is "out there, watching." Even if the mightiest angel summoned by a legendary cleric can't confirm this belief, the people believe, and faith really can work miracles. Bad things still happen to good people, but under the right circumstances, the light's power makes itself known.

While popular among mankind, the Guiding Light is not the only religion. Nature worship is extremely popular, especially in rural communities. However, a third type of worship, originating with the demihuman races, has become popular. Cults of worship, centered around heroic legends of old, have offered guidance to those who seek a more specific path for their life. Government workers worship Erathis, who founded the first great human city. Mages pay their respects to Ioun, founder of the arcane library at the Tower of Sight, or Corellon, who turned magic into an art form. These legends started as ordinary people who went on to do extraordinary things, and they have not been forgotten.

Of course, not all are of benevolent mind and deed. Cults spring up around some of the greatest villains, worshiped by those who wish to leave their own mark on history. Magic can lead to contact with extraplaner entities, who offer dark secrets and even darker power. Even more disturbing: some of the ancient prime evils from the days of creation may still be around...


The intent was to combine the removal of deities with 4e's themes of epic ascension, with the idea that people are still going to want to look to something bigger and more important than themselves. However, I'm hoping to flavor hero worship (in particular) and its effects on the world so it's not just "gods in masks."


2008-09-16, 05:25 PM
Do it. It sounds awesome.

2008-09-16, 05:36 PM
It also allows the Demigod Epic Destiny to work more cleanly. Hero Worship can literally make you a divine! Also, it can be a major goal for various BBEGs, since gaining divinity is fairly easy.

For Nature worship, may I suggest throwing some animism in? Perhaps divine sparks get "collected" in the natural world, producing Holy Grounds and sometimes spawning mystic creatures tied to the spark and the Ground.

This allows for Shrines that can produce minor magic effects, and loci that are very important for aspiring powerful figures to control.

Nice work, BTW. :smallsmile:

2008-09-16, 06:02 PM
You might wish to do some heavy reading in Greek and Roman mythology, then (assuming you haven't already). Ancient Greek culture is rife with hero worship, as attested by so many minor shrines to various figures such as Heracles and Asclepius, and even figures of relative modernity (in Roman culture, Divus Augustus, for starters) had deific status. I think you've got a really neat idea there, and getting a thorough sense of cultures that have actually practiced such worship will inform your decision-making and make the general feel much more excellent for it.

2008-09-16, 10:14 PM
Sounds neat. You'll need to decide whether players playing a Cleric or Paladin can take any Channel Divinity feat, or if you want to limit it in some way.

If you ever decide to work this backwards into 3.5, you'll need to decide how domains get split up.

2008-09-17, 03:43 PM
I tried doing a "realistic religion" style pantheon where God was all the same (or at least, from the same historical religions) but had very different interpretations. There was some dogma that was near ubiquitous, where other pieces of dogma that was unique. My PCs hated it and didn't really understand it.

It's sound like you've got it figured out a little bit better though. I say the real way to simultaneously put fear of God and abandon from God is the presence of evil and unhappiness. You already alluded to cults and primal evils that can smirk and say they killed God or that there is no God to stop them. Of course, if you're anything like me, at the very end it somehow turns out that all this time it's been some part of God's zany plan (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ZanyScheme).

Don't forget to reflavor bards and art to have divine-heroic implications.