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    Default The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Everybody likes to create their own pantheons, gods are a big part of worldbuilding. But I have found that my players are often not nearly as interested in the Gods as I am, and I think I have deduced it is because they are just so unfamiliar. When you create "Ragnos, God of Storms and War" players say ok thats cool. All they know about that god is either what you tell them or write down in a primer for your campaign, but they dont have any real cultural knowledge about this supposedly widespread deity that most people would know.

    Now if you say that the God is instead Thor the Thunderer, it may seem cheesy to have an actual Norse god in your fantasy world but I've found that players get a lot more excited about worshipping that deity and they are a lot more likely to invoke his name in battle or plea. They love to RP saying "BY THE HAMMER OF THOR" and its because in our real world there is a lot of cultural history we have for Thor that emulates exactly what a common person would know about Thor as a powerful figure.

    Same with a goddess of healing and agriculture like Demeter or Persephone. The players may not be experts in Greek mythology but they get a lot clearer idea of what this god is supposed to be than just a name and some domains. Their real life knowledge of the deity stands in for what they would know as any common knowledge, including legends that you dont have to make up! It saves a lot of work.

    It can be really fun to make your own gods, but if youre making a casual setting for your next campaign that isnt super detailed, instead of creating Ordos, god of the forge, mountains and order use Hephaestus and see how your players react to being able to worship a God that they have heard about and learned of their whole lives
    Last edited by Trask; 2016-11-29 at 12:00 PM.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    the problem with this approach, as i see it, isn't with the deities, it's with the religion(s). in most games, it's implicit that there are clerics devoted to particular gods, with their own agendas, that exist mostly separately from the other gods. that works fairly well for greek and roman - it'd be nice to have some mystery cults, Eleusis, Mythras, a few cults like Stoicism, but it's useless for celtic and norse. celtic priests were druid - devoted to everything sacred, accompanied by the bards. shinto likewise - there are temples to certain kami, and a few priestesses devoted to Amaterasu to the exclusion of all else, but not priests to other kami.

    for my bantu/african setting, i put a lot of effort into turning bantu traditional religion in a world religion, with an organized priesthood, sacred texts, sub-cults, etc. i used the real world epic heroes and their sects as part of it too (yes, bantu africa has a tradition of epic heroes and poetry. Fumo Liyongo, to name one. now i'm trying to do the same with voudu for my Nèf Guinée setting.
    Last edited by tantric; 2016-11-29 at 12:54 PM.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Yeah there's definitely a conflict in that sense but I don't think it's a super big deal at the table for D&D. A Druid draws power from the primordial force of nature itself, she may respect Dannu as the mother goddess of harvest and fertility but a D&D Druid is something different entirely from a cleric.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Trask, your opinion is commendable. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Based on experience, I find this a good approach. One of my big projects on the Forum is using a Norse D&D setting based on an old RPG as a chassis for the D&D Multiverse, I feel l that it's easier to justify the Norse, Greek and Egyptian gods in it, partially because the game it's based on also had figures from those myths in it, and partially because I'm a big fan of Age of Mythology.

    That said, I find the best way to introduce a D&D god into such a campaign, especially without forcing or dumping copious amounts of lore on new players is for the gods and goddesses of the Multiverse to have a vested interest in the plot. My wife is keen on playing the Norse Campaign as a Cleric of Loki, and I intend for Tiamat to invade the world to spark Ragnarok and steal Loki's portfolio of that world in the aftermath.

    Naturally, our resident trickster god of thieves and assassins is rather miffed at this, so that sparks a whole plot in and of itself. It's fun to build around and allow unfamiliar elements to mesh with familiar ones in an open-ended way.
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by tantric View Post
    the problem with this approach, as i see it, isn't with the deities, it's with the religion(s). in most games, it's implicit that there are clerics devoted to particular gods, with their own agendas, that exist mostly separately from the other gods. that works fairly well for greek and roman - it'd be nice to have some mystery cults, Eleusis, Mythras, a few cults like Stoicism, but it's useless for celtic and norse. celtic priests were druid - devoted to everything sacred, accompanied by the bards. shinto likewise - there are temples to certain kami, and a few priestesses devoted to Amaterasu to the exclusion of all else, but not priests to other kami.
    Somewhere - probably on this very forum - I read that D&D's standard of deity worship has too much of the trappings of modern monotheism, while attempting to seem like older polytheism. Given settings like Greyhawk, where gods are fiercely competitive and often hostile to each other, such a philosophy can work, but each cleric worshiping their own deity while ignoring and shunning all else isn't always what happened in reality. Sometimes you'll have cases like with the aforementioned Greek and Roman societies, and possibly Egyptian if I recall correctly, where different deities had their own worship bases, but I myself have always preferred settings with more holistic worship.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusk Raven View Post
    Somewhere - probably on this very forum - I read that D&D's standard of deity worship has too much of the trappings of modern monotheism, while attempting to seem like older polytheism. Given settings like Greyhawk, where gods are fiercely competitive and often hostile to each other, such a philosophy can work, but each cleric worshiping their own deity while ignoring and shunning all else isn't always what happened in reality. Sometimes you'll have cases like with the aforementioned Greek and Roman societies, and possibly Egyptian if I recall correctly, where different deities had their own worship bases, but I myself have always preferred settings with more holistic worship.
    While in some cultures each deity had its own clergy, it was rare for individual people to pick a single deity form a pantheon and dedicate solely to the worship of that deity. This is in fact something that D&D settings (and thus many RPG settings and books derived therefrom) have botched from almost the beginning, by directly or indirectly stating that a person is a "follower of X" and so on.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2016-12-01 at 10:07 AM.
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    I was having this same kind problem - getting my players to actually use the gods I made up - but I implemented a few major changes compared to how most people tend to use gods/pantheons and it seems to be really helping.

    1. I got rid of the names. It is much easier to identify which is the god of death and which is the god of war, when you call them by those labels rather than literal names. Now I also couched this in saying that they have a lot of names, and then having religious experts or scholars call them by different names throughout history - but for the players it is "yep, that's the god of peace".

    2. Very clearly tying/connecting the gods to their alignments. Essentially, it's a slightly meta explanation that the alignments are the way they are because of the gods. For example, my god of cities is LN, she's also the god of coin and generally of civilization; all because that's what me and my players think of when we think LN. This eliminates them asking if the god of freedom is something other than CG (paladin of freedom reference).

    3. Unless you're a cleric, and even then its not as myopic as it used to be, you don't think of the gods individually - you think of them as a group. You don't pray to a single god, the temple isn't to a single god, clerics don't wear holy symbols of single gods. It is all the pantheon. Part of this is due to having a hierarchy of the gods, with a king of the pantheon like the traditional real world ones. But when you revere the Norse Pantheon, you revere the whole thing, not just Odin. You recognize that Hel is part of that pantheon as well, that she has a role to play.

    4. Druids aren't vaguely shamanic and focused solely on nature as their god - they are tied into all elements of nature, including how the gods play into it. Thus, they're a nature-cleric and revere the whole pantheon as well. They recognize the bounty, the spring comes with the good goddess and wife of the king (who is NG), and they recognize the harvest, the fall/winter which comes via death of the god of death (NE). They shy away from the cities and wars and constructs of men, explaining why they avoid the corners.

    And all together this shift has really helped me to explain the gods and their motivations and for my players to actually use the gods more in their daily adventures - like saying a quick prayer to an evil goddess so she doesn't spring any traps when they go dungeon delving, that sort of thing. And then when I choose to lay on the lore, to explain how it matters I can do that, but it isn't starting with a blank canvass.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    While in some cultures each deity had its own clergy, it was rare for individual people to pick a single deity form a pantheon and dedicate solely to the worship of that deity. This is in fact something that D&D settings (and thus many RPG settings and books derived therefrom) have botched from almost the beginning, by directly or indirectly stating that a person is a "follower of X" and so on.
    Precisely. People are usually pragmatic such that they'll give reverence to whichever deity is relevant to what they're doing at the moment. D&D tries to do this, as I recall, saying things about people giving tribute to this or that god, but there's still the glaring "deity" option on the character sheet. Forgotten Realms is even worse if I recall correctly, with bad things happening if you don't have a patron deity, and I'm not even sure what happens if you don't single one out.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusk Raven View Post
    Somewhere - probably on this very forum - I read that D&D's standard of deity worship has too much of the trappings of modern monotheism, while attempting to seem like older polytheism. Given settings like Greyhawk, where gods are fiercely competitive and often hostile to each other, such a philosophy can work, but each cleric worshiping their own deity while ignoring and shunning all else isn't always what happened in reality. Sometimes you'll have cases like with the aforementioned Greek and Roman societies, and possibly Egyptian if I recall correctly, where different deities had their own worship bases, but I myself have always preferred settings with more holistic worship.
    Egyptian society in particular seems good for having competitive deities in a polytheistic mythology. Different Egyptian cities had different patron deities, and the fights between the deities often corresponded to conflicts between different cities and regions of Egypt.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis
    Egyptian society in particular seems good for having competitive deities in a polytheistic mythology. Different Egyptian cities had different patron deities, and the fights between the deities often corresponded to conflicts between different cities and regions of Egypt.
    This is kind of how D&D worship in the Forgotten Realms works too. The various cultures tend to have a very small number of dominant patron deities who largely control a city state or small nation, it's just that a single pantheon is shared across the entire multi-cultural setting rather than one cultural region.

    The thing is, if you want your setting to encompass 'the whole world' or at least a wide variety of cultures encompassing a bunch of fantasy species you have to either exercise some control over the total number of gods or reduce the deities down to just really powerful animistic spirits (which in D&D just basically means they're outsiders of some kind) rather than some form of higher being outside the standard game rules. The latter approach is the one taken by a game like Exalted, where 'god' is just another form of supernatural creature you can punch in the face and the divine hierarchy is an incomprehensible gobbledygook. Limiting the number of gods generally means that everyone gets a single worldwide pantheon and they have to make the best of it. That's what Greyhawk and Dragonlance (and even lesser-known settings like Birthright) do, and FR kinda-sorta does but it allowed in a bunch of extraneous bloat that hurts coherency

    As I see it the problem with using real-world gods drawn from traditional polytheistic mythologies is that those gods were crafted by specific cultures for the specific needs of those cultures. Having an entire world where everyone worships the Norse pantheon, for example, doesn't really work unless your setting is about Germanic-type people. A Chinese-style culture that worshipped Thor and Odin just wouldn't work out. Those deities would not lead to a culture that inspired those values.

    So if your setting is not-Rome, go ahead and use the Greco-Roman pantheon, that makes perfect sense. Otherwise you'll need to be a bit more creative.

    The trick with D&D is that most settings are built around a high-middle ages template that was heavily monotheistic and that draws primary inspiration from a fantasy source - Tolkien - that was also Christian to the core. So you have to try and come up with a polytheistic pantheon that would represent a variety of pseudo-European cultures that were pretty much all Christian+various pagan inspirations (heck the druid class basically represents pagan holdovers operating in the primarily Christian environment of defined church structure). Representing various cultures tends to lead to pantheons that are bland and generic rather than the richly tailored culturally derived (and mythology-enhanced) ones we have on Earth.
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The trick with D&D is that most settings are built around a high-middle ages template that was heavily monotheistic and that draws primary inspiration from a fantasy source - Tolkien - that was also Christian to the core. So you have to try and come up with a polytheistic pantheon that would represent a variety of pseudo-European cultures that were pretty much all Christian+various pagan inspirations (heck the druid class basically represents pagan holdovers operating in the primarily Christian environment of defined church structure). Representing various cultures tends to lead to pantheons that are bland and generic rather than the richly tailored culturally derived (and mythology-enhanced) ones we have on Earth.
    Part of it is that the cleric itself is rather Christian-centric. Aside from the fact that a lot of classic clerical spells are based on Biblical miracles and that the granting of such miracles is very much akin to miracles in Judeo-Christian theology, the cleric class exists in contrast to an older religion, uses heavy armor as a front-line crusader for the faith, and is often referred to (particularly in older editions) in terms of existing in a very Catholic-style church hierarchy. In 2e, this was even more explicit because the books explained that the clerics were supposed to be priests of a specific mythos and that if one wanted to be a priest of a different one, one should come up with a new class, using the druid as an example. 3e and later helped the clerics be different with the different domains, but since those all just changed what was tacked on to the base chassis, it still didn't completely shake loose the Christian origins of the cleric.

    So in my latest campaign setting (2e), I decided "Why fight it?" and made all the clerics part of a militantly monotheistic religion under an international hierarchy. If you're a cleric, you worship Shekhilin. If you worship another god, you are a pagan and not welcome.

    Also, when I first read the title of this thread, I thought it was calling for more deities of the earth element.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    This is kind of how D&D worship in the Forgotten Realms works too. The various cultures tend to have a very small number of dominant patron deities who largely control a city state or small nation, it's just that a single pantheon is shared across the entire multi-cultural setting rather than one cultural region.

    The thing is, if you want your setting to encompass 'the whole world' or at least a wide variety of cultures encompassing a bunch of fantasy species you have to either exercise some control over the total number of gods or reduce the deities down to just really powerful animistic spirits (which in D&D just basically means they're outsiders of some kind) rather than some form of higher being outside the standard game rules. The latter approach is the one taken by a game like Exalted, where 'god' is just another form of supernatural creature you can punch in the face and the divine hierarchy is an incomprehensible gobbledygook. Limiting the number of gods generally means that everyone gets a single worldwide pantheon and they have to make the best of it. That's what Greyhawk and Dragonlance (and even lesser-known settings like Birthright) do, and FR kinda-sorta does but it allowed in a bunch of extraneous bloat that hurts coherency

    As I see it the problem with using real-world gods drawn from traditional polytheistic mythologies is that those gods were crafted by specific cultures for the specific needs of those cultures. Having an entire world where everyone worships the Norse pantheon, for example, doesn't really work unless your setting is about Germanic-type people. A Chinese-style culture that worshipped Thor and Odin just wouldn't work out. Those deities would not lead to a culture that inspired those values.

    So if your setting is not-Rome, go ahead and use the Greco-Roman pantheon, that makes perfect sense. Otherwise you'll need to be a bit more creative.

    The trick with D&D is that most settings are built around a high-middle ages template that was heavily monotheistic and that draws primary inspiration from a fantasy source - Tolkien - that was also Christian to the core. So you have to try and come up with a polytheistic pantheon that would represent a variety of pseudo-European cultures that were pretty much all Christian+various pagan inspirations (heck the druid class basically represents pagan holdovers operating in the primarily Christian environment of defined church structure). Representing various cultures tends to lead to pantheons that are bland and generic rather than the richly tailored culturally derived (and mythology-enhanced) ones we have on Earth.
    This is a good point but I would counter by saying that most settings I have made or encountered as a player encompass a more contained cultural/national region and so the belief in the pantheon could be reasonable for a fairly related group of peoples. Theres also the solution that the pantheon is not international and other cultural groups worship different pantheons and these pantheons are opposed to others.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusk Raven View Post
    Somewhere - probably on this very forum - I read that D&D's standard of deity worship has too much of the trappings of modern monotheism, while attempting to seem like older polytheism. Given settings like Greyhawk, where gods are fiercely competitive and often hostile to each other, such a philosophy can work, but each cleric worshiping their own deity while ignoring and shunning all else isn't always what happened in reality. Sometimes you'll have cases like with the aforementioned Greek and Roman societies, and possibly Egyptian if I recall correctly, where different deities had their own worship bases, but I myself have always preferred settings with more holistic worship.
    Greyhawk had competing human pantheons, but within those pantheons it was quite possible for people to honor multiple individual deities -- even multiple at the same time. Off the top of my head a good example might be the Suel goddess Bralm, who was usually honored during endeavors which required mass coordinated labor, and that labor was usually also within another deity's domain.

    In original D&D, a Cleric wasn't asked to pick any particular god. There were no domains, no "spheres", no specialty priests of different religions. Original D&D has Clerics who were compatible with monotheism and polytheistic pantheon-ism.


    It seems like Forgotten Realms (during 2e) started the terrible tradition of trying to force every mortal to choose ONE god above all others, which as you say is a poor fit for a polytheistic setting.


    Other more modern settings, including Eberron, can account for pantheon polytheism.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Counter to the OP:
    GM: "We're just going to use the Norse pantheon so you don't have to read up on who Ragnos the Thunder God is."
    Players: "OK, cool. So we've got Thor instead as the good of thunder and war. And Loki the trickster, but we don't worship him because he's always the bad guy. And Odin who's the god of... War, also? I guess? And who else? Baldur is the cute one, right? So the god of bards and probably war too, cuz Vikings really like to fight. Who was the girl? Freya? The goddess of war for Viking girls who like to fight?"

    Your players have never heard of Ragnos the Thunder God because you just made him up for your campaign. They have heard the name "Thor" before, but how much do they actually know about him? Unless your players are a bunch of asatru heathens, they might be more familiar with Thor from the Marvel movies. In that case, you be better off using the Avengers as your pantheon.

    Actually, now that I think of it, using superheroes as gods is probably better than using real pantheons if you want your players to see the gods as more than just a cardboard cutout that says "god of thunder" on it. Most people know Poseidon was the god of the sea, but that's it. But he was also the god of earthquakes and horses and Jon Bonham's 20-minute drum solo. The whole point of the Trojan horse was to trick the Poseidon-worshipping Trojans to bring the "offering" inside the city. It was a horse for a reason. When you reduce Poseidon to "sea god", you lose all that detail.

    If your smith god is Hephaestus, you get a god of smithing (and maybe people will remember that he was also an ugly cuss with bad legs). If your smith god is Iron Man, you get a whole personality: he's not just good at forging metal, but he's a womanizing, alcoholic, technological hyper-genius. You could have that with Hephaestus too, if your players are really well-read on Greek myth. Unfortunately, in most cases, I think you'll find that he just gets reduced to "god of smithing and, uh, fire? Because you need fire for forging metal. Maybe Earth, because metal comes from the ground? Or is Earth already taken by what's-her-face the cereal-growing goddess?"

    Another counterpoint: What if you aren't just looking to bolt a pantheon on top of your campaign setting? Not everyone says "Here's the campaign world! It's an awesome world of swashbuckling adventure on tropical island archipelagos inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Oh, wait, let me slap some deities in there, cuz clerics gonna cleric, right? Everybody know who Thor is?"

    Using a famous real world pantheon only works for settings that match the environment that spawned that pantheon. The Norse pantheon is fine if the rest of the setting is also like Northern Europe. If you're trying to do Eastern Europe and Slavic myth with bogatyr facing Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless, then using Thor or Hephaestus instead of Veles and Perun will only be counterproductive because it will "break the mood". In Western Europe, the Celtic pantheon would be a better fit and the Greek or Roman pantheon would obviously be better if you're using a setting inspired by Southern Europe. If your setting is in an analog of China, Japan, or a generic fantasy pastiche of all of East Asia, then no European pantheon is appropriate.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    In that case, you be better off using the Avengers as your pantheon.

    Actually, now that I think of it, using superheroes as gods is probably better than using real pantheons if you want your players to see the gods as more than just a cardboard cutout that says "god of thunder" on it.
    Black Widow: God of Trickery & Luck.

    Hulk: God of Strength & Fury.

    Iron Man: God of the Forge & Wealth.

    Thor: God of Thunder & Family.

    Captain America: God of Paladins & America.

    ... yeah.

    I'd play the heck out of that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Black Widow: God of Trickery & Luck.

    Hulk: God of Strength & Fury.

    Iron Man: God of the Forge & Wealth.

    Thor: God of Thunder & Family.

    Captain America: God of Paladins & America.

    ... yeah.

    I'd play the heck out of that.
    No. You're reducing them down to a couple of spell domains for clerics and losing all the personality again. Black Widow also has keen personal insight for reading people. She can tell when you're lying, she can figure out what makes you tick, and she can push your buttons to calm you down or tick you off. Hulk is strength and fury, but he's also Bruce Banner, the meek and gentle scholar. Hulk could be a focus of worship for barbarians AND wizards, thanks to his dualistic nature. Iron Man is forge and wealth, but also hedonism and flamboyant showmanship. He's not just a tank. He's a tank with a big spoiler and racing stripes and a mural of a naked lady riding a dragon painted on the side.

    Gods are much more interesting when they have interests in addition to powers. Tony Stark doesn't just make useful stuff that works well. He makes stuff that looks cool. He's Hephaestus and Dionysus and the Tinman who found a new heart. Iron Man and Dr. Doom both make powerful mechanical stuff, but you can tell the difference between an Iron Legion robot and a Doombot because Doom doesn't care if it looks slick as long as it's functional. They've got different personalities even if they have similar "domains".

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    No. You're reducing them down to a couple of spell domains for clerics and losing all the personality again.
    No, you're wrong.

    What I did was list (two of) their domains as short-hand to show that they cover enough mechanics to be a viable pantheon.

    You're making the mistake of assuming that, because I'm discussing mechanics, therefore I'm ignoring personality -- or, even worse, you might be assuming that mechanics = personality.

    Those are terrible assumptions to make, and they detract from the quality of any possible conversation.

    Please stop that.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    Using a famous real world pantheon only works for settings that match the environment that spawned that pantheon. The Norse pantheon is fine if the rest of the setting is also like Northern Europe. If you're trying to do Eastern Europe and Slavic myth with bogatyr facing Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless, then using Thor or Hephaestus instead of Veles and Perun will only be counterproductive because it will "break the mood". In Western Europe, the Celtic pantheon would be a better fit and the Greek or Roman pantheon would obviously be better if you're using a setting inspired by Southern Europe. If your setting is in an analog of China, Japan, or a generic fantasy pastiche of all of East Asia, then no European pantheon is appropriate.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    As I see it the problem with using real-world gods drawn from traditional polytheistic mythologies is that those gods were crafted by specific cultures for the specific needs of those cultures. Having an entire world where everyone worships the Norse pantheon, for example, doesn't really work unless your setting is about Germanic-type people. A Chinese-style culture that worshipped Thor and Odin just wouldn't work out. Those deities would not lead to a culture that inspired those values.
    Both of these arguments are true in real life from a socio-anthropological perspective.

    Then again, this is D&D, which both a fantasy kitchen sink, and which also presupposes that the gods are independent of what mortals think of them as. It's a chicken and egg kind of thing.

    Yes, you can argue that a society of certain values produces certain deities and thus certain rituals associated with them. But that also assumes that the mortals created the gods in their image, rather than vice versa. The argument goes both ways, of course, but since, in D&D, the gods are real and affect the lives of mortal directly, I would start with the opposite notion.

    I don't see any problems with letting the Asian-based cultures worship Thor, the Egyptian-based ones worship Amaterasu, and the Norse-based ones worship Tiamat. Since the gods of D&D seem to have a vested interest in having mortals of other realms, planes and realities worship them, then what's wrong with having a historical pantheon trying to invade another world to gather followers? It's basically the mythical equivalent of colonization.

    Call me old-fashioned, but the gods should have the power to shape the lives of mortals, not the other way around!
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by DiceDiceBaby View Post
    Both of these arguments are true in real life from a socio-anthropological perspective.

    Then again, this is D&D, which both a fantasy kitchen sink, and which also presupposes that the gods are independent of what mortals think of them as. It's a chicken and egg kind of thing.

    Yes, you can argue that a society of certain values produces certain deities and thus certain rituals associated with them. But that also assumes that the mortals created the gods in their image, rather than vice versa. The argument goes both ways, of course, but since, in D&D, the gods are real and affect the lives of mortal directly, I would start with the opposite notion.

    I don't see any problems with letting the Asian-based cultures worship Thor, the Egyptian-based ones worship Amaterasu, and the Norse-based ones worship Tiamat. Since the gods of D&D seem to have a vested interest in having mortals of other realms, planes and realities worship them, then what's wrong with having a historical pantheon trying to invade another world to gather followers? It's basically the mythical equivalent of colonization.

    Call me old-fashioned, but the gods should have the power to shape the lives of mortals, not the other way around!
    In the setting I was / will be working on, it works both ways. There's a feedback. Gods and "great spirits" of various sorts are able to impact the lives of mortals, but the beliefs of mortals can affect their powers and scope and "portfolio" (I try desperately to avoid the "meta" and terminology that's become standardized for D&D deities, I really do loath what D&D overall and thus many other RPGs do with gods and religion...)

    In the sorts of settings that are most common to fantasy fiction/RPGs, the fact is that culture, religion, values, "divine personalities", etc... they're all interwoven and all arise out of the same cauldron of human mental-social soup together. Thor doesn't represent overall Chinese values, and Amaterasu doesn't represent overall Egyptian values, and... so on. A culture that gives rise to Thor won't look like China, and a deity like Thor won't give rise to a culture that looks like China. It doesn't work either way.
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    i've been thinking...never good. part of this has to do with how religion is used by society. a shaman or witchdoctor in a hunter-gather group just isn't the same as a priest in a bronze age society. an ethnic religion isn't the same as a world religion. when a kingdom, for a single culture, grows into an empire of many cultures, it typically the local religion grows to a world religion that can unite different cultures.

    you need, at least, a tribal shaman, a bronze age priest of an ethnic pantheon (norse), a priest of a particular divinity and a priest of an entire religion - be it christian or buddhist or flying spaghetti monster.

    the buddha was originally quite opposed to his followers taking on the trapping of religion. his followers came to him and said, other faiths have holidays and ceremonies, our followers feel the need for such. the buddha said, let them have holidays and ceremonies. they came back and said, teachers from other faiths stay in one place and minister to a flock. the buddha said, let them stay in one place and minister to a flock. at last, his followers said, other faiths have temples and shrines - the buddha replied, let them build temples and shrines.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    Now if you say that the God is instead Thor the Thunderer, it may seem cheesy to have an actual Norse god in your fantasy world but I've found that players get a lot more excited about worshipping that deity and they are a lot more likely to invoke his name in battle or plea. They love to RP saying "BY THE HAMMER OF THOR" and its because in our real world there is a lot of cultural history we have for Thor that emulates exactly what a common person would know about Thor as a powerful figure.

    Same with a goddess of healing and agriculture like Demeter or Persephone. The players may not be experts in Greek mythology but they get a lot clearer idea of what this god is supposed to be than just a name and some domains. Their real life knowledge of the deity stands in for what they would know as any common knowledge, including legends that you dont have to make up! It saves a lot of work.

    It can be really fun to make your own gods, but if youre making a casual setting for your next campaign that isnt super detailed, instead of creating Ordos, god of the forge, mountains and order use Hephaestus and see how your players react to being able to worship a God that they have heard about and learned of their whole lives


    I agree and have observed this myself. I think that in addition to saving work for you, the DM, historical and well-known gods are much better because people know their personalities, and it helps players actually play rather than just sit around and learn about the culture of your world. Until I DM for a group of people who are willing to spend 5-10 hours getting a 100% immersion course in a fantasy world I have created (most standard immersion techniques tend to come after character creation,) , I will be using either extremely simple religions or real-world ones.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by DiceDiceBaby View Post
    Yes, you can argue that a society of certain values produces certain deities and thus certain rituals associated with them. But that also assumes that the mortals created the gods in their image, rather than vice versa. The argument goes both ways, of course, but since, in D&D, the gods are real and affect the lives of mortal directly, I would start with the opposite notion.

    I don't see any problems with letting the Asian-based cultures worship Thor, the Egyptian-based ones worship Amaterasu, and the Norse-based ones worship Tiamat. Since the gods of D&D seem to have a vested interest in having mortals of other realms, planes and realities worship them, then what's wrong with having a historical pantheon trying to invade another world to gather followers? It's basically the mythical equivalent of colonization.

    Call me old-fashioned, but the gods should have the power to shape the lives of mortals, not the other way around!
    The issue there is that, while normally a culture shapes gods, here the gods shape the culture, yet you'd still have a similar effect, with each deity either overtly, subtly, or unconsciously shaping cultures to fit its own image and values. It'll be less direct than in the real world, but those cultures worshipping Chinese gods will take on some of the values of those beliefs, for example. Or so I'd imagine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    I was having this same kind problem - getting my players to actually use the gods I made up - but I implemented a few major changes compared to how most people tend to use gods/pantheons and it seems to be really helping.

    1. I got rid of the names. It is much easier to identify which is the god of death and which is the god of war, when you call them by those labels rather than literal names. Now I also couched this in saying that they have a lot of names, and then having religious experts or scholars call them by different names throughout history - but for the players it is "yep, that's the god of peace".

    (...)And all together this shift has really helped me to explain the gods and their motivations and for my players to actually use the gods more in their daily adventures - like saying a quick prayer to an evil goddess so she doesn't spring any traps when they go dungeon delving, that sort of thing. And then when I choose to lay on the lore, to explain how it matters I can do that, but it isn't starting with a blank canvass.

    THIS. Not using made up name(for some reason made up names makes players bored) and tring to make the gods actually interesting and part of the world was the key for me.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    I can see two major problems with this approach:

    Firstly, just because you use these gods, doesn't mean people know about them. Okay, 90% of gamers know of the Greek/Roman pantheon...Or do they? Most people know of the Olympian gods, but probably not much else outside of that. I'm betting Cloacina gets forgotten a lot.

    But what of those who HAVE researched the gods? Well, did they research the same version as you did? Probably not! Thing is, many of these pantheons have been kicking around for a few centuries across multiple places. Some of which have stopped making much sense to a modern audience. Then you have the issue of historians adapting or changing the ancient records to fit their purposes, tastes or fetishes, so there's many valid or confusing interpretations of gods.

    For instance, most people know that Aphrodite was formed from the naughty bits of Uranus cast into the sea. Well...Sorta. Another verison was that she was the daughter of Zeus and Dionne, his wife. His other wife, apparently. I think it got so confusing for the Greeks themselves that they just decided there were two of them (Yes, two Aphrodites) and left it at that so they didn't piss off a potential god.

    Secondly, the problem of morality, which is not very close to our own. Using the Norse as an example, they had thralldom where they would kidnap people and either sell them or keep them as slaves. It's a little hard to see a god supporting the practice of slavery being anything but evil. Even if you do not play with an alignment system, that's uncomfortable territory for a lot of folks.

    Sure you could remove the uncomfortable bits, but...Then you get the issue of what to do about Hades kidnapping HIS OWN UNDERAGE NIECE TO MARRY. (Keep in mind, it wasn't just legal, but sometimes legally required for a woman or girl to marry her uncle in certain parts of Ancient Greece.) It's actually quite important to the mythology, so removing it does make for some gaps.
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    I think using real world gods for DnD is lame and dumb. This holds when DnD settings do it too, especially when "disguised" with random names. Mulhorandi pantheon can go right off and **** itself, for example.

    However, OP is %100 factually correct. People do get a lot more invested about game's gods when they know them. On top of that, basically every other opinion in this thread is also correct. Everyone's brought up valid points both for and against the matter (which is strange).

    The best compromise I've found is to just use the regular DnD gods. Pretty much all of nerdom knows about Tempus and Pelor and Lolth and Bane and their ilk and, very importantly, their knowledge about these dudes is usually functionally equal to their knowledge of real world mythology. It's the best of both worlds and more or less identical to making a pantheon out of Avengers (which is also a cool idea but DC is kinda more suited to that by default).
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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Pronounceable View Post
    However, OP is %100 factually correct. People do get a lot more invested about game's gods when they know them.
    It is not the gods you use, it is how you use them. A lot of Homebrew Worlds do two things:

    1. Make a long list of gods unknown to the players and not like other known gods

    And

    2. Decides religion, and alignment, is not important in the world and freedom rings everywhere and anyone can do anything.

    So, why does a player even care about Zenob the god of crabs?

    But if you make a religious, alignment based setting...the gods are much more important.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post

    So, why does a player even care about Zenob the god of crabs?
    Honestly, most players would get super excited about Zenob the god of crabs because it's eccentric. I know I would.
    Last edited by Potato_Priest; 2016-12-11 at 12:56 AM.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Potato_Priest View Post
    Honestly, most players would get super excited about Zenob the god of crabs because it's eccentric. I know I would.
    I'm going to have to find a way, somehow, to add that to my own setting. To some setting.

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    I know that I wanted to make a serious and well-thought out comment regarding integrating mythological pantheons into D&D settings... But ever since the prospect of using the Avengers/Marvel superheroes as templates/inspirations for a divine pantheon was brought up...

    What would the Drow be like, if they worshiped SPIDERMAN in lieu of Lolth?

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    Default Re: The Case for Earth Deities in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusk Raven View Post
    I'm going to have to find a way, somehow, to add that to my own setting. To some setting.
    The Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting has a species of crab-people called the Karkanak. It also has deep sea drow (dark sea elves) who worship an evil crab goddess called Saloth.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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