Thursday, October 18, 2012

A World of Angels and Demons

Okay, so I'm still really stuck on how to develop interesting, flavorful deities for my new campaign world.  I've already laid down that there is a small group of enigmatic Primordial deities (temporarily called the Totemas, a la Final Fantasy), a set of major but limited nature deities such as the sun god, earth goddess, and divine elemental dragons, and then finally the "everyday" deities which reign over particular regions or locations (although their followers can be in communion with them from anywhere inside the world).

These "everyday" deities are the survivors or remnants of armies of powerful beings from some other realm of existence who fought each other for centuries in the War of the Angels and Demons.  The Demons fought to control or destroy, the Angels to thwart the Demons and protect the native inhabitants of the world.  After the gates to their origins were sealed, cutting off reinforcements, the number of combatants dwindled in the wars.  Eventually they fell back and regrouped in certain areas, unwilling to risk a decisive battle with their limited forces.  A few were left isolated or sought solitude alone, but most ended up in groups (now pantheons) with dominion over a particular geographic region.

Now, one meta-concept I'm using is that a deity's power is in proportion to the number and righteousness of his/her/its followers.  Thus there is a tendency, particularly by the power-hungry Demon deities, to enforce worship.  The inhabitants of their dominion will be raised with constant religious instruction or guidance.  Heretics and apostates must repent or be executed.  Followers of other deities should be converted or compromised.  Holy wars occur and have deep divine significance.  Thus not only is it important to come up with a cast of divine characters but I will need to lay out which geographic regions are their dominions and work their influences into the culture of each dominion.  A grand imperial dominion ruled by a pantheon of major Demon deities will be a very different place than a small island with a single minor Angel deity watching over it.

My earlier Dorky or Dynamite posting laid out the possibility of using historical pantheons, maybe with the original names or maybe with new names to disguise them.  The history buff in me is fascinated by the historical aspect, but I wouldn't feel proud of taking the slacker route.  And what would the players think about it?  I really should design them all from scratch.

If I design from scratch the first step will be to drag out the map, which I have roughed out in Hexographer, and decide on the geographic dominions.  These will be the dominions of the major pantheons and major individual deities.  The smaller minor deity dominions can be filled in later, as their dominions will typically be too small to appear on the world map at its current scale; plus, it will be better to create them as needed for plots and stories as the campaign unfolds.  Once I have the number of domains decided upon and the number of deities for each domain with a pantheon I can begin filling in the blanks.  I decided early on to use a structured approach to designing the world and I plan to continue in that vein for the deities.

Now, the terms "angels" and "demons" are ones given to the "newcomer" deities by the First Races (humans, elves, and dwarves) based on how they treated the native peoples.  Not all of the "angels" are pure paragons: some are quite rather neutral, most have personality quirks, many have a touchy sense of their own nobility--especially after many, many centuries of worship as gods and goddesses.  The "demons" mostly really are definitely evil.  Some are relatively neutral, but none are kind.  The grouping of deities into pantheons allows for some common threads to connect the member deities.  For instance, all the clerics of a relatively Lawful pantheon might use red and gold, but each deity having different types of hats, vestments, holy symbols in those colors.  Thus there is room for variety both between and within various pantheons and lots of room for quirky lone deities tucked away here and there.  I like the idea of having lone deities so that players who really don't like any of the ones I've created (perish the thought!) can work with me to design a new one.

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