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How do you make your fantasy deities?

canologY

Registered User
Validated User
In my fantasy world that has 52 different religions (and cultures) I took a collection of interesting people from throughout history and used caricatures of the actual person as the god. The god in turn had an effect on the races/cultures that each god made. So the god based off Caligula is insane and is as likely to ignore attempt to cast divine magic through him (or cast the opposite spell) and all the males have hemophilia. The god based on Benny Hill is a glutton and loves bawdy limericks, etc and so do his people. Others include Joan of arc, Jeffery Dahmer, Elizabeth Bathory, Genghis Khan, and 46 others... :)

The nice part about doing it this way is that it's easy to make decisions about what the religion would feel like by just thinking about the person it's based on.
 

Stephen Lea Sheppard

Be seeing you
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RPGnet Member
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It depends on what I'm trying to do.

For example, my current fantasy setting idea features only gods that are actively or passive-aggressively hostile to man, and I'm stealing Eidolons and l'Cie from Final Fantasy XIII and Occuria and Espers from Final Fantasy XII. (Man, Eidolons are so great. When, as the chosen servant of a god, you are at your lowest point, when all seems lost, and when everything seems most futile, the gods send an angel to kill you, because fuck you, whiner. And if you can overcome your angst-fest in time to survive the assassination attempt and overpower it, you get it as a pet!)

(In my head, I call this setting Enemy Gods. I got the idea by hearing the title of John Wick's Enemy Gods and imagining what such a game might be before I heard the full description.)
 
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fhans

Retired User
I'm trying to think up about 4 to 8 gods for an upcoming campaign, and I'm kinda stuck on how to make them. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to build religions and deities in a setting?
Unless for some reason it (the potential deity in question) will be important to the campaign itself I let the players develop their own religions. I like to be surprised too.:)
 
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Arevashti

Aspiring World-Builder
Validated User
Some of mine are from real-world faiths and mythologies, although twists got put on them. Others just kind of developed out of concepts.
 

BASHMAN

Basic Action Games
Validated User
I've always liked to keep my setting "pseudo-medieval Europe". And what would medieval times be without an all-powerful church?

To this end, I created the "Theodoric Church" as a monotheistic religion that honors a martyr executed by the Tharan Empire named Theodoric who rose from the dead (without anybody casting a raise dead spell on him). The Church of Theodoric clergy can cast spells of healing, protection, and light by default. In addition, there are numerous holy orders devoted to various saints that grant access to an additional different type of magic. St. Ignatius for example gave access to Fire magic.

When I moved the setting from beyond the middle ages into the early modern period, I also added an analogue to the Protestant Reformation/Calvinism called the "Predestants" for their belief in predestination. They also shun all magic, considering it all to be vile sorcery granted by demons. The fact that Theodoric priests can use magic is all the more proof to them that they're right. Instead of being able to use magic, Predestant ministers had resistance to magic.

I also had an analog to the Church of England called the "Church of Abeland", which was basically the Theodoric Church with the serial numbers filed off. Instead of priests, they had "vicars" and the head of their church was the King of Abeland instead of the "Patriarch" (which was what the Theodoric Church head was called).

In addition there was the Kretian Orthodox and Ruvian Orthodox churches in my nations that were analogous to Greece and Russia, respectively.

The setting also had analogues to Judaism and Islam, but they weren't as fleshed-out.

In the age before the rise of Monotheism, the different lands worshiped pantheons of gods. Which gods depended on which culture they were analogous to. So the Tharans worshiped Roman gods, the Tpygeans worshiped Egyptian Gods, the Nordicans worshipped Norse Gods, etc. For nations that had no historical analogue (like the subterranean kingdoms of dwarves and orcs) I created new pantheons based around Stone, or War, etc.
 

Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
I'm trying to think up about 4 to 8 gods for an upcoming campaign, and I'm kinda stuck on how to make them. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to build religions and deities in a setting?
If the game has deity-driven powers, like D&D, I try to make sure there are gods appropriate to the kind of characters PCs want to play. 4e (prior to the addition of spheres in Complete Divine) basically shoehorned you into using the "official" gods or thinly-disguised versions in order to tie in appropriate feats and Channel Divinity powers. I also try to tie the gods into the local culture, and I prefer to keep it vague if multiple gods are struly distinct, or are aspects of the same god. In my metaverse, gods compete for worshippers, and taking over the worshippers of one god by simply pretending to be him if he's distracted or weak is a common tactic. Likewise, if your rivals don't know all your names, you have an edge -- they may not know whom to attack.

Here's a pretty typical write-up from my current campaign:
The Shifting Kingdoms
Many of the gods of Caranail are still worshipped, in various forms, in the Shifting Kingdoms, but other gods have attained prominence as well.


The Gods

Graith
Good

Graith, "The Feathered God", sometimes takes the form of Epidexipteryx , albeit man-sized. (They are known as Graithel in High Imperial, or Brightfeathers in Common.) He also takes human form, where he is a handsome young man with clean, boyish, features, dressed in a cloak of bright feathers, constantly shifting in color and hue, according to his moods, which are known to be mercurial but usually benign. He is a deity of art, music, and joviality in general, but unlike many such gods, especially those still popular in what remains of Caranail, he has little darkness to him. He is not a deity of violent dabauchery and debased passions, but of the enjoyment of all that is fine in life, of pleasure without other's pain. There are many legends of him seeking entry or admission to parties and gatherings, and blessing or cursing those there based on how he is treated.

When angered, which is rare, his feathers turn from blue and gold to brilliant reds and oranges. His wrath may be direct and violent, but usually, his playful nature wins out and he imposes punishments both fitting and amusing.


Tenets Of The Deity
Your joy must not be at the cost of another's.
The purpose of life is pleasure.
The creation of beauty is the purest form of worship.

Domains of the Deity
Creation
Love
Skill

Channel Divinity
Sing In Unison (Harmony of Erathis)

When all sing in harmony, the song is stronger.


Incarnations, Exarchs, And History
A significant factor in the expansion of the empire of Caranail was that they simply inserted themselves at the top of whatever hierarchy they found in place (assuming it didn't need to be eradicated completely). This included religion, often by teaching certain local gods were either different faces of, or exarchs of, Caranailian gods. One minor god in Caranail was Singer After Storms, who was usually portrayed as a brightly-colored archeaopteryx or as a young man with a cloak of bright feathers. The humans who lived in the northern jungles had a pantheon of mostly bird or pterosaur oriented deities, and thus Singer After Storms was placed into that grouping and the others became somehow related to him or merged with him, over time. (Another remnant of the flight-based gods that preceded the empire is the Blackflock Queen, who takes the role that the Empire assigned to the devourer.)

Some aspect or analogue of Graith is known through the eastern half of the Shifting Kingdoms, going at least as far west as Demenzard and the other nations near the Gibbering Wastes. Specific deities and figures mentioned in stories may be a god in their own right in some, an exarch of Graith in another, and an avatar or renamed Graith in a third. (This is typical of most deities; the idea that a god can have many aspects who are both independant of each other and also the same being is well known and commonly accepted, though this has never ended debates over the precise boundaries and nature of these relationships.)

As a simplification, a term for "an aspect of a god which might be the god, or not" is facet.

Some of the most common of these facets, for Graith, are:

Valaraith, also called the Cloud Herder: "Groundclouds" are a common domestic animal, a flightless bird which has been bred to be round and especially thick with white and grey weathers, giving them a cloudlike appearance. Valaraith appears as a young man in the garb of a groundcloud herder, but he herds actual clouds, shooing them away from the sun and bringing fair weather after a storm. Drought is a very rare occurence in the Shifting Kingdoms, but floods are not; Valaraith is invoked if the rains go on too long, or more symbolically, to end times of personal or civic darkness or strife. Somewhat unusually, when he is portrayed in bestial form, he is a featherless, but brightly colored pterosaur, shown as screeching after the clouds and scattering them.
Talvanitul, the Radiant Warrior: Talvanitul is most commonly shown as independant of Graith, and is most likely an Exarch or even a true deity of the old pantheon who has been downgraded in myths (but not necessarily in reality; who knows what is true on the Astral Sea?). In his human form, he is usually shown as a man in his late twenties, older than Graith usually appears, dressed in either leather armor bedecked with jewels and feathers (his oldest and most primitive image), or in plate armor of golden metal, set with a thousand jewels (this image dates from the Imperial era and is still common today). Usually, he is a rescuer or liberator, rather than a conqueror or a defender; he arrives to drive back an enemy when all seems lost. Most human soldiers, mercenaries, and guardsmen in Tullisain and Valtisain will carry a symbol of him and call on him in battle.
Vaz, the Trumpeter: Some scholars of religion and history feel Vaz was a purely Imperial godling who somehow got worked into proto-Graith mythology. Others disagree. Vaz is often seen in tales of Talvanitul, but also appears on his own. His image is that of a young man, either in light armor or in traveling cloths, carrying the headpiece of a small hadrosaur, one polished to bring out striations of amber, grey, and white. He is a herald, messenger, or entertainer, and in some versions, especially those from areas heavily influenced by Caranail, a seducer and tempter, though never one who leads into harm or true misfortune.
 

Rasmus Wagner

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Banned
In the fantasy setting I'm working on, there's the Church of the Light - it's within us all, and some people give up mortality to become saints - disembodied light-beings. Then, there's those who work Dark magic. And then, there are the Old Gods - of harvest, the ocean, childbirth and dark places, and so on. The next empire over has a large pantheon of active gods, somewhat Chinese inspired, and a sufficiently worthy hero can be invitied to join them.
 

chiguayante

biggest sword of them all
When I make up fantasy deities, I start with the ideology, then work backward to the idol. I think about what this god's worshipers believe and extrapolate a divinity from that.
I've done that before too and like it. Hmm, this civilization is kind of like the romans if the romans were tieflings. Their religion idealizes ambition, strength and community and runs on a Ayn Rand/Anton LaVey love child philosophy. So their gods will be Asmodeus (god of ruthless cunning and ambition), Bane (god of strength, battle, conquest), and Erathis (god of civilization, communities, stability). Then you fit the gods to the religion because even if the next country over worships some of the same gods, they'll see them a bit differently.
 
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