In part 1 of this series we laid out the foundation for making a simple pantheon based around different cleric domains that may be present in your game. Following that, you could have a fully functional group of gods with different backgrounds, philosophies, and followers. Today we continue working on it, introducing minor deities as a way to flesh it out and add more celestial bodies to the mix.
As stated last time, it should be pretty straightforward to pair up or combine different deities and one to rule over them all. The trick comes when you want to have a bigger pantheon than the number of domains you have. One way I like to accomplish this is with the concept of having Major and Minor deities.
Generally, I’ll still stick with one major deity per domain when I take on this approach. Having eight or so major deities is still a lot to have if you’re going to be adding on more, so rest easy on expanding those when you choose this method. The real magic here is the ability to break away from the domains with the minor deities. Their foci can be more abstract or narrow than major deities, as it’s assumed that the major deities together more or less cover the full gamut of the world at a high level.
The thing here is you should think about individual aspects with your minor deities. Sure, a major deity may already be the god over the death domain, but is there a god of undeath? Maybe a minor god that deals with people immediately after they die, in a limbo-like state before they ultimately go off to whatever fate awaits them. Maybe there’s a major goddess of life, and a minor goddess of fertility or family. Whatever specific elements you want a god for, you can do. Think about your campaign and perhaps specific themes or ideas you want to highlight. Having a minor deity show up that isn’t as well known adds further intrigue and mystery. After this, all you really need to put thought into is what domain or domains they would fall under by extension, and sometimes this is even abstract in and of itself. From here you follow the same process from the first article, asking questions about them and figuring out their details. Normally you don’t need to go as in depth unless you know they will play a bigger part than their minor status implies.
An example from the current campaign I’m running would include Eludaria, who is a major deity of Nature, with a focus on the balance of nature. She is served by her minor deity companion, Steventus, who is a pegasus and also specifically the god of beasts and travel. Both are of the nature domain, fairly directly at that, but Steventus is much more focused on a smaller group within the nature domain. It’s easy to look at him and say “Nature!” and move on with the rest of the process.
But what about those minor deities that don’t fall squarely? I’ll share two more minor deities that both are part of the nature domain in my world. The first is Fello. He’s the gnomish god of the arts, wine, music, food, and dance. He’s part of the nature domain mostly because food and wine come from nature, and in a more indirect way he’s connected to the innate nature of people to seek out things they enjoy. For those reasons he’s placed in nature, though unlike Steventus he has no relationship with Eludaria. Another minor deity is Plargbouth, the god of pestilence, plagues, and disease. Plargbouth overlaps with death as well as nature, but seeing as how all of his focuses interact with living beings and thrive on them, it’s enough to make the connection to nature, which is why I included it when decided on where to place him.
Another concept I want to include, which is seen with Plargbouth and mentioned in Part 1, is the idea that deitiy domains can overlap and more than one deity can take part in a domain. For example, most deities in my setting have a main domain (Eludaria has nature) but also may envelope other domains as well (Eludaria also has some sway over the life domain). Every domain has at least 2 major deities touching it, but only one that really champions it and brings it to the forefront. Minor deities similarly expand out the domains this way, and having an equal distribution or heavily favoring one domain is a great way to influence the world you are building.
The last thing I want to mention on expanding beyond the domain in your game is make sure you really decide if this is a need or a want. Will having more than one deity per domain go unnoticed and be more work than it’s worth for you? Or is this something you and your players crave and will help build up your world? Sometimes less really is more, and I implore you to think about how having a big pantheon will affect the world you build and the game you play. Even if you don’t end up using minor deities, it could be a good exercise to go through the motions. You may even create a better deity to take over a major slot than the one you already have if it makes sense within your game!
In part 3 and beyond we’ll be taking a look at a list of expanded questions to ask when molding your deities as well as how to tie them into relationships with one another, both malicious and benign. We’ll also take a look at the mortal aspect of them- their followers, be they religions, cults, or otherwise, as ways of continuing to put the polish on your pantheon.