This is the second installment in a five part series where I take you through my process of creating your own pantheon, from the beginning steps in part one, to a deeper dive about your deities in part three, and finally a finished example of my Syvega Pantheon in part five.
In part one 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 functioning group of deities for your game that have enough depth for a campaign where details can be filled in as needed. Today we look at ways to expand the pantheon, chiefly through the use and distinction of Major and Minor deities.
As we talked about in part one, it shouldn’t be too hard to condense a pantheon by combining like or opposes domains that a single deity can watch over. Going the other way proves tricky as we may struggle with how to deal with multiple deities of the same domain. The best I have been able to come up with is to introduce minor deities into my games.
The good news is using minor deities doesn’t change anything from step one, other than potentially adding some more repetitions to the process of naming and questioning your deities. I will keep the 7 deities I’ve already come up with and designate them as Major deities; that is they are the most powerful and generally most well-known deities and their mastery over the domains is greater than anyone else’s. In a way this is very freeing. Let’s revisit Edison, our God of Light. We already know a lot about him, most importantly that he is a catch-all for light-based things. This includes things such as fire and the sun as we outlined in part one.
But what if we were to create a minor Light domain deity, Prometheus, who is the minor God of Fire? He would encompass Light the same way Edison does, but in a much narrower way. He has no control over the sun, no magical light or otherwise- just fire. His worshipers are his own, with their own needs, and should be given the same treatment as far as questions go. However, now that we’ve decided to introduce minor deities I would be sure to think about how they interact, if at all, with the major deity they are associated with.
Another example would be, should your game include the Death domain and you have a god of death, adding a minor god of Undeath. Does the major Death god see any issues with undead? Perhaps they want people to be truly dead, not walking abominations. Or maybe they don’t and they are fine with using the dead in that way. Maybe there’s a major goddess of life, and a minor goddess of fertility or family. Whatever specific elements you want a minor god for, you can add them. And usually you can get away with doing less work on them than the major deities unless you plan on showcasing the minor deity in your campaign.
Let’s taken an example from the Syvega pantheon. In the game I’m running I have 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 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 into one domain? I’ll share two more minor deities that both are part of the nature domain in the Syvega pantheon. 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 sustain you, 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 actually belongs to both death as well as nature, but seeing as how he interacts with living beings and thrives on them, it’s enough to make the connection to nature even if in a corrupted sense.
Another concept I want to touch on, which I just touched upon with Plargbouth and mentioned in Part 1, is the idea that a deity can have multiple domains that overlap. For example, most deities in the Syvega pantheon 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. This is by no means a necessity, but it is a good way to start building some early connections between your deities before we dive into that in Part 3.
One thing I do want to call out is the notion that, unless you really enjoy making up deities, you should be creating what is good for your game without going overboard. Is having minor deities a need or a want for your game and group? Will having more than one deity per domain go unnoticed and be more work than it’s worth for you? Or maybe this is something you and your players will thoroughly enjoy and build upon as your game goes on. 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 and get your brain working. You may even create a better deity to take over a major slot than the one you already have written down!
In Part 3 we’ll take a look at how to connect your deities to each other as well as to their followers. We’ll then in part four and five give you some more questions you can inquire of your deities as well as give you the full Syvega Pantheon as an example.
Until then, get working on your minor deities and let us know how your pantheon is looking!
Category: Roleplaying Games