This is the third 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 here 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. In part two we added minor deities into the mix as a way to expand your pantheon. Today we look at ways to connect your deities together and how to go about building out their followers.
One of the most crucial things you may want to figure out is how your deities interact with one another, and even more crucially- why? You may or may not realize it, but if you went through the steps in Part One for each deity you might already have some answers built-in and waiting to be uncovered.
If you look at any pantheon from mythology, be it Norse, Greek, Egyptian, or other, you will find that the pantheon in some cases fully or partially resembles a family tree. And, if you’ve decided that your deities are descended from one another, you’ve in many ways killed two birds with one stone by virtue of answering how they came to be and starting to shed light on how they view one another. Of course, your deities do not need to be entirely related, or related at all, but keep in mind that family relationships can strengthen bonds or deepen divides between them.
In addition to or instead of any lineage, also consider what each deity stands for. If you have two gods who are brothers, and one if the God of War and the other the God of Life, chances are they are going to be at odds about things, or at the very least have different ways of viewing the world. They might outright hate each other but abstain from anything drastic due to their family bonds. A lot of this should already be informed by what we know about your deities, but now could be a good time to flesh out a little bit more. What I like to do here is approach this one deity at a time. Let’s go back to Edison.
For Edison, I will then write down the name of every other deity, starting with the main deities. Sticking with our ongoing example, this means I have six names, one for each of the other main domains. I take a look at Gale, the Goddess of Storms, which is what I have created for the Tempest domain. Well, I have established Edison wants eternal light in the world, whereas Gale uses storms as warnings and to punish wicked sailors and pirates. Where could they have common ground? I already established that they are not related, but- aha! Back in part one I had mentioned something about lightning! Perhaps lightning falls under Gale’s power, but Edison, wanting to harness such power, seeks ways to seize and steal lightning from her. This could cause a rift between them, making them anything from bitter rivals to hated enemies. Which means Edison could try everything from bartering with to trying to kill Gale for this power.
Of course not every relationship will be hostile; plenty of deities could be neutral or friendly with one another, such as Nature and Life deities depending on how you make them. In could be that deities even help each other in times of need, with Life loaning some of their power to Nature to fight back against a horde of mortals deforesting the world. Keep in mind the nuances of each deity as it relates to their domain and the domains of others, as well as their personal relationships. You can easily extend this beyond family to friendships and storied pasts should you feel inclined to flesh that out.
Of course, deities extend beyond themselves as they tend to be seen more through their followers than have direct contact with an individual. There is loads you can do here so by no means is this section exhaustive. Take a look at real world religion and see the differences from one to another; even those that all claim to be worshiping the same God go about it in different ways.
It is both easy and advisable to think of the followers of a deity as a direct extension of themselves; if Edison is obsessed with bathing the world in eternal light, his followers have made it their mission to do the same. If Edison wants to capture lightning in a bottle (literally) and kill Gale for it, perhaps his followers are willing to regularly take up arms against Gale’s followers, which has repercussions all its own. Maybe their fanaticism and readiness to violence has Edison’s followers operating more like a cult than a church and as such they are feared and shunned, forced to hide their devotion like a thief in shadows. Maybe a subset of Edison’s followers begin to like living in shadow- for there are no shadows without Light and therefore they are a product of Edison.
Ok, let’s back it up. That was some stream of consciousness thinking (which is great!), but now I’ve gone a little off the rails here. The shadow thing is a bit much, plus I was already thinking that my deity of Trickery’s followers would be shadow-dwellers, so I scrap that. Don’t be afraid to erase and back up from time to time to make sure you’re getting the best product possible.
That said, I do like the cult idea as it’s a pleasant twist on Light’s stereotypical portrayal as good and holy. What also would be a fun twist, is maybe Edison actually isn’t hellbent on stealing lightning from Gale or attacking her, and his followers has misinterpreted his will. Having miscommunications for entire groups or subsets of followers is a great way to have deities seen in a different light than their default position and adds intrigue and mystery for your players as they learn about them.
Final thoughts I want to impart on you are regarding how these followers receive communication. Are their priests that actively communicate? Or perhaps diviners who interpret “signs from above” that could potentially lead to the aforementioned miscommunications. Whatever the case, knowing this adds some flavor if you can mix it up from deity to deity.
In Part 4 we’ll provide you with a long list of potential questions that you can ask regarding your deities like outlined in part one, as well as a few alternative ideas that you can implement to spice up your deities even more. Then in part 5 you will get the full Syvega Pantheon as an example to see what a finish pantheon with this method looks like!
Until then, let us know how your deities are dealing with each other and their mortals and keep on gaming!