After writing my previous blogpost on the Pamphlet of Pantheons, I started hunting through the trove of creation tools I have saved to see if I had any other ones saved that were also on the theme of creating fantasy religions. Fortunately for the blog, I did in Deities and Pantheons!
The Pitch for Deities and Pantheons
Deities and Pantheons is a tool that was created by Mobius Tempus (Twitter) under their studio name, Ennead Games (website). It is a generator like much of their other work, providing extensive tables to help you start to fill in the various gaps that exist in the existing world’s mythology or to build a new one from scratch.
Before I start, let’s hear Mobius’s own pitch for Deities and Pantheons:
In many ways, the deities or gods of your world should be treated as characters in their own right. They have their own desires, goals and abilities. These might be out in the open, such as preparing mortals for the end times, or they could be hidden goals, only revealed to those who prove themselves worthy. On many worlds, these beings made the planet you are standing on, the stars in the skies. They may control the very air you breathe or can guide your blade to victory. Some gods even work with or against others divine beings. Take your time with them and use the aspect tables to help fill in the blanks, or use them as a starting point. Never be afraid to roll again or to pick a result you feel works better. On the flip side, you don’t always have to throw away a seemingly contradictory or nonsense result, as these can sometimes give you the most memorable characters, or in this case, deities. But, if you need details, or at least, something to help jump-start your imagination and the creative process, then look no further.
Deities and Pantheons is designed to help you create exactly that, individual deities and the pantheon that they are a member of. Each step of the process has randomization tables that allow you to roll or choose options from the size and organization of the pantheon to a deity’s relationship with mortals and some rules their worshipers may have to follow. These tables are often quite extensive and often cover options that adapt well to non-Eurocentric fantasy cultures.
To best demonstrate the usefulness of Deities and Pantheons, I will do a little walk-through creating my own pantheon and then craft a deity that might exist in it.
To start with the pantheon tables, we are going to determine the size, composition, and organization of the pantheon. We will also figure out how they got their power, what happens to the deities when they lose their powers, and if their power has a range. Finally, we determine the afterlife for the beings involved with the pantheon or maybe in the whole world.
For our pantheon, I rolled everything randomly.
- It has 8 members that are organized into groups based on their alignment or attitudes towards mortals.
- Their powers come from the willing worship of mortals, with each deities originally being objects or creatures that were honored for such a long time that they became the deities they were thought to be.
- If the deity looses their powers they cease to exist. Since their power dervives from mortal worship, then presumably the loss of their power means they are not remembered and honored any more.
- The whole pantheon is limited to territory the size of a medium-sized empire on the world. I decided that this was because deities only have power where they are widely worshiped.
- The afterlife is based around reincarnation with the quality of their next life being based around their current one. Based on where the pantheon’s powers came about, I decided to base this on how well they were remembered by still-living people when it was time to be reincarnated… or how reviled.
Where they power came from was an interesting development for this pantheon. I could see other pantheons developing in other cultures, but being limited for the same reason. Some of them may be honored in multiple cultures but remembered for different things, leading to their powers and personalities shifting depending on where in the world they are, eventually splitting the deity into multiple beings.
It would also be interesting to see deities “die” and then come back to life as some people attempt to revive their worship in movements like Neo-paganism or simply start accidentally worshiping them because of remembering or honoring their ancestry. I can imagine a deity like getting rather resentful that they have had to change their personality, domain, or appearance because mortals are remembering them differently. Others might not mind though. For example, I don’t think Loki would mind being remembered by so many with the human form of Tom Hiddleston. (^_^)
I only created one deity to be a part of this pantheon, but oh by was it a doozy. Again, all of this was randomly rolled unless I mention otherwise.
- First step was to determine the alignment, which I rolled as Lawful Neutral.
- This deity has the physical form of an extinct creature. It normally appears in the standard size, but it has unusual eyes and a wooden body. It presents itself using a cultured voice.
- They are friendly with Neutral beings and their siblings, but enemies with non-humanoids and the rest of their family.
- I skipped the part about names, instead coming to the Portfolio. This deity’s primary domain is Fire with secondary domains in Disease and Travel.
- Their power level in comparison to the rest of the pantheon is Supreme, which makes sense considering the proliferation of fire
- They are distant from their worshipers and have a chaotic & unpredictable opinion of them.
- They use mortals to gain access to food (AKA things to burn), but also because the mortals are going to work with them to achieve some end goal
- Some rules and taboos I rolled is that the worshipers should color their hair and they are not allowed to embezzle.
- A punishment for serious religious crimes was destroying your belongings (via fire, of course)
- Common worshipers include travelers and thieves. I decided to add healers due to the connection to disease.
So we have a cold (hah!) and impartial fire deity that I have decided to call “Tapui of the Licking Flame.” The pantheon is supposed to be divided based on alignment, but I imagine that Tapui is more of a loner.
The deity’s extreme power also makes sense considering the fact that even starting a fire could be seen as a form of worship. Maybe travelers call for Tapui to protect them as they light their campfires while others my ask for help to keep a fire at bay or controlled. I could also imagine cat burglars may ask for this deity’s help to ruin the guards’ night vision with fire from their torches or watch fires.
The connection to disease is likely due to an association between fevers and sickness. The “fire” may be recognized as burning away the disease, leading to the healer needing to regulate the “burn” so that it destroys the illness, but does not fully consume the patient. The association of fire and disease may also connect to fire driving humanoids and disease-carrying animals into closer quarters due to lost homes & habitats.
I will admit, the first thing that popped into my head when I read that Tapui’s form was that of a cultured extinct animal was Bix from the Dinotopia series, so I decided to give this deity a form similar to a Protoceratops. Maybe a fossilized skull was found and the cracked, brown surface that some fossils have was confused for old wood. The unusual eyes are due to the fire that burns within Tapui, licking out if its eye sockets and maybe small holes in its form.
All in all, it was an interesting experience. I might come back and finish the rest of the pantheon at a later date.
I can’t help but compare Deities and Pantheons and Pamphlet of Pantheons. Mobius’s creation has less structure to the text, but the suggestions are much more extensive and cover more materials related to religion that are not fleshed out in Pamphlet of Pantheons like taboos or the Afterlife. There is no template to fill in, but in many ways that is it’s strength. It gives you permission to break traditions and create something truly unique.
However, it is still the responsibility of the creator to make the deity or pantheon fit the world & culture they come from. As you add more deities and additional pantheons to other cultures or parts of the world, you are likely going to need to do more picking from the tables instead of rolling because of needing to fit the mold. However, by that point you may already have a vision for how the rest of the pantheon is going to shape out. In some ways I think a hybrid of these two tools would be the ideal for a new creator, but Mobius’s tool feels more useful for an experienced world-builder or someone with extensive knowledge of real-world religions and cultures.
Where can I find Deities and Pantheons?
Dieties and Pantheons can be found at DrivethruRPG, Open Gaming Store, and Itch.io. It is also available through several different bundles on Itch and DrivethruRPG with other generators and tables produced by Ennead Games. I highly recommend going the bundle route, as it is always a great deal and a lot of the tools will synergize with one another.
One thought on “Deities and Pantheons: World-Building Tool Review”
[…] Previously I had reviewed a generator by the tool creator Mobius Tempus for Ennead Games and was quite impressed by its depth and utility. This time, I will be upfront and say that was again impressed by the quality of the product being offered. But first, some more information about Empire Builder: Settlement Overview and the series it belongs to. […]