Building a Panteon – RPG

So one thing when playing a D&D game or any RPG where religion is involved is figuring out the pantheon that you want to use in the game. This can be as simple as grabbing one from the rule books or using the Greek or Norse mythological pantheons. But a lot of the time, people want to have their own deities, they don’t want it to be the same god’s as the Forgotten Realms, or they don’t want it to be like the real worlds pantheons. So how do you go about creating your own pantheon of deities?

Image Source: D&D Beyond

This can be a daunting task to figure out all the deities that you might need. Do the Elves, Humans, Dwarves,  Halflings, Tieflings, Orcs, etc. all worship their own god’s? If so, now you got to create not just a pantheon, but several of them.

I would go that they don’t all need their full pantheons, you can overlap some of them. If you think about it, a deity of nature might go by different names if they races are separate enough, but why would you have to have a Elven deity of nature who takes care of the forest and makes it grow and the human deity of farming that makes the crops grow be very different? That’s mainly just a lot more work for yourself. Along with that, do you need to know much about the Elven deity of the forest if they aren’t going to be part of the story? Figure out which ones you need at the start of your story and create the information on them, then if you need more, you can always add them in later as they come up.

Let me list out the pieces of advice I’ve already said and what I’m going to be talking about still, so it’s easy to understand the information:
1. Overlap Pantheons to reduce number you have to create.
2. Don’t come up with all of them, just as many as you need right now.
3. Let your players help you come up with them as needed.
4. Combine the areas that a deity might rule over.
5. Put most effort into the ones who are going to talk to your players, however that might be.

So, I’ve generally covered the first two on the list. Both of those are going to help you focus down on the number that you have to come up with, but let’s unpack them a little more.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

Overlap Pantheons to reduce the number of deities  you have to create.

Now, you might be thinking that your Elves, Dwarves, Humans, etc. are going to be very separate. So they are all going to have their own set of gods to work with, and that seems like a lot of work. You really want to keep them separate, because the Elves, Humans, and Dwarves don’t get along and if they worship the game gods you’re going to have to make them get along. I would still give them a lot of overlap and maybe a unique one or two deities for each race. The way you can have them overlap, though, so that they still won’t be worshiping the same gods is let them have different names for each race. So Etheilien the Elves goddess of the sun, Manakal the Dwarven goddess of light, and Sepheria the Human goddess of the sun can all be the same deity, but all of the races can still deny that they are the same goddess. Or maybe it’s only the Elves who simply refuse to believe that the deity is the same for all three of them because they are Elves and they are special damn it. But this is going to keep your pantheons a whole lot more condensed and easy to work with.

You don’t need to know your full Pantheons at the start.

Unless your player characters are supposed to be demi-gods who interact with the pantheon all the time, you probably don’t need to know them all. If your party is a Dwarven cleric, Human ranger, and a Halfling rogue, you can probably cut down on everything you need to know. In this case, let’s say that all of them are tied in with a deity, and that’s kind of the focus of your game, the Dwarf would need to know about their deity that the cleric follows, probably a god of the forge, the Human who has a farming background would probably know the god and goddess of nature and fertility, and the Halfling rogue would probably follow some trickster god or maybe even a dark god of assassins. But start with the ones that are plot critical and work out from there as you need more.

Let your Players help come up with them.

This can even by tied in to the one above, but you don’t need to come up with everything on your own. Maybe you know that you have a few deities who you are going to focus on who need to be in the story. So spend your time creating those, however, you also know that you want your PC’s (player characters) to be connected to deities as well, just lesser ones. When you are having session 0, let your players know that, and work with them then and help them create their own deities that you can slot into the pantheon. So, maybe the Dwarven cleric still is going to follow the god of the forge, and the rogue follows the goddess of assassins and those are normal. But then you get the Human Ranger who follows the spirit of the great toad in the sky. Now you’ve got a toad in the sky as part of your pantheon, and that’s something that will probably be unique forever to your world, but you didn’t have to come up with any of them yourself, and your players are really able to tailor the deities to their characters backstories.

Image Source: Marvel

Give your deities a broad domain to rule over.

The extreme example of this would be to have a goddess of crops who then has lesser gods and goddesses under them for wheat, corn, flax, barley, etc. That’s too much effort, especially if it isn’t critical to the story. Now, if the story is that these lesser gods and goddess are fighting which is destroying crops and sending the lands into a famine, that could be interesting, but normally, you aren’t going to need that. In fact, you probably won’t even need the goddess of the crops, just make her the goddess of life. Now her domain stretches from plants, to fertility and birth, and where ever else makes sense. You’ve probably just saved yourself from having to come up with four or five other deities for the pantheon. So keep the areas broad and that will make your work easier.

Put Your Effort into the ones who are active in the world.

It’s very possible that you will need some elder gods who haven’t been involved with your world in a long time. Maybe they are still worshiped but they are less active. With those, don’t spend as much time on them. You’re going to create some lore for them, I’m sure, but if you also have some newer gods and goddesses who are active in the world, focus on those, because those are the ones that you’re players are going to interact with, not the elder gods in the background. Just focus on the ones who are important for the plot of the story you’re telling and the ones the PC’s are going to be interacting with.

Hopefully this has made what could be a very daunting task less daunting. I would really recommend just stealing from an existing mythological pantheon. If you don’t want it to be as obvious, change up a few abilities and rename them, you could keep everything else the same, and you’ve made it yours enough that your players aren’t going recognize it easily, and even if they do, that doesn’t really matter.

Have you run an epic game about the gods and goddesses of a realm. What tips do you have for creating a pantheon?

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