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5E Are "evil gods" necessary?

Coroc

Hero
.... Look at the various pagan religions from our world. Despite how they have been written up in all the editions of D&D, how many of them would even be truly Evil? A lot of them have grey areas to what they are patrons of and would only be evil, or even more Neutral with evil tendencies.
....
There you picked an interesting topic, the major monotheistic real world religions do have the same Lucifer / Satan incarnation of evil. But if you get further into the lore you find different demons/devils. They are usually fallen angels in eternal punishment, so they never outrank God or are equal in power.

The situation in fantasy realms is more complicated. In several official pantheons the highest creator god is (true) neutral and does never interfere directly. His subordinates are of equal power some are good some are evil some are neutral.

If you were to install e.g. one big bad overlord versus one good overlord instead, then you get a problem if players get enough power to confront the big baddie: If they win they destroy the balance as well as their biggest challenge, ending the campaign.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
You could mostly remove deities and have angels, devils, demons, and the like be defined by how they relate to something more abstract.

Thought experiment: in the Astral Sea there is the idea/object of the “Mandate of the Heavens,” which defines the will of the cosmos. The Mandate has always been there. Does it come from a deity? Some believe so. Angels believe that they are called to serve the will of the heavens. Devils believe that the Mandate gives them the power to rule. Demons believe that the Mandate should be destroyed, so they oppose Celestials in their desire to preserve it. Neither Elementals nor Fey Lords care about the Mandate, but they loathe when other Outsiders interfere with their respective domains.

So sort of a mix between the Dawn War/World Axis Mythos and Eberron’s Draconic Prophecy Model but without deities.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Another way to look at it if one were trying to justify having good gods without having evil ones would be the idea that god equals archangel on the alignment wheel.

For the most part, the four groups fall into the wheel nicely... angels are LG, fey are CG, devils are LE and demons are CE. Now obviously there are outliers here and there, especially when it comes to the named individual characters from these groups. Zariel was an angel then became a devil. Lloth was a fey and then became a demon. Grazz't is a demon but compared to his fellow demon lords is probably closer to NE than he is CE (if we look at someone like Yeenoghu as the most chaotic of them all.)

So what if the "gods" of a particular setting were merely the named, individual characters from the angel group? The folks in the Prime call them gods where they could just as easily call then archangels because their cosmological influence on the world is the same. Now obviously this is a much different cosmological idea than any of the established settings use so it's not an idea that would or should be used to retcon any of them. But instead, it's an idea that can raise the profile of archfey, archdevils, and archdemons to the level of what we normally think of as deities for those who might want that sort of thing.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I would PERSONALLY prefer fey as CN but I understand that is not how D&D chose to go about it.
I can understand that. But I also can understand it from the perspective that the fey are like the divine forebears of the elves and forest gnomes and as PC races are usually leaned in the direction of good characters... the writers want those forebears to reflect that. But absolutely there are archfey that aren't considered CG at all... The Queen of Air and Darkness, the Prince of Frost, Baba Yaga etc.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
My point is that, in REH Conan, the gods play no role in the stories. There are demons (eg as in The Phoenix on the Sword) and there are magicians, but there is no evidence of divine action in the world (the closest we get to that that I can think of is The Hour of the Dragon, but to the extent that that story involves providential good fortune it is not mediated through priests/clerics).

This isn't an accidental feature of REH Conan either. It's about its modernist character.

In a Conan game there would be no need to have a cleric class distinct from other sorcerers, and no need to address the question raised in this thread.
Eberron works like this. A number of people swear by the Sovereign Host but others have different religions and cosmological beliefs. The gods do not actually walk the earth and there is no evidence of divine action in the world other than divine magic and classes (which are not actually dependent on the existence of gods, just divine power). Clerics are essentially sorcerers of a different stripe.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Proto-Great Wheel diagram from an article by Gary Gygax, The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons and Their Relationships to Good and Evil in Strategic Review Vol II Issue 1 (1976).

great wheel.png


I think it demonstrates the early synthesis between Christianity and ancient Greek religion in D&D. The former is understood to be lawful good while the latter is chaotic good.
 

Another way to look at it if one were trying to justify having good gods without having evil ones would be the idea that god equals archangel on the alignment wheel.

For the most part, the four groups fall into the wheel nicely... angels are LG, fey are CG, devils are LE and demons are CE. Now obviously there are outliers here and there, especially when it comes to the named individual characters from these groups. Zariel was an angel then became a devil. Lloth was a fey and then became a demon. Grazz't is a demon but compared to his fellow demon lords is probably closer to NE than he is CE (if we look at someone like Yeenoghu as the most chaotic of them all.)

So what if the "gods" of a particular setting were merely the named, individual characters from the angel group? The folks in the Prime call them gods where they could just as easily call then archangels because their cosmological influence on the world is the same. Now obviously this is a much different cosmological idea than any of the established settings use so it's not an idea that would or should be used to retcon any of them. But instead, it's an idea that can raise the profile of archfey, archdevils, and archdemons to the level of what we normally think of as deities for those who might want that sort of thing.
This, but...

Terminology-wise I don't know if we need to get rid of calling them Gods. But I see no problem with say, The Summer Queen of the Fey being just as powerful as Pelor. And both of them just as powerful as Zariel and Baphomet.

Now sure, there might be slivers of difference in power, or in the case of Asmodeus I like the idea that he isn't actually more powerful than the other Nine, he's just better at leveraging his power (I like him as the ultimate mastermind archetype) but these named characters are already considered the top of the food chain in their respective domains.

Yeah, okay, if you go deep deep into DnD lore, you find things like Pale Night which are even more powerful, but most people never talk about or use those forces, they are buried so deep, they might as well be forgotten. So, in practical terms, these are it, these are the most powerful beings in the universe.

And then, you can start cutting the chaff who are repetitive. I can't find the wikipedia page anymore, but I was looking for Demon Lords a few years ago, and there were like seven different demon lords of poison or disease, and there are another four or five gods of it.We can toss most of those. We don't need a Demon Lord of dinosaurs (actually exists) and one of savage beasts and Yeenoghu and Baphomet and the werewolf god.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
If you were to install e.g. one big bad overlord versus one good overlord instead, then you get a problem if players get enough power to confront the big baddie: If they win they destroy the balance as well as their biggest challenge, ending the campaign.
The model for dual theism is Zoroastrianism with a struggle between the Good Ahura Mazda against the Evil Ahriman. The struggle is the main point, the big theme, not a balance between the two. Overcoming the main god will end the campaign, but that would be an epic end goal for good religious characters in that set up to strive for. It also provides reasons for adventuring good characters, good is not all powerful and good winning is not cosmologically set up as an omnipotent Good monotheistic framework would suggest.
 

Hexmage-EN

Explorer
And then, you can start cutting the chaff who are repetitive. I can't find the wikipedia page anymore, but I was looking for Demon Lords a few years ago, and there were like seven different demon lords of poison or disease, and there are another four or five gods of it.We can toss most of those. We don't need a Demon Lord of dinosaurs (actually exists) and one of savage beasts and Yeenoghu and Baphomet and the werewolf god.
Hey, by demon lord of dinosaurs do you mean Azuvidexus? I like that guy!

As for other demon lords, I assume the Abyss doesn't care if there are multiple demon lords of poison running around (I don't think Chaos cares about redundancy), but those demon lords are probably competing amongst each other to be the only one.
 

Bohandas

Adventurer
On this I agree with @Paul Farquhar. A setting in which the divine is, per se, good, may still have opposition. LotR gives a fantasy example.

JRRT has no evil gods. It's a monotheistic setting.

Morgoth is a fallen angel. He has no power to create. He can corrupt, lure and dominate. It seems likely - in D&D terms - that he can cast spells, but not ones that create or conjure forth forces or beings. We know, for instance, that Melkor could not himself make the Silmarils. When Sauron makes the ring, he has to power it with his own essence (he can't create new power). The Black Captain can destroy things by speaking words of power and terror - but I don't think he can create.
IIRC I think the silmarillion refers to the Valar as gods on at least one occasion
 

Aldarc

Legend
Yes, the Valar are angels in a monotheistic universe with the serial numbers filed off, but it’s also polytheism sanitized by a monotheist.
 

Hey, by demon lord of dinosaurs do you mean Azuvidexus? I like that guy!

As for other demon lords, I assume the Abyss doesn't care if there are multiple demon lords of poison running around (I don't think Chaos cares about redundancy), but those demon lords are probably competing amongst each other to be the only one.
That was the name, cool name. I stole it for a completely different type of enemy.

And yeah, the Abyss likely doesn't care, but my players sure would.

"You face the minions of the Lord of Poison."
"You mean [A]?"
"No, the other one"
"You mean {B}?"
"No, the other other one"
"You mean... [C]?"
"No."
"Yeah, I don't think we've heard of this guy before. What is his name again?"
 

Yes, the Valar are angels in a monotheistic universe with the serial numbers filed off, but it’s also polytheism sanitized by a monotheist.
That may be clarified in further writings of Tolkien, but when I was a young teenager in the early 80's with no internet to look things up, and reading The Hobbit and LotR for the first time, I interpreted it to be there was the one top god, who created a group of lesser gods, the Valar, and another lower group similar to demigods/angels, the Maiar. Even if that is not the "official" definition of them, that is how I have always viewed them.
 





prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Because redundancy would be the only reason to find evil gods interesting ?
Maybe the other way around: If there's going to be redundancy, it had better be interesting. If we are, for the sake of discussion, going to have both archfiends and evil gawds, they should both be interesting--ideally, in different ways.
 

Maybe the other way around: If there's going to be redundancy, it had better be interesting. If we are, for the sake of discussion, going to have both archfiends and evil gawds, they should both be interesting--ideally, in different ways.
Some cosmologies are clean, some have overlap. A messy cosmology with overlap can leave a lot of room for interesting edge cases and variations. It is about what you want in a game. I am fine with clean cosmologies (I've made plenty of my own). But I think the broader appeal a game has, like say D&D) the more you are going to want some overlap, some messiness, so a lot of different flavors can be found.

The beauty of this of course, if you don't have to remove anything. Everyone is free to make their own cosmology in their own campaign, to make their own setting and publish it. I think that is a better approach that saying evil gods should go because their roles is maybe similar to other entities in the setting.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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