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D&D 5E Faith and worship in my setting

cbwjm

Hero
Just thought I'd mention how I'm approaching faith and worship on my setting. I've decided that in my setting I'm going to combine my gods into a multitude of pantheons, by this I mean that you aren't an acolyte of the skyfather, the earthmother, or the war thane but an acolyte of the pantheon that they belong to. This is technically the norm in standard DnD settings, you worship the whole pantheon, even if you have a patron god or are a cleric of a specific god. The main difference from standard DnD (as far as I know) is that in my setting, the gods can belong to multiple pantheons, each shaped by worshippers who focus on gods who represent their own values.

For instance, this is a small write up of a pantheon.

The Keepers of Knowledge
The Keepers are a triumvirate of the Sage, the Mage, and the Lady of Poisons. Each of them represents a form of knowledge: history, arcane magic, and medicine. The triumvirate is often followed by sages, wizards, and doctors. Although the Lady of Poisons offers the Death domain, this order does not practice it.

Common Terms. The Keepers, The Watchers, The Learned.
Primary Gods. Sage, Mage, Lady of Poisons
Allowable Domains. Arcana, Knowledge, Life
Commonly worshipped by wizards, doctors, sages. Civilised races who value learning. The Keepers have a large following in the Grand Duchy of Eight.

Taking the death domain of the Lady of Poisons is not tolerated in the faith.
Places of Worship. The temples of the Keepers tend to have libraries attached and often also an infirmary.
Acolyte Ability. Acolytes of the Keepers gain a bonus proficiency in Arcana, History, Investigation, or medicine and gain expertise in the skill.
Unique Spells. The Keepers have access to the following spells:
  • Any spell. Similar to wish, this spell allows a Keeper to reach into the well of all knowledge to cast a spell no higher than 3 levels lower than the spell slot used to cast the spell.
What these pabtheon writeups are letting me do, in a way that makes sense to me, is provide a special ability for acolytes (the keepers gain expertise in a skill from a limited list) as well as provide unique spells available to spellcasters who are dedicated to the faith (currently just any spell for the keepers).

Each pantheon is made up of some of the gods in my setting, the faith of the keepers of knowledge is specifically interested in the gods dealing with knowledge, both arcane and mundane. The Wyld Faith is only interested in the gods of the natural world, following gods like the Stag King, Thunderer, Earthmother, and the Four Seasons.

You'll also note that the gods listed are the primary gods. The keepers might drop a prayer to the Ocean Queen acknowledging her dominion over the sea when beginning a sea journey, but being pragmatic and focused on learning, they might also trust that the shipwright has built a sturdy ship and the prevailing weather conditions should make for a reasonable journey. In this way the specific faith can also serve as a role play tool.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Personally, I try to think in terms of religions, rather than pantheons. Both because I think not all faiths should be pantheistic, and because it frames faith in terms of what you believe rather than who you follow. It shifts the focus from the gods to the people who worship them; who are they? what does their worship look like? what are their rituals and practices? What are their foundational teachings?

Most of this ends up just being background noise. But, when you present a set of religions instead of a set of deities, it gives players who want to play clerics, Paladins, or simply religious characters, something to sink their teeth into.
 

cbwjm

Hero
That's kind of what I did with some of my pantheons. I thought first about what was important to the people and then selected gods to fit within that framework. I have one culture which follows the earthmother as the thing that was important to them was nature, and agriculture. Because of growing seasons, and perhaps due to them being the children of the earthmother, the four seasons were added to the pantheon. Finally, arcane magical traditions were eventually adopted due to cultural drift from another region so the Mage became a minor deity in the pantheon.
 

In my Greyhawk campaign, the importance is on the church, rather than the deity. For example, there are five nature deities of the Oeridians (one for each season, plus the skyfather), but there are six churches devoted to them. Each deity has a church devoted to them, but there is also the Church of the Four Seasons that worships all of them (emphasizing the current season). You could have two different churches devoted to the same deity that focus on different aspects, or one devoted to an entire pantheon.

The only time a specific deity must be worshiped is the patron deity of those who use divine magic. This includes clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, and various sub-classes. Druids and rangers can choose the Old Faith instead, which is an animism worshiping nature spirits instead.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
@cbwjm

You probably already read this. This is an excellent description of how reallife ancient polytheism works.


The author mainly focuses on Rome and Italy, but it shares similarities with other polytheistic cultures as well.



One of my takeaways from his essays is, polytheists dont believe in "faith". They mainly do whatever seems to work. And if it seems to not be working, they try figure out if they did anything wrong. After that, they start to experiment with new things. The new thing might become the thing that seems to work.
 

hopeless

Adventurer
Interesting idea what if a campaign eventually turns out for the Cleric to be a quest for the purpose their faith?
Maybe some previously unknown secret that when revealed makes them question their faith and the resulting quest is their effort to resolve that problem in a similar manner to Glorantha's Heroquest?
For example a PC Cleric finds themselves the only survivor of their branch of their faith and encountering others discovers they have lost access their patron deity is not answering their call for aid.
But the PC Cleric doesn't have that problem, turns out a relic placed in their care by a member of another faith is keeping their access open for although that other faith is elvish in origin their deity is a Celestial Archon and member of the Celestial Bureaucracy to which ALL Celestial Archons belong so him carrying that relic means he retains his access to his deity whilst others have been stripped of their access through the inability to recognise the true problem.
And solving THAT problem is that Cleric's quest.

Thank you this thread has been ideal for working out that idea shame that game is already over but at least if I ever go back I now have a better idea of what to do!
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
I pretty much let in all the PHB pantheons plus the 4E one plus the 3.5 Dragon deities and the Midgard ones.

Basically different cultures had different pantheons. I used earth map and just dumped the various races around the world but the campaign was in the Caribbean.

Dragonkin followed the Midgard Pantheon not Egypt the Egyptian one, not Greeks the Greek one etc.
 

cbwjm

Hero
In my Greyhawk campaign, the importance is on the church, rather than the deity. For example, there are five nature deities of the Oeridians (one for each season, plus the skyfather), but there are six churches devoted to them. Each deity has a church devoted to them, but there is also the Church of the Four Seasons that worships all of them (emphasizing the current season). You could have two different churches devoted to the same deity that focus on different aspects, or one devoted to an entire pantheon.

The only time a specific deity must be worshiped is the patron deity of those who use divine magic. This includes clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, and various sub-classes. Druids and rangers can choose the Old Faith instead, which is an animism worshiping nature spirits instead.
I've only created a handful of faiths for my campaign, and will create more as I need them, but of the ones I have, a number of them are devoted to some of the same gods but different parts of their portfolio. For instance, the dual goddess named the Lady of Poisons is at once a good aligned goddess who has brought medical knowledge to the world but she also have a darker aspect followed by assassins. She grants the two domains of life and death (though if you know a good pestilence-like domain, let me know). The Keepers are followers of her good aligned aspect and clerics of the faith are only able to choose the Life domain. The dark elves follow her darker aspect as part of the faith of The Tyranny, clerics of the Tyranny are only able to choose the Death domain.

The Sun god is a god of order and civilisation, but the wyld faith follows only the solar aspect, largely ignoring the rest. Any of their myths would be unlikely to incorporate his aspect of civilisation.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I pretty much let in all the PHB pantheons plus the 4E one plus the 3.5 Dragon deities and the Midgard ones.

Basically different cultures had different pantheons. I used earth map and just dumped the various races around the world but the campaign was in the Caribbean.

Dragonkin followed the Midgard Pantheon not Egypt the Egyptian one, not Greeks the Greek one etc.
In my current campaign, I decided to create a relatively tight group of deities, this lets me keep the numbers of gods small but I can create faiths that utilise the same gods. Different pantheons put different gods as the head of the pantheon, or as in the case of the Keepers the 3 gods form a triumvirate, each on equal footing.

I guess I don't need to keep track of all the gods for a game with all of the pantheons in DnD, but I'm finding I'm liking my current set-up as it also lets me create a temple to the faith rather than a temple to a single god then worry about cramming in shrines or temples to various other deities.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
In my current campaign, I decided to create a relatively tight group of deities, this lets me keep the numbers of gods small but I can create faiths that utilise the same gods. Different pantheons put different gods as the head of the pantheon, or as in the case of the Keepers the 3 gods form a triumvirate, each on equal footing.

I guess I don't need to keep track of all the gods for a game with all of the pantheons in DnD, but I'm finding I'm liking my current set-up as it also lets me create a temple to the faith rather than a temple to a single god then worry about cramming in shrines or temples to various other deities.

I normally do something similar.
 

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