log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Racial Deities

Eubani

Hero
What are peoples thoughts on racial deities? Are they good or bad and why. Pro and Cons. Do they add anything worthwhile flavorwise?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Li Shenron

Legend
Personally I have never liked them, and I have usually reflavored them into something else.

For example, I normally just say that Moradin is the god of mountains. Dwarves are free to call him the god of dwarves, but that mostly means it's the dwarf to choose Moradin and not the other way around. It's ok that Moradin is especially fond of dwarves, but to me it's not ok for a deity to be just the patron god of a single race of creatures. I tend to represent deities as more encompassing than that, and often a bit more fuzzy and abstract.

Similarly, I have often presented racial pantheons as legendary heroes or great ancestors, rather than true deities.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I personally found the "raising" of several racial deities (Moradin, Corellon, Gruumsh, Lolth, Bahamat, Tiamat) to "standard" deities in the 4E cosmology was awesome. I liked the fact that there weren't gods for specific races anymore, but rather that there were just gods... and while certain races might favor one god over others (so dwarves on the whole tended to worship Moradin more than other ones), any being could worship any god.

It always seemed that for those settings where races had their own pantheons, members of the non-human races oftentimes would still worship the "human" deities anyway... and yet it seemed extremely rare for the inverse to occur-- a human worshipping a non-human deity. And that kind of "humanocentric" way of looking at things just struck me as odd and didn't really sit well with me.

So to just wipe those away in 4E... to pare down the pantheon so that there was only one god that you might consider "dwarf-like" and one that was "elf-like", and "orc-like" etc. etc., but all of whom were still popular and worshipped by humans, and the few "human-like" gods were popular and worshipped by the other races too equally, was a bonus step as far as I was concerned. And as a matter of fact... I've begun prepping my potential next campaign and setting it in one of lands in the Nerathi setting (that of the Nentir Vale). And in keeping with this idea of non-specific racial deities being standard deities for everyone, I've actually expanded the 4E cosmology to include several more:

- Garl is the god of humor, trickery, and natural skill, and is a favored deity of the gnomes
- Yondalla is the goddess of family, security and tradition, and is a favored deity of the halflings
- Maglubiyet replaces Bane and is the god of aggression, conquest and instinct, and is a favored deity of the goblinoids

Thus with now 13 good deities and 9 evil ones... pretty much every one of the primary races in the setting has a god they favor, but which are not exclusive to that race, every being can and does worship every other one. And I find this much more interesting and compelling for me than having a pantheon of 30 "human" gods, and another 10 "dwarf" gods, and 10 "elf" gods, and 10 "gnome" gods and "halfling" gods and "orc" gods and "drow" gods etc. My new pantheon is much more manageable and interesting to me.
 
Last edited:

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
What are peoples thoughts on racial deities? Are they good or bad and why. Pro and Cons. Do they add anything worthwhile flavorwise?

I love them. The 2e Monster Mythology is still one of my favorite supplements. Read it if you haven't yet.
 

Irennan

Explorer
What are peoples thoughts on racial deities? Are they good or bad and why. Pro and Cons. Do they add anything worthwhile flavorwise?

I'm really fond of them, but only when their history and what they are is strictly tied to that of their people. For example, in the Realms the elves and their gods (which includes the drow and their gods) share a special kind of relationship. They aren't just names to worship, they have been and still are pillars of the history of those races, they greatly influence their cultures, mindset and so on--sme of them have made their goals and quests all about their people. They are also very interesting characters on their own. The Realms were lessened when WotC tried to take away a lot of them in 4e, and I'm really happy that the Sundering/5e Forgotten Realms restored *all* of them

Some people say that deities are abstract or something along those lines. IMO some deities should be that (greater deities that embody vast concepts, like a deity of magic), but some others should be concrete. There's nothing wrong with a deity embodying the concept of a race. IMO, having such figures who have all that importance to their people only adds depth and flavour (note that I don't care whether you call them exarchs, heroes, demipowers, w/e. What matters to me is that they are there, important to their people as a deity would be).
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I often found that having such a large quantity of gods in the lore makes the selection of a deity meaningless for many players: they read through the the first 20 and say ''whatever, I'll take this one''. This is why I use the Dawn War pantheon, with only 8 or 9 gods of good and 9 evils, the choice is easier and they can easily notice the difference between two of them. It also allows human players to worship ''racial'' deities, because they also cover a more generic folio. A human arcana cleric could be worshiping Corelon because of his domain over Arcana, even if he isnt an Eladrin.

I still use the lesser gods of the old pantheon as exarch, exalted or angel of a specific deity, eg: Maglubiyet is an exarch of Bane, Vergadain is an exalted of Moradin etc
 

Depends on whether the deity is an actual god. While most of Eberron's deities, (whether gods or not) aren't racial, there are some elf-specific ones. (The undying court and the Spirits of the Past), which both embody elven ancestors. A human might be able to gain power from them if they had enough elven blood in them, but otherwise they are pretty much Elf or Half-Elf only.
 

Irennan

Explorer
I often found that having such a large quantity of gods in the lore makes the selection of a deity meaningless for many players: they read through the the first 20 and say ''whatever, I'll take this one''. This is why I use the Dawn War pantheon, with only 8 or 9 gods of good and 9 evils, the choice is easier and they can easily notice the difference between two of them. It also allows human players to worship ''racial'' deities, because they also cover a more generic folio. A human arcana cleric could be worshiping Corelon because of his domain over Arcana, even if he isnt an Eladrin.

I still use the lesser gods of the old pantheon as exarch, exalted or angel of a specific deity, eg: Maglubiyet is an exarch of Bane, Vergadain is an exalted of Moradin etc

That's why IMO, it's all in the presentation. Offer a list with the main deities of the setting, and most people will pick from it. Those who want to go more in-depth and take more niche deities will also have access to deeper lore, which wouldn't be forced on anyone. However, a lot of deities add much flavour to the setting, because they tell a lot of about culture and uses, and about their people. They add even more to the story an to the world when they are involved in the history of their people. It's like in RW, where pantheons included tons of niche deities (and recreating that feeling--a lot of local deities--was Ed Greenwood's goal in creating the Realms). They contribute to making the experience more immersive, as I see it.

In this way, both those who want a more focused choice, and those who enjoy variety will be satisfied. The DM will also be provided with more tools to portray the world, and more plot hooks and potential storyline if they want to, without being forced to read about all of that.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I also liked 4e's universal deity list. I tend to use the notion that the gods are more interested in expanding their portfolio than in getting souls (so if Lolth is the goddess of strife and discord, she gets more power the more strife and discord there are in the mortal worlds). Organized religion and shaping "chosen" races are efficiencies--there is always somebody working on your portfolio.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
Depends on the setting. For one home brew, I use them for some races, but not all. This is the same way that, say, Eberron has the Aerenal and Valenar "racial" religions, but there's still a big bucket-o-gods that span races. I would be totally open to gods that are defined only by portfolio, without racial portfolios. I could also see worlds where every god is patron to a specific race, potentially with multiple patrons per race. Or, even, gods by portfolios with races that tend to gravitate towards certain portfolios.

What I don't like, though, is a situation where each race has a handful of racial gods but humans have a billion gods -- or, human have no gods and the billions are just "general purpose". While I do prefer a human-centric game, I find that to be somewhat jarring. If it's human-centric in the extreme, then just do no racial gods or one, max. If it's anything else, then it just doesn't make sense.

Actually, what makes the most sense is to have the big-bucket-o-gods divvied up into pantheons. Those pantheons are worshiped by various cultural groups, some of which happen to also be racial groups -- assuming the setting's races are segregated. Just don't intermingle the Norse, Greek, and Sumerian (as an example) deities as if they were one group while separating out the fairy folk from the Tuatha de Danann.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
I also liked 4e's universal deity list. I tend to use the notion that the gods are more interested in expanding their portfolio than in getting souls (so if Lolth is the goddess of strife and discord, she gets more power the more strife and discord there are in the mortal worlds). Organized religion and shaping "chosen" races are efficiencies--there is always somebody working on your portfolio.
This. I tend to go with a similar idea. Worshiper count has a similar root cause as expanding the portfolio, but isn't always an even thing. If craftsmanship is held in high regard, Moradin tends to get more prayers, offerings, etc. and is probably best served by answering them, if the metaphysics allow for it. If there's a lot of strife, it doesn't mean that Lolth is going to get more worshipers; she might get more prayers for mercy, but that's not the same thing and she's not served as well by granting those prayers.

This also plays into how mortals can ascend to divinity, in one of my home brews. If a mortal can tie themselves tightly to a given concept, they can ride the same tide as the gods. This is actually what makes humans "special" in that setting -- their soul is actually more able to do this than the other races. Not a ton, mind you, but with millennia and a large enough population, it's a non-zero number of ascended humans. Meanwhile, elves have spirits (this comes from the setting's origin in 1E) and have absolutely no ability to attain divinity -- they were actually celestials who gave it up before recorded history and that's a one-way trip. Psionics is also a manifestation of this divine force. Divine casters borrow power from other beings, arcane casters shape cosmic energy, but psions actually have enough personal power to do something with -- just like the gods, but on a smaller scale. Humans are psionic more often than any other race and elves can never be psionic (again, 1st edition origin).
 

Mephista

First Post
Racial dieties were always.... odd. Like, in Greyhawk and FR, you had "general" gods. Were they the human pantheon? Area pantheons? What? They just didn't quite make sense to me.

On the one hand, I do like the idea that different cultures had different gods. Elves had different cultures, ergo different gods. But? This became all elves, irregardless of local elf culture, or all dwarves, irregardless of culture, etc. It became very odd.

Like others have mentioned, all in all, this is a very human-centric view of the different planes, and it rubs me the wrong way. Its a kind of implicit fantasy racism that feels off. Its like the cliche of the going to viist a generic town. What kidn of town? Invariably human one.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
This. I tend to go with a similar idea. Worshiper count has a similar root cause as expanding the portfolio, but isn't always an even thing. If craftsmanship is held in high regard, Moradin tends to get more prayers, offerings, etc. and is probably best served by answering them, if the metaphysics allow for it. If there's a lot of strife, it doesn't mean that Lolth is going to get more worshipers; she might get more prayers for mercy, but that's not the same thing and she's not served as well by granting those prayers.

This also plays into how mortals can ascend to divinity, in one of my home brews. If a mortal can tie themselves tightly to a given concept, they can ride the same tide as the gods. This is actually what makes humans "special" in that setting -- their soul is actually more able to do this than the other races. Not a ton, mind you, but with millennia and a large enough population, it's a non-zero number of ascended humans. Meanwhile, elves have spirits (this comes from the setting's origin in 1E) and have absolutely no ability to attain divinity -- they were actually celestials who gave it up before recorded history and that's a one-way trip. Psionics is also a manifestation of this divine force. Divine casters borrow power from other beings, arcane casters shape cosmic energy, but psions actually have enough personal power to do something with -- just like the gods, but on a smaller scale. Humans are psionic more often than any other race and elves can never be psionic (again, 1st edition origin).

That is an interesting take on psychics.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
That is an interesting take on psychics.
Thanks. (I'm taking it as a compliment, anyway.)

It shows the versatility that psionics have traditionally had, in terms of how they can integrate into a campaign setting. It's also the sort of thing that has me skeptical of the Mystic and the path that they seem to be taking with psionics in 5E -- including the occasional mention of a tie to the Far Realm. I wouldn't tell anyone that they had to treat psionics as divine spark, but I don't like anything that restricts that sort of creativity, either, even if it's only a "soft" (i.e. flavor in a sidebar) limitation.

On the other hand, the 5E Sorcerer class is now pretty psionics-like, with the exception that you're still tied to VSM components instead of it actually feeling like you're tapping your own power in a very raw way.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
Thanks. (I'm taking it as a compliment, anyway.)

It shows the versatility that psionics have traditionally had, in terms of how they can integrate into a campaign setting. It's also the sort of thing that has me skeptical of the Mystic and the path that they seem to be taking with psionics in 5E -- including the occasional mention of a tie to the Far Realm. I wouldn't tell anyone that they had to treat psionics as divine spark, but I don't like anything that restricts that sort of creativity, either, even if it's only a "soft" (i.e. flavor in a sidebar) limitation.

On the other hand, the 5E Sorcerer class is now pretty psionics-like, with the exception that you're still tied to VSM components instead of it actually feeling like you're tapping your own power in a very raw way.

It was. I just got called away for a bit midpost. That is a nice story set up, and fits in a Malazan-style set up where ascension is step on the way to godhood and you have more impact/gravity/I'm not sure how to describe it on the metaphysical world that is different than just being really good at magic.

It is funny, but I think the mystic feels like what the sorcerer should be (more fun with points, doing things with magic that no one else can).

Edit: I would also like to say that I like the notion that humans are really good at a particular class. Although I tend to lean to humans being better at multiclassing then other races, this gets around the "boring human" problem quite nicely.
 
Last edited:

Mercule

Adventurer
It is funny, but I think the mystic feels like what the sorcerer should be (more fun with points, doing things with magic that no one else can).
Irony: The mystic is a better sorcerer than the sorcerer and the sorcerer is a better psion than the mystic.

Edit: I would also like to say that I like the notion that humans are really good at a particular class. Although I tend to lean to humans being better at multiclassing then other races, this gets around the "boring human" problem quite nicely.
I'm kinda torn on this. When 3E came out and removed the race/class restrictions I was irritated. It actually didn't take that long for dwarven wizards to grow on me, though. By the time 3.5 came out, I actually didn't like the whole "favored class" nonsense -- actually, that shoehorn may have been part of what changed my tune.

At this point, I'd say that I'm "over" the class thing altogether. By that, I mean that I really don't think that much about classes, anymore. They're rules constructs that can be used for certain character concepts. Yes, each class represents a certain archetype and should do it well. After 35 years of playing D&D, though, I've seen enough "archetypal rangers" that I don't need another one. The irony there is that I'm pretty opinionated on what that archetypal ranger should and shouldn't be and about the mechanics that should and shouldn't be part of the class.

The same goes for races, to an extent. I don't want races that are too strongly tied to specific classes or even archetypes -- no more "humans with facial prostheses" acting as stand-ins for different human cultures. If you're going to have a non-human character, the race should matter beyond statistic benefits. It should be at least somewhat alien, like the elves from my setting. Either that, or go the Eberron (or Talislanta) route and have a variety of races that have some differences, but aren't alien in any way. In both cases, saying a race is particularly good at a given class isn't beneficial, IMO.
 

In my homebrew setting, I handled gods and pantheons in a way inspired by the interpretatio romana - all cultures and races worship the same beings, but they may do so in different ways or give them different names. For instance, the chief god worshiped by the dwarves is the same entity as the humans' god of craftsmanship, the chief god of the orcs is the god of war, and so on. Elves are animists and ancestor worshipers, but that's an entirely different story.
 

To me, it really depends on what type of campaign you want. Some settings, such as FR, have established that the non-human pantheons exist. Some don't have them, like the original Greyhawk, but lack many good options for several races. If you were to make your own pantheon, I'd strongly suggest not using them, and having a single divine pantheon to choose from. A neat idea that requires a LOT of work is to create the different pantheons, which are actually all the same. The gods have different names and appearances, along with slightly different dogma, but the goddess of love is the same for humans, elves, and dwarves (even if they don't accept this as truth).

It always seemed that for those settings where races had their own pantheons, members of the non-human races oftentimes would still worship the "human" deities anyway... and yet it seemed extremely rare for the inverse to occur-- a human worshipping a non-human deity. And that kind of "humanocentric" way of looking at things just struck me as odd and didn't really sit well with me.
The DMG actually provides a reasoning behind that. Non-human pantheons are generally tight pantheons, similar to the Norse pantheons. You have a primary "father" god, and the rest of the gods are honored equally (except for the occasional rogue member). Human pantheons tend to be loose pantheons, where people just worship whomever. Thus humans are less likely to find a place in the tight non-human pantheons, while non-humans are usually more welcome in the various human churches. It makes a level of sense, but I prefer my human pantheons to also be tight pantheons.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I think the D&D handling of gods is pretty goofy, and "racial" gods doubly so.

I like approaching deities as being religions, not high level monsters. This is the approach taken by Al-Qadim back in the '90s and Eberron back in the aughts. Worship of a specific religion becomes a function of culture, not DNA.

Now, you could argue that elves worshipping Corellon Whatshisface is an aspect of elven culture, not the elven race, and so forth. I suppose I could been buy that argument to an extent. But when you look at the many many many ways religion influences real-world lives, a hodgepodge of deities seems sillier and sillier. Do the elves use a different calendar than the dwarves, and from the gnomes? How about bugbears? Kobolds? Mind flayers? Do the nymphs, centaurs, satyrs, and wild elves each have completely different days of rest and festivities? Seems like a stretch to me.
 

Irennan

Explorer
But when you look at the many many many ways religion influences real-world lives, a hodgepodge of deities seems sillier and sillier. Do the elves use a different calendar than the dwarves, and from the gnomes? How about bugbears? Kobolds? Mind flayers? Do the nymphs, centaurs, satyrs, and wild elves each have completely different days of rest and festivities? Seems like a stretch to me.

To me it makes perfect sense. Even we humans have a lot of different days of rest/festivities and what you have. In the Realms, even humans use different calendars than other humans. That makes even more sense considering language barriers and absence (or sparse accessibility) of the fast travel and communications of our modern world. Why would that be problematic or illogical?
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top