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Critical Role The Betrayer Gods; Victims of Prime Deity Propaganda?

I want to talk about the Betrayer Gods, particularly why each one is a supposed traitor.

The Wildemount book features this quote in the section titled "The Founding":

Some gods were so full of grief and anger that they wished to leave this world behind and start anew. They tried to convince their divine kindred to join with the Primordials, allowing chaos to reclaim the realm.

I find it odd to lump all these gods together when in these two sentences some Betrayer Gods seem to just want to leave and start over somewhere else while others want join in with the Primordials.

Let's look at each one individually. I'm attempting to primarily emphasize official lore, but seeing as the pantheon and gods vs primordials origin of Exandria is very similar to 4E's Dawn War setting comparisons will be sometimes drawn.

Asmodeus - Asmodeus was an angel who fought against the forces of the Abyss that were called forth by the war between gods and primordials, perhaps freeing the other gods to ignore the demons and focus on the Primordials. He somehow became a god during this time (in 4E lore, Asmodeus also guarded the prison of Tharizdun in the Abyss until he was convinced by the demon lord Pazuzu to kill his god and become a god himself). Asmodeus still keeps the demons occupied to this day, but if he usurped his god I'm sure it wouldn't have gone over well with the Prime Deities (on the other hand, it worked out well for the Raven Queen).

Bane- Bane, as a Lawful Evil god of war and conquest, simply doesn't seem like the type to give up or ally with the Chaotic Primordials. In 4E lore he even served as the general organizing all the gods in defeating the primordials. His crime against the Prime Deities seems to be that he would want supreme authority.

Gruumsh - The Ruiner is a Chaotic Evil god of slaughter. I could see him joining the side of the Primordials. In 4E lore he also wages war against Bane, so I can't see him following Bane's leadership in a campaign against the primordials.

Lolth - Lolth's established backstory in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes basically amounts to her convincing the original elves to take defined, mortal forms, which angered Corellon so much that he cast the primal elves out and won't let their souls remain long in his realm after death. Lolth tried to kill Corellon over this, escaped, and creates her Demonweb tethered to the Abyss while her followers were driven by Correlon's followers into the Underdark. In 4E lore, Torog welcomed the drow to the Underdark on the condition that they stay mostly loyal to Lolth (as the god of torture, Torog's condition that the drow stay true to their cruel goddess was his way of torturing the drow race). Lolth obviously despises Corellon, but beyond controlling the drow race her motivations are hard to pin down. It's difficult to say when her chosen people entered the Underdark; regardless, the Tal'Dorei setting book depicts Lolthite drow civilization as on the brink of annihilation by the monsters of the Underdark, and the Wildemount setting book establishes that so many drow have abandoned her for the Luxon that she's been forced to call non-drow to her service. I imagine that Lolth would have liked to leave with her drow for another world, but didn't have the opportunity. Her Betrayer God status could be less because she joined the Primordials and more that she and her followers didn't help the Prime Deities.

Tharizdun - The Chained Oblivion is established to have already been imprisoned by the gods before the war with the Primordials even happened. He dreamed the Abyss into reality around his prison, and demons did not emerge from the Abyss until the start of the war. These details amusingly contradict the 4E lore of the Dawn War, where Tharizdun was the only betrayer god to join the side of the Primordials and after the Primordials were defeated created the Abyss with a Seed of Evil granted to him by the last demon lords of a dying multiverse.

Tiamat - The Scaled Tyrant is listed as Lawful Evil in Exandria, which already contradicts multiple 5E sources giving her alignment as Chaotic Evil. The metallic dragons, which are associated with Tiamat's rival Bahamut, are said to have already been created before the war with the primordials. Tiamat is also said to have been imprisoned by Bahamut in Avernus, which presumably happened sometime after Asmodeus became a god, which would put the timeframe after the beginning of the war with the primordials. I can't see any reference as to what her crime was, but given that Bahamut and the metallic dragons were around and in a role of guardianship before the start of the war it may be possible that Tiamat had sided with the Primordials. Maybe Tiamat believed her chromatic dragon children would thrive in the Primordials' world, or that after the Prime Deities were defeated she and her children could defeat the remaining primordials and rule unopposed. In 4E lore, Bahamut and Tiamat were created when a dragon god called Io was split in half while fighting a primordial. I only mention this because it was one of my favorite details of the Dawn War setting. Perhaps Io once existed in Exandria's history as well, but split into Bahamut and Tiamat over an internal conflict whether dragons should protect the other races or rule over them. BTW, seeing as Tiamat has been imprisoned in Avernus for so long, did she miss out on the Calamity?

Torog - Until I find a source stating otherwise, I'm assuming The Crawling King's backstory mirrors the one he was created with in in 4E. He was a god of health and vitality who fought a Primordial deep within the world. Torog won, but was cursed by his Primordial foe to be trapped in the Underdark with wounds whose pain would never go away. The gods assumed Torog had either died in the war with the Primordials and fled until he started pulling pieces of the surface world down into the Underdark. He eventually allowed the drow to enter the Underdark on the condition they continue serving Lolth. Jumping forward to official Exandrian lore, Torog finally breached the surface of the world during the Calamity only for Pelor and Raei to team up and banish Torog to the Far Realm. All in all, it seems less like Torog betrayed the gods and more like he was presumed to be dead or a deserter until he unexpectedly reappeared as an insane sadist.

Zehir - Finally we get to the Cloaked Serpent. I can one hundred percent believe that he sided with the Primordials as he opposes both the goddesses of civilization and nature. Further, the Tal'Dorei and Wildemount books both mention that worshipers of Lolth and Torog alike hunt down Zehir worshipers, implying that the god and his followers used to frequent the Underdark.

Vecna - The Whispered One is also considered a Betrayer God, despite not having even achieved godhood until a few decades ago (as of Explorer's Guide to Wildemount).

So to sum my analysis up:
  • Asmodeus probably killed an unknown Prime Deity and may have used the threat of ending his devilish forces' subdual of the demons as leverage. The idea he has been opposing demons ever since they appeared makes it seem unlikely he'd side with the Primordials, who more or less wanted the same thing as the demons.
  • Bane would oppose the Primordials but demand absolute control.
  • Gruumsh and Zehir were most likely aligned with the Primordials due to their destructive and Chaotic Evil natures. I'm unsure about Tiamat, but leaning towards likely as Bahamut's metallic dragons were already chosen as the protectors of mortal races even before the war.
  • Torog and Lolth were either unwilling or unable to fight the Primordials. However, given their followers shared hatred of Zehir worshipers and the likelihood Zehir was aligned with the Primordials, perhaps they contributed to the war effort in a way the Prime Deities did not recognize.
  • Tharizdun was imprisoned for the entirety of the war.
  • Vecna did not exist.

My own personal headcanon so far is that the Myth of the Founding is largely a sanitized version of events told by the followers of the Prime Deities that leaves out a lot of details, moral ambiguity, and divine casualties. Even Raei, who was injured by Asmodeus as recently as the Calamity, is stated to have largely been forgotten by the world until her recent "rediscovery". We know, for example, that there was a god of the dead the Raven Queen replaced in the Age of Arcanum, but we get no details about him otherwise, leaving me to believe there were multiple gods who died in the war against the Primordials but whose existence has been long forgotten.

Speaking of the Matron of Ravens, I find it interesting that the Raven Queen was a mortal who killed a god, which later inspired a mage who unwittingly caused the Calamity, only to be rewarded with a spot among the Prime Deities; was the previous god of the dead one of the so-called Betrayer Gods, or what?

In the end, we really don't know much more about the events of the Calamity than we do the war between gods and primordials. We also don't know that much about the nature of the Betrayer Gods' alliance and their ndividual goals during the Calamity. We know the Betrayer Gods generally don't work well together, but the opportunity granted to them at the time caused at least most of them to temporarily cooperate.
 

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