D&D General The Greyhawk Pantheon: How Greyhawk Approaches Deities (& Demigods)

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
A recent thread by @Jolly Ruby posed an interesting question- is the Greyhawk pantheon, like, lame and stuff? And I admit ... it's a fair point! It's a little different, especially given that some of the Greyhawk pantheon has been appropriated by certain other settings. In the same way that you put out some trail mix, and Derek (DEREK!) eats all of the M&Ms out of it.

So I thought I'd dive in the Greyhawk Pantheon. More specifically, it's time to talk about the Gods of Greyhawk, and answer one question-

That's right. The Gods of Greyhawk ... what's up with that?

To answer this question, we need to (1) dive into the history of the pantheon. Then, we need to (2) look at how divinity works in Greyhawk. Finally, we (3) examine some of the specific deities of Greyhawk.

Before we begin on this epic journey, a few disclaimers.

A. I am going to discuss the Greyhawk pantheon as it evolved up to the codification in 1983. If you want to go past that in the comments, that's fine! But I am not going to talk about it here.

B. I want to emphasize that Greyhawk is your setting. Do what you want! If you want to use different deities, or no deities, or all the deities, or whatever ... that's totally cool! This is informative, and if you like it, use it. If you don't, then do whatever you want to make Greyhawk your own setting that comes alive for you!

C. I am discussing some things I have previously covered. This will expand and contextualize those thoughts, and I have learned that people hate clinking on links.

1. The History of Deities in Greyhawk.

The development and use of deities in early D&D was very much ad hoc. It has to be remembered that very early OD&D was an outgrowth of wargaming (exploring the dungeons beneath a castle), and that while rules for exploring and combat began to develop quickly, there wasn't the same emphasis on creating a coherent world, or religions. There was obviously a place for religion, since the very first OD&D book (Men & Magic) had Clerics as a class, and listed crosses and holy water in the equipment. But this wasn't specific; it was just a general nod to the roots of the class (Hammer Horror films and undead) interpreted through generic ideas of medieval Christianity.

As such, very early D&D didn't have pantheons or gods other than what the players themselves wanted (Odin, Crom, whatever). Eventually, Gygax created some gods to populate the world; later on, these deities (Pholtus and St. Cuthbert) would pop up in the published versions of Greyhawk. But the issue of deities didn't really come to a head until the last publication of the OD&D era; Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes. Effectively a precursor to the later Deities & Demigods, it presented eight mythologies (pantheons, heroes) from the real world for use in a game. In addition, some of the deities listed had special rewards for worshipers or those who acted to advance the deity's interests. Importantly, this borrowed heavily from real-world mythologies.

This brings us to the publication of Tamoachan (Hidden Shrine, C1) and Deities & Demigods in 1980. C1 is notable because it takes place in Greyhawk, and adopts a Mesoamerican mythos for the people of the Amedio Jungle. This adoption of a real-world pantheon into Greyhawk (the "Olman" pantheon) is interesting because of the timing, but it was never ratified by Gygax; instead, it was an historical curiosity. As such, Deities and Demigods, which combined real-world pantheons (from Finnish to Norse) with made-up ones (non-human pantheons) and completely fictional mythologies (Elric, Lovecraft, Lankhmar, Arthurian) was the source for D&D players looking for deities. Given that the Greyhawk Folio, published the same year, did not have any gods listed, it appeared that Greyhawk used similar "real world" pantheons based on Deities & Demigods and C1 in 1980.

But that changed. Gygax was writing a regular series of articles in Dragon Magazine detailing events in Greyhawk. In August 1982, Gygax wrote an article called Redefining the deities of the Flanaess (right after introducing planetars and solars). In that article, Gygax hinted at a broad pantheon for Greyhawk, officially sanctioned the non-human deities in Deities & Demigods for Greyhawk, and added a deity for the xvarts (Raxivort). Later, leading up the publication of the World of Greyhawk, Gygax published a series of articles in Dragon of the deities and demigods for Greyhawk. This was later codified (with less text and no great illustrations) in the World of Greyhawk. There's a lot of gods (see below) that are included. In addition, in 1983, Gygax sanctioned the non-human deities created by Roger Moore in a series of earlier Dragon article (twenty-four of them). Not including additional non-human deities from Deities & Demigods and Roger Moore which are grandfathered in (plus, of course, Raxivort, because Gygax was going to make fetch xvarts happen).

To recap- Greyhawk started with no one caring about gods. Then, people just put in whatever gods they wanted to. It wasn't until the publication of World of Greyhawk in 1983 that we have the Greyhawk pantheon, which consists of fifty deities and the incorporation of the non-human deities.

2. Divinity In Greyhawk

One of the differentiating features of early D&D that we see in Greyhawk isn't that there are deities. It's not that Greyhawk (starting in Dragon and officially in 1983) began the real move away from the "real world" myths and into completely D&D-specific made up pantheons. It's that Greyhawk resembled its fantasy antecedents like Lankhmar and the works of Roger Zelazny; the difference between mortality and immortality, between the divine and the purely human, was often of degree, not of kind.

The first intimation of this blurred boundary that I am aware of came in an article by Gygax in the precursor to Dragon Magazine, The Strategic Review:

Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things. The player-character who continually follows any alignment (save neutrality) to the absolute letter of its definition must eventually move off the chart (Illustration I) and into another plane of existence as indicated.
(TSR Feb. 1976 p. 5) (italics added).

In other words, roughly paraphrased, you could move to another plane of existence ... move into the realm of Godhood ... by being a paragon of alignment. Woah! This idea was furthered by the publication of Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes; while it is common to joke about it in terms of murderhobos and Monty Haul campaigns .... "If it has stats, it can be killed," the corollary is also true; "If it has stats, that means it's not that special .... I can be that." Unlike what we see in 5e, there was an implicit understanding ... you could kill deities, but you could also become one yourself. This was made even more clear in Deities & Demigods, in a section titled (for subtlety was not a thing) Divine Ascension. Yes, it was possible to become a god in D&D. Yeah, I know, Immortals and BECMI. But this was first.

These ideas come into focus when we discuss Greyhawk. Greyhawk is a setting where some lesser gods do walk the earth. Some of them are going to be overtly meddling .... Iuz, for example! Gods can be killed. And PCs can aspire to become gods themselves.

Dragon Magazine 71 features an article about quasi-deities. Gygax explains that certain personages (Murlynd, Keoghtom, Heward, Daern, Johydee, Nolzur, Quaal and Tuerny) are quasi-deities. In effect, the steeping stone to "demi-god" status when you get removed from play. Powerful adventurers in Greyhawk eventually can ascend to quasi-deity status and then, eventually, to godhood.

So Greyhawk became a place, not just where there was land to carve out for your keep or citadel or wizard tower when you reached name level, but a place where the most intrepid and powerful adventurers could both kill deities and become ones themselves. Because the barrier between the divine and the mortal was porous.

3. The Pantheon of Greyhawk

Before getting into the actual pantheon, a reminder- Gygax was always human-centric. So the deities in Greyhawk were traditionally deities for humans. Non-humans had slim pickings. That's something I assume people will want to change. In addition, Gygax divided the deities into four groups- those that were widely worshipped by all, and those that were primarily worshipped by one of the main human heritages (Baklunish, Oerdian, Suel, and Flan). That is why there is occasionally some overlap between the gods. Finally, there are three gods that are just, um, there (Ulaa, Wastri, and Thari... SHUT YER PIE HOLE!).

So, what is the "Greyhawk Pantheon" (as of 1983)? This doesn't include the "non-human" deities. Sorry, Raxivort.

Allitur (ethics, Good)
Atroa (spring, Good)
Beltar (malice, Evil)
Beory (Oerth Mother, Good)
Berei (family, Good)
Blerred (mines, Neutral)
Boccob (magic, Neutral)
Bralm (industriousness, Good)
Celestian (stars, Neutral)
Delleb (reason, Good)
Ehlonna (forests, Good)
Erythnul (slaughter, Evil)
Fharlanghn (travel, Neutral)
Fortubo (stone, Good)
Geshtai (rivers, Good)
Heironeous (chivalry, Good)
Hextor (war, Evil)
Incabulos (plague, Evil)
Istus (fate, Neutral)
Iuz (oppression, Evil)
Joramy (volcanoes, Good)
Kord (athletics, Good)
Kurell (jealousy, Neutral)
Lendor (time, Neutral)
Lirr (poetry, Good)
Llerg (beasts, Neutral)
Myhriss (love, Good)
Nerull (death, Evil)
Norebo (luck, Neutral)
Obad-hai (nature, Neutral)
Olidammara (music, Neutral)
Pelor (sun, Good)
Phaulkon (air, Good)
Phyton (beauty, Good)
Pholtus (resolution, Good)
Procan (oceans, Good)
Pyremius (murder, Evil)
Ralishaz (madness, Evil)
Rao (peace, Good)
Rudd (luck, Neutral)
St. Cuthbert (forthrightness, Good)
Syrul (deceit, Evil)
NOT GONNA WRITE IT (eternal darkness, Evil)
Trithereon (liberty, Good)
Ulaa (hills, Good)
Wastri (bigotry, Evil)
Xan Yae (shadows, Neutral)
Zagyg (humor, Good)
Zuoken (physical & mental mastery, Neutral)

If you add in quasi-deities, you can see ... that's a lot! Now, I will admit, not all the names are equally ... compelling today. St. Cuthbert, I'm looking at you. But it's a fascinating list. The other important thing to recognize is that Greyhawk (and Gygax) embraced an idea of "muscular neutrality," which meant that, for example, not all "good" deities were the same type of good. Pholtus, for example, was known for rigidity. Zagyg, of course, was a mortal who became so powerful he rose to godhood. And Iuz ... well, he's a god and he's busy meddling in the affairs of Greyhawk.

The basic point of all of this is that the pantheon of Greyhawk is .... LARGE ... and that the nature of divinity in Greyhawk is traditionally more porous than what we are used to seeing. But with all that in mind, feel free to use whatever works best for your Greyhawk!
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


Getting lost in fantasy maps
I recall that Len Lakofka was given authorship of much of the Suel pantheon. There might have been disputes about what Len wrote about them. I’m not sure if Len actually created any of the Suel gods though.

I liked that he likely was the inspiration for Lendor.


I never really played GH, but liked the list of gods they took for 4e and we mostly used them. It is a short list compared to what is listed above.

View attachment 369228
Playing off of that, a cross post:

For my money, I'd say taking the pantheon and religion material from Critical Role (particularly the Wildemount Chapters on it) would make sense. Most of those gods are Greyhawk, anyways. Make Zygag and Iuz "lesser idols" on that approach.

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Playing off of that, a cross post:

For my money, I'd say taking the pantheon and religion material from Critical Role (particularly the Wildemount Chapters on it) would make sense. Most of those gods are Greyhawk, anyways. Make Zygag and Iuz "lesser idols" on that approach.

Well, I prefer the OG Greyhawk pantheon, but I've heard that those Critical Role people are popular with the youth of today.

So if you think that the CR pantheon is lit, bring 'em to your Greyhawk.


Most of the "Prime" deities (Good and Neutral) and "Betrayer" gods (Evil) are already Greyhawk gods, either in name or renamed (Wee Jas was the inspiration for the Raven Queen):

The "lesser idols" are an interesting idea, too, powerful beings that are Warlock pateons who also have Clerics: probsvly a good fit for some "lesser" gods in Greyhawk or ascendant powerful beings like Zagyg.


Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads