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D&D General The Role and Purpose of Evil Gods

SkidAce

Legend
So D&D has had sort of two traditions about fiend lord type beings.

1 They are flat out deities, they have clerics.

2 They are explicitly not deities, they do not grant spells to clerics.

With a bit of overlap where only some are deities and some are not.

If you go with them as deities then the original question of why have Erythnul the god of Strife in Greyhawk when you have demon lords becomes why have deities of the demon group alongside deities of the devil group alongside evil gods of the Oeridian pantheon in Greyhawk alongside evil gods of the Suel pantheon in Greyhawk, alongside the Orc pantheon, etc. all in the Greyhawk cosmology.

The desire seems to be to have a world cosmology with multiple different possibly overlapping groupings of evil deities. This is a bit tautological but just wanting a multiple pantheon world similar to how for Conan's Hyperborean world the evil Stygian god Set is not a part of the pantheons of the northern Cimmerians or Picts who have different evil gods and there might be demons and Cthlhulhu mythos beings in Hyperborea as well separate or connected to the gods.
Well if you look at the pantheons as part of the D&D toolkit to build your world, it gets easier to narrate. Leave out the ones you dont want in any given campaign.
 

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SkidAce

Legend
Perhaps instead of being a duality, the difference between gods and arch-things is more of a continuum. The more god-like you are, the more power you gain from worship and the more you can create and control, and the more arch-thing you are, the less dependent you are on mortals (going with the idea that gods die without worship but arch-things don't) and the more you can interact with the Material World without damaging or altering it. There's benefits to both sides.
I really like the way you explained this example.
 

Well, I think 'God' is just term used to describe a power level of beings in AD&D. This is pretty clearly spelled out in Deities and Demigods, where all the various Demon Lords and Princes, as well as the Arch Fiends and Dukes of Hell are listed as being at least Lesser Gods.

You simply have a hierarchy of existence, there are mortals, then there are lesser non-mortal beings (IE some monsters, many outer-planar beings below 'name' rank). Then you have your demigod rank beings, which are things like maybe some of the weaker demon lords and diabolic leaders. Many of them aren't even really described one way or the other in these terms, the lesser gods including major demon lords and such, and then the 'true' greater deities, which are in game terms virtually indestructible.

2e kind of tossed in a few added distinctions, heroes and 'intermediate gods', whatever that means. They don't actually seem to mean much, and 2e is even more vague on what gods are or do, but there's clearly a hierarchy of existence.

Honestly, I think that's all there is to gods in D&D anyway, they're just some excuses to make adventures, nothing more or less. Evil ones just serve as very high powered bad guys, or sort of as an 'evil cheering squad'.
 

Voadam

Legend
In T1-4 The 1e Temple of Elemental Evil the Demoness Zuggtmoy has clerics.

Page 28-29: "When the demoness Zuggtmoy initially conceived the plan to establish her own rule on a portion of the Flanaess, she decided to use as many "tools" as possible, just as did her competitor (Lolth). Consulting some of her clerical servants, Zuggtmoy decided that Elemental Evil would have more appeal than a cult dedicated to her beloved fungi. Recruiting was not difficult, and soon the rudiments of the Temple of Elemental Evil were flourishing."
 

pemerton

Legend
Thanks @Voadam.

I had a look at Iuz the Evil (2nd ed WoG). It has priests of Iuz up to 18th level, but has an express note that those priests can't have spells of 7th level, but can get their full complement of 6th level spells while on the Prime. I infer that the significance of being on the Prime is that this is Iuz's home plane, and so he can grant spells above 5th level.
 

Minigiant

Legend
There's another point of overlap between demons and gods: Iuz, the son of a mortal and a demon prince, is a demi-god!

(I'll check my Carl Sargent era material later today to see if the clerics of Iuz have spells above 5th level.)
Didn't Iuz use blood sacrifices to ascend to godhood?
 


Didn't Iuz use blood sacrifices to ascend to godhood?
It is in the wiki

I did not find it in Iuz the Evil, GH box set, Return to Castle Greyhawk or the Gazeteer... It might be in some other book (or I read too fast and missed the reference). But I have a strong feeling that this is taken from the Living Greyhawk or the Oerth Journal article...
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Why?

With a recent exception noted below, every setting is homebrew or was at some point; only some managed to get the stamp of officialdom on them somewhere along the line.

Forgotten Realms? Ed Greenwood's homebrew.
Greyhawk? Gary Gygax's homebrew.
Mystara? started out as Blackmoor (Dave Arneson's homebrew) then got morphed and expanded a few times.
Eberron? Keith Baker's homebrew.
etc.

Perhaps the only published settings that have never been homebrew at any point are the recent M:tG-based ones, which are (I think) corporate-designed all the way.

Because "core" DnD is inextricably linked with the settings. If you go forth with the idea that every setting is homebrew, then there is no Core DnD, because everything you would reference as "core" is tied to a setting.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
That you disagree or not is of no consequences. All optional rules are homebrew. Whether or not a DM applies them is a table's choice. Thus it is homebrewing as no two DM will have the exact same optional rules from every books printed so far. I do not use TCoE yet, I did translate and put the variant artificer that was added in there for my campaign. So the combination of official options IS homebrewing.

A position that no one has ever seriously taken before, because "homebrewing" is the act of creating your own rules. Optional Rules are not rules you have created yourself. But sure, every feat is homebrew (because all feats are optional) all magic items are homebrew (because all magic items are optional), Rolling dice to create your stats is homebrew (because it is an optional rule) ect, ect ect. We'll just destroy everyone's understanding of what official rules are so we can state that Demon Lords aren't gods, because it is clearly that important.

Again, that you disagree has no bearing of wether it is or not. Again in some setting Orcus does not even exist! In the above quote from the Demonomicon of Iggwilv in the 4ed. Orcus was formerly a primordial that was corrupted into demonic form... we are far from a mortal as mortals did not existed yet... So you were right for Orcus in the Realms. But wrong on so many other realm. That is why I usually go for Core or General books that are supposed to be applied to all settings (unless said setting say otherwise)


And many of those core books are written on the assumptions of settings, so all of them would be homebrew too. Like i said, it is an extreme position that I don't think is worth taking.

Wrong again. 1ed Orcus has been killed by countless groups and even individuals. Even gods were killed. Raistlin, comes to mind. He had succeeded. And what about Cyric? He killed a god too and he was a mortal.

Then build me an official 5e level 20 Bard, with no homebrew options, that can kill 5e Orcus in a straight up fight in his lair. Since I'm wrong you should be able to do so easily, correct?

Also, Raistlin and Cyric had absurd amounts of plot armor, because they were novel characters, so I don't really think they should count for how the game play loop works.

Also, if individuals can kill gods.... then Demon Lords are still not weaker than gods, the point I keep making, which is one of the major points that people keep saying is the reason we need Evil Gods, because they are more powerful.

Agreed. But what purpose are left for the clerics if everyone can heal? This is where I am starting to wonder the "relevance" of the cleric class. If evil gods can be so easily discarded, why not discard all gods...

Because religion is still an interesting story. Cleric's have been more than healing robots for a long time, and I don't see the fact that other people can heal as something that ruins the purpose for their existence.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
There's another aspect not spoken here.

Legitimacy

Evil gods are part of the cosmic order. They run part of the setting's rules. They are only the winning side of the pantheon wars. They are legit.

Evil devils, demons, great ones, vestiges, primordials, titans, yokai, fey, and elementals don't run the show. They can only dream to.

This is something D&D often forget.

Fiendish cults and mystery cults are supposed to stay hidden cults at the periphery of civilized society.

A devil who isn't a god getting a legitimized church or formal standing in a city is supposed to be a big deal and should send crusader a-smiting.

They are trapped in Hell or the Abyss for a reason. The gods, including the evil ones, will it

I disagree. And in fact, it is casually easy to disprove this.

Vecna. Cyric. Kelemvor. St. Cuthbert.

There are dozens of mortals who have ascended to godhood. They didn't win any pantheon wars. They weren't more part of the cosmic order than an immortal being who literally runs part of the cosmos. And Archfiends have created aspects of reality that still affect the running of the cosmos, such as the creation of mortal races.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I disagree. And in fact, it is casually easy to disprove this.

Vecna. Cyric. Kelemvor. St. Cuthbert.

There are dozens of mortals who have ascended to godhood. They didn't win any pantheon wars. They weren't more part of the cosmic order than an immortal being who literally runs part of the cosmos. And Archfiends have created aspects of reality that still affect the running of the cosmos, such as the creation of mortal races.

That's why I don't like the FR and GH pantheons. They aren't great for storytelling of the pantheon because they back logic, consistency, and backbone for more stuff and more coolness.

They are great for making factions but you struggle to make logical stories about the gods because there is no rules
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
Yes, but. And that but is that these entities not only actually and provably exist in D&Dland, but have defined powers and abilities. And again, we don't have stats for gods of any alignment in 5e (the actual god, not just an avatar), but we do have stats for arch-things. So what's the difference between a god and an arch-thing? I don't know.

To move away from Bane and Asmodeus for a moment, gnolls probably consider (inasmuch as they can consider anything) Yeenoghu to be a god--but he's not. He's a demon lord. So back to the main question: what is a god? If it's just a title given to something that's worshiped (or venerated, sacrificed to, whatever), then Yeenoghu--and Asmodeus, and Orcus, and anything else that has followers are gods. If there's something else that differentiates them? Then again, I don't know.

See, Yeenoghu is a perfect example of what I'm talking about though.

He created the gnoll race.
He answers the prayers of the gnolls.
He gifts his followers power.
He sends them signs and omens of the future and of his will.
He can have non-gnoll worshippers who also get sparks of his power.

There is nothing that a god does that Yeengohu doesn't do. Even living in the Abyss isn't a strike against him, because multiple beings labeled as gods make their home in the Abyss.

I think that instead of saying "we don't know the difference", after looking at the increasing lack of differences it may be more accurate to say "there is no difference". Yes, they have been given different titles, but a title alone does not make a difference. Just as a King is no different from a Shah.


Yes, there are benefits to having mortal worshipers. But unlike gods, fiends don't have to rely on them. If their supply of mortal worshipers was completely cut off, they'd be inconvenienced, but they wouldn't die.

Maybe, maybe not. But there are many gods who wouldn't die either. Not all settings have the gods die if they are not worshipped.

They wouldn't ignore it entirely, but I doubt it would be a main target. Unless a handy portal appeared.

But it isn't the main target now either. The main target is Baator, hence the Blood War. Which means that at best, there is no appreciable change in the status quo.

No, of course not. But there's a huge difference between "I don't like these redundancies" and "these redundancies should not exist at all." And you've been leaning towards the latter.

And I say, why not? Sure, they can be annoying, because the average setting doesn't really have room for or need that many types of low Hit Die humanoids, especially if each of them has a culture of their own. But they can also be useful, especially if each of those low Hit Die humanoids has a culture of their own. Same for gods and arch-things. Hell has interesting conflicts--not all of which are actually combative--because of the rivalries of Bane and Asmodeus.

Any of these issues could spill out to the Prime and make for interesting drama. Imagine if you had an elf cleric get looked down upon by fey because he follows Corellon and not the Seelie Court.

See, you are reading into my posts an intent that I have not expressed. Yes, I personally have been removing some of these redundancies, altering the game to fit myself. But I have not been advocating for removing them from the game at large. I have never once said that we should get rid of all evil gods.

All I have done is try to prove that the Evil Gods and the Archfiends taken together is redundant. And therefore, if someone wanted to get rid of the evil gods for their homebrew, they aren't losing anything. Which was the initial question asked "what are we losing" the answer is very much nothing of substantial value.

If you want to argue that they should be left in the game because redundancies are perfectly fine... go ahead? It literally has nothing to do with my argument. My argument is purely about showing that they are redundant.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
That's why I don't like the FR and GH pantheons. They aren't great for storytelling of the pantheon because they back logic, consistency, and backbone for more stuff and more coolness.

They are great for making factions but you struggle to make logical stories about the gods because there is no rules

shrug

To me it is just a show of the various ways that DnD has pulled from all sources. The Buddha for example was explicitly a normal mortal man, before he ascended beyond the world. And then when he shows up in later legends and stories, he is treated in a way that it very similar to God.

But, I agree, there seem to be few if any rules in DnD, and that's part of the overarching point.
 

Mirtek

Hero
This is the first time I've learned that the FR version of Orcus has him beginning life as a mortal.
It was not the FR version. If was the one and only D&D version back in 2nd Edition when all settings were part of the one and only shared multiverse.

I am not even sure it was an FR source that stated it or whether it was from a Planescape source. Orcus's mortal life wasn't on Toril as far as I remember without digging up the sources
 

Mirtek

Hero
See, Yeenoghu is a perfect example of what I'm talking about though.

He created the gnoll race.
He answers the prayers of the gnolls.
He gifts his followers power.
He sends them signs and omens of the future and of his will.
He can have non-gnoll worshippers who also get sparks of his power.

There is nothing that a god does that Yeengohu doesn't do. Even living in the Abyss isn't a strike against him, because multiple beings labeled as gods make their home in the Abyss.

I think that instead of saying "we don't know the difference", after looking at the increasing lack of differences it may be more accurate to say "there is no difference". Yes, they have been given different titles, but a title alone does not make a difference. Just as a King is no different from a Shah.
Note that Yeenoghu creating the gnoll race started as a gnoll myth in 4e and was made fact in 5e. Until then it was always stated that Yeenoghu did not create gnolls. He merely discovered them, like how they looked similiar to him and wiggled his way into their original pantheon and managed to slowly but steadily replace all their other deities. During this he actually ascended to become a full fledged deity in his own right (he was a demi- or lesser power)
 

Mirtek

Hero
Nope. 4ed
That's 4e who just started to disregard all shared D&D lore that came before, threw it on the garbage heap and re-wrote everything.

The whole primordial concept did not exist at all until that point


And what about Cyric? He killed a god too and he was a mortal.
Actually that was all based on a technically. Cyric stabbed Bhaal with the sword godsbane, which was merely the god Mask who took the form of a sword. So technically Mask killed Bhaal, Cyric was merely holding Mask in his hand

 

Mirtek

Hero
I've been reviewing some 3E material.

The module Speaker in Dreams has infernal clerics. They are expressly said to worship Hextor, but are also described as a diabolical cult (p 18). When they take over the temple of Pelor, it "now smolders with hellfire" (p 22). Nothing about the module would need to change if instead they were worshippers of Asmodeus. I don't think infernal pact warlocks would fit as well.

The module Bastion of Broken Souls has a 12th level cleric of Tiamat, "a human cleric of the evil dragon deity Tiamat" (p 28). This character has a full suite of spells for her level. Tiamat is not mentioned in the list of default gods in the 3E PHB. She is statted up in a sidebar on p 118 of the 3E MotP, but there is no reference to her being a god. Then, in the later-published 3E DDG, she is presented as a god in the default pantheon, with a stat block that is the same as the MotP one in some parts (eg hit points, damage) but different in others (eg AC, to hit bonuses, skill bonuses).

This variability across the space of three years of material (publication dates 2000 to 2002) is a microcosm of the different approaches across the lifetime of the game.
The case with Tiamat in early 3e vs. late 3e is more about the deity rules of 3e not being done when they first printed Tiamat and Bahamut in the MotP as opposed to a deliberate attempt to revoke and later restore their divinity.

She was not in the PHB because almost no deity was in the PHB. Greyhawk as the chosen default setting had ~ 120 deities and they just printed a dozend that was seens as relevant for character creation. Just because something was not yet mentioned was not mean to imply it ceased to exist between 2e and 3e
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Because "core" DnD is inextricably linked with the settings.
It's linked with the example setting(s) but by no means are those links inextricable - despite what WotC sometimes seems to want DMs to believe. :)
If you go forth with the idea that every setting is homebrew, then there is no Core DnD, because everything you would reference as "core" is tied to a setting.
Er...wha??

Core D&D is the basic rules - here's how you roll up a character, here's how each spell* works and what it does, here's some pointers on how to flesh out your character's personality, here's the details on how combat abstraction is handled, etc.; and for DMs a separate book with here's how to run a game, here's the DM-side nuts and bolts, etc. - and none of those things are setting-tied. In fact, the whole point is that they can be ported into a DM's homebrew setting without any extra work required (that said, though 99% of the time a DM who is homebrewing her setting is also going to tweak some rules, there's nothing saying she has to).

The only aspect that might - and only remotely might - be considered setting-tied is monsters, and even they can be ported wholesale into any homebrew setting with no work needed.

Core D&D is at its heart setting-agnostic; and that they provide and use a sample setting to show how it all works doesn't change this.

* - even including named spells e.g. Leomund's Hut, Mordenkainen's Hound, etc. - trivially easy for a homebrewing DM to say those are historic mages from her own setting rather than some other world.
 

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