D&D General Worldbuilding Assumptions: The Nature of Gods

Which best describes the nature of gods in your preferred D&D setting?

  • Gods are canonically real and make their presence known in unambiguous ways.

    Votes: 21 23.3%
  • Gods are canonically real, but their role in the mortal world is limited.

    Votes: 39 43.3%
  • The existence of gods is not canonically established.

    Votes: 19 21.1%
  • Gods canonically do not exist.

    Votes: 1 1.1%
  • Other (describe below)

    Votes: 10 11.1%

Neta

Villager
I'm generally less interested in the nature of gods themselves than how the people in a setting perceive their object of worship and how it effects their culture, economy, and lifestyles. In that regard I feel like many settings have suffered from the fact that the writers grew up in a culture where monotheism was taken for granted, and as a result didn't have much experience with polytheism as a lived belief system. When I ran a campaign for the first time I mostly worked with a literal interpretation, the second time I liked to dabble in Euhemerism, the idea that a god was derived from a figure who's death was associated with a particular place or attribute, and that that was the only thing you did (or could) really know about them.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Voadam

Legend
Gods grant spells to clerics. The rules define them as unambiguous and making their presence known in a default setting.
The rules vary a lot here depending on edition and source.

In 5e the PH section on clerics talks about gods granting clerics spells, but the pantheon section has cleric domains for non-theistic religions and the DMG talks about the rules not caring.
Not all settings are like this, for example, Dark Sun where there is no proof of divinity at all. But even in a setting like Eberron that is closed off due to the Ring of Siberys, it is known the gods grant spells.
Dark Sun has no gods but it does have elemental clerics and their own druids so there is that.

My understanding of Eberron is that it is believed by some that gods grant spells but that it is specifically not defined whether gods do or not, or whether they even exist or not. Eberron also explicitly has the divinely powered clerics of the Blood of Vol philosophy and non-theistic ancestor worshiping elves, and other non-theistic clerics.
Back in AD&D 2nd there were Detect Evil, Detect Good and Know Alignment spells. My cleric ended up working out that there was universal absolutes because regardless whom a cleric worshiped those always came out the same, even for evil clerics.
Given the ambiguous terms that detect evil gave you (degree of evil, possibly the general nature), other than on the yes no of qualifies as evil or not under the spell for a few defined subjects, it was fairly difficult for a DM to be consistently the same.

Detect Evil
(Divination)
Reversible
Sphere: All
Range: 0 Components: V, S, M
Duration: 1 turn + 5 rds./level Casting Time: 1 rd.
Area of Effect: 10 ft. × 120 yds. Saving Throw: None
This spell discovers emanations of evil, or of good in the case of
the reverse spell, from any creature, object, or area. Character alignment,
however, is revealed only under unusual circumstances: characters
who are strongly aligned, who do not stray from their faith, and
who are of at least 9th level might radiate good or evil if intent upon
appropriate actions. Powerful monsters, such as rakshasas or ki-rin,
send forth emanations of evil or good, even if polymorphed. Aligned
undead radiate evil, for it is this power and negative force that enable
them to continue existing. An evilly cursed object or unholy water
radiates evil, but a hidden trap or an unintelligent viper does not.
The degree of evil (dim, faint, moderate, strong, or overwhelming)
and possibly its general nature (expectant, malignant, gloating,
etc.) can be noted.
If the evil is overwhelming, the priest has a 10%
chance per level of detecting its general bent (lawful, neutral, or
chaotic). The duration of a detect evil (or detect good) spell is one
turn plus five rounds per level of the priest. Thus, a 1st-level priest
can cast a spell with a 15-round duration, a 2nd-level priest can cast
a spell with a 20-round duration, etc. The spell has a path of detection
10 feet wide in the direction the priest is facing. The priest must
concentrate—stop, have quiet, and intently seek to detect the aura—
for at least one round to receive a reading.
The spell requires the use of the priest’s holy symbol as its material
component, with the priest holding it before him.

Know alignment was fairly straightforward for establishing alignment is determinable.

The rules act as the laws of reality the setting works under.
Sure but there are a lot of options on rules.
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
In my current homebrew setting there were unambiguously real gods, then something happened and now there unambiguously aren't gods.
 

For game purposes, I like gods to be highly limited in how much they can impact the material plane. This creates a need for them to empower agents (clerics etc) and establish churches in order to exert power. Clerics (and warlocks and paladins and whatnot) are pc options I see no need to limit, and churches are useful organizations for lots of purposes (granting quests, being connections, being antagonists, holding useful macguffins...)and players expect them.

But aside from "the gods don't make themselves known on the material plane very often for some reason" the details of their nature can be interpreted a lot of ways - and there's no need for people in the setting to know or have the right answers.

(Keeping players in the dark can have pros and cons, but if they now they will be kept in the dark they shouldn't be unpleasantly surprised.)
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
In my home-brew world, there are gods that are very real, they reordered the world around 5000 years before the current age. They aren't universally worshipped, mortals have created their own pantheons that shuffle around the importance of the gods. In some cases the Sun Father is ruler of a pantheon, in others the Tyrant, Soul Forger, Stag King rule. Priests follow a pantheon rather than being champions of a single god.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I like a variety of takes on the nature of gods for different campaigns. If I want to explore more realistic and relatable religions, I prefer settings like Eberron where the gods aren't confirmed to exist and all religions are based on faith. If I want to explore the mutability of religions and how they evolve over time, I prefer settings more like Planescape/Theros/Discworld where the gods draw their power from belief and are as mutable as culture. Those are my two favorite takes on the nature of gods in D&D, but I also enjoy other takes depending on their context and usage.
 

Fifinjir

Explorer
Spirits certainly exist in my world, some exceptionally powerful, but there’s no clear dividing line where a spirit counts as a god. What generally known is that the more specific a spirit’s concept of domain, the more comprehensible it tends to be to mortals. So a spirit of a river is someone you can have a conversation with (assuming they’re sapient), one of an ocean is more complicated because there’s and increased amount of stuff that makes an ocean what it is, the spirit of water is another matter entirely, and don’t even try with the spirit of the liquid state of matter. Depending on who you ask, somewhere on this chain of beings some of them started being gods.

There’s another matter to consider. This instinctually eats at the back of everyone’s minds: the world was once a Dream that became real. That raises the obvious question, what exactly is dreaming it? Some of the most powerful entities might claim to be (one of) the Dreamer(s), but there’s not many ways they can prove it. The Dreamer(s) is/are usually considered to be at the top of the aforementioned chain of increasingly complex spirits, and what people theorize about such (an) entity/entities are the subject of much of mortal worship.
 

delericho

Legend
I'm happy with any of these - just state the assumptions being used, and we're good to go.

My current favourite published setting is Eberron, so I voted for "The existence of gods is not canonically established."

One option I like the idea of, and am not aware of ever actually seeing used, is the notion that "god" is just another type of monster - that there are 'little gods' that actually could be confronted by PCs even at quite low levels, right up to the top-tier gods that are as powerful as the most potent dragons, demons and devils, and the like. That said, I'm not quite sure they would best differentiate the 'god' monster type from the general 'outsider' monster type. So maybe it's just a distinction that is not useful, and that would explain why it's not used.
 

Voadam

Legend
I'm happy with any of these - just state the assumptions being used, and we're good to go.

My current favourite published setting is Eberron, so I voted for "The existence of gods is not canonically established."

One option I like the idea of, and am not aware of ever actually seeing used, is the notion that "god" is just another type of monster - that there are 'little gods' that actually could be confronted by PCs even at quite low levels, right up to the top-tier gods that are as powerful as the most potent dragons, demons and devils, and the like. That said, I'm not quite sure they would best differentiate the 'god' monster type from the general 'outsider' monster type. So maybe it's just a distinction that is not useful, and that would explain why it's not used.
I'm not sure if you mean monster type like separate from outsider, or defined monsters with stats that you can interact with.

Most 5e D&D makes gods a different type of thing than stuff like Demons and Devils that can be arcane patrons.

As for straight monsters there have been stats defining gods (with specific god characteristics) so they can be directly interacted with as monsters/NPCs since 1e Deities and Demigods.

In my own campaign two of the PCs (including the party cleric) are members of a dragon cult dedicated to a specific copper dragon who exists in the world who essentially franchises out cult worship centers to local high priests/cult leaders. They could theoretically go to his lair and interact with him as a normal dragon.

A lot of the Oriental Adventures stuff also has had Kami as low to moderate level spirits statted up as monsters that are on the god continuum on the little god end.

Other D&D stuff has taken things like Greek dryads that were considered minor nature deities and turned them into straight monsters. It would be an easy step to just call the classic little gods turned into monsters little gods again and use the monster stats for direct interactions if you wanted a D&D cosmology incorporating little gods as a distinct category.
 

Edgar Ironpelt

Adventurer
I checked "Gods are canonically real, but their role in the mortal world is limited."

In my D&D settings, most deities have multiple names or aliases, some aliases are used by multiple deities, and a few deities have no (known) names. In particular, there's the goddess referred to ironically as "The Elf of Many Names" - none of which are known.

One trope I avoid is "gods need worship and/or belief." At most, worship/belief is needed to obtain a place in the pantheon, but once there, more worship does not make the deity more powerful and less worship (or even no worship) does not weaken them. Also, the limiting factor on divine magic in the mortal world is the ability of the clerics to handle that power. It would be trivially easy for even a minor deity to provide ninth level spells to all the first level clerics - the problem is that those first level clerics wouldn't be able to use those 9th level spells.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top