Pantheons

Overview

There is strength in numbers. When deities come together to forge a working relationship, they devote some of their resources to the wellbeing of the pantheon, almost as a sort of insurance. Gods group together in pantheons as a way to make the most of precious resources. A group of gods contributing to a shared holy site can devote more power to the site, making it more useful to their clerics and potentially easier to defend. Similarly, sharing the burden of creating and cultivating veneration rites helps deities to reap more essence from their followers than if they acted alone.

An individual god can be a part of multiple pantheons. Some of the older gods have pantheon relationships with several cultures, even cultures that are hostile to one another.

Types of Pantheon

The more integrated the pantheon, the more shared resources are at their disposal, and the less likely a given god is to have robust resources outside the pantheon.

Pantheon Type Veneration Rites Holy Sites Worshipers Priesthood Servitors
Tight Very Common Common Common Common Rare
Patronage Common Common Uncommon Rare Never
Loose Uncommon Uncommon Rare Never Never

Pantheon arrangements, like the political entities they so resemble, are dynamic. The arrangements themselves, however, are essentially permanent once established. The only way to excise a god from a pantheon is to re-dedicate all shared resources – rebuilding the religion almost from scratch. The high cost of severance means that the fallen-away members of a pantheon remain on the fringes, unwelcome but not exiled.

Tight Pantheon

The gods of a tight pantheon share most of their resources, and actively work to cultivate their association. The many shared resources mean that the gods can collaborate freely, with a relatively continuous stream of essence flowing from their followers. The gods may not agree with one another on all points, but they generally consider the needs of the pantheon at least as much as they consider their personal needs.

In a tight pantheon, gods may have their own holy sites, priesthood, veneration, etc. but these pale in comparison to the shared resources.

Priests following a tight pantheon may worship the pantheon as a whole. In this case, they can choose domains from any of the pantheon’s gods, and can be of any alignment that does not conflict with any of the pantheon’s alignments.

Patronage Pantheon

In an patronage pantheon, one or two gods hold most of the power, and a collection of lesser gods work together under their umbrella. The patron god(s) typically have their own power bases, and the subordinate gods have little or no individual support structure (veneration rites, places of power, etc.). The subordinate gods share almost all their resources, and the patron god kicks in a bit more.

Occasionally, the gods of a defeated people are sworn to service under the gods of the conquering people, making a patronage pantheon. More often, these pantheons develop when a largely unchallenged god elevates servants to expand his influence. The subordinate gods’ portfolios, powers, and personalities tend to resemble those of their master.

Older gods often appear in multiple pantheons, and may choose to form a patronage pantheon to “delegate” roles to proxies. Depending on the nature of the arrangement, the proxy gods may represent their patron as an ambassador, or may act as if they were the god himself.

Members of a patronage pantheon have access to shared rites and holy sites, and worshipers are about as likely to pay homage to an individual god as to the pantheon as a whole. The patronage arrangement rarely leaves room for a shared priesthood, though sometimes the patron will anoint common priests to discourage the subordinate gods from cultivating their own priests.

Loose Pantheon

A loose pantheon isn’t really much of a pantheon. The gods have some shared rites and sites, but do little to actively build commonality. Such a pantheon may develop spontaneously from longstanding cultural ties, or it may be forged in the crucible of crisis. Occasionally, a more centralized pantheon will loosen over time as the diverse interests of its members pull it apart. More rarely, a loose pantheon will organize into one of the other types.

The bonds of a loose pantheon are typically only strong enough to support a smattering of shared rites and holy sites.

Important Pantheons

The organizations listed below are significant enough in the campaign to bear elaboration.

Gishmesh (Adorak Tau and Selanii)

The Gishemesh and Paldorian clans drew the neighboring clans together long ago to form the Gishmesh we know today. The main gods Adorak Tau and Selanii may be of diametrically opposed alignments and their followers often come into minor conflict, but they share a patronage pantheon slightly dominated Adorak Tau. The other tribal gods and a smattering of folk heroes form the host of subordinate gods. Followers pay homage to one (rarely both) of the patron gods and to the pantheon as a whole. the other gods of the pantheon have not seen separate worship for centuries.

The patron gods have a large amount of influence outside the pantheon arrangement.

Veneration Rites: private (patrons), shared
Holy Sites: major private (patrons), many minor shared
Worshipers: almost entirely shared
Priesthood: private (patrons), shared
Servitors: mostly private, but subordinate gods’ servitors are freely lent out

Durju (the Holy Hills)

The Kingdom of the Durju is effectively ruled by a patchwork pantheon assembled over the last millennium. The Durju pantheon is a tight pantheon composed of the gods of the Holy Hills: Monu, Jithra (and his consort Hoiné), Hennta, Hoailu-Shethela, and the Sisters of Fertility. These five factions contribute to imbue the god-king of the Durju with his divine mandate, forming the sixth figure in their constellation of power.

Veneration Rites: many, largely shared
Holy Sites: some shared, mostly personal
Worshipers: almost entirely shared
Priesthood: many personal
Servitors: many personal

Sisters of Fertility

The Sisters of Fertility, in turn, are a tight pantheon of fertility figures representing the various plants and animals common to the Durju diet. They have a rich tradition and association that stretches beyond the kingdom itself, with ancient rites that might predate anything else in the pantheon.

Veneration Rites: very many, mostly shared
Holy Sites: many, mostly shared
Worshipers: almost entirely shared
Priesthood: some shared, some personal
Servitors: mostly shared

Foreign Gods

Other gods contribute in a loose pantheon arrangement, including Bes, Ganesh, Poseidon, and Amala. Several fey courts join in the arrangement, their leaders acting as minor gods in a loose pantheon arrangement.

Veneration Rites: some shared, many personal
Holy Sites: mostly shared
Worshipers: all personal
Priesthood: all personal
Servitors: all personal

Dwarves (Kazadarum and his sons)

The mighty Rock-Father led his people from a cataclysm in the ancient past, and guided them to places so rich and defensible that many of these sites remain to this day as mighty dwarven citadels. The great king’s two sons, a mason and a smith, joined him in the pilgrimage, and this triumvirate is the foundation of a very tight pantheon.

There is a fair amount of overlap between this pantheon and that of the azers, distant cousins to dwarves.

  • Marduin Kazadarum (king, Rock-Father)
  • Margadan Goibhne (smith)
  • Moradin (mason)
  • Theradin Hengist (cantor, bards)
  • Helmo Amalrig “Heggangar” (brew, beer)
  • Arngrid Rosmerte (food)
  • Hlaggrim (heritage, clerics)
  • Brigga “Brigit” (excellence, craftsmanship)
  • Galgrik (forge-heat, fire)
  • Tülkanyn (wondersmith, wizards)

Within the dwarven pantheon, conflict occasionally arises between Margadan and Moradin as they compete for Brigga’s attentions, or between Galgrik (father of the azers) and Marduin (father of the dwarves), but the primary source of conflict is external. The gods are not above appearing in dwarves’ dreams, particularly the dreams of those who pledge themselves to a particular god of the pantheon.

Veneration Rites: many, mostly shared
Holy Sites: many, mostly shared
Worshipers: almost entirely shared
Priesthood: some shared, some personal
Servitors: some shared, some personal

Elves (the Seven Lords)

The elves tell stories about a fabled progenitor, sometimes called Cilborith, though this founder’s cult is very small. Most elves venerate the seven elf lords that once ruled their ancestral forest. The elven gods are very involved with the affairs of the fey, who make up the bulk of their servitors.

Elven worship practices are intensely personal, and not open to non-believers. They do not discuss their religion with outsiders. As a result, most outsiders believe elves to be quite secular.

  • Terinath the Stern, also called Tolienoth, is the Blue Lord.
  • Edaviel Starwatcher, also called Ninevern, is the Gray Lord.
  • Siynathaniss Waveguide, also called Ethiel, is the Lambent Lady.
  • Veleth the Temperate, also called Valdenar, is the Wood Lord.
  • Hathien Gloomshadow, also called Halloth, is the Dark Lord.
  • Asineth the Songbird, also called Iriel, is the Sparkling Lady.
  • Felaniel the Wanderer, also called Ouranian, is the Tidal Lord.

Veneration Rites: many, mostly shared
Holy Sites: mostly minor, mostly personal
Worshipers: shared
Priesthood: personal
Servitors: many, mostly shared

Hobbits

working on this…

It is said that two halfling brothers, [name?] the wanderer and Honner the farmer, both caught the attentions of the bountiful Yondala. They suckled on the milk of immortality, and have shared in her adventures ever since.

This arrangement falls somewhere between the lines of a patronage and a tight pantheon. The three parties are deeply committed to the arrangement, but the two brothers are definitely not equal to their bride. Most halflings venerate Yondala and one of the two brothers. Effectively, this could be read as three interrelated pantheons: Yondala-brother1-Honner, Yondala-brother1, and Yondala-Honner. Yondala does not actively pursue a power base outside of this arrangement.

Veneration Rites: mostly shared
Holy Sites: mostly shared
Worshipers: mostly shared (see above)
Priesthood: mostly shared (see above)
Servitors: mostly personal

Tarsh (the Poetess and the Bard)

The deep mists of Tarsh are a storied realm, where legends are the stuff of dreams and dreams are the stuff of legend. It is no surprise that this realm sees complex divine politics far out of scale with its population size.

A few ancient powers, like the Moorhound and the Drowned Witch, haunt the countryside and compete with fey courts to terrorize or inspire the mortal populace. Dark cults meet in secret to venerate a coven of god-like hags that have insinuated themselves into capitol and countryside alike.

The capitol is the seat of power for the Poetess and the Bard, a potent duo that have arisen as a foil to the hags’ influence. Legend has it that the poetess was an elven spellsinger, and the bard came from a now-lost line of Tenifell Rangers. They work together as a very tight pantheon. They focus on inspiring the Tarshakan people through pageants, plays, and poetry while the hags gnaw at the edges of society with their nightmares and seeping dread.

Centuries ago, when Orgolash was still just a village squatting on the ruins of greatness, the bard won a wager with Hlaggrim of the dwarven pantheon. Since then, the dwarven gods have become actively involved in Tarsh, though there are no shared rites at this time.

Most of Tarsh worships the Poetess and the Bard, in addition to most or all of the dwarven pantheon.

Veneration Rites: many, mostly shared
Holy Sites: many minor, mostly shared
Worshipers: all shared
Priesthood: mostly shared
Servitors: abundant, almost all shared

Skandiks (the Vanir and the Aesir)

The Skandik gods are many, roughly divided into two camps called vanir and aesir. Though their worship is widely distributed and many of the faithful could not name all the gods, they form a moderately tight pantheon. Cults exist that venerate individual gods, or just the vanir or aesir, and these cults are not discouraged.

The Skandik gods as a rule take an active interest in their followers, and are famously inclined to make personal appearances in the material plane.

Major gods (vanir): Freyr, Freyja, Njörðr, Iðunn, Heimdallr

Major gods (aesir) Thor, Odin, Skaði, Frigg, Baldr

Veneration Rites: many personal and shared
Holy Sites: few, mostly personal
Worshipers: almost all shared
Priesthood: mostly shared
Servitors: few, mostly shared

Tula (the Founders)

The arcane founders of Tula feared the power of gods to divert their students’ attention, and established a cult in their city to channel the inhabitants’ energies toward more useful ends. It is easy to consider the state-sponsored festivals and observances to be a state religion, and the Founders as gods. The Founders’ quasi-religious practice includes rites venerating beings considered gods in the normal sense. It remains an open question whether the Founders are gods, ghosts, or even potent liches hidden behind a veneer of respectability.

Veneration Rites: many shared, few personal
Holy Sites: a few powerful shared sites, some minor personal
Worshipers: almost all shared
Priesthood: very few, mostly personal
Servitors: uncommon, mostly shared

Pantheons

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