Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pellatarrum: Gods?

This is a funny subject to be talking about, since the original impetus of creating Pellatarrum was to make a fantasy world where there was a semi-monotheistic dualistic belief system like Europe had in the middle ages -- "Mother Church vs. Those Godless Heathens/Devil Worshippers" -- but side-stepping the entire awkward religion thing because how do you get Dwarves and Elves and Orcs to agree on the same god?  So I created the Church of the Light, the Cult of the Dark, and the Cabal of the Gray and rationalized everything with veneration of life, privacy, and nature, respectively. And I think it turned out pretty well, if I say so myself.

And then I got the bright idea to run a Pathfinder game set in Pellatarrum, and I started to explain the cosmology to my group and went "...oh, crap." Not because my players are dumb, mind you, but because half of them are old-school D&D grognards who are all about mythology, and the other half had never played before and didn't grok things like energy planes and how you could worship a concept instead of a god. Also, I *suck* at making dungeon crawls and prefer to use pre-published ones, and those (especially at higher levels) depend pretty heavily on Outsiders as enemies.

So with my usual charm and aplomb I took a metaphorical chainsaw to my own idea (kill your darlings, says the aphorism) and went with a modified Pellatarrum that incorporated deities but tried to preserve the weird flavor of the setting.

It is still an experiment, but here's what I've worked out:
  • Everything in the Pellatarrum creation myth still happens: chosen ones hidden on elemental planes, destruction of the outer planes, the four elder races trigger the Engines of Creation to manufacture their own Material Plane. 
  • Those heroes who literally create the world ascend to godhood, along with some of their closest compatriots (for example, Torag brings his family with him into divinity). Therefore the oldest gods in Pellatarrum are -- or rather, were -- dwarves, elves, dragons, and orcs. 
  • Other races can be elevated through heroic deeds to demigod status and then achieve greater divinity through worship (which is earned by doing divine deeds, which gets more worshippers, etc). So far -- as in, this could change if I change my mind -- only humans have achieved divinity. 
  • This gives racial pantheons based upon themes but allows for some cross-overs. For example, the god of magic is/was a dragon, but wizards from nearly all races revere him; people who do nature-y things gravitate towards the elven gods; etc. I'm still hammering out the specifics, but the general idea is:
    • Dwarves: community, creation, and defensive war. 
    • Elves: nature, arts, and emotion. 
    • Dragons: secrets, knowledge, and power. 
    • Orcs: warfare, passion, and strength. 
    • Humans: anything that doesn't fit these categories, or bridges them. 
  • This does however mean the orcs are cast in the role of "perpetual bad guys" and one of the things I've tried to avoid with Pellatarrum is the lazy "This race is always evil" trope. Humans are complex and neither wholly good nor wholly evil, so why should dwarves or elves or orcs be the same way? I don't like that. On the other hand, it's not like the elves would worship an orc god of war (or a dwarf god of war), so trying to round out the orcs into a "not wholly evil, just alien and misunderstood" race then causes more problems, like where are all these evil gods coming from? Who is worshiping them? I'm probably over-thinking these things.
  • I'm still not sure where the various deities live. I don't want to put them on the elemental planes because that would set up a weird state of affairs where the souls of the faithful return to the realm where their ancestors were slaves. I can put one pantheon in the positive energy plane, but putting another in the negative energy plane seems a bit cliched in a "These are the bad guys" style. I like the idea of the gods living on the same plane as their worshippers, because that seems very Greek and isn't done much in fantasy, but then I have to decide what happens to the souls of the faithful.
  • Speaking of cliches, I also want to avoid angels and devils and demons. I'm thinking of going with D&D 3rd edition energons, because they're  nicely elemental like everything else in Pellatarrum, and they're weird and alien. I'll need to bump up their stats, though, and likely change their names, because while Xag-Ya and Xeg-Yi are okay-ish, I have no freaking idea how to pronounce Xac-Yij and Xap-Yaup is just plain stupid.

Sigh. This is a headache I wanted to avoid, which is why I originally made my campaign setting agnostic. I've never found a "universal pantheon" which I liked, especially given the multitude of fantasy races out there, and "multiple pantheons" just strikes me as annoyingly redundant. 

If anyone has suggestions on what to do, I'd love to hear them. 

1 comment:

  1. I really liked the original version cosmology.

    The "all the gods are the same, just interpreted differently by different races" idea can fix some of that.


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