By the Gods!

Posted on October 30, 2012 by

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The gods have always featured heavily in my games; Pelor, Avandra, Bane, Moradin, and the Raven Queen have all had primary roles in the story line of the games I run. Not even just as distant ideals either: many of the gods have shown up in person to interact with the characters. Hell, the party killed Bane!

It’s kind of funny that gods make their appearance so often in my games. I consider myself agnostic bordering on atheist. Skeptic, at least. But I’m completely obsessed with mythology and pantheons. When I was kid, I decided to teach myself all about the Greek Gods and Heroes, reading all about them. I’ve toyed with the idea of studying folklore and religion in college, but settled on a far more practical and useful degree (theatre arts).

Obviously, Gods in D&D are not the same as real world religion, with the main distinction being that their existence is impossible to doubt. I’m certainly not trying to push my opinions on real world religion into the games I play. So what is the purpose of the Gods?

To me, Gods in D&D are living allegories of the struggles of the particular game. For example, in Miranda the primary gods were Bane, Avandra, and Moradin. Bane represented fascism, forced unity, and slavery. Avandra was diametrically opposed, as the symbol of freedom, liberty, and individual choice. But Moradin also played a big role; the group had a flag of both of them on their ship, after all. To us, Moradin represented responsibility and community. Together, the two good aligned Gods represented positive unity, personal responiblity, and non-selfish independence.

Moradin, clearly the God of bling as well.

If I’m having a hard time determining the meaning of a game, or the conflicts within a game, starting with the Gods has always worked for me. A game about Erathis and the Melora, or the primal spirits, could be a game about civilization and industrialization vs nature. An undead game about Pelor and The Raven Queen could be a game about balance and the cycle of life, with someone like Orcus or Vecna seeking to undermine that balance. A game dominated by Kord would maybe lead to a more laid-back, kick-in-the-door style game.

Now, all of this is taking for granted that I’m playing a D&D Fourth Edition game with the given Pantheon. This might not always be the case. Religion may stand for something very different in a different setting or system. But to me, Gods and religion in any game represent the given conflict of the game, and a good place to start building that conflict.

A final note: 4th Edition has maybe my favorite Pantheon ever. I love the ladies they’ve added especially: Sehanine, Avandra, and Erathis. What is your favorite Pantheon in D&D, and how about in the real world as well?

Of course, if I had a patron God, it’s pretty obvious who it’d be…

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