Hullo, gentle readers. As we continue to work on the Beyond the Borderlands campaign for D&D Next, we’ve filled in a lot of details, including the rough outlines of a history. One thing we don’t have yet is nations, partly because I’ve been lazy about pulling out my map and deciding where the action will take place. I’m getting to that point, but, beforehand, I want to work on something that’s even more fundamental to a world – the gods that created it.
Basics of the Pantheon
Back in my articles about classes, I mentioned in the section on clerics that I thought this world would have a pantheon of ten deities, based on the combinations of domains that had been discussed in the playtest rules. This doesn’t include any evil gods, because I want the forces of evil in this campaign to be represented primarily by demons, devils, and the forces of Chaos, as mentioned in previous articles.
Following a bit of inspiration, I decide that the “Known World” (i.e. the immediate campaign setting) will have ten human nations, each one with one of these deities as a patron. Each god & nation will be faintly flavored after a real world culture, in order to give me a basis for naming conventions and possible cultural inspirations. I also decide that, while the gods will have “proper names” such as Zeus, Odin, Nuada, and such, the average person will simply call them by a title. This way, the same ten gods can be venerated across numerous disparate human and non-human cultures without me having to come up with, say, the human name for the god of creation, the elven name, the dwarven name, etc.
This is not to say that these nations will be particularly unified. Each culture will have its own beliefs, and this may cause conflicts between them. Also, when I say there are human “nations”, this doesn’t necessarily mean an area with a single king. I want my civilized lands to still be fractious and divided. So if I say there’s a nation with a Celtic flavor, that can represent many small kingdoms. Kind of like how New England is a sort of loose cultural region, but it’s divided into a number of states, each with its own leaders, people, and quirks.
Here then are the ten deities of Beyond the Borderlands, presented in the order in which I came up with their sphere of influence in my article about clerics.
Aman-Heith is the god of creation and inspiration. He is commonly referred to as The Father or the Maker. His domains are Knowledge and Life. He is worshipped by many, but he is the particular patron of artists, craftsmen, rock gnomes, and the human nation of Nath-hilum, which will have an Egyptian flavor. He will generally be depicted as a lordly figure in white robes, black bearded, wearing a crown made of golden chain links. His favored weapons are the trident and the longsword.
Aqal-Basiir is the god of wisdom, magic, and the moon. He is commonly referred to as The Hermit or the Elder. His domains are Knowledge and Light. His worshippers include sages, wizards, high elves, and the human nation of Basaria, which will have an Arabian flavor. He’s generally depicted as an old, bald, white-bearded man in gray robes, leaning heavily on a staff, bearing a lantern , with a silver hood and mantle. His favored weapons are the dagger and the staff.
Mariscallo is the god of the earth, of stone, and of the mountains. He is commonly referred to as The Smith or the Delver. His domains are Knowledge and Nature. His worshippers include artisans (blacksmiths in particular), mountain dwarves, and the human nation of Navarro, which will have a Spanish flair. He is generally depicted as a shorter, broader man with dark, curling hair and beard dressed in brown leather clothing and smith’s apron, with nothing on his head. His favored weapons are the hammer and pick.
Tyria is the goddess of war, warriors, and rivers. She is commonly referred to as The Warrior or The Valkyrie. Her domains are Knowledge and War. Her worshippers include soldiers, fighters, warforged, and the human nation of Valkenholm, which will have a Norse/Germanic feel to it. She is depicted as a fair-haired woman with her hair in many braids, dressed in golden armor and a war-helm, carrying an axe and a bastard sword, which are her favored weapons.
Gwydia is the goddess of the sun, travelers, and luck. She is commonly referred to as The Traveler or the Wanderer. Her domains are Life and Light. Her worshippers include merchants, explorers, lightfoot halflings, kender, and the human nation of Agadain, which will be Welsh/Celtic in flavor. She is depicted as a fair-haired young woman, dressed in a motley of reds with a feathered cap. Her favored weapons are the spear and the short sword.
Ulvan is the god of the forest, hunting, and winter. He is commonly referred to as The Hunter or The Great Wolf. His domains are Life and Nature. His worshippers include foresters, hunters, rangers, wood elves, forest gnomes, and the human nation of Kalemarran, which will have a Scandinavian feel. He is depicted as a fair-haired mature man with an ill-kempt beard, dressed in dark green and brown hunting leathers with a dark green hood. His favored weapons are the spear and longbow.
Eleia is the goddess of mercy, protection, and love. She is commonly referred to as the Maiden or the Healer. Her domains are Life and War. Her worshippers include healers, young lovers, tieflings, guardians and the human nation of Aescelpos, which will be Greek flavored. She is depicted as a dark-haired young woman dressed in a gown of purple with a wreath of flowers on her head. Her favored weapons are the net and the staff.
Albiana is the goddess of agriculture, motherhood, and the harvest. She is commonly called the Mother or the Harvest Queen. Her domains are Light and Nature. Her worshippers includes parents, farmers, stout halflings, and the human nation of Aelwyn, which will be patterned after medieval England. She is depicted as a matronly woman with brown hair, dressed in simple farmers’ clothes of brown with w white kerchief tied over her hair. Her favored weapons are the sickle and scythe.
Valerius is the god of chilvary, honor, and justice. He is commonly called the Knight or the Paladin. His domains are Light and War. His worshippers include judges, paladins, hill dwarves, and the human nation of Calengard, which will be patterned on the legends of Camelot. He is depicted as a knight in silver armor and greathelm, with short red hair and clean-shaven, bearing a longsword and shield. His favored weapons are the longspear and longsword.
Maeve is the goddess of the wilderness, storms, and death. She is commonly called the Crone and the Washerwoman. Her domains are Nature and War. Her worshippers include executioners, assassins, the elderly, and the human nation of Nessara, which will be modeled on Scotland. She is depicted as an ancient woman robed in black with a veil over her face, carrying a basket. Her favored weapons are the scythe and the net.
Behind the Scenes
As I put together these deities, I thought about what kinds of cultures I wanted to represent in the regions the players would be based from. Doing this helped inspire names for the deities and the countries they are the patrons of. Valerius, for example, is a play on the word Valor, which any knightly god would need, Albiana came from Albion, the oldest known name for Great Britain, and Tyria came from Tyr, the Norse god of war. I often find that looking up words in other languages online helps me put together names for characters and places that just sort of “sound right”.
In creating our gods, we’ve begun to flesh out our world, especially the nations that make up the “Civilized Lands”. In my next few articles, I’ll begin to expand on these nations, giving them their own unique flavors and seeing how they may have evolved. For example, if both hill dwarves and the people of Calengard worship Valerius, does this suggest a connection between them? We’ll also begin trying to put these countries into logical proximity to one another, based on how the real world is ordered, which will mean beginning to put them on the map.