Building A Pantheon - Deities in my Homebrew

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I'm sure this topic has been discussed ad nauseam but I'm struggling with it and could use some help.  The world in my homebrew has a very rich and specific history detailing everything from the begining up through current events.  Part of that story are how the deities came to be.

This is a topic I have been putting off for some time but really want to tackle it and move forward with the rest of my world.  Right now my players just assume the generic D&D pantheon but I want something unique to my world.

I want the pantheon unique to my world with each god having a unqiue story as to how they became a god.

I do not want a complex pantheon.  Even the generic D&D pantheon has way to many deities for my personal taste.


My struggle is how to create the fewest amount of deities that make sense but at the same time covering all the various "things" the denizens of th world typically need gods for.

Right now I'm toying with the idea of a deity for each race and a deity for each energy source: arcane, martial, primal, psionic, shadow, and elemental.

However, without the more sinister deities defined, I already have more deities that I want.

If it helps any, the history that I have written so far basically has two groups of deities: "good" and "evil".  I used parenthasis because Im talking about the two cosmic forces and not D&D alignments.  Within each of those groups.


1) a goddess of good, Lawful,Neutral and Chaotic worshippers.. 2) a god of evil, Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic worshippers. 3) Nature deity of Elementals. 4) arcane deity is replaced by a philosophy of Magic. 5) War deity is replaced by giving the good and evil deities the War domain. 6) Psionics is a philosphy,needs no deity? 7) shadow deiety rarely seen?

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

1) a goddess of good, Lawful,Neutral and Chaotic worshippers.. 2) a god of evil, Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic worshippers. 3) Nature deity of Elementals. 4) arcane deity is replaced by a philosophy of Magic. 5) War deity is replaced by giving the good and evil deities the War domain. 6) Psionics is a philosphy,needs no deity? 7) shadow deiety rarely seen?



Thanks Taradusis.  Your suggestions got me to thinking.  I could organize the deities as you laid out, assign the generic deity portfolios \ domains to each one and then differentiate by having those few gods manifest themselves to the mortals in different ways.

For example: Lillania goddess of good, lawful, and chaotic worshippers.  I would assign any portfolios \ domains to her that made sense.  Then depending on the race worshiping her, she would manifest herself in different ways.  A dwarven cleric would know Lillania as a dwarf.  A human paladin would know her as a human.  And so on...  That way I can keep my pantheon simple but still have plenty of flavor.

With regards to Psionics and Shadow, I dont necessarily need a god.  Psionics especially.  Its more of a philosphy.  I may leave Shadow for when I get to incorporating the planes into my world.     
I just wanted to post what I've come up with.  The one thing to keep in mind with the deities in my campaign setting is that there are story driven reasons for each of their existence.  My main goal was to keep the pantheon small.  My history story drove the need for a god for each player character race, excluding the humans, half-elves, and half-orcs.  Those three have a different story.  My story also drove the aspect of "good" and "evil" gods.  Not alignment good \ evil, cosmic forces good \ evil.  However I wanted to make sure I covered non-evil \ non-player character races as well.  Hence the extra few deities that are slightly more generic.

























































Deity AGoddess to the Elves
Deity BGod to the Dwarves
Deity CGod to the Gnomes
Deity DGod to the Halflings
Deity EGoddess of Nature, Elements, and Life
Deity FGod of War, Strength and Honor
Deity GEvil God of death, necromancy, and darkness
Deity HEvil God of war, destruction, and conquest
Deity IEvil God of chaos, madness, and corruption
N/AHalf Elves Chooses their own deity of the available options
N/AHalf Orcs Chooses their own deity of the available options
PhilosophyArcane Forces
PhilosophyPisonic Forces


In my game, the half-races are seen as abominations to the two races that combined to create them.  My history story does not account for them so they are left to pick one of their parents deities or a more generic deity of nature, war, etc...

I really liked Taradusis' suggestion of making Arcane and Psionic philosophies instead of tied to deities.  In fact, this fit much more nicely in my world that I originally thought.
I don't know if you do 3-ish or 4 -ish Ed. If you're a 3-er why not buy Complete Divine? It posits that deities should have 6 domains. A deity with 6 domains could have 8 or 9 sects doveted to her depending on which two domains the cleric picked. Also perhaps deity G could be Neutral evil and allow neutral followers,this would matter if you switched out the Darkness for Shadows?

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

I realllly don't think the idea of a deity for each race fits with deities standing for concepts, like you've filled on. What if you have a dwarf who wants to go pay tribute to the god of war for his victories in battle? What about some halfling farmers wanting to request the rains come to water their crops?

If you're going to go with the multi-deity single panthenon option, I'd say probably better to ditch the race orientated ones simply because, well, they just represent a race as opposed to a god that represents an ideal. They're boring. You can't do much with them besides continue stereotypes of those races. I get that there are storyline reasons some other races don't have them, but as compared to gods you can do things with, they just seem... Boring?

Reinvent them as deities probably worshipped by those races, but not exclusively. Some ancient deity the dwarves say strode across the land, laying the mountains and valleys. They say his footprints became the great lakes, and odd mountain ranges are were he leaned against them to rest in his quest to make the world. Maybe there's even an odd natural formation they claim to have been an ancient battle site, where he slew an ancient dragon who's corpse is now the nearby mountain range, or sunken into a massive chasm

Another big thing missing is the fertility/farming gods. If you've got something medieval style, these would have been heck of important. Look at Inari in Japanese mythology. Or rather look at the damn hundreds of Shinto shrines out there to worship this god. This isn't a nature god, this is a good who makes sure your crops grow, the rains fall, and your livestock breed well.

And no, this would not fall under the "Nature" goddess. Nature is the untamed horrible wilds beyond your village that's probably worshipped by those child stealing elves who lurk in the forests, performing their strange rituals and magics rather than putting in an honest day's work. We might equate them these days, but they are very different. There should be a difference between natural forces helping someone, and the untamed fury of nature itself. Maybe its a god who dances among the trees, her hair the flying wind. She gives people the gentle breezes, but her temper can also bring the fury of a cyclone with it

I'd also do something with the death god. While in some mythologies they're seen as evil, in others they bring people into the next world. I'd say take a bit from the Raven Queen here and make it more of one that abhors necromancy, instead prefering to take people along to the next realm. Maybe he judges the dead and sends them to the next afterlife. Maybe he prepares them for a 4 year journey throgh the Netherworlds, preparing them as best as he can, but only helping them that far. Or heck, maybe something more valkyrie like. They take up the warriors who die proudest in battle to serve alongside them as their eternal army, preparing to face some far off threat, while leaving the mundane in a meaningless world of the dead. Maybe he supports necromancy so those who have failed to draw his attention can once again be raised to serve once more? I dunno. Ideas.

Focus on the flavor of your gods to make a richer experience. Why have "Dwarf god dwarf" when you can instead have an ancient being who has an impact on the world and is known by all? Or an ancient immortal ironsmith? Or a trickster who stole the secrets of working stone and iron from the gods?
I want to thank everyone for the input, its helped tremendously.  After much thought I've come to realize that the default pantheon exists as it does for a reason: Years of refinement and story growth.  My biggest desire has always been a simplified and smaller pantheon.  All of the various Wiki sites on the internet would show you every god that has ever existed in D&D, thus you could end up with 50+ deities if your not careful.

I started flipping through the Complete Divine (Taradusis' suggestion), PHB3.5, PHB4, & DMG4 and realized the generic default pantheon was only 20 deities.  I was at 9 already so 20 isnt really that much of a stretch.  I've also been considering my world history story as well.  With just a few minor tweaks, I can easily plug the generic pantheon right in.  I could reuse the alignment and areas of influence and just change the names and deity fluff to fit my world story.

It would also make it easier on my players because there would be a 1 for 1 match up between my pantheon and the generic that everyone is used to.

Also, as Mecheon eludes to, it gives me much more flexibility in terms of the deity stories and their capabilities.  Plenty of room for story growth.
One of the more interesting approaches to building a pantheon if you want to limit the number of deities that I've seen is what Arcanis did with its gods. The gods of Arcanis had no alignment that was comprehendable to mortals, it was their churches that had alignments.

Thus you had Hurrian, where one church regards him as a bringer of life-giving rain and as a just warrior. Another church regards him as the bringer of storms and a merciless destroyer of all who oppose his will. One deity with different faces to them.

A sun god could be a bringer of life, order and agriculture to some peoples and a god of tyranny (he reigns supreme over all the world), death (the unmerciful heat of the sun) and the desert to others.

A sea god could represent the bounty of the sea to some or the sheer destruction of the hurricane to others.

You could further reduce your cosmology by having the different races regard different aspects of the deities in different ways. To the elves the god of civilization is an evil invading deity to be warded against while the god of nature is their chief god of good... while to humans the god of civilization is their beacon of hope while the god of the dangerous untamed regions is their boogy-man. Its the same gods for both, but they respresent completely different things to different peoples and so get depicted differently in their myths and even their art.

The point being... look at what your deity is to represent and instead of assigning an alignment to them, assign every domain, good or bad, that could possibly be applied to what that god represents and leave the alignments to the mortals who worship them.

Heck, it even gives you built in plot points as different factions who see their god differently go to war with each other over which side is right.
In the horseclans series a lot of warriors worshipped their swords. A young warrior stood vigil over his sword like a Knight of the Round Table. Sword oathes were taken quite seriously, your honor and life was tied up in your sword. A suurender between Sword Brothers was always honored.

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

Another fun thing is having deities interpretted different ways by different races or people

Look at how the Romans and Greeks interpretted Ares/Mars for a good example. The god of violent warfare, to the Greeks he was the god most hated by Zeus. He's the god of primal rage and combat, slayer of men, who's chariot is driven by Fear and Terror, a contrast to Athena, the goddess of using strategy and intelligence in battle. His most famous myth is about the time Hephaestus caught him sleeping with Aphrodite and, well, did what angry forge gods do best: Trap them in a net and parade them around to the other gods

To the Romans, though, he was the father of the Roman people, and became a guardian of agriculture, second only to Jupiter, a god of war to secure peace. Two vastly different views on the same basic god

Something like that wouldn't work keeping them strictly by alignment. Spread stories around, give them local names and customs. Orcs might worship one of the gods of war as their bringer of victory, holding great feast days for him after combat, while the elves consider him a simple barbarian worth recognising as a deity, but not a major aspect of warfare
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