Hey, hope this is an okay spot for this topic. I’m coming up with a world for a campaign I plan to run in the not excessively distant but still quite while future.
Currently it is looking like a relatively low-fantasy campaign, will probably have influences from Arthurian, Scandinavian and Eastern European mythology. The main aspect I am dealing with at the moment is that of Gods and the power they provide.
Essentially I’d like my players to have more-or-less free reign about what their characters can do and their themes (obviously as long as it could feasibly fit in a fantasy setting). And I have decided that pretty much of all extraordinary ability will be due to accessing the power of the Gods. I think this is likely to be a pretty soft magic system, where the rules are pretty squiffy but people can do awesome stuff. “Wow, your arm has turned into a vine!”, “Wow, you healed really quick!”, “Wow, you jumped really high!”, “Wow, you summoned a bigger fish!” are all explained by the Gods. The main restriction will be the character’s theme, which is why Open Legend works so well for this stuff.
The issue then comes to how these Gods work. What I am going for at the moment is that they are typically very dormant, but there power can be tapped from the areas they represent(note, you don’t lose access to the power for being in an area that your God doesn’t represent, but it could be stronger if you are). They don’t tend to pick sides due to being dormant, so there likely won’t be the case of people losing access to there power for acting in a particular way.
So for example we have “God of the Mountain”, “Goddess of the Sea” and so on, where strength based “miracles” could be drawn from the mountain, and so forth. I haven’t fully defined these yet, and could do with some suggestions.
If anyone has any thoughts on anything I have written or further questions I will be happy to answer to clarify. The main thing I am asking for though is some help and suggestions on defining the gods. If anyone has had similar experience with this sort of thing I would also be happy to hear how you approached it.
Also feel free to answer in the “World Building” section of the discord, I will make a post linking back to this topic.
So here are a couple of thoughts and a few pieces of advice for your pantheon:
Keep your Pantheon small, especially if you are using a softer magic system, where there isn’t a direct tie between mechanics and lore. Keeping a low number of Gods makes it easier for players to memorise them and remember what they are about.
Make your Gods distinct from each other and let them provide contrast to each other. Gods easily become confusing, when they have overlaping traits, characteristics or backgrounds, but if they contrast each other it’s easier to keep them apart.
Have the Gods be relevant to the people, their culture and have them affect their lives. This doesn’t mean there has to be direct interventions from the Gods, but it could also just mean followers of X attacked village of followers of Y, because of Z. Z being a reason tied to the Gods. This works especially well if you put the Gods in opposition to each other, disliking or fighting each other, giving the mortals even more reason to reinforce in and outgroup thinking.
If you write an exhaustive background on your Gods and your Pantheon, make sure to have that lore be relevant to the plot of your campaign at times, thus rewarding the players who keep those details in mind, but also to give characters more reasons to follow a faith and respect the Gods. If the Gods are out there without them being ever consequential to the characters, than it is likely that the players won’t care too much about them, making them an afterthought. The less effect the Gods have on the world, besides “magic” from time to time, the vaguer I’d keep the Gods.
As for suggestions, it’s hard to help you at that front, because at the moment I don’t see the picture you are going for, as “Arthurian, Scandinavian and Eastern European mythology” is too vast and too unclear as a description, especially since you seem to indicate more primal, naturalistic Gods in the later paragraphs.
Thanks @VanGo, those are some very helpful tips. I think regarding the mythology I was thinking more in terms of the people, places, and environment (and the things that inhabit them) rather than the gods themselves. Though it may not be helpful in general as I am viewing them quite generally, so I will try to explain what I mean in other terms. I think Scandinavian is also not what I was looking for, in hindsight.
I am aiming for the world to have a fantasy feel. There will be no electricity other than lightning, which will not be harnessed in any recognisable way, if at all. So no electronics either or modern materials. “Science” will only be dealing with big, basic things, and alchemy will be common.
The main civilised race by far is humanity. Other races may exist but certainly not in the way we see with D&D, they will be a lot more discreet and uncommon. There will be plenty of different monsters, creatures, and mystical beings.
Towns will mostly be made from wood or stone, some will be small villages in the hills, others will be great coastal cities with fleets of ships. The main way anything is improved significantly is through power from the Gods. I do intend the gods to be based more naturally.
I think a lot of the images of the world in my head remind me of the Witcher series, which is where I was getting the Eastern-European aspect from, I was probably wrong to just use that as a blanket term. Arthurian inspiration is sort of the mystical kind of feel you get (e.g. the lady of the lake), some of the creatures, and some characters (like the immortal green knight), embodying where I’d like this game to go.
Hopefully this explains things better.
So low fantasy, low technology, set in a more traditional medieval setting, with mythical creatures.
From reading your description of the different villages, towns and communities, and you wanting to stick to naturalistic Deities, I’d say you can design your Gods around the most common feature of a region. So let’s say there is big town in the mountains, than the population would worship a representation of the mountains as a God and you can different attributes to that idea, like being tough, durable and self-sufficient. Or a community of farmers would worship the God of Wheat, representing fertility, community, etc.
So split up the essential parts of what was needed in nature in medieval times into different aspects (for example mountains, rivers, woods, fields) and have the communities choose their deity depending on what aspect they rely on most. This way people would most likely still respect the different aspects, because they are all part of a bigger whole, but the people might be sceptical of people who worship another aspect, because those people behave and handle things differently.
If you are playing with friends you could also talk with them about what God’s they would like to see in the world.
I will likely be running this game in an RPG society so there’s potentially friends but also potentially a mix of experienced or inexperienced roleplayers who I know to varying degrees (just the way things are run, which I can go into more detail about if you’re interested but is not really on topic).
Regardless, this was something I was considering. If someone comes up with a concept that things don’t seem to fit for, it may be reasonable to come up some new world building on the spot to accommodate it.
i did something like this once and when it comes to naming your gods I just sat around for a few hours on google translate and random name generators. (Lazy but efficient)