Creating A Pantheon Of Gods For Dungeons And Dragons

It’s tme to create a pantheon of gods for your D&D campaign!

Okay, so I am going to be trying something new with this post. 

I want this post to be a kind of free-flowing, updated as I go, kind of thing. 

Like a (not-so) live feed, but with blogging. If that’s possible. 

So, bare with me. 

I was watching Matt Colville’s video on creating a panteon of gods today and while I admire Matt’s level of detail I really don’t know if 1) it was the best way to create gods, and 2) if anyone (other than Matt) has time for that.

So, I want to show you an alternative way of creating some gods – which I have for my own sandbox world.

Matt’s video is over 90 minutes long but all the good stuff is in the first 20 minutes so I recommend you watch at least that.

The “good stuff” I am talking about is how he goes to the PHB and lists out the domains on a spreadsheet and then expands on those with key words from the description from each one.

For example, with the Knowledge domain, he lists out craft, invention, law, and secrets as parts of the Knowledge domain.

His argument is (and I tend to agree with him) that cultures don’t create gods from abstract concepts like Knowledge or Light or Life, but from solid, real-world concepts like craft and law and secrets.

I really liked this idea and so I started to do something similar.

Although, when I started to do this I listed out a lot more than Matt did with each domain.

For example, for the Knowledge domain, I listed the following (all from the PHB):

value of learning and understanding above all else. libraries and universities. craft, invention. Some hoard knowledge. Secrets. knowledge = power. Esoteric lore. delve into secret places. 

(This was taken straight from my hand-written notes which is why it is so rough.)

Gods Already Exist

Now is a good time to let you know I already have about 14 gods in my campaign world.

No, I am not cheating, and I am still in the process of creating them, but I was forced to conceive these (some are pretty much name only) as I came up with the brilliant stupid idea to name each of the 12 months in the calendar after one of the major gods – so I had to come up with 12 gods for the calendar to exist.

(By the way, if a player has another concept for a god I am happy to create it – these are just the main gods.)

So, my 12 gods are:

Ferast
Lucindar
Damus
Vaal
Banoth
Venren
Ullarl
Taliiya
Arkeris
Gruan
Kalisvar
Arinix

As I stated before, these are also the names of the 12 months, but that’s another post.

I came up with most of these names in about an hour one day (except for Lucindar – that was a player’s addition from a cleric he played in a one-shot).

Now, I wanted to let you know I already have some gods for my world to show you it’s okay to come up with some names and (very) basic ideas about your gods, and then fill in the blanks afterwards – which is pretty opposite to how Matt Colville did it.

UPDATE: Before I continue though I wanted to let you know how I came up with these gods, which took me about two hours all up.

Coming Up With Your Gods

I started with the list of gods in the back of the PHB and looked at what they were gods of. And I picked out ones I thought I needed and jotted them down.

As I went I was inspired by some basic concepts, like having a god of luck who represented the lucky and unlucky, which I jotted down as well.

I then fleshed them out a little more, but not much.

An example of this is Arkeris, my patron god of thieves:

Arkeris (ARK-ker-IS) is the god of night, trickery, lies, and illusion. He is the patron god of thieves.

The above was the entirety of notes I’d written for him. And still is as I write this.

Once I had the basic concepts, I started the naming process.

And this is not easy to do.

What I ended up doing was thinking about their aspects and using synonyms or related words and then creating a new word from them.

For example, my god of nature, Gruan, came from the word ‘grow’. I changed it to ‘gru’ and then added the ‘an’ on the end as it sounded good.

Also, there is a man by the name of Gruen, who invented the mall who I was reminded of and influenced by, so I changed the ‘en’ to ‘an’.

Thus Gruan, the god of nature was born!

Another example of this is Damus, my god of justice and law.

I simply took the word ‘damning’ as in ‘this is damning testimony’ and shortened it and added ‘us’ to it.

This is a quick and dirty way of naming your gods, but it has worked for me so far.

But now that Matt has inspired me with his video, I wanted to flesh out some more about my gods and also create some more.

Knowledge Domain

Let’s go back to my Knowledge domain notes from before:

value of learning and understanding above all else. libraries and universities. craft, invention. Some hoard knowledge. Secrets. knowledge = power. Esoteric lore. delve into secret places. 

Now, I already have a god of knowledge: Banoth with Wise.

So, using my notes from the PHB and my own notes about Banoth, I decided to see how the two come together.

Here are my (incomplete) notes for Banoth:

Banoth (BAN-oth) is the god of wisdom, knowledge, and insightfulness. He is usually depicted as an old man with a long white beard and furrowed brow. His symbol is an open book.

Banoth reveres knowledge above all else and his followers always seek out new knowledge and insights. After all, knowledge is power (a saying attributed to a Banothian priest).

He is also patron of libraries, athenaeums, and other places where books, tomes, and scrolls are kept. Usually there is a small shrine or statue of Banoth somewhere in a library.

Priests are taught not only to seek out knowledge, but also to gain wisdom from the insights from that knowledge. And to share that knowledge. Many priests and other followers of Banoth form cliques and circles of knowledgeable persons to discuss philosophical, intellectual, political, and similar topics.

Domain: Knowledge

Looking at my notes from what the PHB said about the Knowledge domain I can see a few things that align with this (highlighted sections below):

value of learning and understanding above all else. libraries and universities. craft, invention. Some hoard knowledge. Secrets. knowledge = power. Esoteric lore. delve into secret places

But there are some other sections that don’t gel with the PHB. Namely:

craft, invention. Some hoard knowledge. Secrets.

Putting aside the craft and invention parts for now, there are two parts that don’t gel with Banoth: hoarding knowledge and secrets.

Banoth is all about sharing knowledge and gaining insight from other’s knowledge.

And keeping secrets and hoarding such knowledge is an anathema to the church of Banoth.

That got me thinking about creating a deity that is that anathema – a god of secrets.

My notes on this wavered but there is something there:

selfishness. hoarding knowledge. believes knowledge in power and thus is the secret to power and wealth. evil/selfish sister of Banoth. Stole secrets from Banoth and used this knowledge to gain power and godhood. 

As you can tell from my notes, I am not quite there, but there is enough to work on.

The basic idea is that this God of Secrets is Banoth’s sister (or maybe half-sister) and that she lusted for power and so stole some of Banoth’s knowledge and kept it secret, hoarding it away, and metering it out only in small bits to her most devoted followers. Who, in turn, discovered more secrets and kept them secret, which only grew her power.

Like I said, needs some more work.

The other thing I thought up while jotting down notes was the idea of a Delver of Secrets class. A religious class of Rogues who are worshipers of Banoth and seek out long-forgotten knowledge in dungeons, towers, and other dangerous places.

You could make it a Roguish Archetype available only to worshipers of Banoth.

I like this as it would bring world aspects and game mechanics together – one of my favourites parts of campaign world building.

As you can see, from just having a quick read of the PHB’s section on the Knowledge domain, I managed to come up with two pretty solid concepts: one of a new god, and another for a new rogue archetype.

And that’s just one domain!

Let’s move on to another domain – Life.

The Life Domain

Here are my notes based on what’s described in the PHB:

Positive energy. Life. Vitality. Health. Healing and tending to sick and wounded. Caring for those in need. Driving away forces of Undeath. Natural death. Agriculture. Sun. Endurance. Home. Community. 

Again, I already have a god of life and nature: Gruan. Here are my notes on him:

Gruan (GREW-an) is the god of nature, growth, and life. He is the patron of druids, rangers, and all others who revere nature.

Domain: Nature, Life

As you can see, I have not put in as much thought to Gruan as I have with Banoth.

In my campaign world, life and nature go hand in hand, at least they are wrapped up in the one god.

Although I like the idea that various churches worship different aspects to the same god, focusing on a certain portfolio.

Just on that word, portfolio. If you watched Matt’s video (see intro to this blog post) you would have heard him mention portfolios for the gods back in D&D second edition.

Like Matt, I really like this idea – the idea that a god can look after a few various aspects and worshipers can focus on just one aspect or portfolio.

To give you an example, as I reach for my Forgotten Realms Faiths & Avatars book, Talos, the destructive force of nature, had six portfolios:

Storms, destruction, rebellion, conflagration, earth-shaking, and vortices.

So, while an evil storm mage could worship Talos, the God of Storms; a dissenter could worship Talos, the God of rebellion and destruction, as he tries to bring down a city’s ruling elite via its destruction.

Which brings us back to the gods in my world.

An example of this can be seen with Gruan, who is the god of nature, growth, and life. 

Looking at my notes however, I can see that Gruan could also cover natural death (as a part of the cycle of life), agriculture, and home and community.

He could also be the god of healing as well, but that’s too much for one god, and I had an idea of another god – the god of healing and caring for the less fortunate (more on this soon).

I do like that Gruan could be the god of nature AND the god of agriculture, AND home and community.

I can see these as all going hand-in-hand.

Thinking from a fantasy-medieval perspective, I could see farmers taking care of their lands as they tend to the crops and, in turn, creating a home and a community.

So, this agricultural aspect (or portfolio) of Gruan, would be one side of him. While the other would be nature, growth, and life (and natural death).

Given he is the patron of Rangers and Druids, I can see the church creating an order of rangers whose mission was to rid the world of undead.

Again, you can create a Ranger Archetype that is only available to worshipers of Gruan.

SIDE NOTE: This is why I loved and preferred Prestige Classes from D&D third edition – they added this level of flavour effortlessly and gave characters a rich story arc.

Now back to the god of healing.

God of Healing

As mentioned above, my campaign world needs a god of healing, but I don’t think that is enough of a concept.

So, adding in god of the vulnerable, weak, and sick gives it a nice depth.

I can imagine Paladins of this god being all about helping the weak and defending the vulnerable. And many knightly orders could come about from this god.

My notes on this are vague but I like where they are going:

God of healing and caring for the weak, sick & vulnerable. Tending to those in need. Past mortal / Saint. Born of a drop of blood from Gruan. A piece of Gruan – his humanity and compassion. 

That last part is interesting to me.

I went on to think about Gruan as this neutral figure – focusing on the natural order of life and death, not imposing any sort of compassion to those who are weak or too frail as nature weeds them out on purpose – to make the species stronger – just as it is in nature in our own world.

I also thought about perhaps, as well as the God of Healing and Compassion, you had a God of the Wild, which focused on the violence of nature – its fury and strength.

And that these two gods were born from aspects of Gruan that “fell away” from him during Creation. One side was compassionate and the other cruel.

I will have to explore this a little more.

Well, that’s it for me for now. I will be adding in more domains and ideas from my own campaign world, but I hope this has shown you another way to (quickly) create a pantheon of gods in your own campaign world.

Let me know in the comments below all about your own pantheon.

Image copyright by Wizards of the Coast

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