Size of a Pantheon

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serleran
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Size of a Pantheon

Post by serleran »

OK, assuming a polytheistic of animistic religion, in a fantasy world, what do you consider to be a good pantheon size? Normally, there are things like "God of Death" or "Goddess of Pleasure" and so forth, and that usually means the pantheon is somewhere in the 7-13 club, depending on how many individual aspects you want to incorporate. See, I was thinking of redoing some work on The Doldrums and having the faiths (or some, rather) be more Greco-Roman... every river has a deity, and while there is a Goddess of Disease, each separate one has its own -- this does lend to a very deep roleplaying potential, but also can make the world far too detailed for "generic play." Anyway, what do you consider the ideal size of a pantheon?

Selecting 1 God(dess) and several servitors is OK with me... monotheistic (or dualistic) religions are fun, too. Naturally, an answer of "no gods" could work as well, and is something I had considered in the past.
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Post by DangerDwarf »

I enjoy regional pantheons, with any number of deities in them but with clerics generally being intermediaries between the entire pantheon and humanity as opposed to specifically serving a single deity of the pantheon.

So, instead of serving a sole diety, they serve the pantheon and can fill any number of roles as needed by the congregation. There will still of course be folks that focus on one particular god ("Woohooo! Hades Rawks!") But for me, they should be the exception, not the rule.

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Post by Omote »

I've always preferred a tight-knit pantheon where a single deity resides over a few or many spheres of influence.

In my current home brew campaign there are actually only three gods, but these gods each have an array of "immortals" (saints, demi-gods, etc) which handle some of the lesser sphere's of influence. In this case many worshippers pray to the immortals which can be considered entry point directly to the patriarch god.

Personally as science and magic increase, and if a civilization is old (long lived), the ideas of multiple deities seem like it would be less appealing overall to a populace. Look at real world religion. Many aspects of ancient, polytheistic religions have filtered down to the few "large" religions of todays faithful.

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Post by alcyone »

I'd keep it small just so I could remember it and they weren't diluted in play. Maybe a few for those crazy humans, and 0 or 1 for the other PC races. As far as EVIL gods, I've always had affection for the Ogoltays and Maglubiyets and Blibdoolpoolps of the world. I'd sprinkle them liberally but not mention them until they come up.

Plus whatever gods the players make up. If it's a world where godly intervention is more direct than doling out spells to clerics, more attention to the pantheon might be required, otherwise I'd be pretty lazy and liberal with it.
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Post by alcyone »

One thing I really like is a lonely, mad, forgotten god. No one remembers the god's name, so they don't worship it, but it makes its influence felt, and it is driven by the ambition to get a piece of the worship game again, or being frustrated and killing everyone. The process of it getting its power base back could be pretty neat.
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Post by anglefish »

The aspect of a "godlings" religion that intrigued me for RPGs was the opportunity to interact with those godlings. The role-playing of making pacts or peace with a river god if you were going to do a long riverboat trip or unblock a tyrant's dam.

As compared to how gods are represented in most RPGs (visions, rare visitations, mostly omniscient and indestructible), these godlings would be closer to eastern spirits and demons (Yokai in Japanese).

They could be met, bargained with and even killed after a fashion.

A way to create some quick and dirty River Yokai would be to use stats for Elementals, but give them unique names and appearances. I.e. from a creek to Nile use water elemental stats at different HD, but they all look different and are named for the body of water that they oversee.

Eventually, I'd create stats for categories of spirits, but only detail (adding name and visuals) to a specific one when I needed it for the story. YMMV.

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Post by Lurker »

DangerDwarf wrote:
I enjoy regional pantheons, with any number of deities in them but with clerics generally being intermediaries between the entire pantheon and humanity as opposed to specifically serving a single deity of the pantheon.

So, instead of serving a sole diety, they serve the pantheon and can fill any number of roles as needed by the congregation. There will still of course be folks that focus on one particular god ("Woohooo! Hades Rawks!") But for me, they should be the exception, not the rule.

To quote Meatloaf "You took the words right out of my mouth"!

That's exactly how I like my home brew. I also throw in specific river/wood/city godlings along with household protective spirits.
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Post by Go0gleplex »

I've had as few as three to as many as 15. Generally, it falls in around 8-10 depending on how I break out the aspects.
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Post by Fiffergrund »

I'd say somewhere less than Forgotten Realms.

Seriously, though...

To start a campaign, it's only necessary to have as many deities as necessary to handle the vast majority of worship in the active region of the campaign.

The homebrew I did in Crusader has LOTS of gods, but only 4 are known to start the game. That gives me the leeway to fill in the blanks as appropriately as I wish, whenever the players strike the right chords.
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Post by James M. Ward »

If you look at the most successful historical pantheons, the ones that lasted a thousand years or so we are talking in the 10 to 20 region with gods switching positions of power as their worshipers grew or shrank in number.

Just a thought,

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Post by Aneoth of Ironwood »

The more gods, or godlike beings, the more they MUST be directly involved in the peoples (or creatures) that worship them.

Why?

Worshippers are not unlimited.

There would be far fewer worshippers to go around for so many Gods.

So that they must complete for the reduced share of worshipers, otherwise they would simply wilt and disappear from the known world as no one remembers them.

Even gods and other immortals are not totally immune to time and would eventually simply fade away into nothingness; especially if they are not remembered (worshipped) by those beings that they are gods of.

Additionally those same Gods would be far more likely to war with each other.

Envy too is not exactly unheard of nor is it ungodly behavior.

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