View Full Version : Two war gods: How to differentiate?

doc neon
2013-01-16, 07:27 PM
Hello all!

I'm currently building a homebrew pantheon/cosmology, and I think that it'd be interesting to have two war gods, to show two sides of war. I don't want to go Good/Evil, since that seems a bit predictable, and I don't want to go Law/Chaos, since the two main gods in the cosmology are divided on that line. Currently, I'm thinking that their difference will be that one's tricksy and one's honorable, but that drifts a bit into Law/Chaos.

I guess the question is this; what is an original thing for the two war gods to disagree about?

2013-01-16, 07:41 PM
What are they fighting for? Are they simply physical combat incarnate?

There's not much point in fighting if you're not fighting for something.

2013-01-16, 08:02 PM
So you're looking for less of a morality split and more of a Green vs Blue split, where neither side is directly superior in any real way most players would think about, but both are distinctly different.

So I'd just make a relevant list of attributes and choose the one that fits the best (And is missing from any gaps in my pantheon) such as:

Offensive vs Defensive
Strategy vs Tactics
Group Efforts vs Individual Efforts
Progress vs Stability (though that trims on the Law/Chaos a bit)
Land vs Sea/Sky

Just a few off the top of my head. I figure the best two to pick for what you seem to want is the Strategy vs Tactics and Land vs Sea.

The Strategy vs Tactics one is kinda an odd choice. Having two War Gods. One would be based more on the large term picture, a patron for Generals, Field Marshals, etc. Granted spells/powers which alter battles in large scale but lower impact ways (e.g.: Effects like Bless/Bane and the ilk) as well as more "out of combat" powers necessarily like Augury, Divinations, etc, the stuff that any good Planner would want. The other being about the individual warrior and small term actions, giving access to powers and spells which benefit one person, or small groups instead, and having much more immediate battlefield applications like targeted offensive spells.

Land and Sea is a bit easier. Why should one war god cover all aspects of war? Would not Sailors, Marines, etc, have their own patron they ask for guidance, courage, and blessings? One who might not be interested in the plight of the footman off fighting on the Plains of Agadeem? And the War God who is prayed to by crusading cavaliers charging across open fields having a deaf ear to those who do not fit his idea.

Well, it's a thought. Not saying it's the best. But there's a way to go there.

doc neon
2013-01-16, 08:46 PM
So you're looking for less of a morality split and more of a Green vs Blue split, where neither side is directly superior in any real way most players would think about, but both are distinctly different.

That's exactly it, but your wording is much better, thank you.

The idea that spawned the idea of two separate war deities was the image of the soldiers of two armies praying to the same gods; some in both armies would pray to god 1, some in both armies would pray to god 2. (The whole campaign has the theme of distinct opposites.) As such, I'm not too sure the strategy/tactics thing would work, though I really love it.

2013-01-16, 09:10 PM
In the Realms, there was a division between a CN ish god of battle for the sake of battle (Tempus) and a LN goddess of tactics (the Red Knight), with a third kinda/sorta wargod named Gargauth the Slaughterer (IIRC, it's been awhile...) who was more of a redhanded god of butchery.

One war god could be a cool-headed elderly tactician, all in the model of Sun Tzu with a dash of Xanatos, not necessarily 'lawful,' in that he'll absolutely use tactics that the losers will decry as dishonorable after the fact. He'd be big on asymmetrical warfare and traps and strategic deceptions, and the patron of the smaller group that uses superior terrain, clever tactics and misinformation to rout a much larger army.

The second war god could be a rash impulsive gloryhound, revelling in the sensation of bones cracking beneath his mace, and the splatter of hot blood against his breastplate. This god would regard planning as for the weak, and consider the berserk charge to glorious hand to hand combat to be the warriors ideal, with stuff like archery and pincer strategies and seige weapons as digressions from the manly art of cleaving skulls in twain.

There would be a dichotomy between the perceptions of the two. Some might consider the Master General to be the god of civilized proper warfare, while the Howling Savage is a god for the degenerate pagans of the lowlands.

And yet, the howling savages have their own codes of honor, and regard the trapped terrain and deceptive tactics and murder holes of the 'civilized' men as dishonorable tricks, to allow the weaker men to murder their betters, while the civilized men who revere the great tactician have a 'whatever works' mentality, and will use fire, poison or assassination, if it grants them victory, making it a mistake to think of one as being 'lawful' or the other 'chaotic.'

To add to a bit of conflict between the faiths, the civilized men might regard their grand tactician as being the father of the young warrior, and dismiss the young warrior as not having yet grown as wise as his sire. Alternately, some might even regard the young warrior god as being a heretical degenerate interpretation of their own faith, with the 'filthy savages' worshipping the younger self of their now matured divinity, like a bunch of folk worshipping Hercules as demigod, before he ascended and took his place among the Olympians.

It's also entirely possible that the cultures could be utterly reversed from the way I've portrayed it. The hill tribes of the uplands might revere the wise old father, who lost an eye in the battles of old, and has put down his spear and become a councilor of war, teaching his people superior tactics and strategies that allow them to resist the superior technology and magic of the coastal empire. Think Odin/Wotan, a god of strength, but also of trickery and deception. The headstrong young imperialists instead revere the younger god, patron of personal honor and glory, hoping to earn commissions and land, through their deeds, taking the bull as their symbol, and earning too often the title of 'bull-headed,' like their patron. A mesh of Ares in all his bloodthirsty glory, and Mitra, the god of the soldiers.

You could also reverse the age-thing. The older god might be a berserker, wanting to not die a 'straw death' and urging men to die on the battlefield, rather than of age or infirmity, and stirring up his people into endless conflict for no other reason other than to 'earn a good death.' The younger god might be an eerily-wise youth, who councils precision, and carries maps under his arm, exhorting his followers to use every ounce of strength to maximum effect, to never face with a thousand men what a dozen men, surrounded by proper earthworks and with the right weapons, terrain and information, can instead defeat.

Mix up genders, race, etc. and you've got a ton of possibilities. (Wise tactician Athena vs. rash hotheaded Ares, frex.)

2013-01-16, 09:20 PM
You could look at Athena vs Ares.
Athena is the Intelligent Wise goddess of military strategy, Ares is the brutish god of actual combat.

2013-01-16, 10:45 PM
I once had an idea like this in a campaign that never saw the light of day. Lemme tell you something of it.

There were two war gods, one of Soldiers and the other of Warriors. The God of soldiers (let's call him Marcus) represented the ideals of Discipline, Duty, and Community. Those who prayed to Marcus prayed for strong shields and courage in the face of an overwhelming foe. Military institutions based on his worship rarely broke rank, and always fought for the honor of something outside of themselves (for the legion, for the empire, for the people, etc). It was common for soldiers worshiping Marcus to possess a perverse sense of humility, chalking up any bravery or meritorious action on their part as merely an extension of the unit. Unfortunately, worshipers of Marcus also displayed attitudes similar to mob mentality. Loyalty to their brothers sometimes trumped loyalty to the unit's nation/people/cause. Marcus' worshipers favor homogeneity and conformity.

The other god, Krom, is the God of Warriors. Warriors fight for their own honor and their own glory. Unashamedly, even. Those who pray to Krom pray for victory, for glory and for the blood of their foes to stain steel. They do not worship carnage, however. Warfare for Krom's worshipers is a brutal, yet necessary fact of life. And if they must commit violence in order to safeguard their families, their people, then there can be no shame in taking pride in their ability to wage war. It's hypocritical to talk of peace and war in the same breath to such people. Warriors take pride in their victories, and are rewarded by their leaders for their skill, either with treasure or title. There is also an element of selflessness in this, for a Warrior is expected to use their reward. They use their potential and their power to help others. Whereas Marcus would advocate submission to group mentality, Krom desires that his Warriors first prove their worth, and then uplift others by example.

So we have a god of war who represents Strength through Unity and Community, but whose followers sometimes become withdrawn and xenophobic, and another who represents Strength through Individual Merit, but whose followers can sometimes carry on the bloodshed needlessly.

2013-01-17, 02:18 AM
I like the above ideas.

Or, a god of those who survived and a god of those who died.

The former receives the prayers of the soldier begging for another day. He revels in the cheers of returning victors and the wailing of orphans. He is there when the heart beats faster and adrenaline pumps, whether it's the hero raising a sword or the coward skulking away in the din. He strikes hearts with survivor's guilt and burrows into the minds of the traumatized. He reunites families and fights for peace. His holy men are healers. To worship him, wage war, defy odds, take spoils, be relentless, seize every moment.

The latter receives the prayers of the warrior asking to die gloriously. He crouches in the silence of the misty battlefield. He is there as the body fails, instantaneously in a ball of flame or patiently as famine creeps. He sings to sleep the feverish wounded and stills the madness that claws. He reunites souls and brings the truest peace. His holy men are undertakers. To worship him, wage war, die free, honor the dead and their things, be fatalistic, surrender to eternity.

2013-01-17, 01:23 PM
WFRP has multiple war gods...

Myrmidia, goddess of strategy and tactics, and organised military
Ulric, god of battle, winter, and wolves
Khorne, the blood god, god of rage (evil)

The primary "good" dichotomy is of tactics vs. courage.

Less obviously...

Sigmar, god of the Empire
Our Lady, goddess of Bretonnia and chivalry

2013-01-17, 09:10 PM
Now, in the interest of the Green vs Blue split you wanted, and the ideal that two armies may clash, with soldiers in each army offering prayers to both of the War Gods, I was thinking of this as an elegant solution:

______, God of the Blade
______, God of the Bow

Despite the Blade/Bow split, they aren't dedicated only to a narrow range of weapons. The idea is they both favor different martial aspects. One who prefers Combat be a test of physical strength and power. Who favors those who close with the enemy and kill them at such a range they can soak in their arterial spray. The other favoring those who choose to kill at a distance, depending on their own swift aim, ability to read the environment at a glance, keen eyes, and massed fire.

Obviously any army worth it's salt is going to have both ranged and melee users in it. Otherwise you'd end up with your army decimated when you finally ran into a situation you weren't suited for. And thus obviously you have both figures accounted for. Said gods aren't antagonistic against one another, both recognize on some level the need for the other (Though they think their way is superior). More of a friendly rivalry thing.

Because, well, "Opposites" shouldn't mean "Opposed" necessarily.

Just one more option. It seems kinda weird and basic, not exactly "Brilliant!" when I came up with it. But I also think that's the good part of it. It's simple, it's easy to grasp. It accomplishes all your stated goals. And you can add the complexity in what you want by flavor, rites, dogma, etc rather than feeling the pressure that the idea itself has to be amazing.

2013-01-18, 01:01 AM
______, God of the Blade
______, God of the Bow

The elves of the FR had something vaguely like that, with a specific god of archery, Solonor Thelandira (sp?) and a goddess of bladesmanship, Eilistraee.

You can flip that around and have a goddess of archery, all Artemis-like, and a god of melee combat, more Ares in nature, or have them even be different races (dwarven melee god, elven archery god) or whatever.

2013-01-18, 12:55 PM
I just remembered another dichotomy, from my modern gods project


Stone: Subjugation of self
"An undisciplined soldier cannot be considered a loyal soldier because the fact that you are undisciplined means you are violating the rules of the service that you are supposed to uphold to the letter."

Apotheon: Understanding of self
"Given enough time, any man may master the physical. With enough knowledge, any man may become wise. It is the true warrior who can master both....and surpass the result."

As originally conceived, Stone is True Neutral, and Apotheon is Lawful Neutral. But there's no logical reason they couldn't both be Lawful Neutral.

2013-01-18, 12:59 PM
You could look at Athena vs Ares.
Athena is the Intelligent Wise goddess of military strategy, Ares is the brutish god of actual combat.

Basically this.

One is the REAL war diety (ala Ares) whilst the toehr is all about kinda war related stuff but not the actual war part. (ala Athena)

2013-01-18, 01:08 PM
I guess the question is this; what is an original thing for the two war gods to disagree about?

Melee vs. Ranged. One thinks that the honorable thing to do is end the combat quickly with a decisive decapitating strike so that the fewest lives can be wasted in miserable trench warfare, so they would favor various equivalents to a sniper rifle (anything from sneak-attack arrow to Magic Missile to Summon Invisible Stalker), aiming to win battles through decisive tactics and intelligence. The other believes that it is wrong to kill dispassionately from a distance, that you owe it to a man to look into his eyes and wear his blood on your hands as he dies, or just that the rush of pitched battle is when you feel most alive. Both of these can be spun toward any alignment.

2013-01-20, 09:35 AM
The gods could also disagree about whether war is desirable and worthwhile for its own sake. One could preside over war as a horrible means to an end while the other sees it as a glorious way of life.

2013-01-22, 04:16 PM
In my campaign (which has more gods than you can shake a stick at) I have 17 war gods, as well as quite a few others who have War in their portfolios.

The trick is to worry less about what differences there might be between the god's portfolios and more in the personalities of them and their clergies. What would make a character follow one and not the other. Most of the gods in my setting are from official sources that I have repurposed, but each church has its own goals and reasons. These are more important than the powers granted. That's just my 2 cp.