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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Real world pantheons in games

    It seems most game settings use their own pantheons and gods for their worlds. Is there any resource for games that use real world pantheons? And do you have an opinion on creating your own pantheon vs using an existing one? The only book I know of is D&D 3.5 edition Dietes and Demigods.

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    Cealocanth's Avatar

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    5e has an option for alternate pantheons, which includes, among others, the Norse, Celtic, and Greek pantheons. It's mostly a matter of reassigning the domains of various gods, which determine which types of cleric worship them, and which spells those clerics get. It can get very easy to make an OP cleric this way, but the ones in the book are balanced.

    Also, real world religion discussions are against forum rules. Be sure to keep replies strictly in a fantasy context.
    Last edited by Cealocanth; 2018-01-07 at 10:11 PM.
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    DruidGirl

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    D&D usually lists common dead pantheons for inspiration, usually the Greek, Norse, and Egyptian pantheons, along with suggested domains for clerics.

    I'm mixed on using "real" gods. I like the creativity in pantheon-building, but the real myths give a solid base, and work well as a transition into the world of divine magic, since real myths are part of usually common knowledge, and make understanding each gods "feel" is easier to get into.

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    DrowGuy

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    As a mythology buff I'd say that the biggest concern when using real world mythology is that you risk losing much of the depth of those deities when you remove them from their proper cultural context. Deities don't exist within a vacuum to be freely transplanted into an entirely different setting without things getting weird.

    This is kind of where the bridge between mythology and religion begins to be crossed. Gods rarely enter into a new culture without significant changes to their personality, as they're almost always there to fit some sort of cultural niche.

    For example, take the Greek and Roman pantheons. Many people make the assumption that the only thing that was really changed were their names. (along with some possible knowledge of Roman additions like Janus.) But the context of how the Gods acted changed significantly when viewed from a Roman perspective versus a Greek one. For instance, Ares in Greek mythology, is largely considered an antagonistic force, an personification of the brutal aspects of warfare and violence. This was mostly because much of Greek mythology that we know was written by the Athenians, and Ares was the patron of their rival Sparta.

    By contrast, Mars of the Romans wasn't just a berserk warmonger, he was their patron God, father of their cultural founder Romulus, and as such was presented as the ideal Roman citizen, a disciplined soldier in war and a civic leader and farmer in peace times.

    This obviously might be different if your setting has the gods be undisputed real forces in the world, but this is where you risk losing the depth behind all of this. If Ares is real and acts like a total ******* just like in Greek mythology, it would naturally produce more civilizations in the vein of Athens than it would Rome. A Roman or Spartan analogue in your setting that worships the Athenian version of Ares would be massively different than the real Rome or Sparta.

    As another example. Aphrodite as a Goddess is a massive indicator of the way in which the Greeks viewed sexual love. To them, Love was dangerous, it made men do crazy things, which is exactly why Aphrodite is so involved in the Trojan war, a large-scale event of senseless violence all over love. (She's also representative of how the misogynistic ancient Greeks viewed sexual women) Aphrodite as a Goddess is easily pegged as Chaotic Neutral in D&D terms, and any setting that includes her in an accurate portrayal is almost certainly going to develop similar ideas about how love works. If your world also has questing knights engaging in courtly love, there's going to be an obvious disconnect. Now you can easily change Aphrodite's character, and go for a more modern outlook where her lessons are more "love conquers all" and less "b-words be crazy"

    Cultures shape their Gods, but Gods also shape their cultures. (especially if those gods are present enough to actively have a say in how they're being worshiped.) Either you need to change the setting to fit the gods or vice versa. If you're up for that degree of worldbuilding, more power to you, but it's going to be more work than just plopping down some pre-made deities and assuming everything else will act like your standard fantasy world.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravian View Post
    As a mythology buff I'd say that the biggest concern when using real world mythology is that you risk losing much of the depth of those deities when you remove them from their proper cultural context. Deities don't exist within a vacuum to be freely transplanted into an entirely different setting without things getting weird.

    Cultures shape their Gods, but Gods also shape their cultures. (especially if those gods are present enough to actively have a say in how they're being worshiped.) Either you need to change the setting to fit the gods or vice versa. If you're up for that degree of worldbuilding, more power to you, but it's going to be more work than just plopping down some pre-made deities and assuming everything else will act like your standard fantasy world.
    Have to agree with this, and I'd note the additional issue that traditional inspiration for a generic fantasy setting is High or Late Medieval Europe - by which point pretty much no one was following any polytheistic faith at all.

    Using extant deities can save you a step and boost recognition if you're creating a fantasy setting that hews fairly closely to the society that created those deities. So if your setting is a bunch of scattered city-states in a Bronze Age/Iron Age context, then using the Hellenistic deities may be useful, but if you're doing something else it's almost certain to create more problems than it solves.
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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    Quote Originally Posted by Koeh View Post
    It seems most game settings use their own pantheons and gods for their worlds. Is there any resource for games that use real world pantheons? And do you have an opinion on creating your own pantheon vs using an existing one? The only book I know of is D&D 3.5 edition Dietes and Demigods.
    Creating your own pantheons can be quite a bit of work. Using pre-existing ones is generally much easier. Pre-existing pantheons tend to be great at setting up and reflecting the broader, ongoing/historical, power struggles within the campaign setting.

    Deities in the Greyhawk setting in particular are drawn pretty close to their real-world inspirations. Some, especially a few of the monstrous deities, are ripped off pretty much whole-sale.

    There are a number of splatbooks covering this going all the way back to the ODnD though.

    1. Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976)
    2. Deities & Demi-Gods (1980/2002)
    3. Legends & Lore (1983/1990)
    4. Manual of the Planes (1987/2001)
    5. World Builder's Guidebook (1996)
    6. Monster Mythology (1992)

    Those are some of the older books that a lot of people overlook. They can be difficult to find but they cover a wide range of topics in varying degrees of detail. Every one of those is going to give you at least a table or three of information pertinent to your question.

    However, for information specific to various "real" pantheons you'll want to look at the "Historical Reference Series."

    1. Viking's Campaign Sourcebook (1991 - HR1)
    2. Charlegmange's Paladins Campaign Sourcebook (HR2)
    3. Celts Campaign Sourcebook (1992 - HR3)
    5. The Glory of Rome Campaign Sourcebook (HR5)

    Hopefully some of those references help you out in developing your pantheons.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    Planescape and the book On Hallowed Ground for AD&D 2E had a good dozen or so real world pantheons. Sumerian, Babylonian, Celtic, Egyptian, Finnish, Greek, Nordic, Chinese, Hindu and Japanese. With alignments and spheres of influence, too, though it's a bit hit and miss.

    Two notes:
    In my own current setting, all the gods are mostly antagonistic forces that need to be placated. No one would speak badly of the god of the sea, of course. He's a wise and benevolent father figure. Because if you do, he sinks your fleet and floods your city. Priests are very respected, because if they don't do their job right, people suffer.

    Second, a lot of the books that inspired D&D (Tolkien, Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser) take a lot of inspirations from the bronze age and antiquity in general, so polytheism certainly has a home in D&D too, even ifofficial D&D settings overwhelmingly seem to trend towards kingdoms and knights over city states and hoplites.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2018-01-08 at 10:11 AM.
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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    If you're going to directly use a real-life pantheon, with all the myths and everything attached, then...

    First, make sure that the "mythos" and the culture are a good mutual fit. There's a feedback loop between the culture and the religion, they're intertwined and shape each other. A culture that most values individuality will not have the same deities and stories as a culture that most values order and obedience. for example -- both because the people will tell different stories and because the stories will have something of an intent to reinforce their values.

    Second, keep in mind that almost every presentation we see of those "old religions" is grossly simplified, with the author(s) having picked through a tangle of conflicting and contradictory accounts of the origins, histories, and relationships of those deities. The "Egyptian" and "Greek" religions in particular were amalgams of regional and local beliefs that changed and changed again over the course of multiple millennia.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-08 at 10:17 AM.
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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Second, keep in mind that almost every presentation we see of those "old religions" is grossly simplified, with the author(s) having picked through a tangle of conflicting and contradictory accounts of the origins, histories, and relationships of those deities. The "Egyptian" and "Greek" religions in particular were amalgams of regional and local beliefs that changed and changed again over the course of multiple millennia.
    On that note for Egyptians,s Assassin's Creed Origins actually has by all accounts a pretty accurate view of how Egyptians and Greeks looked at each other, and each other's beliefs roughly during 100BCE. So you want to understand from a player facing view, rather than an academics view, of a how "real" people viewed their world there are worse places to turn.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; 2018-01-08 at 03:18 PM.

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    Honest Tiefling's Avatar

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    Another issue I can see is mythological confusion due to different contemporary interpretations. Let's take Aphrodite as an example. Everyone knows she was born from bits of Uranus being thrown into the sea, right? Unless your player read Homer, in which case she runs to her mother, Dionne...Who doesn't exist in the other version. Yeah, for a bit they just had two Aphrodites because why not?

    So you might have a situation where a player assumes one version, when you went with another for whatever reason. I don't think using existing gods really cuts down on time because of this. Through the issue of incompatible morality also comes into play with characters likes Hades.

    I suggest using various gods as a basis to make your own pantheon as the laziest option. You have gods you can customize very easily, don't have to worry about people with too much or too little of a classical education, and you can side step various.
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    DruidGirl

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    Default Re: Real world pantheons in games

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    In my own current setting, all the gods are mostly antagonistic forces that need to be placated. No one would speak badly of the god of the sea, of course. He's a wise and benevolent father figure. Because if you do, he sinks your fleet and floods your city. Priests are very respected, because if they don't do their job right, people suffer.
    This?


    I use a complex regional worship system. There are large swaths of the game that are monotheistic in my game. But, I do use real world pantheons where the culture is similar enough. I find that is the best way to handle RL mythology.


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