Monday, October 6, 2014

How Important are The Gods in your Campaigns?

I remember the games I ran back in the early 80's - low on details, high on dungeons. Cleric's worshiped some unnamed force until I bought the Greyhawk folio, and even then it just was a name filling a caption on the character sheet.

After seeing the detail given in Dragon Magazine to the racial and Greyhawk deities, I tried my hand at designing my own deities (notice I don't mention Deities & Demigods, as it always seemed more like a high level monster book it my eyes.) Although I want to say they were well designed, I can't find the notebook that contained them, and I suspect they were pretty crappy. Still, I used them in my own home grown campaigns, which always seemed to take up more time preparing the background for than was ever used in game.

Now, I've swung back the other way, where deity details are glossed over in my campaigns. One of the nice things about the limited sandbox of Tenkar's Landing is I can probably get away with detailing just 2 or 3 deities to begin with without worrying about whole pantheons.

How important are deities in the campaigns you run and / or play in?


  1. Deities were never really all that important in my games because my players never really cared. My players were never really big on playing clerics and the only time they got close was when one player tried to start a cult to use as a cover for his undermining of a ruler he didn't like.
    As the DM I've often put together at least some basic deities in order to provide a more coherent world but over time I've moved away from detailing specific deities and pantheons to detailing specific religions or movements.They may not interact with any given deity but they may interact with the local churches inquisitors.

  2. Admittedly not DnD, but my players got an image of a spirit which they could then build up how they wanted, the shaman gets magic powers (mainly buffs and debuffs for others) based on the feel they give me for their god. I'm hearing plans to expand this into a pantheon for more versitility and curses.

  3. In my campaigns it tends to be based on what the players are looking for. If they're into the gods and go over the top then lots of details come out and matter in the game. If they couldn't give a shit than I treat the gods as something to fill in on a character sheet.

  4. Back in the 90s, in my 2nd Edition games, gods were very important to my campaigns. I spent way too much time developing pantheons and figuring out the details of each and every specialty priest. Gods and their drama were important parts of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance, so they had to be important in my game too, right? Right??

    Now that god stuff bores me. Instead, I try and focus on what kind of secular influence the various cults and churches have on a land's culture and politics. The gods themselves are unknowable, unimportant, and possibly nonexistent.

    1. @ Joshua:

      See, I don't get that. How can the gods be "unknowable, unimportant, and possibly nonexistent?" Do you not have clerics in your game? Do you not have supernatural evil and otherworldly beings? Are there no relics of power?

  5. @ Tenkar:

    My experience has been about the opposite of yours: in the 80s, we paid a lot of attention to deities in our AD&D campaign (more for the Deities & Demigods book than for Dragon). Post 1987 or '88 I completely stopped worrying about gods (though as a PLAYER, I've had several clerics, and their gods were very important for my characterization...however, in all cases, *I* was the one creating the god, not the DM, because the DM didn't care or have much attachment to the idea).

    NOW...well, now I'm very interested in the place/subject of religion when it comes to my campaign settings. 5AK has a lot of religion in it (though not necessarily "gods"...it's based on real world monotheisms). The new game I'm working on has religious themes as well.

    However, I have to admit that I'm NOT very interested in the gods/pantheons found in existing D&D campaign settings...they're a bit lukewarm for my taste. A pseudo-medieval setting...not to mention a fantasy setting with blatant examples of the supernatural...should inspire extreme piousness and faith, NOT a laissez-faire approach to the gods and religion.

    It's like WotC is wary of stepping on peoples' atheism or something.


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