Thursday, October 30, 2014

My D&D Mythology

When I first created a D&D campaign back in 2004, after having only a session and a half of experience, one of the first things I did was sit down and create new deities for my campaign setting. The D&D books have their own deities like Pelor, Whosit, and Whatsisface, but none of them really called to me.

Oddly, I was familiar with the Dragonlance setting long before I started playing D&D, and their deities seemed way more interesting. Moreover, there was a theme of balance in that setting that attracted me. Rather than simply lift Paladine, Takhisis, and the rest straight from Weis and Hickman's pages, though, I created my own pantheon using the Dragonlance one as a loose template. The result was 18 deities, two for each alignment. I'm going to talk about the general mythology in this post.

The stories of how these deities came to be speak a lot to my mindset at the time. The way they started out is not necessarily what they became. Since they've been the pantheon I've used for all of my D&D campaigns so far, they've naturally evolved as my understanding of the world evolved.

At first, the deities were mostly just names I pulled from various places. Eventually, though, I created a theme that encompassed all of the deities: the Truth/Half-Truth/Lies system. It's clearly a very good-aligned perspective, but it's the one I use when try to remember them all.

The gist is this: once there were 18 truths: humility, mercy, compassion, progress, happiness, balance, justice, loyalty, growth, wisdom, activity, life, protection, health, love, death, change, and purity. I know some of these are synonyms, but bear with me here. These truths helped shape the world into what it is, according to the Plan. However, after the world was formed, some of the truths began to quarrel with the Plan, and soon there were three distinct groups: those who fought against the Plan, those who fought to protect the Plan, and those who stood by, helping neither side.

Eventually the Plan asserted itself, and those who protected it retained their Truths and became the good-aligned deities: the gods of Humility, Mercy, Compassion, Progress, Balance, and Happiness. They were tasked with maintaining the Plan and keeping balance in the world, as the world needs both light and darkness. As the forces of evil are always fighting to plunge the world into darkness, that generally means that most of the good-aligned Truths are constantly battling that darkness by spreading light in one way or another.

Those who stood by and helped neither side became Half-Truths. Justice became Judgment, Loyalty became Favor, Growth became Harvest, Wisdom became Knowledge, Activity became Mischief, and Life became Nature. None of these Half-Truths are necessarily bad, but they do not encompass all of what they once did. And so, they continue to take no sides, either watching, ignoring, or playing both sides as their individual whims decide. Though they often have no effect on the balance of the world, they are also the ones who can tip the scales in favor of either side, as they sometimes do. After all, neutrality does not necessarily mean inaction.

Finally, those who turned against the Plan had their truths corrupted into Lies. Protection became Tyranny, Health became Wealth, Love became Manipulation, Death became Murder, Change became Destruction, and Purity became Nothingness. These Lies still consider themselves to be working toward their respective Truths, of course, but not in the way they were intended. They each seek to bring the world under their sway, sometimes by teaming with with each other, but usually independently.

And so the plate of the world spins, trying to maintain its balance by not tipping too far in any direction, so to speak.

The Plan, as a personified concept just like the rest of the deities, was originally a sort of higher deity that presumably created the other deities and is otherwise hands-off with the world. A "greater deity" is fairly common in D&D settings, like Ao in Forgotton Realms and the High God in Dragonlance. Looking back, it's a very Judeo-Christian concept being applied to a system otherwise more similar to pagan pantheons. I wonder if that was a conscious decision on their part, to make this pagan concept more palatable to the predominantly Christian Americans who would be playing this game. Though, interestingly, worshiping a "greater deity" in these setting is usually frowned upon.

Anyway, I'll go through the embarrassing process of describing the actual deities in another post. I'm actually pretty proud of my pantheon, even if the actual histories of their conceptions are often embarrassing.

1 comment:

  1. I love this mythology, by the way. I remember you explaining it to me in a drive-thru once. It tickled me that the last boss of the campaign was the Goddess of Love.

    I always thought of the higher deities as analogs for the DM.