Friends In High Places

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The people of Golarion have literally hundreds of gods that they could choose to follow. In fact, many people follow the teaching of multiple deities in their everyday life. A farmer might pray to Gozreh for rain, Sarenrae for lots of sunlight, and Erastil for a good harvest all in the same day. Considering this was a common aspect of so many of our characters and stories in Pathfinder, we thought that Lost Omens Gods & Magic was the perfect time to introduce a way to represent polytheism mechanically.

Pantheons are groups of related gods that can be worshipped either individually or together. In some cases, these gods share thematic ties. The farmer mentioned above sees Erastil, Gozreh, and Sarenrae as important because of their influence on the farmer’s crops. In other cases, gods are all part of the same pantheon due to their common worshippers. Most elves worship the same group of elven deities, for example. Sometimes gods might be actually related, such is the case with Torag and his family who make up the dwarven pantheon.

Torag, dwarven god of the forge and strategy, strikes an iron at his anvil.

Art by Emile Denis

Gods & Magic introduces new rules for worshipping pantheons. A character can choose to worship a pantheon, which is very similar to the worship of an individual deity. A pantheon features a stat block with its own set of alignment restrictions, domains, edicts, anathemas, and so on, thus following the same rules as the worship of a single deity. Pantheons do have a wrinkle, however. Instead of simply worshipping the pantheon, a character must also select a patron deity among those that are part of the pantheon. Think of the patron deity as a character’s focus or guide to the specific pantheon. A character worshipping a pantheon must follow the edicts and avoid the anathemas of both the pantheon and patron deity, with the patron’s edicts and anathema taking precedence. Having a patron deity prevents a worshipper from becoming caught between mutually exclusive edicts and anathema from all the gods they worship as the worshipper can ultimately fall back on the patron’s requirements in conflicting or unusual situations.

Dwarf Pantheon

  • Alignment LG (LN, NG, N)
  • Areas of Concern Ancestry, crafting, dwarves, relationships
  • Divine Font heal
  • Divine Ability Constitution or Wisdom
  • Divine Skill Diplomacy
  • Domains creation, family, protection, wealth
  • Alternate Domains duty, glyph
  • Cleric Spells 1st: ant haul, 4th: creation, 7th: retrocognition
  • Edicts develop skills useful to your community (especially mining, crafting, and trading), honor your ancestors through traditions and rituals
  • Anathema dishonor your family, willingly break a contract or oath, irreparably damage an ancestral relic
  • Favored Weapon warhammer

This book presents a few sample pantheons, such as the dwarven pantheon and the Godclaw. However, pantheons can come in all shapes and sizes. We recommend that GMs use the pantheons featured in the book as a starting point for what you can do with pantheons. In fact, let’s see what we might be able to come up with using some of the gods featured in Gods & Magic!

Desna, Shelyn, and Sarenrae rest in a beautiful forest clearing.

Art by Klaher Baklaher

You could consider gods who are each other’s’ allies. Desna, Shelyn, and Sarenrae all work together in their fight against evil and are even known to be lovers. If we made a pantheon that included their themes and values, we might end up with something like this.

The Prismatic Ray

  • Alignment NG (LG, NG, CG)
  • Areas of Concern Defeating evil, guarding innocents, and wholesome creations
  • Divine Font heal
  • Divine Ability Wisdom or Charisma
  • Divine Skill Diplomacy
  • Domains creation, moon, protection, sun
  • Alternate Domains family, healing, travel
  • Cleric Spells 1st: sleep, 3rd: fireball, 4th: creation
  • Edicts Create works that inspire good acts, defend those who cannot defend themselves, pursue evil
  • Anathema allow evil to spread, destroy that which brings joy to others, fail to offer evil a chance to surrender
  • Favored Weapon shortsword

Here, I tried to snag a bit from each goddess. I settled on the Primastic Ray as a name that represents all three. The various colors represent Shelyn, while the ray could be either moonlight for Desna or sunlight for Sarenrae. Of course, this is just one take on these three deities. I could have chosen to focus more on the travel and freedom aspects of Desna or the healing aspects of Sarenrae. What’s fun about pantheons is that you can usually make them however you like, so long as they make sense thematically.

A depiction of both aspects of Nethys, the god of magic, in an ancient Egyptian style.

Art by Cynthia F.G

Speaking of thematic ties, have you heard of Ancient Osirion? Turns out they had lots of deities back in the ancient days. Also, did you know that Nethys was originally an Osiriani pharaoh? That’s fun! Well, let’s see what we can do with that. Gods & Magic includes rules for worshipping the Ancient Osirian gods. A good number of them (Isis, Selket, and Thoth to be specific) also have a focus on magic, just like Nethys. If we take those four, we might get a pantheon like this one.

Wards of the Pharaoh

  • Alignment NG (LN, NG, N, CG)
  • Areas of Concern Abjuration magic, protection, self-improvement
  • Divine Font harm or heal
  • Divine Ability Constitution or Intelligence
  • Divine Skill Medicine
  • Domains Family, knowledge, magic, protection
  • Alternate Domains glyph*, healing
  • Cleric Spells 1st: soothe, 4th: resilient sphere, 9th: disjunction
  • Edicts Use magic to defend yourself and your allies, maintain magical wards, seek greater magical knowledge
  • Anathema Destroy wards that are actively protecting innocents, refuse to use your magic to help those in need who ask you
  • Favored Weapon staff

All of these deities have a focus on magic, but a lot of them are also focused on the protection of others or on knowledge. I chose to lean into these aspects a bit, creating a pantheon themed around using magic to protect others while still keeping the pursuit of knowledge. Nethys is a neutral deity, but I doubt that he would be against improving one’s magical skill regardless of what school of magic it’s for. As a result, he made a fitting, but very interesting addition to the pantheon.

Casandalee, goddess of artificial life and free thinking, producing runes and mathematical symbols.

Art by Emile Denis

Let’s try one more pantheon before I go. With the focus on knowledge, I want to snag a few knowledge focused deities and see what we can create. I start by grabbing Brigh and Casandalee. Then, I take Irori as he is an obvious choice. From there, I include Shyka who can understand all events throughout time thanks to their unique focus on time. Finally, to introduce a little chaos, I’ve added Ydajisk, a protean demigod focused on language. With all of those deities, we might get something like this.

Pillars of Knowledge

  • Alignment N (LN, N, CN)
  • Areas of Concern Learning, innovation, safeguarding knowledge
  • Divine Font harm or heal
  • Divine Ability Intelligence or Wisdom
  • Divine Skill Crafting
  • Domains Creation, knowledge, secrecy, truth
  • Alternate Domains glyph*, perfection, time*
  • Cleric Spells 1st: message rune*, , 3rd: hypercognition, 9th: retrocognition
  • Edicts Seek new knowledge, use your knowledge and skill to improve the world around you, protect knowledge from becoming lost
  • Anathema Choose to use old knowledge or tools after they have been improved upon, destroy knowledge, refuse to answer a query for which you know the answer
  • Favored Weapon light hammer

Again, this leads to a fun little mishmash of different themes and ideas for each of the deities. Some of the most fun comes with creating anathemas for the pantheons. Brigh and Casandalee are both goddesses related to invention and innovation, so asking a worshipper to make sure they are using the latest knowledge and tools is an interesting way to express these themes. Ydajisk calls for worshippers to keep old languages—and old knowledge—alive, but they also keep you from holding your tongue when asked a question.

As you can see, pantheons can make for limitless interesting combinations and ideas. We’re looking forward to providing more pantheons in the future, but we’re most excited to see what pantheons players and GMs create for their own games. You could maybe take the four Horsemen and create a pantheon to worship all four. If you like the spirit of competition, you could create a pantheon that includes Kurgess and other sporting deities. I’m sure our fans will create lots of fun and memorable pantheons in the years to come. If you want to check out pantheons, make sure to snag Lost Omens Gods & Magic when it releases on January 29th. It’s going to be divine!

Luis Loza
Developer

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Tags: Lost Omens Gods & Magic Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition
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James Jacobs wrote:

In my opinion, if you want to play a worshiper of a huge number of deities, it'd be better to play anything BUT a cleric. Any class can be religous, after all. And if you want to do one of these and still be a divine caster, the best thematic choice (again, in my opinion) at this point is a divine tradition sorcerer. Later in the year, you can add oracle to that list, of course.

Clerics work best, thematically, when they serve one deity. And to me, that means that the smaller the pantheon is, the tighter their theme will be, and the less awkward it'll be to play that cleric.

You COULD do a cleric who worships a pantheon of a thousand, but to me, that dilutes and "genericizes" the best parts of playing a cleric. It's like playing a fighter who doesn't have a favorite type of weapon, or playing a sorcerer who doesn't do anything with their bloodline, or playing a bard who doesn't have a thematic type of performance picked out, or playing a druid who picks a different type of animal companion every day. By trying to do everything, you don't really build up your own "brand."

Out of curiosity, how do you (or other Paizo GMs) handle pantheons within cultures? Certain areas of the setting state, or at least strongly imply, that the worship of evil deities is proscribed. So, if a society's pantheon is the "Core 20", how does that work for the average follower (non-cleric/priest)?

I'm sold on the pantheon concept and have been working to incorporate them into my game in a more prominent way, so I'm thrilled Gods & Magic will have rules to support it. I'm just stumbling a bit at how to depict it in a setting where good/evil/law/chaos are tangible forces.


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1d6 Fall Damage wrote:
I am curious how pantheon rules interact with spells like Divine Lance.

The simplest idea would be that the spells would key off of the patron deity. When you are building your pantheon, just make sure there is one non-TN deity in the group, so that one can be the patron.

I imagine that is how the final oracle will work too: you worship fire or battle or whatnot, pick a god with that in the portfolio as the patron deity for purposes of spells that require a deity. You are an oracle, not a cleric or paladin, so you can ignore the anathemas associated with that god (unless you want to be bound by them).


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
BPorter wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

In my opinion, if you want to play a worshiper of a huge number of deities, it'd be better to play anything BUT a cleric. Any class can be religous, after all. And if you want to do one of these and still be a divine caster, the best thematic choice (again, in my opinion) at this point is a divine tradition sorcerer. Later in the year, you can add oracle to that list, of course.

Clerics work best, thematically, when they serve one deity. And to me, that means that the smaller the pantheon is, the tighter their theme will be, and the less awkward it'll be to play that cleric.

You COULD do a cleric who worships a pantheon of a thousand, but to me, that dilutes and "genericizes" the best parts of playing a cleric. It's like playing a fighter who doesn't have a favorite type of weapon, or playing a sorcerer who doesn't do anything with their bloodline, or playing a bard who doesn't have a thematic type of performance picked out, or playing a druid who picks a different type of animal companion every day. By trying to do everything, you don't really build up your own "brand."

Out of curiosity, how do you (or other Paizo GMs) handle pantheons within cultures? Certain areas of the setting state, or at least strongly imply, that the worship of evil deities is proscribed. So, if a society's pantheon is the "Core 20", how does that work for the average follower (non-cleric/priest)?

I'm sold on the pantheon concept and have been working to incorporate them into my game in a more prominent way, so I'm thrilled Gods & Magic will have rules to support it. I'm just stumbling a bit at how to depict it in a setting where good/evil/law/chaos are tangible forces.

I would say the "Core20" grouping is an artificial, Out of Game one. Not representative of any in world grouping. Each regions basically have their own "mini" pantheons. In fact, we could almost say it's by city at this point. Breachills in AoA have Cayden, Desna, Shelyn as major gods. Sandpoint is Desna, Abadar, Sarenrae, Shelyn, Gozreh, and Erastil. Cheliax make the worship of Desna illegal, and IF we would make a pantheon for them, I'd mainly include Abadar, Asmodeus, Erastil, Iomedae, and Zon-Kuthon, all loyal gods.

Absalom might be the closest to one where a pantheon of their gods would be weird, but even there it could still work, and it's not the full Core20. (But they still have 9 of them! Norgorber, Cayden Cailean, Iomedae, Abadar, Nethys, Sarenrae, Calistria, Irori and Shelyn. That pantheon would probably end TN. Aroden would also be included in it, but he doesn't grant spell anymore, so I don't count him as an available patron!)
So yeah, If I was really incorporating Pantheons as an integral part of the setting, I'd make a pantheon by regions, based on the most important part of the lives of people in that region. The whole of Cheliax is Law. (But then they could have the Bellflower Network worshiping an underground Pantheon of Desna and other chaotic deities.) Breachills would be a pantheon of adventurer gods. Most small towns would probably have Erastil, Gozreh if they have some fishing too.
I know the question was not directed at me, but I felt inspired. :3

TL;DR: I see pantheons as things that grow organically within the societies, so they would need to fit with the region or group way of life. Most pantheons basically make themselves if you have a well developed setting.


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Core 20 was just an easy example. The question is, how would - in game/in setting - are pantheons that include good, neutral, and - more problematically - evil deities treated by the average follower in a given culture?

The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc. all had pantheons that wouldn't neatly align to a "good pantheon" or "neutral pantheon". Pathfinder assigns alignments to deities. So how best to draw from mythology for inspiration and implement it in a satisfying manner in-game?

Small, similarly themed and aligned pantheons are easy to represent and understand. I'm specifically inquiring about the larger, more morally complex type.

Contributor

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BPorter wrote:
Small, similarly themed and aligned pantheons are easy to represent and understand. I'm specifically inquiring about the larger, more morally complex type.

While someone may turn to gods, even evil gods, when dealing with things in their purview ("Help me with my legal troubles, Asmodeus!"), no one worships all gods equally, and certainly no one is empowered this way because the whole of the gods are antithetical to the each other.

So, while ancient Osirians might recognize the existence of all their gods, there were no priests of all the gods. There might however, be as Luis demonstrates, a priest of all the magic gods.

Yet, just because the kind of pantheon that can empower a cleric must have an unambiguous thesis, that doesn't mean they are without nuance. The Godclaw deities are all lawful, but run the gamut from good to evil. The lawful good dwarven pantheon includes an evil deity, but he's the black sheep of the family that no one talks about.


I am so looking forwards to doing this with my own deities, so much here that looks fun.


David Schwartz wrote:

While someone may turn to gods, even evil gods, when dealing with things in their purview ("Help me with my legal troubles, Asmodeus!"), no one worships all gods equally, and certainly no one is empowered this way because the whole of the gods are antithetical to the each other.

So, while ancient Osirians might recognize the existence of all their gods, there were no priests of all the gods. There might however, be as Luis demonstrates, a priest of all the magic gods.

Yet, just because the kind of pantheon that can empower a cleric must have an unambiguous thesis, that doesn't mean they are without nuance. The Godclaw deities are all lawful, but run the gamut from good to evil. The lawful good dwarven pantheon includes an evil deity, but he's the black sheep of the family that no one talks about.

I'm not interested in pantheon priests, clerics, etc. My question is a world-building one. To use your example, how are larger pantheons that include evil deities handled in Golarion? If Asmodeus is proscribed/banned elsewhere that would imply that a cleric and followers of Asmodeus has to operate in secret. There are plenty of cultists in Paizo adventures, after all.

If Asmosdeus is part of the culture's pantheon, I would suspect that it may be easier for that cleric to operate openly. Are evil deities only placated, are pantheon worshippers seeking to avoid the notice of the evil deities, or does 'the Devil get his due' with active worship? How are the services/practices/sacrifices of evil deities modified so they can be included in the cultural pantheon? Or does the culture turn a blind eye because the god is part of the pantheon?

I think that there's a fascinating amount of story potential to be mined there and it's another tool for differentiating nations, cultures, and settlements.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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BPorter wrote:
David Schwartz wrote:

While someone may turn to gods, even evil gods, when dealing with things in their purview ("Help me with my legal troubles, Asmodeus!"), no one worships all gods equally, and certainly no one is empowered this way because the whole of the gods are antithetical to the each other.

So, while ancient Osirians might recognize the existence of all their gods, there were no priests of all the gods. There might however, be as Luis demonstrates, a priest of all the magic gods.

Yet, just because the kind of pantheon that can empower a cleric must have an unambiguous thesis, that doesn't mean they are without nuance. The Godclaw deities are all lawful, but run the gamut from good to evil. The lawful good dwarven pantheon includes an evil deity, but he's the black sheep of the family that no one talks about.

I'm not interested in pantheon priests, clerics, etc. My question is a world-building one. To use your example, how are larger pantheons that include evil deities handled in Golarion? If Asmodeus is proscribed/banned elsewhere that would imply that a cleric and followers of Asmodeus has to operate in secret. There are plenty of cultists in Paizo adventures, after all.

If Asmosdeus is part of the culture's pantheon, I would suspect that it may be easier for that cleric to operate openly. Are evil deities only placated, are pantheon worshippers seeking to avoid the notice of the evil deities, or does 'the Devil get his due' with active worship? How are the services/practices/sacrifices of evil deities modified so they can be included in the cultural pantheon? Or does the culture turn a blind eye because the god is part of the pantheon?

I think that there's a fascinating amount of story potential to be mined there and it's another tool for differentiating nations, cultures, and settlements.

The Godclaw is an excellent and existing example of how we handle this in Golarion—in particular, this one includes both Asmodeus and Iomedae.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

It looks like Abadar is the central figure in the Godclaw pantheon, as he is the only deity who is allied with all of the rest.


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BPorter wrote:
David Schwartz wrote:

While someone may turn to gods, even evil gods, when dealing with things in their purview ("Help me with my legal troubles, Asmodeus!"), no one worships all gods equally, and certainly no one is empowered this way because the whole of the gods are antithetical to the each other.

So, while ancient Osirians might recognize the existence of all their gods, there were no priests of all the gods. There might however, be as Luis demonstrates, a priest of all the magic gods.

Yet, just because the kind of pantheon that can empower a cleric must have an unambiguous thesis, that doesn't mean they are without nuance. The Godclaw deities are all lawful, but run the gamut from good to evil. The lawful good dwarven pantheon includes an evil deity, but he's the black sheep of the family that no one talks about.

I'm not interested in pantheon priests, clerics, etc. My question is a world-building one. To use your example, how are larger pantheons that include evil deities handled in Golarion? If Asmodeus is proscribed/banned elsewhere that would imply that a cleric and followers of Asmodeus has to operate in secret. There are plenty of cultists in Paizo adventures, after all.

If Asmosdeus is part of the culture's pantheon, I would suspect that it may be easier for that cleric to operate openly. Are evil deities only placated, are pantheon worshippers seeking to avoid the notice of the evil deities, or does 'the Devil get his due' with active worship? How are the services/practices/sacrifices of evil deities modified so they can be included in the cultural pantheon? Or does the culture turn a blind eye because the god is part of the pantheon?

I think that there's a fascinating amount of story potential to be mined there and it's another tool for differentiating nations, cultures, and settlements.

I would look at the Godclaw to see how alignment differences are handled. Iomedae is Lawful Good and Asmodeus is Lawful Evil. Seeing how that discrepancy is handled there should inform any homebrew creation.

The larger the pantheon, the more difficult it would be to create solid rules for worship, though. Which makes sense: each god is going to require something different from their followers and the larger the number the more conflicts will arise.

EDIT: Ninja'd!

Grand Lodge

Is one of the Pantheons the Gods who passed the Test of the Starstone? Since the death of Aroden it seems a likely candidate for worship for what's left of his faithful.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
DougSeay wrote:
Is one of the Pantheons the Gods who passed the Test of the Starstone? Since the death of Aroden it seems a likely candidate for worship for what's left of his faithful.

They moved on to Iomedae and Milani and Abadar.


James Jacobs wrote:
The Godclaw is an excellent and existing example of how we handle this in Golarion—in particular, this one includes both Asmodeus and Iomedae.

I'm only familiar with the Godclaw from its Hellknight order, but I'll check it out once the PDF is up for sale. Thanks!


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Feros wrote:
I would look at the Godclaw to see how alignment differences are handled. Iomedae is Lawful Good and Asmodeus is Lawful Evil. Seeing...

Yeah, it seems that the Godclaw will be my guidepost. I'll be interested to see the write-up but on the surface I think it skirts the issue. The Godclaw likely has relevance where evil deities aren't facing the cultural issues I was asking about, such as in Cheliax. I would expect that the Godclaw would get no support/concessions in a place like Andoran. I suspect that there are at least a few neutral or neutral-leaning nations that might allow the Godclaw but not independent Asmodean churches/temples but I'll have to wait to see if that's part of the Godclaw entry. Here's hoping.

Ninja'd or not, thanks for the suggestion.


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zergtitan wrote:
*Praying to the Paizo Shipping Gods* Please ship tomorrow! My Excitement is about to explode!

Ok. I will bite:

Abadar (for trade & travel)
Desna (for travel & luck)
Alseta (for portals & teleportation)
Hanspur (in case a touch of smuggling can help)

and...

Cosmo (because...)

(well... Cosmo)


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Feros wrote:

I asked about creating a circus oriented pantheon in last Friday's Twitch stream, and Luis suggested the name "The Big Top" for it. Suggested deities: Kurgess, Shelyn, & Desna, possibly Gozreh for animals.

When the rules are out and I can see the full list of deities, I'm setting this one up!

And I have done it!

:)

Vigilant Seal

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QuidEst wrote:
All right, working on my “Core 20” pantheon Cleric. He walks around with an armful of parchment spreadsheets full of edicts and anathemas, and takes half an hour to make any decision.

So you're making Chidi from The Good Place?

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