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Article - 'Creating a God' by Faust

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 9, 2003

Blurb

An article concerning the creation of deities to use in your RPG or Fantasy world.

Body

Across the thousands of CRPGs, Tabletop RPGs and those dress-up groups where people hit each other with sticks and shout "DIE ORC!!", there are usually a collection of Gods. Gods that resemble those of mythology, commanding forces and elements, forcing mankind to subject themselves to worship them, both evil and benevolent, humanoid or bestial. Most games have Gods of some kind, so this article will show how to "put a God together" so to speak - how to create a custom deity for your game.

1) Creating a God
2) Powers and Domains
3) Symbols and Portfolios
4) Worship and Worshipers
5) Hierarchy and Family tree

1) Creating a God

First off, our god needs a name. Names of gods usually reflect upon the language of a specific culture (lizard men calling theirs Sllkllclack and Orcs calling theirs GROG for example), but as we’re working in a fantasy setting we pretty much have a full range of letters, sounds and syllables to choose from. Bearing this in mind, I have chosen to call our example “Faymos”. Why? Sounds pretty.

Next off we need to decide how powerful our god will be. There are three basic power levels of gods, and one for half deities (demigods). Greater gods are the ones who call the shots, usually give birth to lesser gods and pretty much run their pantheons. They have control over a larger number of domains (explained later), generally have more worshipers and are pretty much the most powerful beings in existence. Moderate and lesser gods are just scaled down versions of these great beings. For example, whereas there may be a Greater god of Evil, he may have children consisting of an Intermediate god of Murder and a lesser god of lies and deceit. This is explained in greater detail later on.
Demigods are “half deities”, which are usually mortals that have gained a greater god’s favour and have been ascended to immortality. These are slightly different to the other gods, but are still powerful entities and command domains.
To save ourselves some effort, we’ll make Faymos a lesser god.

Now we have our basic god. He’s a lesser god named Faymos. Not too impressive so far, so here’s where we add some aesthetes. A god usually requires a “sex”, just for distinguishing themselves with their avatars. Some take the forms of multiple sexes, or change between them (Eris from Greek legend for example, or the Prince Slaanesh from Warhammer), but most have one form and stick to it. We’ll make Faymos male, as I’ve pretty much referred to him as male so far most probably.
Note: Sex may not be important, but its effect on the clergy usually is. Throughout fantasy literature, female deities tend to have priestesses and female clergy, and males present tend to be cowering or subservient, even sometimes obsessed, figures.

So now Faymos is beginning to take shape. We’ll give him an eye colour of purple, and long black hair. He’s a tall figure, but slender of build. We pretty much make Faymos as we would any other character in your game for looks, just giving him a slight hint of mysticism. We could give him horns, a forked tongue, a halo – pretty much anything that doesn’t really affect his performance as a God but gives him a distinct look about him. For his personality we’ll just give him a few traits selected randomly from Appendix A. Faymos will be sly, subversive and submissive, with a very cruel steak to him. He’ll also be a very narcissistic God who seeks advancement in his pantheon to obsession. Very much like a Henchman!

Now Faymos basically has a form and Avatar, we just need to add the defining thing to his personality; whether he’s an evil, good or neutral god. This may not be the most important thing on a celestial level, but to mortals on the coil below it definitely is. We’ll make Faymos an evil god, because we all know that evil is more fun when it comes down to it hehe (Note: That is the opinion of Faust, not GW as a whole, so no more “GW SI EVIL EMPIRE” rumours, ya hear? ;P)
Coupled with Faymos’ lesser god status, this evil tag will mean that he’s a subservient god to a greater force of evil. Something of a henchman if you will.

2) Domains and Dogma

Where these fantasy type gods differ from the traditional Judaeo-Christian Deity is that they segregate the world into pieces, or “domains” for themselves. Whereas God is seen as the omnipotent, omniscient ruler of all, traditional gods of fantasy only have power and reach over specific forces, such as death or water or beauty. Most of these are abstract concepts, like love and honour, but some gods can take responsibility over physical things too (warmth, wind, earth etc).

Ok, so now Faymos has his personality in order, we’re going to give him a few things to “look after”. We’ve already stated that Faymos is an evil God so he obviously won’t be interested in domains that are beneficial to mortals, or helpful to the world below. From Appendix B, we’ll select two “lesser” domains for the guy; Theft and Trickery. This means that Faymos will most probably be some kind of a trickster God, which fits with his sly and subversive nature, but the cruel aspect of his personality will most probably make him resemble a weaker Loki of Norse legend. (A list of suggestions for Domains can be found in Appendix B).

These dogmas are views, beliefs and sayings held in esteem by those who follow the deity. These can be anything from “Never harm women or children” to “Wear red every Sunday”. The Dogmas should be written as if they were a text from a holy book of that God, so for example “Women must never be harmed, but loved and Cherished”, or “To sleep in the same room as an unmarried woman is sinful; always assure that you do not fall into temptation”. It is considered a sin for members of the clergy of that God not to fulfil these requirements and oaths given to them by their God and, depending on the nature of the sin, a punishment will ensue. Some religions even subject the worshipers themselves to following the code of conduct dictated by the God in question too.

As Faymos is a pretty evil God who resembles the Forgotten Realm’s “Mask”, we’ll take some examples of Dogmas from there. As he is a thief and trickster, he’ll rely on deception to get by due to his lesser god status. He’s subversive too, so “Trust in the shadows, as the bright way makes you an easy target” sounds right. “The world belongs to the smooth tongued, the fleet of foot and the sleight of hand” represents the thief’s code side of the god too. These are two basic Dogmas for our god’s portfolio to possess, and depending on the tone of your game and the depth you’re willing to develop your deity, he or she may have tens or even hundreds of dogmas to follow. It all makes for a better gaming experience and can explain the actions of the clergy/nations which follow said god.

3) Symbols and Signs

The deity’s symbol is the preferred symbol of the faithful to represent that specific deity. This is also the sign each cleric must have on its robes/uniform or to hand to show that he belongs to the god in question. These symbols can range from ornate metallic structures resembling Christianity’s crucifix, or may be simple things like a fresh oak leaf for a nature goddess or a bear paw for a god of strength. The symbol must always make sense and be fitting of the god, like a hammer for Thor or a skull for Pluto – if the symbol does not make sense then it actually detracts from the god unless explained.

To represent the Shadowy nature of Faymos, we’ll have to think of a suitable symbol for him. This, proving too hard for me currently, is going to be replaced with something to represent his cruel nature. Hmm…how about a palm dagger with a black blade? Suitable for his backstabbing nature as well as the shadowy thing. Whahay, success?

Next we’ll decide on the uniform in question for the clerics of the God. These uniforms must also be relevant to represent the deity, such as a dark cloak for thief gods, or plate mail and maces for clerics of war deities. We’ll force the clerics of Faymos to wear long grey robes to help them blend into the shadows, but the defining feature of their uniform will be a purple eyemask – used to represent the inhuman colour of Faymos’ eyes.

Now we have an even greater depth to Faymos, and the God is almost complete. The next stage will depict his followers rather than Faymos himself.

4) Worship and Worshipers

Now we come to the set-up of the church itself. Which does it resemble more; the vastness of the Roman Catholic Church? The community values of the followers of Judaism? Is it more like a thieves’ or tradesman’s guild than a church, or is it more traditional in that aspect? Are its members secretive or do they go out into the streets to recruit and condemn those who aren’t a part of it? Are they a warring church, involving excommunication and inquisitions, or are they a peace loving church who appreciates free worship? How about the Hierarchy of the church; how does that work – a pope at the top, then some cardinals for each region and some bishops to help organize, followed by a crapload of priests? Obviously not for Faymos as he’s a lesser god and wouldn’t have that much of a “fanbase” haha. Answer all these questions in as much depth as possible and work out how to apply them to your RPG or fantasy work – it may also even be beneficial to the storyline; theological problems can make great fillers or even main plots!

The clergy also often have spiffy little names for the gods in question. These are option of course, but tend to give a little insight into the nature of the god or goddess being referred to. These range from “The Green Knight” to “The Bitch Queen”. As a little cute token of our love for Faymos, we’ll give him two “titles”, one from his worshippers and one which he’s more widely known by to outsiders.
Faymos will be known as “The Shadow Lord” to his followers. This is the kind of title of grandeur a god, even a lesser god, would expect from his congregate, evil gods especially.
“The backstabber” will be his nickname from outsiders; a treacherous trickster god obviously won’t be favoured by hardly any but his flock, and a title like “backstabber” is just the kind of negative slur Faymos needs to pull him down a few pegs!

5) Hierarchy and Family tree

Finally, we come to where Faymos fits into the overall scheme of Gods himself. In a world with just one God we’d be done now, but as Faymos is a lesser god it pretty much doesn’t make sense for him to be the sole god of a world. Unless it was a pretty crappy world anyway haha.

In most fantasy settings, gods have parents and families etc. A great example of this is the Erisian family tree. Eris (The Greek goddess of chaos and discord) was born of Nyx, the God of the night. She herself gave birth to a great number of children, including the personifications of murder, strife, hardship, envy and other assorted lesser gods. As Faymos is a lesser god, we can avoid some work here by not letting him have any children. We do, however, have to work out where he came from. I’m not going to create a family for him here (Although I encourage you to do so if you wish, for practice or for fun!), but let’s say that his mother is the Goddess of Darkness and her mother or Father is the God of original evil itself. Faymos, being the lackey that he is, serves one of these in his efforts, and would have alliances to their churches. He may also have brothers or sisters, who, due to his nature, he would compete with for his parent’s attention.

Just a note here – just because I made Faymos’ family all evil doesn’t mean you can’t have good gods related to evil gods, or neutral gods. Faymos may have a brother who represents the Night, which doesn’t have to be evil in itself. Likewise, Faymos may have brothers or sisters who have risen to become intermediate or even greater gods themselves, which would obviously tick him off some. Feel free to experiment with this!

Wrapping it up

So now you have a god for your fantasy world and game. Develop his friends, enemies, family and overlords to give background to your storyline; the actions of gods make and break a world, define a mortal’s role in society and pretty much totally affect and can upturn the order of society. Always use this to its maximum effect in your games to give a more well rounded experience. Have fun God-Makers!

Appendix A: - list of personality traits

Roll a 1d100 for random traits from this list if you wish.

1) Proud
2) Paranoid
3) Pompous
4) Arrogant
5) Vain
6) Pious
7) Friendly
8) Jovial
9) Hateful
10) Vengeful
11) Opinionated
12) Short Tempered
13) Lecherous
14) Charismatic
15) Cowardly
16) Nihilistic
17) Hedonistic
18) Extroverted
19) Narrow Minded
20) Pessimistic
21) Optimistic
22) Lazy
23) Introverted
24) Insane
25) Level headed
26) Depraved
27) Seeking to advance
28) Devious
29) Sly
30) Chaotic
31) Rational
32) Fickle
33) Stylish
34) Calm
35) Childish
36) Innocent
37) Weak willed
38) Strong willed
39) Boastful
40) Selfless
41) Altruistic
42) Narcissistic
43) Creative
44) Simplistic
45) Grouchy
46) Intelligent
47) Slow witted/dumb
48) Obsessed with Advancement
49) Brutal
50) Wild
51) Subversive
52) Submissive
53) Dominant
54) Apathetic
55) Empathetic
56) Lethargic
57) Considerate
58) Cruel
59) Malicious
60) Honourable
61) Upright
62) Meek
63) Obedient
64) Envious
65) Greedy
66) Gluttonous
67) Wrathful
68) Self-indulgent
69) Prankster
70) Detestable
71) Craven
72) Haughty
73) Suspicious
74) Trusting
75) Plucky
76) Liar
77) Understanding
78) Rose tinted view
79) Has trouble thinking more than two steps ahead
80) Can think 20 steps ahead
81) Clear Headed
82) Ditsy
83) Confrontational
84) Aggressive
85) Antagonistic
86) Sarcastic
87) Cynical
88) Sceptical
89) Lucid
90) Vile
91) Morbid
92) Elegant
93) Depressed
94) Melancholic
95) Majestic
96) Poetic
97) Impressionable
98) Demanding
99) Hasty
100) Re-roll

Appendix B: - list of domains

Afterlife
Animals
Assassins
Autumn
Beauty
Begging
Birth
Blood
Charm
Chaos
Children
Darkness
Dawn
Death
Destruction
Duty
Element – Earth
Element – Fire
Element – Water
Element – Wind
Evil
Farming
Fate
Freaks
Forests
Good
Good Fortune
Healing
Illusion
Judgement
Knowledge
Loss
Love
Loyalty
Luck
Magic
Men
Misery
Monsters
Moon
Mystery
Night
Nobility
Obedience
Ocean
Pain
Passion
Plants
Protection
Purification
Rebellion
Renewal
Skill
Spiders
Spring
Storms
Strength
Suffering
Sun
Trade
Travel
Trickery
Victory
War
Women