Pantheon I

I should be posting something about Crafting.  It is something I need to think about, because it will become important in the next ‘Kingdom Turn’ phase of my game on RPoL.  However, I have no enthusiasm for it, and it will be a while before I really need it.  So I am going to write about Gods instead.  Not the main gods in any of the games systems, but my pantheon of Demi-Gods :}

Way – CG, Goddess of Travellers (and likeable rogues)

Way is a deity whose origins go right back to a 1st ed character I played, back in the day.  He was a half-orc called Yuthric Greenteeth, who as a Cleric/Assassin follower of Ptah!  I originally wanted him to be a Cleric/Thief, but that was an illegal multi-class under 1e rules – However that is a different story.  To cut a long story very short, Yuthric founded a religious order called The Brothers of the Way that was dedicated to helping travellers.  This was based on the premise that Ptah (in the 1st ed Egyptian pantheon) was The Opener of the Ways and a wanderer.  Priests were all multi-class Clerics, who retired from travelling.

With 2nd Ed, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder –  The Order stayed with me, but changed deity to fit in with whichever system I was using at the time.  Eventually they became the Order of Way, which meant that I no longer had to explain that ‘Sisters are allowed’ whenever a new group of players discovered them.  However, the philosophy hasn’t changed, and The Order still runs hostels in places where travellers in need of support – be it in a town, village or right out in the wilderness.  The provision is always the same – bed-space, a simple meal and water to drink.  Funds come from donations or selling ale, richer food and essentials to their guests.

The latest version of The Order are followers of the demi-goddess Way – an endearing and charismatic Bard/Rogue, who travels across the planes visiting gods, demons and mortals alike.  She is NG, and her backstory describes her an Inter-planar Robin Hood figure on a never ending road trip – lovable, likeable, irritating but good-hearted.  Here on the prime material her hostels are generally run by low-level multi-class bards, rather than priests.  Like the original order, the priests often started out as travelling professions and then gain a level or two of bard when they settle down, and probably only have access to first level spells.

Arth – NG, Patron of hermits and heroes &
Yarma – LG, Patron of caravan guards

Arth and Yarma go back to the first ed rules as well.  However, this time they were inspired by gods that appeared in the 1e Legends and Lore, who were rewritten for a co-operative effort called Porters Bar, a game that was hosted on PlayByWeb.

Originally independent deities, they had interlinked backstories. Yarma caused great destruction when he was possessed by an evil spirit, but redeemed himself in the end.  Arth was the seer/mage who foresaw the events, realized he couldn’t stop the destruction but then spent his life working out how to minimise it. Both were touched by supernatural forces and ascended to the rank of demi-god.

Initially Yarma was intended to be a death god, but as their story grew he developed into a god of redemption and protection as well.  Arth became a symbol of hope and heroic deeds, as well as patron of hermits and seers.  In Porters Bar the two are still important independent deities, with their own temples and roles – Arth is patron of the City while Yarma acts as the local death god and oversees funeral and memorial services.

As traders and seamen from the city travelled the word, they took the pair with them, and now they have small followings in the wider world, who see them in a slightly different light..

Outside of Porters Bar, they are recognised as separate deities, but they are generally worshipped together – a prayer to Yarma nearly always includes a few words to Arth and vice-versa.  Yarma has a lot of competition and, as a tainted deity, he has found the competition for followers stiff.  He has, however, found a niche for himself as the patron of caravan guards, merchant marine guards and road wardens – especially those who also need some level of redemption.  Arth is an important deity in Porters Bar, but outside that very specific role he doesn’t have much appeal to the public, who have other (more important) things on their minds. Instead, Arth gets occasional prayers and donation from people when they could do with a helping hand.

Of the two, Yarma probably has the largest following, although his Priests are military men who spend their time guarding gates, caravans, ships etc. They often have levels of Warrior, Fighter or Ranger as their main class supported by a level of Adept or Cleric.   Very occasionally you might come across a Paladin who has dedicated his life to Yarma, but they are few and far between. You rarely find priests of Yarma in temples.   

Priests of Arth, on the other hand, live a quiet, almost monastic, life as befits a patron of hermits. In towns or cities, you will find them living in small monastic houses working among the neediest members of the community. In the countryside they live isolated, hermit-like, lives – but support their community from afar. However, on the edges of civilization you will find them as a part of the Ecumenical Temple of Shrines, where they maintain shrines to both Arth and Yarma. They always know who needs a bit of help that they can’t pay for, and will encourage ‘heroes’ to help out for the benefit of their soul, rather than the benefit of their purse.

Takri, the Navigator – TN, Psycopomp.

Takri came from a game at RPoL, that I joined as one of a ‘family’ of characters.   A couple of friends and I had written three complimentary characters, with a long intertwining  backstory to provide a basis for relationships, decision-making, general chatter and banter.  However, the DM of the game we joined had his own small pantheon of gods, but he didn’t have a deity that would work for my Cleric/Bard – so I got permission to build one that did.  Later, I had another character in the same game (this time an adept trader) who had different religious needs. So I wrote him another demi-god, with a trade and navigation background that suited his needs. However, I soon realised that there were many similarities between the two deities, and we decided to conflate them into one Goddess, with different cults emphasizing her different aspects.

This current version of Takri uses the backstory from the ‘southern’ cult to support the role of the original deity. The original backstory was very world specific, and just wouldn’t work anywhere else – and this IMO, works better anyway.  So, Takri was a sailor, captain of a vessel that swept out to sea, and was lost for years. She promised to serve the gods for ever, if they just saved her and her crew.  The gods took her up on it.

Now  Takri serves as Chief Psycopomp, responsible for guiding dead spirits to their final resting place and her priests are experts at holding funerals and memorial services.  Oh, and she is also seen as a patron of navigators :}

You will have noticed that these deities have things in common – which probably says something about the types of characters that I play and the games that I like to run.

All three of these demi-gods are associated with travellers, trade caravans, ships, merchant ships and the like,  which makes them ideal deities for the edges of civilization and the characters who make a living there. Currently, that is the NWN world I have been working on – and the ‘new’ game setting  that I have been playing around with for years.

TBH, these are some of the ‘better’ gods that I have designed over the years – the ones that I am happiest with and that are the most developed. There are a couple of others that I like almost as much,  but there are many more that haven’t really grabbed my attention and may never see the light of day again.

However, look out for another post at some point with details of:
1) The Royal Family Ancestors, a restrictive faith that came about because I wanted a Royal Family for Porters Bar that really did have divine ancestors.
2) My version of the Green Faith  – which started with some mythological tales about the Sun, Earth and Moon and grew into a mini-pantheon that includes the Sky and the Sea.

And then there may well be a further post that looks at the deities who will round out the pantheon in my NWN world.

  • Gasgano, the Eternal Sage (LN) (M)
  • Azan, Goddess of the Market (LN) (F)
  • Bagmet, the Mysterious (TN) (?)
  • Jack, the Butterfly of Galinia (TN) (M)

They haven’t been fully written up yet, but I suspect will make it into my overall pantheon of demi-gods.

Neverwinter Nights

I have never been much of a computer gamer, but I have played a few. The first one was nearly 50 years ago – it was a co-op Star Trek simulator, that needed a few million pounds worth of mainframe to run – and provided overnight entertainment during the quiet parts of the graveyard shift. After that very little appealed to me until Age of Empires – another game that could be played cooperatively. There were a couple of others, but the next big one was Neverwinter Nights. Not so much the game itself, but the other stuff that came with it.

It was the first part of the game, that you could play cooperatively, that got me hooked. My wife and I played it together. Later, Co-op play was phased out of the official game in favour of ‘personalised immersive cut-scenes’ – and I don’t think I ever finished the official game. However, it came with a tool set that allowed you to start building your own worlds – and that fascinated me. Computing and D&D all together in one package – what more could a man want?

Within a few months I was taken on as a DM/Builder by a game called Champions of Vydor, owned by a guy called Prince Wally – OK that wasn’t his proper name, but it was the name he went by. Like all the Developers I wrote some adventure areas, and even roped in my wife and son to work with me. Together we built the graveyard/cemetery in Vydor as a cooperative project. I think my son was about 14 at the time – and I taught him the basics of scripting using the conversation editor and Aurora tool-set that comes with NWN.

We also built, and ran, a Dwarves Guild as a family. All Dwarves were welcome and once every couple of weeks we would go out on a guild run. Rather than a small party of around about the same level – every player on the server was invited to bring a Dwarf character (of any level) and we would go blatt things the Dwarven way. There were lots of Dwarven Defenders, Paladins and other combat classes, backed up by the occasional cleric – but there were no real casters, and we would just swarm everything that we came across. It was brilliant fun.

But my main role was to write social systems for the server. I don’t think Prince Wally was expecting that when he took me on – but he certainly saw it as a bonus. One set of scripts changed characters alignments – steal stuff or smuggle drugs you become more chaotic, Kill innocents you move to evil etc. There were other actions that moved you towards Lawful or Good and the whole thing became an RP rules subset, where you picked up alignment changes according to your behaviour. Another set of scripts dealt with titles. You could pick up a knighthood, or various other titles, by carrying out quests and spending money. Then all the NPCs started calling you by rank and title whenever you spoke to them. There were other, less public, effects as well.

Probably the death system was the most widely used. Rather than charging a fixed amount of gold and XP to respawn, I made death into a small adventure. So long as you had made an offering to the death god, you were allowed to run back to life along the Paths of the Dead. Disembodied spirits would try to steal some of your life (xp) and coins for the boatman (gp) from you as you ran. The only problem was that there were four different areas, and they all looked exactly the same – but each had a slightly different solutions. It became a bit of a fun, and added a bit of extra challenge to the game.

Then they got rid of NWN and replaced it with NWN II – which wasn’t anywhere near as good – and the whole scene died away fairly quickly. Until recently, when Beamdog released a ‘remastered’ version of the original NWN. It runs on Win 10, and other operating systems, it only cost me £15 on steam, and I get updates automatically. Win/Win.

However, I am not particularly impressed by the persistent game worlds that are out there – but then both my wife and I are very particular about where we play. Recently we have been playing on a world called Blackstone Keep, although I think we are coming towards the end of our time there. But, we are still there looking around, and we might yet find a few more areas to keep us amused. If not, I am sure we will find somewhere else to play for a while.

But, as you might have guessed, I have started build a new Persistent World of my own. At the moment I have the basic persistence scripted, a world plan and a few dozen areas. I have almost finished a new script-set, that automates basic boss encounters, and when I add that characters will be able to progress to level five or six! Yeah, I know that isn’t very high, but gives me the base to build the rest of the world on.

The next phase will bring in my ‘alignment changing’ script set, a simple point-to-point teleportation system, and a few more encounter areas! I’m looking forward to it.

Just as an aside – if any of you play NWN, let me know and maybe we can get together on a PW at some point. Or, just as importantly, if you want to help build the world, I would be happy to hear from you. Scripters, adventure developers, story editors are all welcome.

Before long I will be hosting the world publicly on a home server, but if it gets big enough (and good enough) I will probably pay for it to be hosted professionally. That woul be nice 🙂