Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Step 11: Creating Religion
Every campaign setting has at least one religion, and having a deity, philosophy or other beliefs can provide your characters, especially divine-based ones with several roleplaying opportunities.

It is extremely important that you do not skip this step. Every setting has some form of religion, even if there is no divine magic. In campaign settings like Dark Sun where there are no deities, or Legend of the Five Rings where there are no clerics, there are still religious systems in place: elemental & dragon worship and spirit worship respectively.

The purpose of religion in your campaign is multi-faceted. Religion provides the people of your world with a belief, it helps tie your cosmology together, it powers your divine-based characters and it provides both roleplaying and plot opportunities, by acting both as a helpful and antagonistic nature (depending on the religion, deity, belief-system, etc.)

If you fail to include any religion in your campaign, not only to you remove classes like cleric, druid, paladin and ranger from the setting, you also run the risk of homogenizing your NPCs. Religious beliefs, rituals and festivals are an excellent way of quickly fleshing out people of different ethnic backgrounds, but also allow your characters to identify with those people, even if they don't follow the same teachings.

Now, before you can even get started working on creating deities for your campaign, you have to work out how your deities interact with the setting, and with one another. There are only a few things you need to figure out:

What Kind of Pantheon(s) Will You Use?: When you're creating a campaign setting, you need to figure out what kind of pantheons you'll be using. Will you have a single pantheon of deities that will look over the entire world, or are there several pantheons that look after a particular aspect of the world?

If you're dealing with a single pantheon, you'll have to remember when creating your deities later, that every aspect of life that you want your deities to address are covered. You don't want to do all that work to later realize that you don't have a critical god of death or magic because you forgot about them.

If you're dealing with multiple pantheons, you'll need to work out a couple of details. Multiple pantheons tend to have groups that focus on a specific race, ethnic group or geographic location. For instance, in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, you have pantheons of deities for each race, as well as a standard group of deities who cover most of the world, and on top of that, you also have other pantheons that are focused on specific areas like Mulhorand.

When crafting multiple pantheons, make sure that each pantheon has an over-focus (like a race, geographic area, etc.) that they strongly adhere to. Once you've worked that out, each deity in that pantheon will have that over-focus as well as their own specific focus, such as an Elven god of death, or Dwarven goddess of wealth.

How Many Gods Do You Have?: Next you'll need to ask yourself if you have monotheist or polytheist religions in your setting. Most campaign settings use polytheist religions as they generally tend to model themselves after the ancient world. Multiple deities allow players to pick a god that better suits them.

If you decide to choose a monotheist pantheon, you'll have just a single deity. These gods must have several different focuses, generally not conflicting with one another. Likewise, they'll need more domains available, maybe 2-3 times as many as another greater deity would.

If you have multiple monotheist religions in your campaign, or a very powerful monotheist religion and multiple polytheist religions, you may come upon a scenario where you have powerful and zealous followers of one deity waging war on another, in a parallel of real-world religions. If you're not comfortable with this approach to religious interaction, you may wish to downplay the monotheist religion's impact in favor of the other polytheist religions.

Step 12: Create Your Deities
Based on what kind of pantheon or pantheons that you've decided upon, you'll now need to figure out what deities inhabit your campaign setting. Now, depending on how detailed you got in the previous step, you may have a little or a lot of work to do here.

Remember that each deity has to cover a specific aspect of life for their pantheon. If the pantheon focuses on an area or group that has little or no concept of something, like magic, they won't be likely to have a deity of that concept. Alignment concepts are the easiest ones to cover, as most races have some focus on either good or evil, law or chaos, or neutrality. Other concepts like nature, death, war, the elements and astral bodies (like the sun or moon) are also common throughout most pantheons.

Now, while creating your deities, not only do you want a good mix of focuses, you also need to create a good mix of deity levels. If you're making a monotheist religion, your deity is obviously going to be Greater Deity. If you're working with a polytheist religion, your deities will have a range of powers like Demigod, Lesser Deity, Intermediate Deity and Greater Deity. Each deity gets their power from the number of worshippers they possess.

When picking domains, remember that more powerful deities receive more domains. All deities should have a minimum of 3 domains, with intermediate and greater deities having about 4 - 5 domains each. Try to center the domains on the deity's focus. A lawful-good deity of the ocean would probably have good, travel and water as their domains. Although they might also have the lawful domain or a domain from another book such as ocean.

When it comes down to it, you have much more freedom in creating your deities than most other things because when it comes to the all-powerful, things can always change.

Now when writing out your deity's information, you have a choice of several different styles you can use. Take a look at the deity information as written in the Player's Handbook, Deities and Demigods and Complete Divine. Each book uses a different format for displaying the deity's information, and you're free to use as little or as much information as you want. If you want to use less detail, try to follow the format from the Player's Handbook, if you want to use a lot of information, follow Deities and Demigods. The information shown in Complete Divine is a little in between the other two. Each is correct, so just work with what feels right for you.

Regardless of the format you use, there is some information that you should always include:

Name of the Deity: This is the first thing you'll probably figure out. The name of the deity is important. Bob, Lord of the Underworld is not a particularly deific name, so try to use names that are appropriate. Especially when dealing with demi-human deities, look for the sample names listed in that race's entry for good ideas for names.

The Deity's Nicknames: These are some of the most overlooked aspects of deities. Lolth is the Queen of the Demonweb Pits, Olidammara is the Laughing Rogue. These kinds of nicknames are great for later creating cults or temples to the deities, naming religious artifacts or even as curses the players can spit out.

The Deific Level: This is the deity's power level. Deities are either Demigods, Lesser, Intermediate or Greater. Each level determines the deity's popularity, their power, the relevance of their portfolios (see below) and so on.

Symbol: The deity's symbol is the image that appears on their holy (or unholy) symbols. They should be simple enough that it's plausible that the symbols can be produced in a fairly large quantity, but iconic enough that they are unique and stand out.

Home Plane: The home plane of the deity should be thought of now, but will be returned to later on. Even if you just name the plane they live in, you'll be taking a large step in fleshing out your cosmology.

Alignment: The deity's alignment determines what domains they can possess, and which are restricted to them (usually this is restricted to alignment-domains like good and evil). It also determines (in most campaigns with the exception of Eberron) the alignment of the worshippers. Remember that most campaign settings are good-focused, so most deities should be good or neutral.

Portfolios: The deity's portfolios are the concepts that the deity focuses on. A god of war might have war, battle, strategy and honor as their portfolios or war, berserkers, ice and trickery. The change in portfolios sets the mood for two very different sets of war gods, but both are undeniably focused on their portfolios.

Deity's Worshippers: These are the people who typically worship the deity. Ask yourself "what kind of person would worship this god?", and that's what would be entered here. A god of the ocean might attract sailors, explorers and fishermen, while a god of disease may attract evil worshippers in general. Make sure that all classes and races are represented at least once. (Monotheist pantheons can ignore list last part.)

Cleric Alignments: In most campaign settings, the cleric (and worshipper) alignments can only be one step off from the alignment of the deity. A lawful-good deity may have lawful good, neutral good and lawful neutral clerics. The only exception to this rule is for neutral deities. Neutral deities may either have only true neutral clerics or may pull clerics from the ranks of the lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, neutral good, neutral evil and true neutral, as deemed appropriate by you.

Domains: The domains are the clerical domains available to worshippers of deity. Try to follow the suggestions given above for choosing domains. If you have a campaign that utilizes divine minds, you may want to consider including psionic mantles as a subsection. Domains should generally be picked from the standard domains available in the Player's Handbook, as they are the ones most familiar to the players, but other sources, if made available should also be appropriate.

Favored Weapon: This is the weapon that the deity uses the most often. Clerics and favored souls generally choose to use their deity's favored weapon as their primary weapon. Even if you don't use these classes, worshippers tend to use the favored weapon of their deity when conducting battle in the name of their god.

Step 12(b): Creating Other Entities
Deities aren't the only creatures that can provide divine magic to worshippers. Other powerful beings like elementals, faeries, dragons, celestials and fiends can all provide divine magic given that they are powerful enough. In general, these should be somewhat sparser than deities, and the creatures should be extremely powerful for their kind.

Dragon-kings from Dark Sun are powerful human-sorcerer/psionicists turned draconic who have extreme fonts of divine power that they can grant to their worshippers in order to solidify their rule.

Elemental princes, faerie courts, arch-devil, demon princes, and celestial lords are also very powerful creatures who in some settings can provide their worshippers with domains and other divine powers.

Even if you choose not to use them in your campaign, keep these other options in mind. They can provide you with alternatives to the norm that can both flavor and distinguish your campaign from others.

Step 12(c): Creating Philosophies
Philosophies are teachings that do not connect with a deity, but still provide a worshipper with the same amount of power. Like deities, they also provide domains, and have an alignment (generally neutral or true neutral).

Philosophies are built like deities, in that they have worshippers, domains, a portfolio an alignment and a favored weapon. What they lack are things like a home plane, as they are ideas, not beings. Settings based on Asia tend to work better with philosophies as those cultures have a history of using them in the real world (like Buddhism).


  1. Figure out what kinds of pantheons (see Step 11) that will be available in your campaign setting. You should have at least one pantheon and a minimum of one deity for a monotheist religion (which is about the minimum you should have).
  2. Create the deities (see Step 12) that will be used in your campaign. If you wish to use other powerful entities or philosophies as well (see Step 12(b) and 12(c)), include them in this step.


  1. Penumbra is a small campaign setting as much of the world is now lost of the influence of the encroaching Plane of Shadows. As such, it only has a single polythetic pantheon consisting of deities representing many races and concepts.

  2. The following deities are available in Penumbra. Domains are taken from both the Player's Handbook and Spell Compendium.

    Deity Alignment Favored Weapon Domains
    Aubreth NE Sickle Death, Earth, Fate
    The Dark NE Scythe Darkness, Death, Destruction
    Finnegan NG Club Charm, Gluttony, Good
    Liaque CG Handaxe Chaos, Elf, Knowledge, Liberation
    Luneth LG Light Mace Healing, Law, Protection
    Mantek LN Dagger Air, Mentalism, Mind
    Nethwin CN Longsword Chaos, Strength, War, Water
    Ruril LN Glaive Destruction, Dwarf, Fire, Law
    Seebok CE Dagger Darkness, Evil, Gnome, Magic
    Shaado CN Sling Halfling, Knowledge, Luck, Travel
    Trita N Quarterstaff Knowledge, Magic, Mysticism, Spell
    Ur'uk NG Scimitar Animal, Good, Orc, Plant
    Vuulgir LE Unarmed Strike Animal, Evil, Strength

    Lesser Deities

    A neutral-good god of revelry and drink, Finnegan has been gaining worshippers over time, as people stop trying to fight and begin to accept their station in life, and give into eternal celebration. Finnegan's clerics are generally jovial and good-natured, but some attempt to gain control of the areas they live in. The Wine-Father is worshipped by many of all walks of life and can be recognized by his holy symbol: a bunch of grapes. His favored weapon is the club and his domains are Charm, Gluttony and Good.

    Mantek, the Mind Slave is a hideously deformed deity who espouses the benefits of psionics. A relatively new deity, he is worshipped by some of the newer races, like elans and githspawn. Psionicists and some other humans who wish to obtain the benefits of his power also follow him. Mantek is also known as the Whispering Wind for his power to move his whims through the breeze into the minds of his worshippers. The lawful-neutral deity's symbol is a brain crossed with a pair of chains, while his favored weapon is the dagger. Mantek's domains are Air, Mentalism and Mind.

    Vuulgir, the Wolf-God is a lawful-evil god of nature. Vuulgir is the god of the hunt and teaches that survival comes to those who are strong enough to take it from others. Vuulgir is not a commonly worshipped god, but he has followers in rural areas. He is followed by some druids and rangers, but some of his more evil followers take up cannibalism in an overly zealous application of his teachings. His holy symbol is a fang, chipped on one side and his favored weapon is a bite attack (or unarmed strike for followers without a bite attack). Vuulgir is associated with the Animal, Evil and Strength domains.

    Intermediate Deities

    Aubreth, is the Queen of Slumber, a death goddess who is paid homage to in order to be assured a painless demise. Aubreth is typically an aloof goddess who is not so much worshipped, but appeased. The neutral-evil goddess is worshipped by few, but she has some cults from within the ranks of most classes and races. Her holy symbol is a small cairn and her favored weapon is a sickle. Her domains are Death, Earth and Fate.

    The goddess of the elves, Liaque is also known as the Queen in Twilight. To the elves, she represents the knowledge that they have lost during the Great Migration and the people that they've become since. A chaotic-good deity, she is worshipped by the remaining elven communities, but also sees following by occasional freedom fighters, spies or thieves. Liaque's symbol is a simple harp, and her favored weapon is the handaxe. Her domains are Chaos, Elf, Knowledge and Liberation.

    Luneth, the Mistress of the Glow is the lawful good goddess of light. Her church has become much smaller in the last several years as the influence of the Plane of Shadows grows much stronger. Her worshippers are generally older, and include a number of paladins devoted to spreading her eternal light. Luneth's symbol is a lantern and her holy weapon is a light mace. The domains associated with Luneth are Healing, Law and Protection.

    Nethwin, the Gladiator is the chaotic-neutral god of war. Worshipped by humans, orcs, half-orcs, half-elves and those who choose a life of battle or a life in the gladiatorial pits, he is present in most large cities to some degree or another. Nethwin is also a deity of blood, which is substituted for with water in his many battle rituals. Nethwin's favored weapon is the longsword and his holy symbol is a simple ring with triangular teeth on the inside of the loop. The domains he is associated with are Chaos, Strength, War and Water.

    Ruril, the lawful-neutral god of flames and purity and is the chief deity of the dwarves. He's known as the Cleansing Flame and his favored weapon is the glaive. Dwarves worship Ruril as the flame that will eventually deliver Penumbra from the shadows and light the world for a new age. The domains he is associated with are Destruction, Dwarf, Fire and Law. Ruril's symbol is a flame, cast in bronze-colored metal.

    Shaado, the Scholar of the Lost is the chaotic neutral god of the halflings and is focused on recovering technology and adapting it to good use. His favored weapon is the sling and his holy symbol is a clockwork gear sheared into two parts. The domains that he's associated with are Halfling, Knowledge, Luck and Travel. Shaado is also worshipped by githspawn and shadow genasi who live in areas close to the halfling settlements. Artificers also make up a large part of Shaado's worshippers.

    Greater Deities

    The Dark
    The Dark is the omnipresent neutral-evil deity spawned during the disaster that brought the Plane of Shadows to Penumbra. His powers have continually grown, as the two planes continue to intersect. The Dark is a mysterious entity, who has no definitive gender or appearance, but is instead believed to be an ever-changing mass of shadows. Worshipped by many, including several shadow genasi, the Dark's symbol is a face covered in a shroud and it's favored weapon is the scythe. The domains associated with the Dark are Darkness, Death and Destruction.

    The Lord of Shadows is a gnome deity who is also known in some ancient texts as the Usurper. It is said that in the days before the Great Migration, he allied with the Plane of Shadow and destroyed the other gods of the gnomes. Now as the shadows continue to consume the world, the chaotic-evil Seebok finds his power continually growing as well. Seebok's symbol is a candle without a wick, and his favored weapon is the dagger. The domains he is associated with are Darkness, Evil, Gnome and Magic.

    Trita, the Everlasting is the neutral goddess of magic. Many wizards and sorcerers worship her, as do some elves and craftsmen. Trita teaches that pure magic is a powerful energy that can overcome any obstacle. This does put her at odds with Seebok who abdicates the use of shadow magic, a diametric opposite to her powers. Trita's favored weapon is the quarterstaff and her holy symbol is a triangle with a circle formed in the center. Her domains are Knowledge, Magic, Mysticism and Spell.

    Ur'uk, the Weeping God, is the god of the orcs, but is also worshipped by half-orcs and occasionally elves. Ur'uk, a neutral-good deity teaches joy over nature and weeps perpetually over the loss of wildlife to the Plane of Shadow. His worshippers, which includes druids and rangers take part in elaborate hunts designed to strike at shadow-warped animals and plants, razing them from the earth and protecting those places as best they can. Ur'uk's favored weapon is the scimitar and his domains are Animal, Good, Orc and Plant. His symbol is a sprout growing from under a stream of tears.

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