Monday, February 16, 2015

Converting My Campaign To D&D 5E: Divine Domains

When I first created my home brew world, one of the things I created was a pantheon of gods.  Back in 1E there were no real crunch elements gained by selecting a god, most of it was fluff/flavor.  Sometimes I would grant some rule breaking element to a cleric of a particular god, say allowing a cleric of the god of war to wield a sword (a 1E heresy - sharp weapon!) I thought having a pantheon of gods pulling strings in the mortal world was key to the flavor I wanted to have the pantheon.

The humanoid civilizations in my world tend to be polytheist - you might have a favored god, but might also pay respects to the god of travel before a long journey, or the god of healing if you were sick.  The gods might work together or jockey for power against each other.  I like the meddlesome or antagonistic stories of Greek and Norse mythology.

I created around 15 deities and fleshed them out with some details about their scope of control, who they married or who was their parent god, favored weapon (after all, this is D&D), colors, and how their priests dressed.  Gods worried about the sun, earth, sea, fire, war, travel, agriculture, vengeance, knowledge, magic, and the like.  At one point I considered stating them out like in the Deities and Demi-gods book, but reconsidered.  I was NEVER going to run a campaign where the players slew gods.  They were gods for... um... well... gods sake.

One thing I did differently though was instead of creating pantheons for each humanoid race, I decided they would all worship the same gods.  The avatars for those gods they favored might be different from what other humanoids might perceive, and they would certainly give them their own names and in some cases aspects.  As an example, I have a god of fire, vengeance, and lust known by humans as Drakka, but the Orcs know him as Gruumsh.  Drakka's human aspect has two eyes, his orcish aspect has one.  In both aspects he hates elves.

I also leave the door open to demi-gods which can be added if I need a cult for a player character or a specific adventure.

When we converted to 3/3.5E I was fortunate to find I had created a pantheon which was very close to the domains as released in the core handbooks.  Distributing the domains among my gods was relatively painless, and there was a decent distribution so that there were a fair mix of good and evil, lawful and chaotic gods and choices withing those for many of the domains.  I did not expand the domains using any additional publications beyond the three core rule books; I did not see the need and did not want to spend the time on rewrites and determining if they balanced.

Now I am at it again, trying to match the domains in the core books to my pantheon.  There will be no new gods, and no gods will be disappearing - I found a way to make everything work.  It was immediately obvious there were not going to be enough domains to cover the pantheon I desired.  So before we tackle that problem, we work with the domains provided:

  • Death - no change (from DM guide)
  • Knowledge - no change
  • Life - convert former Healing
  • Light - convert former Sun
  • Nature - convert/combine Plant & Animal
  • Tempest - convert Water
  • Trickery - no change
  • War - no change
The only one that really gave me trouble was Tempest.  I like the new domain flavor, and I really think it is superior to the old four element domains in terms of historical comparison.  However, it did make me make minor changes to the way I approached the rest of my domain conversions.  Here are the new domains for my world:

  • Earth
  • Inferno - converted from fire and flavored by Tempest thinking
  • Luck
  • Magic
  • Passion
  • Protection
  • Travel
  • Vengeance - converted from Destruction
The last part of the change was dropping the Good/Evil, Law/Chaos, and Strength domains.  Given the new outlook for domains they did not really fit, and where necessary they could easily be covered (hand waved) to another domain.

Next step was balancing/spreading around the domains among the pantheon.  In a few cases it caused a narrowing of focus for the god in question.  I many cases, it really did help me bring the flavor of the god back to my original intent.  Tempest is much more evocative than Water, and Inferno paints a different picture than Fire.  I also really like moving Destruction to Vengeance; I think the game opportunities are really expanded with that.

Major gods have three domains.  Minor gods typically have two or three domains.  Cult or demi-gods may have only a single domain.  However that is not a rigid rule, I had one demi-goddess whose scope of control was best described as a blend of Luck, Protection and Vengeance.  No god receives more than three domains.

I find that I can have a god focus on a subset of a domain without having to write 'rules'.  I just do it in role play and color.  As an example, there is a major god whose domains are Protection, Vengeance, and War.  He is concerned with war in a big way - battle fields, armies, huge sweeping events.  There is a Demi-god whose only domain is War.  He is concerned with person to person combat, usually in war time.  Rather than create special domains for the difference, I just make sure that NPCs of those two different gods behave appropriately and select the powers from that domain which are appropriate to their concerns.  Another example is the gods who are concerned with Passion.  One is the goddess of love, wine & song and is concerned with passion in that sense.  The other is the god of fires, both real and in the heart, vengeance, and the darker side of passion.  They can easily both use the same domain, but use it differently for their ends.

When the campaign restarts, I hope the players will not feel any real difference in the
pantheons.  I believe I kept to the intended feel.  The only challenge will be for Cleric characters as they must choose a single domain instead of the two allowed by 3/3.5E.  But character conversion is another post.

The dice never lie.

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