Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Greyhawk A-Z: Deities

Well after my enjoyable A-Z on people and places, I guess my next logical topic would be to cover deities. It seems fitting since I did over 300 comics on Greyhawk gods for nearly five years. I should know my stuff, right? Let's see what I maybe didn't cover or avoided covering in all this time:

Al'Akbar: He of Cup and Talisman fame. I am a big fan of the Baklunish culture in Greyhawk, but the emphasis of Al'Akbar written into the setting during 2000's Living Greyhawk Gazetteer was a bit too much for a lot of people mainly because it was similar to Islamic Shiite and Sunni sects (incidentally I never used Al'Akbar in my comic). Timing is key though, since this was at a time when gamers were becoming quite familiar with the actual religion in the news and perhaps didn't have the stomach to bring the analog into their campaign. Now if Gygax had established Al'Akbar sooner during the Cold War, who knows?

Bralm: This is a Suel goddess of insects who, in the context of her pantheon, comes off kind of silly to me and I'm sure to a lot of others since she never really caught on in the Greyhawk community. Despite this I did use her in comics a few times but she's defeinitely never graced my campaigns in all these years. What she perhaps needs is an evil make-over. Perhaps she could be like the Monarch from the Venture Brothers cartoon.

Cyndor: This is a deity that never seemed to fit because he is like a tacked on extra with no good reason to be on the deities list. In early books he is neither greater nor lesser in status, he belongs to no subrace's pantheon and there is already a time god in Lendor. Cyndor's questionability means you can ignore him altogether and it doesn't affect the setting.

Dalt: The god of keys and portals. I like the deity in principle, he has a small niche to fill there and he has a prominent artifact, the Silver Key of Portals. I just feel there should be more about him (and his brother Vatun) to justify being in the setting rather than folding that portfolio into another deity.

Erythnul: The god of hate and malice is a deity called the Many. He can appear as humanoids, trolls, ogres, etc so he should be featured more often Greyhawk lit you'd think, but I feel he was underused due to the fact that monsters eventually got their own pantheons and there is too many gods to go around for humans. A shame really because Erythnul is damn cool.

Fortubo: Speaking of shames. The god of stone and metal is another one of those deities from early Greyhawk publication that likely got left behind when demihumans (in his case dwarves) got their own pantheons. He is human but favors dwarves. Who is going to make a cleric of that deity?

Garl Glittergold: And speaking of demihuman gods, the chief deity of gnomes, Garl is one. Unlike Fortubo I have had players who picked Garl as a deity. I just like saying his name, it's so alliterative.

Hextor: The god of war is among my favorite deities of Greyhawk and a constant source of comic fodder. I could do an entire segment just on Hextor, but one thing that always struck me odd about his religion was how a bulk of the Great Kingdom (the most populous nation in the Flanaess) could follow an ugly, six-armed guy. Then again, there's real world deities like Vishnu who can compare. I just wonder, what if the six arms aren't meant to be literal but instead, from a religious art perspective the six arms is just stylizing his prowess in battle with multiple forms of weaponry? Food for thought.

Istus: The goddess of Fate is who should be the main religion of the Bakluns, not Al'Akbar by any stretch. With Istus you have a more Al-Qadim/Arabian Nights like mood and one not so rooted in more recent middle-eastern culture. One comment on the Fate of Istus module from 1e/2e though; why does Istus meddle so hard in the events of the Flanaess and not a lick in her home pantheon's side of map? That's ripe for a remake.

Joramy: This is an oft forgotten goddess who I like a lot for some reason. Sadly I could never find much use for her in my own efforts, but her religion has potential for good stories. She is the goddess of volcanoes after all!

Kurell: Similar to Joramy, Kurell has the makings of a cool deity but maybe due to redundancy of rogue gods, he seems like a third string player in the setting. To bring him to the forefront, I'd focus more on his own backstory because it's good drama that roleplayers could get inspiration from. Kurell is pursued by Atroa, but he likes her sister Sotillion who is married to Kurell's brother Zilchus. Classic soap opera stuff there.

Lirr: The goddess of poetry, art and literature has a place within a complete polytheistic setting, but as a practical choice for gaming she is on the sidelines with so many other gods of Greyhawk. In the event of a Greyhawk remake, she could easily be folded into one deity with perhaps Myhriss to make a goddess more like Pathfinder's cool, artsy love goddess, Shelyn.

Myhriss: While I'm on "m" I'll continue with the goddess of love and beauty. Has anyone ever used Myhriss? I know I haven't. The question is why not? A love/beauty goddess is supposed to be a pretty strong portfolio for any pantheon. Imagine Greek myth without Aphrodite. I think part of the problem is that greedy goddess Wee Jas who went from Magic and Death in 1e to magic, death, and vanity by 3e, effectively making Mhyriss useless. Rather than marginalize Myhriss her religion should be pushing back on Wee Jas'.

Nazarn: Many of you are probably asking, who is Nazarn? Why not Norebo or Nerull (too obvious). Well, Nazarn is a hero-deity of gladiators from Living Greyhawk Journal #3. And on that number I'm willing to guess no more than three DMs have ever used this god in their campaign. I never even name-dropped him in my comics! But check it, he has a cool backstory much to my surprise: He is a half-orc who fought in the arenas of the Scarlet Brotherhood (bad ass enough so far) who then escaped, met a half-giant son of Kord who then introduced him to Kord himself, who then gave him godhood after beating all comers in a yuan-ti arena in Hepmonaland. Epic!

Osprem: She is another one of those lesser known deities I like to discuss in this list. Unlike many of the others I barely used her in comics, but I did utilize her sea/voyage aspect to good effect in my recent Sea Princes campaigns by giving her a militant, matriarchal temple with its own ship of female pirate hunters and their eunuch crewmen. I hope to detail this organization out someday.

Procan: Speaking of sea gods, Procan should be the Poseidon of Greyhawk but he has been relegated to intermediate status for much of the setting's history (Osprem and Xerbo cut into his action). This however is a deity that should have a far reach in the game, even beyond the shorelines. He is the father of five other nature gods after all. In a revitalized Greyhawk published campaign (or at least one near an ocean) I would make sure to use Procan as much as possible.

Quaal: So Quaal, of Feather Token fame, is considered a quasi-deity. He used to run with Zagig and Murylnd in their original adventuring group the Company of Seven. I guess Quaal should be an example that any player's character can someday achieve epic status if they hang in there long enough.

Rudd: The goddess of gambling and skill is one of my personal favorites. I think the art of Rebecca Guay in Dragon #265 is part of it which is why I used her often in my comics. Don't dismiss Rudd though, she has a lot to offer as a patron goddess for any roguish character (sorry Kurell) as she has ties to both Olidammara (her mentor) and Norebo (possibly her father).

Syrul: This crone goddess of lies is one of those early pantheon baddies that works well in the setting. That is, until she becomes redundant with the addition of other canon crones such as Iggwilv and Baba Yaga. Syrul has a strong canon background with other deity associations, so reclaiming her position as a go-to evil religion shouldn't be that hard for any DM. Ideally she should be (and probably is) the main god of the secretive Scarlet Brotherhood. Oh yeah and fun fact, her dagger is made from a unicorn horn.

Tharizdun: He is so well known that I don't even need to link to his profile. Many are probably tired of this ancient overgod of evil, I know I've used him to the extreme in my campaigns and comics, but in a hypothetical reboot of Greyhawk would his absence be missed or not?

Ulaa: This goddess of gems and mountains is one of those early demihuman stand-ins I mentioned before. Ulaa has dwarven and gnomish features but is still considered human so that all three races can appreciate her. I think running the Greyhawk settting with no Gruumsh, Correlon, Garl, Moradin, etc. would be interesting especially since it would give Ulaa and her ilk a chance to shine.

Vatun: Too little, too late in my opinion. Carl Sargent added him in Five Shall Be One as a quest object for reuniting five blades. There is nothing about him before and barely anything after the sequel, Howl From the North (Hey he is Dalt's brother. Woo!). At best his reason for being is to give origin to the pseudo-Viking culture that the Suel pantheon (arguably) lacked. A good quick fix would be going back to older source material and have Vatun be a child of Kord, a demigod at best but then his sudden appearance in canon wouldn't seem so trivial.

Wastri: Who else likes Wastri, raise their hands? My game group recently watched some old D&D cartoons that had bullywugs. I secretly love bullywugs too. I need to use them more! Anyhow, the Hopping Prophet is the best reason to have bullywugs in your game. Check him out.

Xan Yae: Now raise your hand if you've used Xan Yae in your game. Not me unfortunately. Xan Yae can be a very cool deity to use especially if you focus on monks and psionics. The fact she is Baklunish doesn't hurt either.

Yondalla: Head of the Halfling pantheon who has sixteen portfolio titles! What you won't see in canon however is this scandalous theory: Yondolla + Correllon = Tallfellows, Yondolla + Mordain = Stouts, and Yondolla + Garl Glittergold = Hairfoot. Shocking I know!

Zodal: So many options on this last one, but I'll end with Zodal. Mercy, Hope and Benevolence? Pretty boring, so there's not much there for an adventurer to latch onto unless you're running a group of hippies and druids. Zodal did date Joramy at one time though. I wonder what HE did to piss her off?

That's all for now. I can probably run through A-Z on gods again quite easily. Later!


Charles Akins said...

How do I give this more +1s?

Can't wait for the next one in this series.

Timothy Brannan said...

Raise hand!!

We used Xan Yae as a central Goddess in my games in the late 80s. She was the patron of a group of psychic warriors known as the Riddlemasters.

She became our Goddess of Psychic abilities.

mortellan said...

Charles: I'll see what I can do!

Timothy: Very cool name for a group! Psionics were shown as ultra rare back in the day so it's likely my fault Xan Yae didn't get much use.

Argon said...

IMHO. Incabulos is a very dangerous deity. He's listed as a greater god and is the only deity capable of keeping Tharizdun at bay. He creates nightmares to keep Tharizdun from gathering his strength. What kind of nightmares can keep an uber-deity in check.

I think the other gods got together and were more than happy to have Incabulos focus on Tharizdun instead of them.

Just my two cents.



Pat Payne said...

Some cool choices there :thumbsup:

In my own campaigns, I've either used or seen used:

Hextor (natch), Lirr (there is a character in my current campaign who does worship her), Osprem (Coral Ashlen MacGlen, from a sadly petered-out Castle Greyhawk campaign that I ran), Rudd (one of my thieves worshipped Rudd), and of course Tharizdun.

The one deity out of all of them I probabaly would have no use for is Xan Yae, just because the two big things in her protfolio are ones that I usde only under protest in my D&D playing -- monks and psionics.