Like I said in my last article, this article is going to be me trying to take the (arguably small amount of) knowledge I gained from writing that article and apply that to my new world of Ae’thar. I want to see what kind of system I want to use and what I want to focus on, and maybe work out some cultures and religions as well. As not everyone knows what Ae’thar is, I’ll start by giving a small introduction to the world.
Quick intro to Ae’thar
Ae’thar is a world filled with wonder and fantasy. The world itself is an enormous expanse of ocean, with floating islands in the sky. Skyships are flying over the clouds, going from enormous floating cities to smaller villages on those floating islands. There are ruined civilizations that are either still floating through corrupted and dangerous clouds or have fallen and now lie at the bottom of the ocean.
The most interesting thing in Ae’thar is the Wishgranter, a colossal building floating above the ocean. It’s an extremely challenging dungeon, but grants a wish at the end of it all. The Wishgranter has shaped the world to the way it is through many wishes. Every time someone makes a wish, the building grows larger, teleports away, and returns to a different place a few decades later.
Factions and Politics
Many nations in Ae’thar want the power of the Wishgranter for themselves, which is why the return of the Wishgranter usually is a spark for war. Each nation and faction that inhabit these skylands have their wishes they want to fulfill, some for selfish reasons, some for the betterment of the world.
My vision for Ae’thar is a world that can house many differing campaigns. It could be a political campaign with intrigue and subterfuge. Perhaps it can house a campaign with a lot of exploration, finding the secrets of the world and its ancient civilizations. It could also focus on the Wishgranter itself, which could lead to a very dungeon-heavy campaign. Not only that, but it can also be a mix of these types. With my last world of Eden being very dark and gloomy, I felt like I wanted to make something more fantasy, with some twists.
Designing The Pantheon
Now that I’ve explained a bit of what this world is about: Religions and the Pantheon. I’m going to be using multiple sources to maybe steal from or take inspiration from. I’ll note those when they come up. Furthermore, I’m also writing this article at the same time as creating the pantheon, so if it feels a little like rambling, bear with me.
As I have explained in the last article, I’m not a big fan of the Loose Pantheon, and I’m not feeling like I should go for a duality or a monotheistic world here. I’ve decided to actually go with a loose pantheon. While I was writing this, I initially wrote a that I wanted to create a tight pantheon. Now that I have finished some aspects of the pantheon though, it looks more and more like a loose pantheon. I’ll have a couple of core deities and a few lesser gods to fill the space. I came across this great article by the Angry DM using Magic: The Gathering’s system of 5 colors that contrast with each other in such a way that have 2 allies and 2 enemies each, creating a sort of balance that is hard to disturb.
There is also this great video by Dael Kingsmill about how she would design a pantheon, which has some interesting insight into where to start with your pantheon. She recommends thinking of four character archetypes in your ‘one good story’: Authority, Harbor, Purpose, and Treachery. Highly recommend looking into those two sources. What I’m currently thinking of is 5 deities that were made by one overgod-like entity, plus maybe a few lesser deities to fill out the space (if there is any.)
A core part of what the Angry DM described is having 5 different theme conflicts and using those to create your deities. So I’m going to have to start with thinking of those. Two nations I already designed a little before writing this article are the nations of Solari and Lunari. The Solari Diarchy is a very authoritarian kingdom ruled by a King and Queen, while a council of mages rules the Lunari Dominion. There’s some sort of conflict here, like might vs. magic. They don’t oppose each other that much, but it’s something of a start. The theme of might is also about believing in the strength, leadership, and power of yourself or your nation. It also includes perseverance through any obstacle. Magic on the other hand also includes mystery, knowledge, and wisdom, to some extent.
Another nation I designed before writing this article was the nation of Lyonett, of which the capital is an enormous flying airship. It’s the nation for technological advances and research. Now, I wanted this conflict to be tradition vs. progress, with Lyonett embodying progress, but the conflict didn’t really work when I had to think about tradition. It’s not particularly a conflict I want to explore within my world, even if it is an interesting conflict in general. I think a conflict that would work here is individualism vs. collectivism. Should each person live for themselves unfettered, or is it better to cooperate and compromise? I envision the people and engineers of Lyonett as selfless people. They research technology and innovate not just for themselves, but for the betterment of everyone around them.
A conflict I think could be interesting to explore is retribution vs. forgiveness. Which is the true nature of justice or the purpose of the law? Vengeance is not always the right choice, but neither is forgiveness. Which side a character might take can give you a lot of information about that character’s ideals and worldview. Why they take their stance is also interesting to think about.
I wanted to also add some sort of law vs. chaos conflict, but I found that to be too direct. I think civilization vs. wilderness is a better representation of what I would find interesting to explore in my world. Wilderness also does not have the negative connotation chaos does.
Now for less of a philosophical conflict and more one I’d love to add: discovery vs. mystery. Part of Dungeons and Dragons is, of course, exploration. The theme of discovery is largely present in it. The world is unexplored and holds many secrets, why not seek those out? On the other hand, there are things that are legend or myth for a reason, the things that should not be explored. The secrets you do not want exposed, either personal or on a worldly scale. Keeping those safe is just as important.
We’ll play with these five conflicts: — Might vs. Magic — Individualism vs. Collectivism — Retribution vs. Forgiveness — Civilization vs. Wilderness — Discovery vs. Mystery
The Pantheon Itself
Now that I have my conflicts, It is time to put them together in a way that sort of makes sense. I first thought of the Solari Diarchy and thought that Might and Retribution is a good combination for that nation, and thus their deity. A deity of war, of strength, of justice, and vengeance. It sort of summarizes the Diarchy in a way. They want retribution for what happened to them when the Solari and the Lunari split in two, believing in the strength of man to bring them forward.
On the other hand, the Lunari believe in Magic and Discovery. They chose to split off from the Lunari some time ago, focusing on their intelligence and magic to keep them safe. This will then be my second deity, a deity of knowledge, of magic, and of discovery.
The next combination and deity I want to make is the deity of Wilderness and Forgiveness. A deity of nature, of love, of the animals and the weather, of letting go and forgiving. Perhaps it is one of the more self-evident combinations, but it gives more character than a generic nature deity.
For my friends over in the Lyonett, I think Collectivism and Civilization make a great combination. A deity of creation, of tinkering, of working together for a greater good. It exemplifies the ideals of the Lyonett.
The last combination that is left over is Individualism and Mystery. A deity of secrets, of legends, of myths, and of shadow. On face value, it might seem as the only deity that you could consider as ‘bad’. Something to think about.
The Actual Gods
Solana, the Bright Queen, is the Goddess of Light, Justice, and War. She will represent might and retribution as themes. She is a pillar of justice and honor and is often symbolized by the bright sun in the sky. Generals in the military might align with Solana, and so might those that are not magically aligned as well. Believing in the strength that is inside you and never giving up are the most important commandments she has. A cleric worshiping Solana might take the Light, Order, or War domain.
Lunola, the Lady of Magic, is the Goddess of Magic, Discovery, and Knowledge. She represents magic and discovery as themes. She clashes with Solana as she believes that knowledge and magic are what make people strong. All the magic in Ae’thar is possible of course thanks to Lunola. She encourages everyone to forge their path in history, and to choose, not be victim to fate. She is often symbolized by the moon in the sky at night, as it changes its phases and is opposite of the Sun. (Usually.) A cleric worshiping Lunola might take the Arcana, Knowledge, or Twilight domain.
Rosaria, the Red Maiden, is the Goddess of the Wild, Love, and Nature. She represents wilderness and forgiveness. Symbolized by the red rose, she is beautiful and fragile, yet its thorns cannot be ignored. Her domain is the nature and weather of Ae’thar, which is often beautiful but can be dangerous. Kind of like love. (Sorta.) She clashes with Solana as she believes that forgiveness and acceptance is the true way of living and that revenge only breeds hatred. Rosaria believes that leaving the world untouched and letting the wilderness do its thing is better than shaping it to mankind’s needs. Live together with nature, not sacrifice it for your own good. A cleric worshiping Rosaria might take the Nature, Life, or Tempest domain.
Veles, the Great Creator, is the God of Creation, Family, and Progress. Representing collectivism and civilization, he encourages creativity and innovation in people, not just for technology or magic, but also for culture and their traditions. He allies himself with Lunola in some ways that he wishes for Ae’thar’s denizens to continue moving forward. Veles clashes with Rosaria in that Veles sees mankind’s work on the land as commendable. It’s taking what is there and making it better for everyone. He is often symbolized by a gear. A cleric that worships Veles might take the Forge or Order domain.
Kairos, the Mysterious, is the God of Secrets, Shadows, Mystery, and of Fate. He represents individualism and mystery. Symbolized by the four-pointed star, he represents all that is unknown in the world. The things people don’t see, don’t hear, and don’t speak of. Lunola is often infatuated by the idea of uncovering the secrets Kairos holds. All the while, he encourages people to think for themselves, and keep the secrets they hold so dearly. The world is a dangerous place, you know? While Veles encourages everyone to work together, Kairos knows this only leads to compromise and not the ideal outcome. A cleric worshiping Kairos might take the Knowledge or Trickery domain.
Aleph, the Overgod, is the God of Gods. He created Ae’thar and its denizens. He also gave power to these five gods. After his work was done, he went into an eternal sleep. He isn’t worshiped outright, but his influence still emanates throughout the world. He is symbolized by a singular closed eye.
My Thoughts So Far
I think I have a strong start here. The deities conflicting with each other like this creates interesting story opportunities right from the get go. I’m quite happy with Solana, Lunola, and Rosaria, mostly because I wrote them first and had a good idea for them from the start. Veles is an interesting addition, but I think it works quite well. I originally had two different conflicts: tradition vs. progress and free will vs. fate, but I felt the combination of tradition and fate didn’t give me much to work with. Eventually I scrapped that idea and I ended up with what I have now. If I’m looking at the cleric subclasses, I am actually missing a couple of domains. I will add a couple smaller, lesser deities to embody some specific aspects of the world.
This article has been going on for way too long now, so I’ll continue this in a second part later. In that part, I’ll create a sort of origin story for the deities and talk about the actual religion around these five deities. I’ll also add some lesser deities to the pantheon. I’d love to hear your thoughts so far! ‘Til the next article!