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This is my first post so please be patient with me.

My issue is this: I am designing a world in which there is one chief creator god. In order to make the tasks of running the plane less taxing he created five angels to be aspects of his will and govern the mortal races.

I want to design this as a world to run multiple RPG campaigns in but I am worried about the limiting player choice with regards to divine domains.

Do you have any ideas how I can account for player choice of an ever growing selection of divine domains (currently ~14 in D&D 5E) while still maintaining the limited pantheon?

Thanks for the advice.

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    $\begingroup$ What would 5E signify? Maybe it means something to other people but I'm confused. $\endgroup$ – Draft 85 Mar 2 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking how to map 5E's domains to yours, or how to subdivide your 6 (5?) divine beings into an equivalent number of domains? $\endgroup$ – rek Mar 2 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ 5E as in Dungeons and dragons 5th edition. That's my groups preferred system. Sorry for not clarifying $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 2 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to point you towards Role-playing Games. Not because your question belongs there necessarily but because I think you'd get better support there. You have posed this as a worldbuilding question but it's tied to using an RPG rule set. It doesn't really matter that it's D&D - you seem to need advice on how to deal with situation that arise from such rule sets and collaboration with players. The gm-techniques tag and the world-building tags would be a good start. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 3 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ RPG.SE would certainly be helpful for resolving the mechanics of his system, but, this particular question sounds more WB.SE to me. He's painted himself into a corner with his setting, and needs advice for getting out of it while maintaining consistency. This same general question, could equally apply to a book, a movie, or any other kind of fictional setting. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Mar 3 at 4:06

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Your divine beings are the same, but don't always look the same or act the same.

When analyzing different religions with a pantheon of Gods and mythical beings, you can easily see one noticeable thing: more often than not, these gods represent different natural events, occurrences characteristic to their respective societies and other phenomenon. A rough example: what does The Egyptian God Osiris, the Mayan deity Camazotz and the Greek God Thanatos had in common? They all represent the event of death, despite each having their own motivations, personality and goals. Similarly, much how the Greek gods were depicted as having several human like traits, nothing stops an eternal being from changing the way it sees the world in a temporary or permanent way, much like we will wake up one day calmer than a sleeping lamb while the next day we might want to punch the first face that appears.

Your deities in the 4th campaign are the very same that those in the 1st, but be it because they themselves changed or because we changed the way we perceived them (or both), you might find completely different cults and religions which in fact adore the exact same beings, with the difference that each of them adore certain traits of their beings either because the being in question changed how it showed itself and their view on the world or simply because with time the being was just seen in a different way, and reacted to the peculiar adoration with a "sure, why not?". The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, for example, was simultaneously the goddess of war, of the sun (despite Ra being the main deity in this aspect), of cure and of disease, so it's very easy to picture 2 cults: one which would adore a similar entity due to them representing the goodness of the sun's blissful light and the cure of illnesses, while the second one adores the same entity due to them being the deity of disease and war, which foment chaos in society (the deity controls all of these, they also like extra attention, and nothing is stopping them from also deciding they'll share the title of God of childbirth with one of their immortal pals in a later date).

In the end:if you want many campaigns to happen in the same world, the key is to make things a little different every time, and I'd say one of the best way to keep you pantheon fresh is to have its members also change their views and behaviors in response to the ever changing world they rule over.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! This will be a cool way to grow the characters of the angels. I envision them playing a more present role than the distant being in the sky so this is good advice. $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 3 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ While I think this is a cool concept, it won't exactly solve the problem. It still restricts the OP to 5 (or 6) domains at any given time; so, if an angel who focuses on harmony suddenly wants to go to war, then what happens to all the clerics who value harmony? They will either need to abandon their values or abandon their power. This means that one way or another there will be no clarics of harmony in the latter campaign which can make players feel railroaded if they were such a cleric. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Mar 3 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ Also, if powers reflect your domain, it means dropping a set of powers that the OP worked hard to make in order to make room for the new set of powers. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Mar 3 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @nosajimiki I don't really see the issue. I did mention that a deity could have clearly contradictory domains ( much like how Sekhmet had domain over both cure and disease simultaneously), and as far as I understand, a cleric only chooses some of the domains that are part of the deity's portfolio. In addition, In your example, the God of harmony going to war doesn't necessarily mean harmony is no longer their domain, but could mean it saw war as the only way to restore harmony (which in itself sounds like a great plot, with the players having to find out why the deity changed so suddenly). $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Mar 3 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ Also worth considering the ‘man of many hats’ problem, where one employee is expected to take on several very different jobs, each requiring a very different attitude. Praying to Hades (Warden of the Dead) may have a very different effect to praying to Hades (He who Distributes Wealth) because Hades has to act very differently in those two jobs. If you specialise in talking to the Warden of the Dead you will naturally use a different mode of address than you would if you specialised in talking to He who Distributes Wealth, even though you know they’re technically both Hades. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 5 at 10:24
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This seems like a non issue, really. In most polytheistic religion there were gods who ruled over different domains and even gods who started taking over new domains as they go, either by creating it or taking it from some older less popular god. Artemis, for example, was not only the goddess of hunting, she was also the goddess of moon, childbirth and to some extent even fertility and nature. Her brother Apollo is more famous as a god of medicine and art, but he is also associated to death and plagues, sailor, the sun, nature and reason. Poseidon was a god of the seas to the greek, but to the mycenaean before them, he was the god of the underworld.

In short, is not a problem to have few gods, the petty mortal would associated whatever they want to worship with some of the existent gods, or even with multiple gods at the same time.

As for why these domains are separated despite belonging to the same god, it is because our petty mortal brains are not able to worship the divine in its entirety. Sure, nature is handled by a single god, but to our petty brains fertility, vicious predators and sea storms are VERY different. So the domains don't come from a limitation imposed by the gods, but by the mortals themselves in order to separate the divinity into small worshipable parts.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good perspective thanks. I was concerned about altering the angels too much since they have a key role and are more present than most dirties in the world. But mortal brains are still mortal haha $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 3 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer, but I wouldn't call it a "non-issue". $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson Mar 3 at 22:28
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The Many Faces of God

in the real world, there are three major religions, and seven "other" religions (according to wikipedia) who all worship the same God and all descend from the same core faith. however, they all favour different scriptures and disagree on many aspects of their faith to the point of war. Even very closely related faiths (Shia & Sunni, Catholic and Protestant) have had bloody disagreements even though they are more closely related than other Abrahamic faiths.

If your world had even a simple form of this for each of your divines, then you would have plenty of different faiths to choose from.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! Implementing this will make for some good political conflicts to add more realism to the world $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 3 at 13:59
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When the Saints Come Marching In:

Rather than have more gods, why not have multiple denominations? Christianity has managed to splinter itself quite nicely, as has Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. All espouse a sort-of core system, yet you can have Mormons and Jehovah's witnesses alongside ELCA Lutherans and Gnostics.

To use Artemis, from the previous example, In Greece she was an (officially) asexual goddess of the elites, but when morphed into Diana in Rome, she was considerably more tolerant of commoners and at least some of the belief systems clearly suggested she was a Lesbian.

Further, you can have more sub-sets by introducing saints. These semi-divine beings can represent aspects of the angels (gods) they work under, and they can have their own worship practices, temples and dedicated shrines, infinite numbers of new backstories for clerics that love that stuff, and so on. Saints can be specific to each domain, since they are derived from mortals from those domains, thereby achieving local character(pardon the pun). With saints, I've even let my clerical characters create their OWN saints to follow, so they can structure their own practices the way that's most fun for them to play. There's nothing more frustrating than when you have a clear vision about how you want to play a cleric, and then the DM decides to flip the rules around and say you can't do it (admittedly, the DM that rule swapped did it to please his girlfriend, but you get the point).

This is not to say this approach can't create drama. When a denomination shifts far enough to stray into a new alignment, the resulting schism can be violent. Guess what? The same great drama that makes good storytelling makes great campaigns. You can add all sorts of fun role playing, where two churches to the same god come into conflict, or need to negotiate to achieve peace, or argue over the possession of a given artifact (or even the significance of the artifact...)

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  • $\begingroup$ If you've read the later books of the "Percy Jackson" Series, I'd take that as an example of how to do it $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Mar 3 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! I had a passing thought of Aasimar playing a similar role to saints or religious leaders so this may be a good direction to go in to increase flexibility $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 3 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ “Don’t you get Greater Heal at this level?” - “No, I’m part of the Western convocation of the Church of the latter day Zimolians, not the Eastern convocation. Very different religions.” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 5 at 10:30
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If five angels are running the place, each one must be overseeing a large and extensive number of things. Each domain should be fit into the angel whose portfolio matches it.

That is, dismiss any rule that limits how many domains any divine being may preside over.

If anyone questions why the angels grant such limited powers out of their vast portfolios, why it's as much as a mortal can handle, one domain's powers -- or the angels split up the powers so that mortals will need each other. (Or, of course, both.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! Rather than adding more I will try and add aspects to the role they play in progressing the world that could encompass more domains $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 3 at 13:51
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One God but many Dharmas

One of the basic concepts of Dharma (in Hinduism) is that each person has a divinely appointed purpose in life, and that one's goodness is not measured by a single set of laws, but by how well one lives up to their purpose in life. So, a born warrior who chooses a life of pacifism is "bad" and is punished with bad Karma whereas a born doctor who chooses the same life may be "good" and be rewarded with good Karma.

In this way, your angels could perhaps be appointed to rule over groups of people with similar Dharmas, but ultimately each person has a unique purpose written at birth; so, what is expected of them by the divine, and what gifts the divine deems appropriate in fulfilling that greater purpose is unique to the individual.

So in terms of domains, each person (not god/angel) has domains assigned to him at character creation. Then each divine power is tied to those domains so that each cleric may have access to a slightly different set of powers while all worshiping the same god.

Your God is trying to maintain a balanced and sustainable world, and he can't do that by enforcing universal laws; so, all of the conflicting natures of man are nurtured and encouraged by his singular greater plan.

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  • $\begingroup$ I am not familiar with this concept. Thanks for explaining! $\endgroup$ – mrfails Mar 3 at 14:01
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Divinity evolves

Maybe you think you have a problem because in real life we sometimes think of evolution and godly things as mutually exclusive.

But any good mythology has a long, winded history full of plot twists and plot holes.

Think of the greek one: at some point Athens did not exist, so Ares was the sole god of war. Then one day Zeus has a headache and asks Hephestus to crack his head open with an axe (because he was too proud to ask Chiron for some aspirin), so Athens is born and because Zeus likes her, he giver her half of the domain over war. Overnight the clerics of war are divided into the orthodox arian church of war and the reformist athenian church of war! Then in recent greek mythology (circa 2,005 AD), due to a clerical error (drumroll) Kratos embarks on an odissey that makes him the new god of war, then the sole god of the olympus. That will throw a wrench in the way the greek organize their divine domains.

This never happened on the bootleg roman version of that pantheon, so any Athens and Ares worhippers can still pray to Minerva and Mars, respectively.


In your own world divine domains may change as gods kill themselves and new gods are created either through syncretism, mating or mortals ascending. Tie that to the campaign and you really have something epic in your hands.

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Each God has multiple Aspects and Clerical Orders for different Domains

Traditionally, gods had different aspects of their power. For instance Dianna was both the Moon and the Huntress; Athena was both a goddess of wisdom and of battle/tactics.

You can readily adapt this to the different domains you want to make accessible to your players by having each god have different clerical orders focusing on separate domains/aspects.

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You're only limiting yourself if you maintain the traditional one-to-one mapping between deities and cults. Instead, your five angels have overlapping realms of authority (like a Venn diagram, but in 5 dimensions). Each sect/cult worships two of the angels. This gives them access to a broader range of power, and that power is particularly strong where those two angels' realms of authority overlap. With your 5 angels, that gives you 10 different angel pairs to work with (or 20, if you differentiate one as the dominant/primary and the other as subordinate/secondary).

As a simplified example, lets say you have a four-deity system based around the four classical elements (earth, water, wind, and fire). Practitioners of the healing arts could call upon the cleansing powers of water and fire. Warriors would summon the strength of earth and the swift, piercing wind. Nature-based magic (druids, etc) would embrace the fertile earth and the water that nourishes the life within it. Necromancers might beseech the earth to give up its dead so that they can imbue in them the fire of life's spark. The elements themselves have a range of meanings, and it's the conjunction of two of them that focuses that power into something a mortal can harness.

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  • $\begingroup$ Magic the Gathering colour pairs as a solution? +1 $\endgroup$ – Jontia Mar 4 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ "You're only limiting yourself if you maintain the traditional one-to-one mapping between deities and domains." this is not very traditional at all. The Greco-Roman pantheon has deities with multiple aspects to them. And some even overlap. Same with Norse or Slavic or Egyptian or Indian gods. So, historically not the case. Even in terms of D&D gods have had multiple domains assigned to them. Again, some would have overlapping ones. Discworld has hyper specialised deities but only for comedic value. Like Aniger the goddess of squashed animals. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 4 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ You're right, "domains" is not really the word I was looking for. I was trying to describe these sorts of games' tendencies to have (for example) character classes that select a single entity as their patron and derive their characteristics from that one source. $\endgroup$ – bta Mar 5 at 1:45
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Different sects interpreting the same god differently

Just look at the Abrahamic religions in the real world. While they all believe in the same God, there are not just major differences between the three largest religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), those religions also have lots and lots of different denominations and sects with very different believes regarding:

  • Which prophets and saints do actually speak on behalf of God.
  • Which scriptures are considered canonical word from God, which are the work of humans but still worth reading and which are heresy nobody should pay attention to.
  • How those scriptures they can agree on are to be interpreted and how their teaching should be applied in everyday life.
  • How different parts of these scriptures should be prioritized.

When the worshipers of the one creator god in your world are similarly fractured into different faiths based on theological differences, then the clerics of those sects would also be very different.

So when one player wants to play a character of a rather exotic cleric domain, then you just would have to come up with a new sect based on the believe that this particular aspect of the chief creator god is more important than all others.

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When in doubt, fractals.

Have a heavenly bureaucracy. The creator made 5 angels. Those angels in turn recruited spirits to aid them in their job.

Each river that flows is managed by a river spirit. That river spirit in turn reports to the celestial sphere of water, when it gets around to filling out the paperwork. Keeping rivers on track and not meandering is a lot of work, and the celestial sphere of water has tides to manage, so it doesn't always get done in a timely (read: centuries) period.

And once they have created a new riverbed, the paperwork to get them to move back is such a pain.

There is 1 God.

There are 5 Angels.

There are more than 2 dozen Heavenly Spheres.

Each has 100s or 1000s of Bureaucrats.

And under them, there are millions of Spirits.

A Cleric can serve a Sphere, a Bureaucrat, or even a World Spirit. Not just the God and the 5 Angels.

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