Saturday, May 29, 2021

A look into the progression of Parn pt. 2 - The Deities

Parn was initially conceived with Dungeons and Dragons 3.x in mind, so our first ideas for cosmology -- specifically religions -- were to fill in each part of the alignment grid with an appropriate deity. We had a couple of ideas that we felt really strongly about, and a couple more just to kinda fill in the blanks. We've reduced the importance (and size) of alignment in our games from 9 options to 3 (Chaotic, Neutral, or Lawful.) Where did our pantheon start, and where is it now?

Lawful Good 
Rirencar - Legend has it that Rirencar was once a mortal Elf, a wandering swordsman whose good deeds earned the respect of all that he came across. Rirencar taught people that all races are created equal; His followers were not to wait on heroes to right wrongs, but to become heroes themselves in their own communities, and to take charge to make sure all life is respected.

Rirencar’s greatest teaching is ultimately selflessness. Rirencar’s legend ends as he sacrifices himself to protect the village of Allura on the <Blue Island> on the equator. Consequently, many followers of Rirencar do not hesitate to give up their own lives if it means the favor of their patron deity upon death. It is said that those who give up their lives in the way that Rirencar did can expect to be promoted to godhood as well, albeit under Rirencar’s service.

Rirencar was kind of inspired by Aenur from the Games Workshop skirmish RPG Mordheim. No PCs ever really interacted with this religion. It was mostly a riff on stereotypical Lawful Good Paladins from my gaming experience. The idea that the gods came from mortal people and ascended through great acts would eventually become solidified for all deities after reading the BECMI Immortals rules. Since it's kind of boring and cliche, Rirencar kind of sits ignored in the notes, completely undeveloped (and unused) from this point on.

Neutral Good

Harauld - Once mortal himself, Harauld was one of the most charitable men that ever existed. He traveled the world avoiding conflict and teaching via spoken word the good nature of charity and sharing. His followers aren’t to collect worldly possessions for themselves, but rather collect and distribute amongst their communities.

Followers and temples of Harauld are rarely unwanted in a community. Harauld’s teachings bestow great benefits in any size village or city, but also spread communist philosophies which some people may not agree with. Rather than be opposed in any community, Harauldites would rather pack up and leave before conflict occurs. At the first notice that they are unwanted, Harauld’s followers will move and re-settle to an area that is receptive of charity work, and the cycle usually begins again once the community outgrows the need for them.

While Harauld opposes combat, Harauld does not oppose stealing. Some Harauldites have taken up a “steal from the rich, give to the poor” approach in cities that has gotten the religion criticized in lands like <Dark Green> and <Red>.

Harauld was inspired by Robin Hood and Jesus Christ. This deity never came up during adventures either, but I like the idea of this existing as a cultural force in the world of Parn, and should probably put it closer to a party of PCs in the future.

Chaotic Good

Ziv - The embodiment of sound, controlling the forces of wind and nature. He has commonly appeared in forms of birds, cicadas, whales and other song-creatures. Hearing noises or songs with no origin is believed to originate from Ziv. It is said that before man knew how to become civilized amongst themselves, Ziv had already created and distributed the first musical instruments, and taught hermits how to play them.

Ziv’s true history is known in pieces by every bard in the world. It is said that Ziv laid his tale in several volumes of rare songs written in stone in some of the most hard-to-reach areas, all over the known world. Those who would collect his complete works are promised to have a complete knowledge of the creation of the world, and all of the greatest historical events ever since.

This is the deity that PCs interacted with the most. Ziv came up in rumor tables often (each PC started with 4 randomly generated rumors, and could accumulate more over time.) Ziv also left hieroglyphs in many dungeons that the PCs explored, and provided context and history to the adventures. Sort of inspired by Jiminy Cricket, the talking cricket in The Adventures of Pinocchio, the concept was to have simple, overlooked creatures actually be great sources of sage advice and history... if only you spent the time to acknowledge them.

Mirka - The strange god of the Drow, said to be the ruler over the wood-spirits. Only the Drow are fully attuned with Mirka, for she does not fully trust anyone who lives outside of the marshes of the world.

It is said she is sister to Hirack, and combined, they bestow the druids of the world with powers over nature. Should the two of them become separated or unbalanced, the fabric of natural magic could be compromised.
In our early incarnations of Parn, we transplanted the Underdark/Forgotten Realms style Drow to the surface. They were a completely isolationist government that would murder anyone that ventured into their territory. Inside the swampy forests to the south, illusion magic hid technologically advanced society and allowed the Drow to effortlessly remove anyone trying to find their homelands. Mirka was, at that point, the early analogue to Lolth. At some point, the "technologically advanced" part became dropped, and instead the Drow were swamp ninjas. Then, when the geography of Parn was revamped, the Drow ceased to be the Drow, and became instead a sect of Elves that worshiped the volcano itself. Mirka is no longer part of Parn at this point.

Lawful Neutral

Se-annlay - Tavern songs all over the world speak of Se-annlay, patron of good fights, and honorable battle. He is said to have passed down the knowledge of weaponry and armor to the blacksmiths of the world, and inspired kings to go to war merely to show force.

Barbarians and Warriors generally get along best with Se-annlay’s ethics, unless they are the type that fight dirty. Followers are forbidden from attacking or killing unarmed opponents, harming the helpless, and from using excessive force in fair fights. A Se-annlay follower will usually let his enemy live another day if it means a greater battle will occur in the future. Followers of Se-annlay are promised a spot in his personal, otherworldly army when they die, to wage the greatest combat ever known at the end of all times.

This was a fill-in for Lawful Neutral, a riff off of another deity in an online RPG I played in my teens (and the many influences that, itself, was created by.) No PC interacted with this, and to be honest, I feel it's kinda cheesy, so this one has been tossed in the bin as well.

True Neutral

Rowhn - Rowhn is a trickster god that frequently disguises himself as a human rogue, interacting in the real world and causing mischief if it favors or amuses him. He bestowed the knowledge of locksmithing (and later, lock picking) upon the greatest thieves in the world. Due to his prevalence of worship in thieves guilds, worship of Rowhn may be outlawed in some countries, should they have had trouble with it in the past.

To Rowhn and his followers, the philosophy is often similar to the old “carpe diem,” or the more recent, “you only live once.” Men are encouraged to disregard rules and the feelings of others if it would better help themselves, especially in the cases of great heists or public gags.

This one was conceived as kind-of the counterpart to Harauld, based mostly on individualism instead of collectivism. PCs did not get to interact with this one, either (most games strayed away from civilization.) I think this idea could use more refinement and be placed in a hex not too far from the PCs in the future.

Chaotic Neutral

Kaska - Genderfluid deity of sexuality and hedonism. Followers are expected to disregard social customs such as marriage, monogamy, and courtship and engage in as much performance as possible, in order to better connect with Kaska’s godly warmth. A Kaskan is expected to start or enrich any surrounding sex cult and/or Kaska temple as much as their physical limitations would allow.

Kaska followers sometimes treat propositions of sex as opportunities which could potentially bestow divine knowledge. Kaska promises those who debase themselves in only the most heinous acts will gain its favor, and with it, its power, in the mortal world.

Due to Kaska cults usually destroying the political stability of whatever village or city they draw from, they typically become illegal in a short period of time, and it’s well known of the dangers of getting involved with Kaska cults in more civilized parts of the world.

Inspired by Warhammer's god Slaanesh, as well as the secret society imagery of the movie Eyes Wide Shut, and a heaping helping of the 3.x sourcebook The Book of Erotic Fantasy, Kaska actually featured in quite a few campaigns. In one, a shared (but mostly harmless) secret of the town is that the majority of the residents sneak out at night to worship in a nearby den; in others, PCs actually played devotees seeking favor and glory. It's a sex vs. violence angle in the world that I find interesting to play with. Kaska is mostly unchanged from the first time it was introduced.

Lawful Evil

Yulefrania - Yulefrania is described by scholars of ancient magic as being the most powerful wizard who ever lived. He is the perfect tale of ascension in the world, a man who took magical power into his own hands, did what he wanted in the world, and attained godhood at the end of his mortal life.

Would-be wizards the world over pray to Yulefrania to give them insight into new magical abilities. His gifts are said to be so strong that even a novice blessed by Yulefrania could spy on the most secretive areas in the world. Yulefrania rarely blesses any of his followers, but that does not stop wizards from trying, as if it were the best choice by trying his divine lottery.

By all normal folk, Yulefrania’s tale is one of horror. Yulefrania is regarded as a madman who sacrificed whatever and whoever was available in the search of greater power. His ascension to godhood was attained by trapping an entire city in a magical curse and removing their souls -- or so it is told.

Yulefrania is sort of an evil fascist analogue, kind of inspired by the sorcerer-kings of Dark Sun, but also any stereotypical evil sorcerer. The lore played a part in Magic Users being scary folk who should be shunned, because they might sacrifice you for the ability to cast Melf's Acid Arrow or something, you know? While PCs encountered Magic Users who were technically aligned with Yulefrania, game information never became relevant because the party accidentally perished in some unrelated fashion.

Neutral Evil

Hirack - The one that most would normally call “mother nature” is worshipped by some in the world. Those hermits who would call upon Hirack’s power conjure tornados, lightning, blizzards and hurricanes to batter civilizations. Those priests who would worship her take it upon themselves to make sure all races know the terrible power of natural disasters, and to prepare constantly for them.

Hirack herself is chaotic and depraved, and wishes only to destroy organic life. Followers are sometimes attracted to this aspect. She is said to speak to the insane in their dreams, and coax them into her worship.

Inspired by the druid from Diablo 2, and also druids in World of Warcraft, and the ecological events around WoW's "Cataclysm" expansion, as well as Storm from the X-Men, and all sorts of real life natural events. Lone followers of Hirack populate random encounter tables, often to peacefully divine the weather for the party. I think there is a place for Hirack going forward, albeit maybe with a name change and some edits to the lore.

Chaotic Evil

Krom - God of, and self-proclaimed creator of all Orcs, Krom is a deranged psychopath who only desires to violently murder and torture humanoids. The Orc tribes who worship Krom are some of the most feared in the entire world, as his influence can lead tribes to go on continent-wide campaigns of looting, torturing, and killing, stopping only upon death. Followers of Se-annlay work tirelessly with Orc tribes in their area to make sure they do not fall into the worship of Krom.

Sadly, Krom’s followers are instructed to torture and kill whomever is not in their tribe (and sometimes those who are in the tribe, depending on conduct.) A group of Se-annlay emissaries looking to pacify a converted Orc tribe may sometimes find themselves painfully and slowly tortured for days before their hometown is looted, burned to the ground, and all peoples are massacred.

Here we have K-Mart Gruumsh, existing in campaigns so far only as a marker on the banner of some marauding Orcs. Early incarnations of Parn had a few stereotypically Warhammer-style Orc tribes North and East of where PCs would start the campaign, and some careful reconnaisance would reveal that parties of PCs usually didn't want to tangle with a large warband of Orcs for no reason. Krom was usually a footnote at that point. With the reboot of the geography of Parn, those Orcs are no longer there, as the various humanoids are much more integrated, and communities are forged around political or religious reasons instead. Krom has, at this point, been removed from the campaign, but could come back as some sort of segregationist demon.

 So where are we now?

Deities in use:

  • Kaska
  • Ziv

Deities not really in use, but should be pushed into view more:

  • Harauld
  • Rowhn
  • Hirack

Deities not really in use, kinda meh on: 

  • Yulefrania

Deities we're done with:

  • Rirencar
  • Mirka
  • Krom
  • Se-annlay

Magic is not tied to deities in our campaign, so many players do not feel very compelled to interact with religion. That's perfectly fine with me, and I think being happy with five out of ten is still more than enough depth to Parn for the time being.

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