Casting Runes 8: Pantheons and Perspectives

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition for the creation of a sword and sorcery campaign setting. In this entry for the series, we will take a look at some of the organized pantheons which have sprung up through the ages of organized worship, and after the gradual decline in instances of deific manifestation.

In the past, when religion and gods featured in my fantasy campaigns at all, I would often just use earthly myths, or those deities provided with the game system. Creating my own deities has typically been one of those aspects of world design that I find least appealing, mostly because of its potentially disruptive nature. For this project, I decided to go ahead and to embrace the elements which can lead to trouble or extra effort, such as regional differences in pantheons,  wildly divergent interpretations of the same deities, and of course… names.

I like the creation of names and the semblance of languages for a fantasy setting. I feel it adds a lot of meat to the skeleton of the setting, and when the players grow comfortable with it, returns great dividends in expanded interactions within that setting. Methods, motives, and machinations all grow more meaningful when material like this is made manifest. It can, however, produce some hard to remember or unintentionally ridiculous words, phrases, and names. One man’s P’or GYra is another fellow’s p’ORGY…Rah!

Cooperative Development

In the early stages of the campaign, I have been providing insight into how the pantheons were arranged, and made my desire for cooperative world-building plain to the rest of the group. As each came from a different nation, they could produce details or information within my basic framework as related to their gods and religious practices as we went along.

Now that those early stages are coming to a close, it is time to formalize what has been discovered, discussed, and proposed, and put it out there in a visible format for the players to look at and revise for their own use as they desire. In the eighth session the characters finally reached the borders of the lands surrounding the Temple of Ascension and so will be in more regular contact with religious orders and priests for a time. For some, it will be their first real contact with religious groups outside their own culture’s. It is my hope that seeing some of what I developed in the background will further enable them to bring their own ideas and interpretations into play, so that we can play a little jazz with this aspect of the setting.

Sharing is Shorthand

I am not certain how interesting any of this framework might be to readers of this series, but I am posting it for a few reasons. The first is as a record of early development. The second is for ease of reference for the players. Finally, having this in place should make it easier to keep any recaps dealing with religious figures or issues lightweight but allow readers to get into them via relevant links. If nothing else the names should give people something to chuckle over, or rant about. (Right, Sebastien?)

 

Selected Pantheons of the Firmament

Human: (Aelroth Kingdom)

An (All-Father) + [The Conquered Bride] + Na (Androgynous All-Mother)

Ven (The Sky/Work) –– Ael (The Land/War) –– Gir (The Sea/Travel)

 

In all common respects, the Aelroth Kingdom had a religious tradition of venerating 6 deities, 3 major and 3 minor. More properly, a trinity with two primary deities and one secondary, over a lesser trinity of equals. In some parts of the kingdom this tradition is still maintained. In the capital and the largest centers of commerce, this is no longer true. In some cases, the iconography of the original pantheon remains but is ignored or simply misinterpreted by laymen. In many cases, it has been altered to reflect the new order of 5 deities. The lower deity of the upper trinity, a fertility symbol espousing hard work and sacrifice, fell into disfavor centuries ago and as congregations and tithes lessened, teachings concerning that aspect of the pantheon dwindled. Coupled with the nationalist and self-aggrandizing bent of the people, it is the rare person of Aelroth who is even aware there are more than 5 deities in all the Firmament. Now the largest Human kingdom, with each nation which allies to or falls before Aelroth’s expansion, the great diversity of religion and culture among humanity is once again becoming apparent. While perhaps the more enlightened might find this a cause for rueful mirth at the great failing of the race to listen even when the gods themselves have spoken, for the common person it does nothing but provide reason to demonstrate ignorance through hatred and organized distrust.

Human temples typically reflect the whole pantheon and are served by a Priest (Dedicated) and a number of acolytes. Smaller shrines to specific deities dot the countryside and are served by acolytes are by the good will of the community. Major temples tend to be only in larger centers, and are expansive. These support large numbers of Priests and High Priests (Overseers) as well as the bulk of those being groomed for the priesthood. The High Temple itself is the home of the Patriarch/Matriarch of the religion, and has recently allied very strongly with its new protector, the King of Aelroth. Rumors abound that all the remaining independent human nations may be sternly admonished for clinging to divergent faiths and that the pantheon of Aelroth is the pantheon for all humanity.

 

Plenthan: (Maroth Deep)

Plenth (Steel/Protection) –– Thenil (Fire/Knowledge) –– Hentha (Fecundity/Creativity)

Vestil (Luck) –– Aveth (Labour) –– Pirged (Duty/Oaths)

Ana + [Ananan/Firmament] + Nan

 

Unlike other denizens of the Firmament, the Plenthans do not revere the All-Father and Mother over the rest of the pantheon. They clearly place Plenth above all others, but the form and dogma of their religion states that the three siblings, Plenth, Thenil, and Hentha, share an equal burden and assume equal responsibility for the happenings of each day. Below them are the capricious Vestil, the diligent Aveth, and the taker and enforcer of Oaths, Pirged. While the religion acknowledges Ana and Nan as the parents of their pantheon, they do not ascribe to them an active role in the events of daily existence. Each Deep has its own distinct degree of reverence for each of the deities, with perhaps Pumoth Deep exhibiting the strongest focus on Plenth over all others, to the point where he occupies the upper tier of importance by himself.

Theirs is not a missionary faith nor an expansionist people, so it is a common belief outside the Deeps that the Plenthans worship only Plenth. As with many aspects of their culture which are unknown to outsiders, the truth is much more colorful.

 

Alira: (Wither State)

Yham (The Giver) + Myham (The Shaper) –– Vyhamham (The Charioteer)

Ayalham (The Soldier) –– Gorham (The Water-Bearer) –– Avyrham (The Worker)

Vystham (Luck) –– Avytham (Labour) –– Pulgyham (Oaths)

 

The critical and deconstructive Alira are not proponents of permanence, but over the centuries of their loosely affiliated civilization have divined their gods can be arrayed typically in a pantheon of three equal sets of three. These are arranged to reflect the disparity in their perceived power and known domains. Yham, Myham, and Vyhamham are seen as having the most power and responsibility for, but least contact with, their worshippers. Vystham, Avytham, and Pulgyham have the most to do with their worshippers, but the smallest areas of responsibility. The Alirans take religion as a primarily personal expression of devotion and so maintain no large religious organizations beyond those which serve them in their relations with other denizens of the Firmament.

 

Fidrans: (All)

Gorassaloallan (The All-Ocean)

Oaloal (The Tide of Destiny) –– Soaloal (The Flow of Consciousness)

 

The Fidrans have but a trinity for their pantheon, but they acknowledge and respect all deities. A Fidran priest is said to require pilgrimages to all the great temples of the Firmament to study the ways of each nation before they can take their oaths and serve their people. The Fidran pantheon reveres the god of the ocean over all others and see it as the great sea in which all the universe floats. Supporting this great work are the paternal deities, who separately represent the force of events from the time before to the time ahead, and the awareness of their sentient followers empowered to ride that tide. Worship primarily references Gorassaloallan, and in some off-shoots of the faith, treat the other members of the trinity as mere aspects of one god.

The Fidrans enjoy boisterous and participatory worship and are known to create and seek out great works of art inspired by brushes with divinity. Their missionaries have a peculiar habit (as missionaries) of not spreading their own beliefs, but of harvesting the beliefs of others and conducting deep and spectacular debates on comparative religion every few years when their High Priest calls all the acolytes and disciples home to share and worship together in their expansive hold nestled in the palm of their god’s loving hand, deep beneath the surface of the restless sea.

And so…

This concludes this summary of pantheons and perspectives in this setting the 6th Edition of RuneQuest is making so interesting and invigorating to create. Details about some major and minor cults associated with these beliefs will appear in a subsequent post.

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  1. […] He spun a tale of Plenth (whom the humans know as Ael, the god of war in their understanding of the Firmament’s pantheon) having been wounded through both calves with spears and being unable to divide and conquer his […]



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