We are FINALLY getting to a point where I feel the Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player’s Companion is far enough along that I can talk about it and it not be way too soon. I would like to start talking about the deities because frankly I saw this as one of the most critical areas of the setting that I had to hit this right to strike the exact tone I was going for. And I am happy to say that I am happy with them. All this week, I will be talking about a few of the deities that I feel really make the setting stand out.
Before I do that, I want to talk about the design goals with them and the philosophies that went into them:
Design Goal 1: Make as Many Deities Player-Friendly as Possible. That’s right, I wanted it to make sense for a character to worship any of the deities in the pantheon. I know this was not entirely possible. There are always going to be some enemy deities that are just an enemy to all of humanity and all living things. Orcus and one other (Androstid) are those deities for us, but I tried to limit it to only them. I didn’t want any of my other evil deities to be without a perfectly good reason why a player character couldn’t make a character that worshiped any of the rest. The basic philosophy that went into that the god a character worships sets a tone for the character. And when you are in a survival-horror situation like Shadowsfall, your willingness to work with someone you completely disagree with increases as long as that person will watch your back in a pinch. So yes, Shadowsfall has player-friendly evil deities.
Design Goal 2: Each Deity Has a Unique Stance on Survival. I borrowed from the Norse mythology. Each of these deities possess a unique way to survive the harsh Norwegian winters. Thor by strength of arms, Odin by wisdom, Loki by trickery, Freya by love and so on. In this same way, each of Shadowsfall deities emphasizes some aspect of life (or unlife) that helps its followers survive the eternal night of Shadowsfall. The philosophy behind it is that this will help differentiate each deity from the others. If they all have their own stance on a single topic, you provide a reason for some to consistently work together, some to never work together and many others that will work together depending on the circumstances. This conflict creates stories. Again, to use the example of Orcus, he is the demon prince of undeath. How do his followers survive: by being undead. Undead followers have no need for food or shelter. While making other undead is at odds with most others, that is not the case with all other deities. Androstid, whose numbers include intelligent undead that do not wield much magic, find little problem with this.
Design Goal 3: Give Players a Duty to Their Deity. The one thing I wanted to avoid was to write a god’s name down a character sheet because it is the logical choice for that race/class and never think on that deity again. I wanted deities to call upon their followers to do something specific. And it is failing to do that that duty brings the inquisitors around. Again, something I wanted to avoid was simply to spread the religion. Player characters should have a goal in mind for what makes them inline for their god. Orcus’s followers are all about spreading undeath. However, they also are about the study of divine and arcane power and the accumulation of said power. If a person wants to learn powerful magic, that person needs to look no further than the Cult of Orcus.
So those are our three design goals with our deities. All told, we created fourteen deities, one for each of the nine alignments and a second one for each of the five neural alignments. Tomorrow I will get more in depth with the first player-friendly evil deity: Akaron, the lawful-evil archkyton.