Designing a Pantheon: Calculating Weight

For my purpose, a pantheon is a collection of related deities, joined by some combination of culture and interests. There may be subdivisions (as with the Norse pantheon of our world — the Aesir and Vanir), and deities may have different ranks within the pantheon. These ranks are typically related to their importance among their worshippers, which in turn is a function of how much they interact with their followers and the importance of their portfolios. For instance, the Norse culture could place great importance on war and travel (since they raided a lot, far from home… and were involved in much more trade than many people realize). Another culture that is ‘more civilized’ might put greater weight on community and knowledge.

The Polyhedral Pantheon process has an easy way to do this. Simply assign a weight to domains important to the pantheon (i.e. the culture associated), add them up, and then examine the results. Deities with many important domains have high scores, those with low scores are still deities but not as important within the culture. This can even be done more than once within a pantheon, if there is a division within the group.

Speaking of which, in my preliminary examination the other day I found there was some polarization within the pantheon.

  • Deities on points 2 and 19 could be opposed to each other: (Liberation, Magic, Chaos, Darkness) vs (War, Fire, Evil, Law).
  • Deities on points 4 (Artifice, Earth, Air, Darkness) and 17 (Luck, Fire, Sun, Death) could be: planning vs. chance, darkness vs sun and fire.
  • Deities on points 7 (Strength, Fire, Water, Sun) and 14 (Nobility, Air, Good, Darkness).

I see some patterns here. (Darkness, Sun) show up on opposite points pretty regularly. Ditto Fire and Air, and I’m sure I’ll spot more as I go.

Let’s start with these pairs, plus Liberation and War, and Artifice and Luck. I’ll make Liberation, Darkness, Air, and Artifice ‘positive, and War, Sun, Fire, and Luck ‘negative’. Each weighted domain has a value of +1 or -1, and if if is the deity’s primary domain the weight is doubled. That is, Artifice is worth +1 to any deity, but +2 to the deity of Artifice (has Artifice as the primary domain).

This doesn’t look bad, actually. I’ve ordered them by weight.

SiteWeightAlignPrimarySecondary
44NArtificeEarth, Air, Darkness
L4NDarknessLiberation, Artifice, Nobility, Travel, Rune
23CNLiberationMagic, Chaos, Darkness
I3NAirArtifice, Healing, Madness, Community, Nobility
142NGNobilityAir, Good, Darkness
61LGHealingLaw, Air, Good
91LEMadnessEvil, Law, Air
111NECommunityEvil, Earth, Air
181NTravelEarth, Magic, Darkness
201CGRuneChaos, Good, Darkness
G1NEarthArtifice, Plant, Community, Knowledge, Travel
H1NMagicLiberation, Plant, Repose, Glory, Travel
J1CNChaosLiberation, Tricker, Weather, Repose, Rune
50NPlantWater, Earth, Magic
80CGTrickeryDeath, Chaos, Good
130NEKnowledgeWater, Evil, Earth
160LGCharmLaw, Death, Good
B0NWaterProtection, Plant, Strength, Knowledge, Glory
K0NGGoodHealing, Trickery, Nobility, Charm, Rune
1-1NEProtectionFire, Water, Evil
3-1LNDestructionFire, Law, Death
10-1CNWeatherSun, Death, Chaos
12-1CNReposeSun, Magic, Chaos
15-1NGloryWater, Sun, Magic
C-1NEEvilProtection, Madness, Community, Knowledge, War
E-1LNLawDestruction, Healing, Madness, Charm, War
F-1NDeathDestruction, Trickery, Weather, Charm, Luck
7-2NStrengthFire, Water, Sun
19-3LEWarFire, Evil, Law
D-3NSunStrength, Weather, Repose, Glory, Luck
17-4NLuckFire, Sun, Death
A-4NFireProtection, Destruction, Strength, Luck, War

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the symmetry in my counts, I was unusually consistent in my assigning scores to physically opposed domains. Normally I do it thematically and get some deities with mixed scores (some positive and some negative domains). Let’s see how it breaks down.

High Scores (+2 .. +4):

  • +4 (N): Artifice, Earth, Air, Darkness
  • +4 (N): Darkness, Liberation, Artifice, Nobility, Travel, Rune
  • +3 (CN): Liberation, Magic, Chaos, Darkness
  • +3 (N): Air, Artifice, Healing, Madness, Community, Nobility
  • +2 (NG): Nobility, Air, Good, Darkness

As might be expected, the core of this court has many deities with Artifice (three), Air (three), Darkness (four). Only two with Liberation. This group has a slight tendency toward chaotic good (one NG deity and one CN deity) but it’s not strong.

Low Scores (-2 .. -4):

  • -4 (N): Fire, Protection, Destruction, Strength, Luck, War
  • -4 (N): Luck, Fire, Sun, Death
  • -3 (N): Sun, Strength, Weather, Repose, Glory, Luck
  • -3 (LE): War, Fire, Evil, Law
  • -2 (N): Strength, Fire, Water, Sun.

As above, lots of the weighted domains present: Luck (three), Sun (three), Fire (four). Only two with War. This group has a very slight bent toward lawful evil (one LE deity, the rest are neutral).

Middle Scores (+1 .. -1):

The other 22 deities land in this group. I’m going to count these as generally neutral. Those with scores of +1 might lean toward the ‘high scores’ group and those with scores of -1 might lean toward the ‘low scores’ group, but this is not a hard rule. It looks like all the domains are represented, and all alignments (except chaotic evil, since we have none in this pantheon).

Closing Comments

I’m pretty sure I can make this pantheon work. I’ve got a clear separation between the groups, and some fairly strong thematic connections within the two polarized groups.

However, I have the sense this might be too polarized. I like a little more complexity and some internal tension. I’ll keep this one as it is and do it over tomorrow, so I can compare.

4 Comments

    • I’m curious too!

      This process I’ve devised gives me enough structure to recognize and build around patterns, while populating that structure with connections I didn’t expect when I started.

      Some connections I do expect, and in fact build for… but there are places where I have things I didn’t plan for and will need to explain.

      That I find surprises in the results pleases me greatly. I’ve noticed that the surprises tend to lead to the most interesting results, more interesting than the expected (i.e. designed for) parts.

  1. Chakat Firepaw

    Two groups the same size? Perhaps they’re the ‘ruling groups’ of two earlier pantheons that needed to merge for some reason, (external threat? or perhaps just seeing benefits in an alliance). As part of the merger, there was a set of the divine equivalent of political marriages and thus each god is paired with a god of the other group.

    The polarization of the ruling groups may not even be the source of tension. Instead it’s the ones in the ‘overlap’ that have issues, as they’re the ones getting sidelined. For instance, C or E could have been the sole war god of the ‘positive’ pantheon but now they have to contend with being an also-ran with there being three more, with one being full-up “war is my thing”.

    • Indeed, a lot of what I’m writing so far has been first impressions. There is a great deal of room to challenge assumptions and interpretations… at least until I start making some actual decisions.

      The symmetry wasn’t deliberate, but I probably should have expected it. I think it might get broken up a bit in my next post, though.

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