Divine Trappings: Deity Template, Revisited

Time to look at an easy one: the template for describing a deity.

This was actually one of my first topics last time I worked on Divine Trappings. I wonder what’s changed.

Last time, I started with my Entity Template, and that’s a pretty good thing to start with. This time, I’m going to start with “everything I want”, and see how they fit together. There likely is some congruence, but I’m not sure I necessarily want them to try to mesh entirely.

Deity Template — Starting Point

The basic deity write up in Pathfinder typically has (in no particular order, because it’s not presented consistently):

  • Deity name
  • Aliases or epithets
  • Alignment
  • Portfolios/Areas of Concern
  • Domains
    • Subdomains
  • Favored Weapon

I think I want all of these. Alignment, domains, and favored weapon all can have mechanical relevance, portfolios are important for understanding what the deity is about, name and epithets identify it. Many of these things might even be suggested or implied by the deity’s domains. Fair enough.

Depending on book, the deity stat block may include:

  • Centers of Worship
  • Nationality

Probably of no use to me generically, in that this totally is campaign-specific. That is, I’d likely want to include these things if writing up a deity for my campaign, but I don’t think I can suggest much based on the domain.

In certain books — I have Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Inner Sea Gods in front of me now — the above is augmented with:

  • Obedience (what your prayers look like, basically)
  • Boons (benefits gained by evangelists, exalted, and sentinels)

These could be hinted at by the domains. Okay, I’ll think about them.

I see here lots of text about

  • The church (the religion)
  • Temples and shrines (holy places)
  • A priest’s role (tenets, dogma, and duties)
  • Adventurers (kinds of followers and what they thing — dogma)
  • Clothing (appearance)
  • Holy text
  • Holidays
  • Aphorisms (things they say)
  • Relations with other religions (probably something I wouldn’t do much with)
  • Realm (nature of the deity’s home)
  • Planar allies (unique? creatures suitable for calling via planar ally)
  • Tendencies among followers of the deity:
    • Archetypes
    • Feats
    • Magic items
    • Spells
    • Variant casting (small changes to what/how divine spell casters cast)

A lot of the above, I’m likely to keep. Some, I would keep when doing a full write up for a deity, but might not be able to suggest much guidance from the domains chosen. They may be in the Deity Template but not the Domain Aspect template.

Domain Template — Work in Progress

Let’s see what we have above (and from the previous draft).

  • Common deity stat block elements
    • Name
      • Titles, epithets, aliases Some parts of this might be hinted at by the domain. “The Conqueror” is much more likely an epithet of a war deity than of a deity of healing.
    • Portfolios/Areas of Interest (what the deity is interested in or connected to) A portfolio might be represented by many domains, a domain might suit many portfolios. I expect to have a mapping table somewhere. I probably would have each domain identify relevant portfolios
    • Domains
      • Subdomains
    • Alignment
    • Favored Weapon
  • Supplementary information often not included. Much of this has mechanical effect, either in doing something to or for followers, or influencing how the follower is modeled in-game. The deity’s domains could influence or hint at all of these things.
    • Servitors
      • Heralds (powerful, probably unique servitors of a deity; likely can only be summoned via gate rather than a lesser summoning or calling spell)
      • Allies (standard, lesser, and greater)
      • Summons (deity-specific summon monster lists!)
    • Religion (the followers of a deity, and how they do it). This might get broken out into its own template, because as mortal organizations I can totally see them being entities on their own. Also, I can see many religions following the same deity in different ways). I can see how domain choices can influence these things.
      • Dogma (what followers are told)
      • Tenets (what followers often believe)
      • Duties (what followers are expected to do)
        • Obedience (when and how followers pray)
        • Quests and Trials (longer-term activities, often to achieve specific goals)
      • Boons (what followers can gain – ISG has three classes that each gain different boons in multiple grades, other books have only single boons gained via feat)
      • Priests (ordained worshippers; what they look like and how they’re trained)
      • Followers (lay worshippers, the sort of characters or creatures who follow or are affected by this religion)
      • Covenants (agreements between deity/religion and followers)
      • Rites and Rituals (ceremonies and occult rituals in the religion or that call on the deity)
      • Roles (advice for building characters of certain types)… I want to include these, because they provide some great shorthand for the GM to build characters associated with the deity or religion. I think I would list them here, but define in their own entry elsewhere. This is partly for space reasons, but also partly because I can imagine the same role applying across multiple deities or religions (this last thought might be misguided, though: a ‘shared role’ suggests it might not be sufficiently distinct).
        • Classes and archetypes, feats, magic items, spells, variant casting, variant channeling
  • Narrative elements that have to do with how the deity/religion fits into the world, but in many ways don’t have mechanical effect. Despite lacking mechanical effect, the deity’s domains could influence or hint at all of these things.
    • Symbol (what the holy symbol looks like)
    • Motifs (common graphical or other sensory elements associated with the deity or religion)
    • Manifestation (how the deity looks or is otherwise perceived)
    • Holy places
      • ‘natural’ holy places (basically, the characteristics and nature of places that are likely to be special to the deity)
      • Altars (place where ceremonies/rites are done; often the focus of a shrine or temple)
      • Shrines (constructed to be special to a deity, but often not fully attended by a priest)
      • Temples (bigger than a shrine, probably has a priest)
      • Cathedrals or Grand Temples (center of a religion, or major bastion of the faith)
      • Realm (where the deity lives or could be found)
  • Other… I don’t like having an ‘other’ category, but I don’t have a better name for it. Yet. I think the deity’s domains likely don’t have a lot of influence here. But they might.
    • Holy text
    • Holidays
    • Aphorisms (things they say)
    • Relations with other religions (really the only thing I can count on is the alignment domains — Good-Evil, Chaos-Law — are opposed; anything else could be viable. Death-Healing and Artifice-Destruction are actually pretty easy to reconcile, even Fire-Water isn’t hard to explain… GreyKnight said “of course the Tea Ceremony is a high ritual”)
    • Legends (stories about or involving the deity). If I have these stories (and if I do a Microscope or Lexicon exercise to worldbuild, I probably do), I’d probably just list them here. It comes to me, though, that even more than the other entries in this sublist, the domains could hint at stories that might involve a deity. For instance, I can easily see stories for War, Destruction, Trickery, and so on… even if all I do at first is name them.

Closing Comments

Wow. There is so much that can come out of this. Almost everything in the ‘Supplementary’ and ‘Narrative’ sections could be influenced by domain choices. Not all aspects of a deity’s domains might apply, but still I can see how the domains can be a starting point.

It appears I have more writing ahead of me than I originally expected. If I try to devise a Domain Aspects template to suit the above, I might be hard pressed to keep each one down to two pages. On the other hand, I have the sense many of the elements above are simply lists that don’t need a lot of supporting text.

Well, I suppose we’ll find out, won’t we.


    • Thanks Timothy!

      One of my major drivers here is for worldbuilding purposes. I’ve written many times about how I use tools to encourage my imagination, and I find templates very helpful when developing things because it reminds me of all the questions I typically want answered. I don’t necessarily answer those questions, but at least I don’t forget them.

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