Divine Trappings: Elements of Domain Aspects

Okay, yes, it’s a ‘domain aspect template’, but I used ‘D’ yesterday and today is for ‘E’, so ‘elements’ it is.

Three years ago I drafted a domain template the first time, but what’s changed now that I’ve revisited my deity template?

Let’s see… starting from the top, and understanding that basically all the elements below (except name) likely contain suggestions or options:

  • Domain name (of course)
  • Portfolios (that this domain might likely be associated with)
  • Symbols (elements or options you might find for holy symbols) This might overlap Motif, below, but there might be value to it. However, while there might be some obvious options for symbology, this particular element might really come down to the personality of the deity as much as the domains.
  • Motifs (sensory elements — often visual, but may be audible, smellable, or other — commonly associated with domain)
  • Manifestations (descriptive elements that might be associated with the domain)
  • Colors (that could be associated)
  • Holy Places (the sorts of places, or characteristics of places, likely to be holy to a deity with this domain) I think I might keep this to the ‘nature’ of a holy places, and keep places of worship separate.
  • Favored Weapon (weapon or characteristics of weapons that might be favored by a deity with this domain)
  • Alignment (likely alignment of deity with this domain) Not sure how much value this really has. For the alignment domains it should be obvious, but almost anything else could be associated with a deity of any alignment. Healing is stereotypically a ‘good’ alignment, but it doesn’t have to be. Death is often associated with evil (partly because of the undead-related stuff — this is why we have the Repose domain) but it doesn’t have to be. Trickery is chaotic, right? (*cough* god of lawyers…)

Those are some simple ones. Some not so simple:

  • Servitors (heralds, allies, and possibly summons)… these ones are likely to be about characteristics, types and subtypes, and/or templates often applied. For instance, pretty easy to see that the fiendish template would be appropriate for a servitor of a deity with the Evil domain (assuming the creature didn’t have the half-fiend template or already have the evil subtype).
  • Creatures could use a better name, but the gist of it is “creatures, or characteristics of creatures, associated with a deity of this domain”. I’m not totally sure this doesn’t overlap ‘Followers’ above, and it might intersect with ‘Servitors’ (though they likely can’t be summoned). There could be elements of ‘totem animal’ here. For instance, Fire domain might have salamanders (the lizard, not the outsider) listed because of their (notional) association with fire, Trickery domain might have foxes.

Those two likely don’t identify many specific creatures, let alone unique ones, because of how the other domains of the deity and the deity’s personality interact. Still, some suggestions might be possible.

I keep thinking this next session could be broken out into a separate template entirely: the religion of a deity could be colored by the deity’s domains (or even the domains chosen by the followers). These elements include:

  • Dogma (what followers are told)
  • Tenet (what followers often believe)
  • Duties (what followers are expected to do) As ‘duties’ these likely are fairly general activities; quests and trials are to meet specific goals. I imagine these will be fairly formulaic overall: support the associated creatures, etc.
    • Obedience (time and nature of prayer) Most important for clerics because it has to do with their spell recovery, but relevant to other followers.
    • Covenants (agreements between deity and worshippers) Likely overlaps dogma and tenets.
    • Quests (the sorts of specific goals a follower might be sent to accomplish) This might be a list of suggestions.
    • Trials (the sorts of tests a follower might need to meet) This might be a list of suggestions.
  • Boons (rewards for successful compliance/achievement) These can be boons similar to those presented in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Inner Sea Gods… but I might look into applying/developing something like the favor/boon mechanic I worked on for Patrons of Low Fantasy.
  • Priests (ordained worshippers) What they look like, how they often behave, etc.
  • Followers (lay worshippers) The types of people likely to be lay worshippers.
  • Rites and Rituals (ceremonies and occult rituals associated with the domain) May include spells commonly used by those with this domain, that are not part of the domain spell list (of course followers of a deity with the Healing domain have cure wounds spells available… but they probably also have restoration spells and the like)
  • Special Locations (altars, shrines, temples, grand temples, realm) Characteristics of places special to the deity and their followers.
  • Artifacts and Special Items (special items — magic or not — and artifacts that might be commonly available to followers) This might be more applicable to portfolio rather than domain (the god of smiths and the god of cobblers might both have the Artifice domain, but while they likely have ‘tools of their craft’ available, the specific tools will be quite different). Artifacts might be only evocative names to give a sense of the sorts of things that might be there, it may be that there is no actual definition for that object.
  • Legends (stories one might hear about a deity with this domain) As with artifacts, might be just evocative story titles to give a sense of the sorts of stories.

I may cut back on what I had in the original template, though. For instance, it may be sufficient to identify duties descriptively rather than give example text. I likely will have instructions in the ‘how to apply’ section that explains how to write such things when fleshing out a deity description, but I don’t need to have them in the domain write up.

In the earlier draft, I showed (for Air domain):

  • Allegiance Sailors, explorers, singers, and musicians.
    • “Succor those who travel the seas and unknown lands. Give them shelter and rest before they continue their journeys.”
  • Bond Harnessing wind for work and for music.
    • “Teach those who build ships and mills how to better use the wind’s bounty. The power of Brother Sky frees people to see the world and from tedious work.”
    • “Embrace and promote and celebrate the music of the winds: songs, horns, flutes, and the thunder of the drums.”

This can be reduced to just

  • Allegiance Sailors, explorers, singers, and musicians.
  • Bond Harnessing wind for work and for music.

It would make me happy if I can get each domain down to a single page. I can accept two pages if there is enough there, but I feel like I can make these much more concise. The value will come from mining these for ideas, the longer text, I think, really needs to happen as the deity comes together… especially if the text is based on the (coalescing) personality of the deity.

A deity of War, Protection, and Good is probably going to express dogma, tenets, and duties quite differently from a deity of War, Destruction, and Evil. Let’s wait until we see how the pieces come together before trying to phrase them.

Closing Comments

This post is based largely on the previous draft from 2021, but hasn’t really changed much. The list of elements is much the same, I think the changes mostly lie in how they’re arranged and, to a lesser degree, how I intend to populate them. Removing the extra text will be a good thing, in part because it reduces the influence of my assumptions as I write the domain aspects up, partly because it may make things concise enough to fit on a single page.

My concern with page count here has nothing to do with how long the book is or how much I’ll need to write. Rather, I think keeping it down to a single page per domain will make it more manageable and usable for the reader.

… When I start actually applying this, I’ll know more.

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