#Pantheon23: 01-00 Factions

About this time some years ago — Christmas 2014 — GreyKnight gave me a gift. He wrote a metapost of my blog, a ‘blog post generator‘ consisting of a set of tables describing the post.

Table 1: Subject matter (d8) has, as the first entry, “Revisit old post and completely change everything”.

Skip ahead to Table 3: Did everything work out as expected? (d8) and the last entry is “No, and that’s awesome!”

I’m sure he thought he was joking, I thought it was funny myself, but to my even greater amusement today, this metapost still holds true, eight years later.

As I started digging into the domain assignments for the first pantheon of #Pantheon23, I ended up rethinking how I determine factions in a pantheon and how to assign ranks to the deities. Or perhaps I just formalized the process and made it easier to automate in my workbook.

In my first cut I arbitrarily assigned weights to various domains, then looked at the aggregate weight of each deity based on their assigned domains. This gave me a lead on what’s important to this pantheon’s culture.

As I started to dig into it a little, I saw some patterns and some groups that might be worth breaking out.

  • Four of the top nine deities had the Law domain, deities with the Chaos domain ranked lower… maybe a Law/Chaos split was appropriate.
  • Three of the four Law deities had mostly ‘nice’ domains (Repose, Healing, Good, Nobility, etc.)… perhaps the deity of War leads another faction. This might work better because while ‘outnumbered’ at the top ranks this deity isn’t as grossly outmatched, and being the deity of War could be a good candidate for a dissenting faction. Perhaps (War, Evil, Destruction) could be a good faction core.
  • … this continued until it was time to sleep.

And having now slept on it, I realized that with a bit of work my Polyhedral Pantheons workbook is getting an upgrade.

  • Add more ‘weight’ columns to the Domains table, to allow more weightings to apply within a pantheon.
  • Add more ‘weight’ columns to each pantheon, to take advantage of these weightings.
  • Take advantage of negative weights when associating deities with factions. If (Chaos, Good) have positive values and (Law, Evil) have negative values, you’ll see deities will tend to gravitate toward one end of the spectrum or the other. A CG deity may be firmly in one group and a LE deity in the other, but a CE could be a little more conflicted… and this is before taking into account other domains. What if Artifice is positive and Destruction negative? If the deity of Artifice (doubled weight) is LE we end up with a deity with a weight of 0… clearly ambivalent between the two groups, because this deity’s alignment is entirely balanced by a focus on Artifice. (The deity of Chaos, Evil, and Artifice would have a weight of 2 — Chaos doubled for +2, Evil for -1, Artifice for +1) and thus likely leans toward the first group.
  • (Late realization) instead of having the deity ranks based on a specific weighting, create a new aggregate weight for each domain that adds up the absolute values of the other weightings. That is, a domain that is of great interest (positive or negative, doesn’t matter) or of interest to multiple factional divisions, it seems clear a deity with that domain is going to be important to the underlying culture.
  • Made my life easier by adding conditional formatting (graduated colors — orange for lowest values, white for middle values, blue for highest values) to the weights and ranks, to make them easier to see.

In the end I spent most of my morning updating my workbook. And uploaded the file to DriveThruRPG. And then updated the workbook some more, as I discovered more things I wanted it to do. I’ll upload that later, after I’m sure I’m done modifying it. For now.

So many repetitious edits (formulas, conditional formatting, and so on). I just thought of a couple more quality of life changes to the workbook that would be annoying on one sheet, that I don’t want to do them on seven. Thankfully, one of the advantages of being me is that when I get a few minutes (read: couple hours) I’ll throw together a script that will punch out a new XML file I can load into Excel that has all the worksheets defined, with formulas and conditional formatting. Not today! I’ve got work to do. But probably soon. Ish.

Back to the Regularly Scheduled Program

… such as it is. Took workbook, extended in some interesting ways, now have a new take on the pantheon.

As you can see, there are six weight columns (‘Wt 1’..’Wt 6′) and a ‘Rank’ column. Colors of the weight columns indicate whether they lean toward or away from the faction (toward is positive, blue, and away is negative, orange). The ranks go from red through white to green, and have numbers in bold red where the total rank is not equal to the sum of the weights to the left (indicating there are conflicted faction weights — one of the outstanding changes is to flag which factions are conflicted, but this is going to be a pain to implement manually).

So. Made some changes, I have some new information about this pantheon.

I’ve assigned four different sets of weights.

  • Weight 1: ‘creation/destruction’ faction, using the same weights as yesterday’s post.
    • Positive: Artifice, Good, Healing, Law, Repose
    • Negative: Chaos, Death, Destruction, Evil
  • Weight 2: ‘war faction’. I probably should’ve inverted the values below (War is positive for this faction) but I didn’t do that. I don’t pretend to be a great scientist or philosopher, but even Ben Franklin got electric charges inconveniently backward.
    • Positive: Evil, Law, War
    • Negative: Chaos, Good, Luck
  • Weight 3: ‘truth and knowledge faction’. I could have added Chaos and Law to this one but I’ve already got them twice, and didn’t want to weight them further.
    • Positive: Artifice, Earth, Fire, Knowledge, Magic, Rune
    • Negative: Air, Trickery (doubled, -2; these folks really don’t like deception), Water
  • Weight 4: ‘civilization faction’
    • Positive: Community, Earth, Plant, Travel, Water
    • Negative: Air, Animal, Fire, Weather

This gives me the worksheet shown above, and it tells me quite a bit.

First, some basic frequency analysis of the deity ranks. This should tell me which are greater, which are intermediate, which are lesser, and which are demigods. The cutoffs are pretty arbitrary, but I wanted only a small fraction to be greater, a similar but perhaps larger fraction to be demigods, with the majority lesser or intermediate deities.

RankDeity CountGroup CountRank GroupDeities (Primary Domain)
924GreaterRune, War
8210IntermediateCommunity, Travel
7810IntermediateArtifice, Chaos, Darkness, Earth, Evil, Knowledge, Liberation, Nobility
6412LesserAir, Fire, Glory, Law
5512LesserDeath, Luck, Magic, Strength, Water
4312LesserAnimal, Good, Plant
326DemigodHealing, Weather
246DemigodDestruction, Madness, Protection, Sun

This leaves me with 4 greater deities, 10 intermediate deities, 12 lesser deities, and 6 demigods. This feels pretty good to me.

Now to see how they break down by factions. I actually did implement (and not showing here because it’s an ugly hack) showing me where there are conflicts. For each faction I’m listing deities that are positive toward the faction (weight >= 3), negative toward the faction (weight <= -2), conflicted toward the faction (mix of positive and negative weights), and neutral (weight is in [-1..2] and not conflicted). Originally I went with +3 and -3 as my bounds for ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ tendencies toward the factions, but it appears I did not assign the same number of positive and negative weights for each faction, which throws things off. My first cut had only the deity of Trickery being against ‘Creation/Destruction’ and ‘Truth and Knowledge’ domains. Changing to -2 as the ‘negative leaning’ threshold gives me a better result, I think.

Note for next time: consider making aggregate domain weighting of 0 for each faction: for each positive domain, have a negative domain. This might lead to more ‘conflicted’ results, and I’m quite okay with that.

Creation/DestructionLaw, Artifice, Healing, ReposeChaos, Evil, Destruction, Death, TrickeryWar, Nobility, Darkness, LiberationSun, Plant, Protection, Good, Magic, Animal, Fire, Weather, Madness, Water, Earth, Luck, Air, Rune, Community, Strength, Knowledge, Glory, Travel
WarLaw, Evil, WarChaos, Good, Luck, Liberation, TravelNobility, Trickery, StrengthSun, Plant, Destruction, Artifice, Protection, Magic, Animal, Fire, Death, Weather, Madness, Water, Earth, Healing, Air, Repose, Rune, Darkness, Community, Knowledge, Glory
Truth and KnowledgeArtifice, Magic, Fire, Earth, Rune, KnowledgeChaos, Evil, Animal, Death, Water, Luck, TrickeryAir, CommunityLaw, Sun, Plant, Destruction, Protection, Good, Weather, Madness, Healing, Repose, War, Nobility, Darkness, Strength, Liberation, Travel
CivilizationPlant, Water, Earth, CommunityAnimal, Fire, Liberation, KnowledgeWeather, Air, Rune, Glory, TravelLaw, Sun, Chaos, Evil, Destruction, Artifice, Protection, Good, Magic, Death, Madness, Luck, Healing, Repose, War, Nobility, Darkness, Trickery, Strength

(Legend: Bold Italic indicates the primary domain of a greater deity, Bold indicates the primary domain of an intermediate deity, Italic indicates the primary domain of a lesser deity, and Roman indicates the primary domain of a demigod.)

Originally I didn’t list the deities who are neutral toward each faction, but decided in the end that the list of deities neutral to each faction actually is important information. I note that only three deities are not positive, negative, or conflicted toward any faction: Sun, Protection, and Madness. All are demigods in this pantheon, which makes sense considering I’ve weighting things by how connected each deity is to the various pantheons.

Closing Comments

I’m feeling pretty good about this pantheon. I’ve developed new tools to help with my evaluation and examination of the pantheon, and while I don’t yet have a ‘personal sense’ of the deities themselves yet, I think I’m starting to get a feel for the dynamics of the pantheon as a whole. Some of the relationships revealed in the last table surprise me a little (that the deity of Knowledge is negative toward the civilization faction startled me, but it’s because the faction does not particularly value knowledge and disdains Air and Fire domains).

In this examination I found some design patterns, or perhaps anti-patterns, that look like they could be improved. I have the sense that having equal positive and negative weights for each faction (each positive weighted domain is matched by a negative weighted domain, or the aggregate total of positive and negative is zero if I have varying weights for the domains) might make analysis easier. Even with the manual adjustment I made I feel like I’ve got the basis for a dynamic pantheon with lots of opportunity for interaction between the deities, and thus their followers.

And that, in the end, is something I really want in a campaign pantheon. I don’t want something static, I want opportunity for tension and conflict, for shifting situations, and so on. At that, the above is a starting point for the relationships. I could easily have situations come about that lead to a deity moving toward or away from a faction, or I might go back and change my assumptions… but I like that I’ve got little bits that surprise me. By the numbers, the deity of Knowledge is not in favor of the Civilization faction, but I’m sure that by the time I describe that deity either I’ll adjust things to correct that, or I’ll find a way to explain it so it makes sense.

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