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Old 06-28-2020, 11:47 AM   #1
Anomylous
 
Join Date: Jul 2018
Default Local color: a calendar and some deities

This obviously won't fit everyone's campaign setting, but maybe someone out there will like it enough to steal it, and since I don't have a blog I thought I'd post it here.

I wanted something that would feel like historical polytheism, without being too firmly tied to any specific real-world culture. In the setting I'm building, this is the old pagan religion. It was officially ousted by missionaries from the Temple of Enok a couple hundred years ago, but is still frequently practiced, especially in rural areas. Whether these gods are "real" in the setting, or not, is more or less beside the point.

The calendar assumes a temperate climate with defined seasons, and lunar and solar cycles the same as Earth's. I stole its basic structure from the LotR:RotK appendices.

(ETA: feel free to share anything similar you have going in your own notebooks or campaigns!)

Pantheon:

Anath:
Goddess of hunting, the wilderness, and archery. Protector of children and the innocent, and of animals and nature; often worshipped by hunters, and anyone who spends a lot of time in the woods. She's often shown as having the head of a wolf or bear, and/or deer's antlers, but always with a bow in hand. Anath, Astoreth, and Lilith are grouped together as the Rebel Goddesses, and sometimes regarded as three faces of the same entity.

Astoreth:
"All's fair in love and war." Goddess of sex and warfare, blood and passion. Popular among soldiers, bandits, and mercenary types, and anyone who recklessly seeks after both power and pleasure. Often portrayed as a beautiful Orcish woman wielding twin axes; or as part-woman, part-tiger, with snakes twining around her.

Bellus: Sun-god; said to rule the land of the living by day, and the land of the dead by night. Associated with kings, justice, wealth, and prosperity. Sacred animal is the eagle; generally portrayed with wings and sunrays emanating from his head. Bellus lost a lot of prominence with the establishment of Enok-worship as the state religion, but the royal mint still stamps their gold coins with his "shining eagle" symbol.

Bria Sangetaal: Goddess of fire, the hearth, poetry, music, and various handicrafts. Often prayed to by women hoping to conceive, and artists hoping for inspiration. You can tell how wild a party will be, by whether it kicks off with a toast to Bria or to Astoreth!

Epona: Goddess of horses; worshipped by centaurs as their divine Mother, and usually portrayed in centaur form. Among those who ride, she is said to appear at death to carry their spirit into the afterlife.

Kothron Sangetaal:
God of smithcraft, science and knowledge, and poetry; symbol is a (circle-drawing) compass. Armorer to the gods; created the sword Fragarach for Bellus, among other things. Together, Bria and Kothron represent the comforts of home, marriage, and civilization; they're typically portrayed as either humans or dwarves, often with many arms, each holding a different tool or instrument.

Lilith: Associated with death, magic, mystical knowledge, and boundaries; beautiful and cold. For refusing to submit to fate, she is cursed to wander forever between life and death. Sometimes invoked to protect newborn children and those who are near death, or undergoing great suffering. Owls and the banshee-bat are considered sacred to her. Few wizards are religious, but Lilith was traditionally their patron deity. She's most often portrayed as an ancient, silver-haired elf in ragged robes.

Nereus: mysterious god of the deep ocean, said to rule over a separate afterlife designated for sailors lost at sea. Often shown as a vast squid or octopus with an old man's face.

Oraia: Goddess of healing, prophecy, and water. A scattering of wells, subterranean lakes and springs are said to be particularly sacred to her, and she's also associated with beaches and seashores. Moonlights as a love goddess; often portrayed as a mermaid. Honored as Queen of the Gods to Bellus's King, but there's some disagreement over whether she's the wife or mother of Bellus. Some say she's both.

Procyon: Shapeshifting trickster god; favored form and sacred animal is the raccoon. There are a huge number of stories about his exploits; a popular one is how the sword Fragarach was lost when he stole it from Bellus and subsequently misplaced it (some say he lost it in a bet; there are many variations of the tale). Procyon is said to enjoy seducing mortals, men and women alike, assuming whatever form is most pleasing to whoever has caught his eye. It's common for grifters to claim to be children of Procyon... after they're caught out as grifters, anyway.

Senua: Mother-goddess of plants and agriculture, popular among farmers; affectionately called "Ma Senua." Commonly shown as a rosy-cheeked halfling with vines for hair and arms full of fruit and bread, with bees buzzing around her.

Wirenlea: Sky-god, bringer of winds, storms and rain. Irresponsible younger brother of Bellus. Popular among farmers, sailors, and travelers. Typically shown as a young man with wings and wild curly hair, surrounded by clouds; sacred animal is the gryphon. Often paired with Epona.

(The sword Fragarach is stolen from Irish mythology; if found it would be a fine/enchanted broadsword, with the powers to ignore armor enchantments and Flesh spells, and to remove a figure's ability to move (as Stop spell) or tell a lie, when placed at their throat.)

Calendar:

The year consists of twelve 30-day months, plus 5 "festal days" around the summer and winter solstices (plus an extra on leap year). Weeks are 6 days long so there are exactly 5 weeks in a month. Each month is named after its full moon. Dates are given by month and day: "the tenth of Flower Moon", usually written "4-10."

Wolf Moon
Hungry Moon
Sap Moon
Flower Moon
Singing Moon
Mead Moon

Summer festal days:
(Leap Day)
Bonfire Night
Midsummer Day

Dragon Moon
Gold Moon
Harvest Moon
Blood Moon
Ghost Moon
Ice Moon

Winter festal days:
Winter's Eve
Yule
Dreaming Day

The last day of each week (date divisible by 6) is Highday, aka Market Day. The date on which a full moon falls is a holiday; a full moon that falls on a festal day is called a Joy Moon.

2-18 is Sangetaal, celebrated with a festival dedicated to music, art and craft fairs, and matchmaking.

3-30 is the Festival of Waters. It's supposed to be a day of ritual purification sacred to Oraia, but over time that's turned into "get stinking drunk and jump in a river." More restrained types celebrate by spring-cleaning their homes, and in some riverside towns, people make tiny votive boats filled with candles and flowers and set them afloat at sundown.

Bonfire Night is always a wild party, with as many pyrotechnical flourishes as can be mustered.

Midsummer Day is Bellus' sacred day, so the tradition is that anyone who feels they're being treated unjustly can bring their case before the local authorities, who will put things to rights. It's a nice thought, anyway; goverment officials still make a big ceremonial show out of pardoning a petty criminal, or settling a dispute in the underdog's favor for once, to mark the occasion. Most people spend the day picnicking and napping, and the evening dancing.

Full Dragon Moon: At some point, people started a tradition of parading through city streets in elaborate dragon costumes to mark this holiday, which falls on a different date every year. It was originally just a play on the name "Dragon Moon", but local dragons caught wind of the custom, and began showing up to the party, demanding to be made guests of honor! Today, dragons have pride of place in the festivities, serving as reasonably impartial judges for various competitions, and of course collecting tribute. Overall, it's been a boon to humanoid-dragon relations.

9-30 is Senufest (Senua's Feast), a celebration of abundance. Feasting is a must, gift-giving is traditional, and merchants offer special sales.

10-30 is Hallow's Eve, when the spirits of the dead are said to cross back into the land of the living for a night. Originally, offerings to ancestral ghosts and to Lilith were left in doorways, usually in the form of fruit, bread and sweets. Kids began to disguise themselves as ghosts to steal the offerings, and now people just hand out goodies to hordes of small sheet-draped figures at their doorstep. Real ghosts sometimes show up; they're harmless enough... usually.

12-25 through 12-30 is Candle Week; homes are decorated in red and orange, and whatever greenery is available, and windows are lit with candles. Turning away a guest during Candle Week is considered especially rude. Those who can take the week off work.

Winter's Eve: Mostly just a continuation of Candle Week, now with door-to-door caroling.

Yule: A big feast day. Various traditional games are played, fires are ceremonially extinguished and relit, and everyone shows up in a nice new outfit, if they can; clothing is often gifted on Yule morning.

Dreaming Day: No public festivities; most people are too busy sleeping off the festivities of Candle Week and Yule, and any dreams they may have are said to be omens indicating how next year might go.

Last edited by Anomylous; 06-29-2020 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 06-28-2020, 12:01 PM   #2
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

Nice. Interesting that there aren't more days dedicated to placating gods.

Was this posted earlier and deleted? I could swear I had already seen it.
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Old 06-28-2020, 05:46 PM   #3
Anomylous
 
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

Yeah, the forums went down for a while right after I made the original post and I think it somehow got deleted.

Now that you mention it, I can see Wirenlea in particular needing some placating... I'll have to add that!
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Old 06-28-2020, 06:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

So the big question is, do people merely believe in Wirinlea and act on believing he needs placating, or does he really exist and demands to be placated?
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Old 06-28-2020, 07:06 PM   #5
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

I never felt the need to answer that question definitively in TFT... not for the players, anyway.
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Old 06-29-2020, 01:02 AM   #6
Steve Plambeck
 
Join Date: Jun 2019
Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

Yeah, something up with the forum. I posted the first reply to the OP (or what I thought was the first reply) and now it's gone. Also posted in another thread the same night, and that's gone too.

I had mentioned here in my group's World the days of the week were named after/dedicated to specific gods in my World's pantheon, and some other stuff about its calendar.

More importantly, I praised Anomylous for such a beautiful job! Nicely done!

Also, I'm having password trouble. The forum is acting as if it has forgotten my password every 24 hours, forcing me to reset it each day -- anyone else having that?
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Old 06-29-2020, 09:10 AM   #7
Anomylous
 
Join Date: Jul 2018
Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

Steve P: Thanks for the kind words! I thought about naming days of the week, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Not sure I will; that seems like just one more detail for players to remember.

Whether the gods actually exist or not is deliberately left open-ended. In the context of the state religion being the Temple of Enok, which the rulebook explicitly states to be a scam, I expect my players will assume that all religions are fake and the setting is essentially atheistic. And we all know the fun to be had with players' assumptions...

(Side note: I actually have three varieties of Enok-ism in the setting: the fundamentalist, human-supremacist Orthodox Temple, the Unitarian-esque Reformed Temple, and the charismatic, cult-of-personality, prophet-centered version practiced by the invading orc tribes. They all hate each other but are otherwise pretty boring.)

If some of these gods were to create mortal-fleshed avatars, they have the potential to be really fun NPCs. If I do this, I'll most likely limit their power and run them as mostly-mundane characters with good-but-not-ridiculous stats and maybe a couple of well-defined divine powers (like Procyon's ability to shapeshift at will).

Forum issues: it appears to recognize my password just fine. Definitely something hinky going on though.
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Old 06-29-2020, 05:52 PM   #8
Steve Plambeck
 
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anomylous View Post
Steve P: Thanks for the kind words!
Well deserved! And I thought me and my group had gone too far down the rabbit hole of inventing gods and religions, with pages and pages written on certain sects and their beliefs and rituals, but your system is even deeper and more detailed! But where ours was a minestrone designed by committee (3 GMs and lots of player input accepted) yours is all cohesive, tidy, and internally consistent. I'm jealous! Hahaha.

One thing about a fantasy setting is that one can include "real" gods, and for me and my friends that was too good an opportunity to pass up. The extent to which that part of the backstory influences actual play can be dialed up or down as much as the GM prefers, so there's no need to be reluctant if one enjoys creating and utilizing mythologies.

We did name our days after principle members of our pantheon, but we never named the months. There is only so much detail players can handle comfortably.

None of our Greater Gods ever appeared as NPCs, although the last campaign I ran for my 70s-90's group was to climax with a cameo appearance of our equivalent deity to Thor (Thunor) because the artifact that was the goal of the last quest was to turn out to be his missing hammer -- much too powerful an item to leave in the hands of PCs! So I was going to surprise them with the god actually assuming physical form, calling the hammer to himself, fighting in the climactic battle, then disappearing with his hammer and a "Thanks! I was wondering where this was!" Alas the group disintegrated before we finished the campaign.

Then there was a Lesser Goddess who did make a couple of appearances, or at least her arm did. She lived in lakes and passed out a really kick-ass enchanted sword to the next passing warrior naive enough to think accepting swords from women in lakes could be a good idea. My own PC was the first victim of this "trap", quickly learning it was NOT a sword you ever really wanted to own. (It came with 3 suicide missions in the form of geases, and you couldn't lose the sword for trying until all the missions were completed, unless of course you died first).

Our most "fickle" god was the Greater God named Attallah, god of the sky, who didn't want people to believe in any of the other gods. Three generations before our campaign play begins, Attallah had charged his Prophet to lead his desert people to conquer and convert the whole world to this new religion, and slay all the wizards in the process. The Prophet succeeded to a large extent, but his empire was broken and reduced to a much smaller kingdom by an upstart secular general we based on Alexander The Great. Our Alexander died without heir, this secular empire fragmented into the city-states where most of our PCs were born, and the remnant of the Prophet's empire became a new, smaller kingdom ruled by the Prophet's heirs. It was still sending out Attallah's priests, armed with limited divine powers, to convert people and kill any wizards in our PC's time. This factored into many of our PCs adventures.

And we used all this to explain the differences in the Spell Tables from Wizard to Advanced Wizard. None of our wizards knew the new spells when Advanced Wizard was published because (we all ruled) the knowledge of these spells was lost when Attallha's first jihad had killed off most of the wizards, and destroyed all the institutes of magic. There were no Enchanters left, and all magic items were rare artifacts leftover from the lost Age.

Eh, sorry for the long post! Just some examples of how to entangle gods in the plots of your PCs adventures :)
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Old 06-30-2020, 12:11 AM   #9
Anomylous
 
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

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Originally Posted by Steve Plambeck View Post
But where ours was a minestrone designed by committee (3 GMs and lots of player input accepted) yours is all cohesive, tidy, and internally consistent.
Based on the content of the Wikipedia articles I stole most everything in my system from, yours was probably more "historically accurate." Lore about ancient deities is often a huge contradictory mess.

Sounds like some great times, too! What a bummer that you didn't get to play out the final battle with Thunor, that sounds like it would have been epic.
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Old 06-30-2020, 01:24 AM   #10
Steve Plambeck
 
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Default Re: Local color: a calendar and some deities

We didn't have Wikipedia back in those days, or by gosh it would all have been easier! Hahaha. It was 1978 when we started this campaign world, so we didn't even have BBS access, a modem, or a computer to our names yet. We had to bang out our house rules on manual typewriters and carbon paper to share with each other. (You kids today, you just have it all so easy! LOL!) But we were all recent alumni of the UIC Science Fiction Society, with heads full of background reading to inspire us. When one of us discovered Melee in 1977, our fates were sealed!

I'll always regret not getting to finish that last campaign. Mjölnir was in a hidden dwarf kingdom above the arctic circle, the PCs had played a year of outdoor encounters on the road searching for that kingdom and we were only a couple play sessions away from finding it. Recently found among my old papers I had completely mapped the underground dwarf kingdom, and I'd forgotten I did all that. One member of the party though was a traitor, a plant known only to me the GM and that one player running him. He had a whole army of orcs at his disposal secretly following the party ready to swoop in after they stole the Hammer (if the players succeeded that is). And then there were the Frost Giants to get passed, but that's where Thunor/Thor's appearance would level the playing field... I was nothing if not ambitious! :) That last battle would have been one glorious mess.
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