In the beginning, there was Light and Dark. Life and Death. Growth and Decay.
They formed intention, coalescing into two opposed beings: Pelor, God of the Sun, and Nerull, God of the Void.
The stars were Pelor's first domain, burning so brightly that the coldness of space could not snuff them out. The warmth of these stars began to spread to the worlds surrounding them, granting them nurturing heat and light. Soon, Pelor's influence spread beyond the plane of positive energy, and he took command of the elemental planes.
Nerull, realizing he was losing ground, divined a plan: he would split his godly essence into shards, hundreds of thousands of them, though he kept most of his power for himself. With these shards he began to populate the lower planes with beings whose powers mirrored his own. The first Demon Lords, Archdevils, Elemental Princes of Evil, and Dark Gods were born. Many of their names are lost to history, replaced by those who would come later. But now Nerull had an army, legions he could command to destroy Pelor's light.
Pelor, in kind, created his own subordinate Gods. Celestials formed, Gods of Light reigned the upper planes, and the Elemental Princes of Good fought back among their planes. The war between light and dark became a thousand struggles, rather than a single confrontation.
A divine spark granted power over a "Domain", but also bound a creature to serve the aspects of that domain. A shard granting the domain of water also forced its owner to take on the chaotic aspects of the element. The idea of a moral alignment was formed.
It was at this time mortals began appearing on Pelor's worlds. These primordial races were the curiosities of the Gods: could beings survive without a divine spark? How would they behave if not bound to an alignment? Could they serve? Could they fight? Many died out, as their patron Gods were defeated in cosmic warfare. The most prominent survivors were the humans (Pelor's race), the elves (Corellon Larenthian's children), and the dwarves (the creation of mighty Morodin). They were created closely in the image of their patrons.
The battle between light and dark continued to rage. The Feywild and the Shadowfell formed, allowing their respective forces a more direct route to the material plane (which was a common battleground). The currency of war was the divine shards that had come from Pelor and Nerull. Redeeming or corrupting a shard was a victory for these immortal warriors, who could otherwise never die.
Above the conflicts, Pelor and Nerull guided their forces, hoping to gain the upper hand. They were nigh-invincible: no immortal could hope to match their power, or steal a shard away from them.
That is, until a sorceress, now known only as the Raven Queen, rose from the ranks of mortality and obtained hundreds of divine shards, making her like a Goddess on her own world. Realizing the endless struggle of life and death could not be quenched, she offered her power to Pelor in hopes of destroying Nerull once and for all. He turned her down.
Despite this, the Raven Queen chose to face Nerull anyway. Though she had kept relatively quiet up until this point, this battle shook the heavens. A mortal had stolen enough shards to stand before one of the Over-Gods. And not only that: she had prevailed. Nerull's shards were broken, scattered, and divided.
Try as she might, the Raven Queen could not take in the amount of divinity Nerull had still retained. Indeed, the immortals were in awe at how much power Nerull still held, and how exactly the Raven Queen overcame such strength is still questioned and debated. She chose three of his strongest domains (Death, Fate, and Winter), making sure they contained aspects of neutrality, and took her place as a true Goddess.
However, the confrontation and the victory were small events compared to what happened next. Pelor, who had declined to help the Raven Queen, stepped in, channelling the countless shards of Nerull into the creatures of the material planes. Now, they were so small that they no longer had power over a domain, miracles, or even a predisposition towards evil: simply a spark of darkness deep within them.
Dark Fey, aberrations, undead, evil elementals, chromatic dragons, and monsters filled the worlds. The shards would not birth new evil gods, but as a result, the multiverse was filled with horrors. Some were shaped further by the dark gods, however, as Gruumsh birthed the Orc races and Maglubiyet spawned the goblin hordes.
This greatly concerned the Gods of Light, and many began to redeem these creatures to bring new races into the world: Metallic Dragons, Summer Fey, Good Elemental creatures. The Gnome and Halfling gods spread their races far and wide, hoping their predisposition for community and friendliness would overcome the now-pervasive darkness.
But something happened that the Immortals didn't anticipate. The mortals, unbound from alignment, began to fight for good. Not all of them, of course, but many realized that unless they chose to oppose evil, they would die. The immortals, bound by alignment and undying, hadn't realized how strong this survival instinct would become.
However, an unspoken pact was formed among the Gods. Now that it was known that divine shards could be stolen from the Gods, the Immortals decided that the mortal races shouldn't have the opportunity to gain such power again. Of course, this pact was far from perfect, and mortals such as Vecna and St. Cuthbert ended up making their way into the pantheon.
The Gods also began to focus on the redemption and corruption of mortals. In a world full of evil monsters, the Gods of Light needed as many champions as they could get. But in a multiverse dominated by Pelor, with no one to match him, the Gods of Evil would snare any modicum of power they could get their hands on. The battlefield once again shifted to a yet smaller scale.
And so, in this age of Light, does the fate of good and evil lie in the hearts of mortals, unbound by divine alignment, able to choose their path: towards light, or into darkness.
Gods in Ahneria
There are many Gods that are worshipped in Ahneria. In truth, these are merely creatures that have enough divinity to shape reality and the planes to suit their whims.
However, all planes connect to the material plane, the ultimate battleground for this cosmic conflict. Gods must tread lightly here, for interference in mortal affairs will surely bring the wrath of a rival God. The machinations of Gods on the material plane are slow, quiet, and shrouded. A God never acts directly.
In different areas of the world, Gods have different names. Humans mostly know the Gods by the names they use in Greyhawk (PHB pg. 295). This is no coincidence - the Archmage Mordenkainen, while travelling through time, visited Ahneria when it was still young.
However, the other races have their own names and images for the Gods. On the elven continent of Jeonju, the nature God Obad-Hai is known as Rillifane Rallathil. The Dragons worship Chronepsis, Dragon God of Fate, though in the human lands she goes by Istus. And the Orcs, lovers of war, worship Haxtor, even if they call him Ilneval.
The Gods themselves have a ranking of power that can be clearly defined. They can use stats found here unless otherwise specified.
- Over-Gods: currently, only Pelor has this level of power. For combat purposes, he is unkillable.
- Greater Deities: CR 40+. Controls an entire race, a major domain, or the majority of an outer plane.
- Moradin, Corellon Larenthian, Boccob, Obad-Hai
- Intermediate Deities: CR 35+. Less powerful, controls a smaller race or domain
- The Raven Queen, Ralishaz, Bahamut, Istus, Garl Glittergold
- Lesser Deities: CR 30+. Controls an evil race or a niche domain
- Fharlanghn, St. Cuthbert, Vecna, The Giant Gods, Gruumsh, Lolth
- Demigods: the half-children of the Gods.
- Powers range wildly: they could be mortals with magic powers or an extended lifespan, or they could be as strong as Empyreans
- Pelor has a son named Raynathius who is particularly powerful
- Titans: beings constructed by the Gods.
- Could be through magic, physical construction, the ground where a God's blood was spilled, etc.
- Avatars: a vessel for a God that allows it to travel outside its domain without fear of harm
- A God can create an avatar at any power level below theirs. Thus, a Greater Deity could make an avatar as strong as an Intermediate Deity or as weak as a mortal.
- Since the death of an avatar does not affect the God using it, nearly all Gods conduct business as their avatars. A god can only create one avatar at a time, thus they usually keep their true form hidden away in a secret and well-guarded location.
- Aspects: an independent creature which embodies part of a God's personality, principles, or domain.
- An aspect can be any form that is two power levels below the God themselves. Thus, a Greater Deity can make Aspects as powerful as a Lesser Deity or as weak as a mortal.
- Gods have a limit on how many aspects they can create. In most cases, this is approximately equal to their CR.
- To most mortals, an Aspect is their God. In fact, many Clerics only ever interact with Aspects, and are none the wiser. An aspect can take any form, and its form can be changed by its God at will.
- Aspects are utterly loyal to their God. They serve as the Generals and Advisers to their deity.
- Vestiges: No combat stats. These are ancient gods that have lost all their shards. A powerful ritual might allow a mortal to converse with them or even gain some modicum of power, but they can grant no divinity.
- Nerull, Astraroth, Zhudun the Corpse Star
Finally, outside the domain of the entire multiverse, are what mortals refer to as The Great Old Ones. These are the leftovers from the creation of the multiverse, before even Pelor and Nerull. Who made them, and by what device they grant power to certain mortals, is beyond the comprehension of Mortals and Immortals alike.
If you wish to become a God, there are a few known methods.
- Kill a God and obtain their spark. (Proven by St. Cuthbert, who killed a Lesser Deity of Injustice and gained divinity)
- Steal enough of a God's worshippers that the power of their domain transfers to you. (Proven by the Raven Queen, who gathered hundreds of shards in this manner)
- Use the power of vestiges to overcome Gods and destroy them. (Proven by Vecna, who did this multiple times)
- Ask a God really, really nicely if you can have a shard. (Some say this is how the Raven Queen defeated Nerull)
Finally, I have to mention Pelor's personal aspects, since they are extremely powerful and legendary throughout the multiverse. They are known as the Solars, twenty-four beings of perfect Law and Good. It is well-known that Pelor could create many more aspects, but either they are hidden away, or he has chosen not to.
- Acies: epitome of empathy
- Amina: epitome of spirit
- Capitosus: epitome of knowledge
- Curabitur: epitome of bodily skill
- Duri: epitome of endurance
- Exponentia: epitome of magic
- Fidelis: epitome of faith
- Mendacium: epitome of concession
- Nequitia: epitome of cleverness
- Praestare: epitome of artistry
- Praeteritum: epitome of lore
- Prodigium: epitome of the hunt
- Salvos: epitome of willpower
- Sanitatem: epitome of healing
- Sapientiae: epitome of instinct
- Secandi: epitome of speed
- Sensus: epitome of awareness
- Statera: epitome of balance
- Suadere: epitome of logic
- Tacet: epitome of silence
- Terra: epitome of nature
- Terrent: epitome of awe
- Verum: epitome of truth
- Viribus: epitome of power
Using This Material in Your Setting
- Use the Gods to define the central tension of your setting (in this case, Good vs Evil)
- Give the Gods fears, weaknesses, and flaws (they fear their divinity being stolen away)
- Give the Gods history that can be spun into lore (the breaking of the divinity, the Raven Queen)
- Give the PCs a way to interface with the Gods (avatars, aspects, demigods, titans, vestiges)
- Create a reason why the Gods don't take care of all their problems (danger of retaliation by other Gods)
- Create a reason why Gods are interested in mortal souls (power in the cosmic struggle)
- Create power levels for your Gods (Over-Gods, Greater Deities, etc)
- Give the most powerful Gods an extra leg up (Solars)
- Create horribly difficult ways to become a God (kill/steal/overpower/beg)
Thanks for reading!