Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Interesting 3rd Party Finds: the Pantheist Priest (Pathfinder)


The Twelve Olympians

The Midgard Campaign Setting by Kobold Press is a very interesting world.  Quite possibly the best-selling Pathfinder product which isn't a Paizo book, it's easy to see that it has a lot of things going for it.  A clockwork city with a sizable kobold minority, an expanding imperial superpower ruled by a council of great wyrms, deities who wear masks and portray different faces to the world's cultures, and a flat world encircled by the dragon-god Veles whose very flesh and blood suffuse the land with magic are but a few of its iconic features.

One thing which stood out to me was a new rule which touched upon an archetype I wanted to see in Dungeons & Dragons for a long time: a truly polytheist cleric.  Basically, most divine spellcasters in various Editions and retroclones were restricted to the favor of a single patron deity.  Praying to and receiving spells from a host of gods as befit their circumstance is plausible in some editions and retroclones (notably rules-lite games such as Labyrinth Lord), but in 3rd Edition and Pathfinder the one-deity choice is baked into the game mechanics.  For a long time I wanted to emulate a setting where clerics, druids, and paladins were akin to genuine polytheists, honoring an array of deities who granted them specialized blessings in accordance with their portfolio.

Midgard Campaign Setting tackles this hurdle with the creation of the Pantheist Priest.  Below is the following information reprinted from page 227 of the main book:

Pantheist Priest

Though the gods of Midgard are mysterious and sometimes distant, one way for any mortal to compel their attention is to grant his or her small voice and modest sacrifices to another god. All gods of Midgard are jealous to some degree, and this weakness can be turned against them. Indeed, the pantheist priest knows there is more than one way to comfort the grieving, sick, and wounded. All gods might answer a plea. There is more than one set of revealed mysteries of the divine, and many roads lead to the heavens and to the grace of the gods. Why not use all of them?

The pantheist priest worships not a single god, but a set of five related deities, good and evil, male and female, various in their powers and their demands. In every case, these are the gods of that priest’s region or city. As a pantheist priest, you know and follow these gods, and their differing wisdom sustains you and your flock in different trials and different tests.

Creating a Pantheist Priest
Generate a normal cleric, but rather than choosing a single god to worship, choose one of the regional pantheons for a state or polity (City Gods, Crossroads, Dragon Empire, Northlands, or Southern) or choose a city or nation (such as Illyria or the canton of Gunnacks). See the listing for the five gods listed as Great Gods for that place.

You are a priest of this pantheon, and each week you choose one patron god from that pantheon. You must fulfill the god’s demands that week, and in return you are granted access to two of that god’s domains as a normal cleric. These two domains or subdomains are always the same for each of the five gods of this pantheist priest.

Granted Power: You represent many faces of divinity rather than a single voice.
Many Roads to Wisdom (Su): The pantheist priest may use the granted power of any god of his regional or civic pantheon normally. Once that granted power is used, no other granted power may be invoked or applied until the next day.
Note: The dark gods are much too jealous of one another’s followers to permit a pantheist priest among their number. No pantheist priest may follow more than one of the dark gods. If the campaign permits evil PCs, a pantheist priest may substitute one dark god for a regional one at character creation.

Thoughts

The ability to choose a set of five related deities (or ones of the cleric's home culture) is a good compromise between gaining the benefits of all the divine patrons of a setting versus the restriction of a single figure of worship.  It allows for clerics to be versatile and adopt a patron as befits the circumstances of the near future.  Making them follow the dogma  of a different patron is a good role-playing opportunity for players, who must adapt to new standards of behavior which might otherwise be unimportant or even anathema to the previous patron.  As Midgard deities are less focused on morality and more on various archetypes and forces (war, weather, and the like), they have no alignments, allowing for a pantheist cleric more freedom in their choice of deities.

There are many things I like about Midgard, but the Pantheist Priest is one of my favorites; enough that I transplanted the game mechanics into other settings for my own gaming sessions.  It's short and simple enough that it can be inserted into other established worlds with little fanfare, and is especially appropriate for Greek/Roman style pantheons where most religious orders honored the gods in general as opposed to one entity above all others.

Copyright: Pantheist Priest from Midgard Campaign Setting. (c) Kobold Press.

Special Thanks: Wolfgang Baur of Kobold Press for granting me permission to reprint the Pantheist Priest rules.