First and foremost, this is not my usual sub that has sprung up in the past. As I am never normal. I read an article a few years back (2002 actually) about the use of smaller gods in your campaign and world and the benefit that they can have on your world. Not all religions and gods can reach the outskirts of civilization. That being said, smaller gods are good for the tiny hamlet that the players can stumble on at nearly any time in their travels. Because there should be a near limitless number of possibilities, then there should be any number of small out of the way type plots, sub-plots, and side treks. I had originally wanted this to be another 30 something sub along with the others of its kind but I see no reason why there shouldnt be at least 100 of these. I however, only put words to paper so to speak when the idea rushed to my head and was unprepared for 30 complete ideas.
I thought of numerous things I could use this idea. Not only in my campaign but also my world. But how to use it effectively without over balance issues or simple issues of using these NPCs as a way to force the players into doing what I wished and when I wished. I am all for using an NPC to help the story along, and even to assist the players if and when they get stuck but I dont condone it often personally.
From this point on however they will not be referred to as small gods or divine beings but godlings. This is to emphasize that they are in fact of better than mortal being, but are not immortal and as powerful as the Gods on High. The term godling also gives the impression, to me anyway, of being small in stature and ability and not all powerful. Its one way for me to make them seem as a speck to the true gods in my mind.
A lot of thought about the divine is usually grandiose or hair fine specific when dealing with the gods. Campaigns that deal with gods who rule over the entire cosmos or over singular worlds or people. What about local villages? Or the wayward shrine on the side of the road or even those lost in antiquity or hidden from view being deep in the forests. The powers of these gods are usually area specific; normally surround a feature of the landscape; and can forever be destroyed if they are unlucky. Being area specific, their powers do not affect large areas; an entire village, a single family, or a particular section of the forest or mountainside or city perhaps.
Instead of being seen as the sun or moon, or even as vast as the four winds; they are small in comparison to their cosmic cousins. These could be an ancient oak tree, a slow moving brook, an oddly placed stone in a flat wooded forest. Anything and everything is possible when dealing with local and godling. With the idea that their influence is area specific possibly because of their size, understand that their powers and therefore the world’s awareness of them are limited and therefore the world’s awareness of them is also limited. This is a benefit as well as a downfall. The benefit being that they are not bombarded with treasure seekers or those looking to exploit them, but a downfall because their powers and influence can never grow beyond their current status and ability as long as few people know of them an worship them. An oak tree that grows in the center of a village may only have powers that encompass to the village limits.
Thinking on this I began looking at the bigger picture to make it smaller. While these new additions would in fact be a God-like being, they would in fact be more of an NPC that could be dealt with on a personal basis. They could have an impact on the players/ campaign both good and bad depending on how the players react to these semi-divine NPCs. The trick to using them however is over balance them, do not make them a huge focal point. The biggest and most noticeable concept of a village deity in our own mythology is that it is in fact NOT widely known. The villages tend to try to keep the knowledge of their sacred god away from those who would exploit it, ruin it, or take it from them. The point is to think small on such a grand idea.
Use them sparingly. The entire point behind godling is that they fill a gap in places where the largely divine gods on high overlook, have forgotten about, or simply dont care about. They should not be in every city, village, hamlet, side of the road truck stop, or where ever you decide to stash them. You should design some for your world/ campaign that are in out of the way and remote places that the players will probably never come in to contact with them at all. What this does is fill those gaps. Gives reasoning for others to be where they are. If the players happen to need to veer off course and go in a direction that leads them to a totally unknown small god, then their surprise should fit the situation.
Remember though, that they are an NPC. As an NPC, they can make mistakes, can hold grudges, can openly dislike the characters/ players for their own apparent reasoning. They will have emotions, not so much the full range as a normal human or mortal but they should feel pain, longing perhaps, loneliness, joy, and happiness to some degree. Not all will or should be nice or even helpful. I have given a few of my ideas of what these godling should be like, hopefully with my view of these smaller divine NPCs, it will become more understandable.
Please be aware that some of these godling’s may seem shortly described and sometimes even vague, but that is the main point. They are small and can produce a sub plot perhaps but nothing overly large and campaign defining.
Additional Ideas (6)
She is a waterfall at the base of the river Io. Locally, she is praised in the coming of spring. Her falling water breaks on smooth stones and blanket the small pool that she descends into with a warm mist. The local village (enter village name here as appropriate to your design.) keeps quiet regarding her, as her blessing will break on the family that lets slip of Agwalar and her existence. The children of the village are taken to her on the first day of spring and submerged into her waters by the stones of the fall. They do this when they are no more than three years of age. After the age of three, the blessing will still take affect, but they wish the blessing of their children at the earliest possible date. By praying to her, and offering gifts of laurel leaves and crops to her waters, they are blessed to live a healthy and disease free life. No longer will they get sick, however falling from a two story building will still cause injuries as well as wounds from fighting.
There is a adept that passes their knowledge down to one or two per generation so that the knowledge of Agwalar may pass on to the others in the village. Her story is one of simple pain and suffering. Agwalar lived in an age past beyond memory, in a time when the gods looked away completely from the world. She lost her children to a wasting sickness. None of her prayers were answered by the gods she so worshiped, nothing she said broke the distance. When they passed she wept. She wept until tears that came unbidden could not be stopped. Tears fell from her for months until she to wasted away, but not before her being entered the salty tears that she left behind. She had wept true tears of pain and anguish, not ones of selfishness. She had wept until the tears traversed the land before her and formed what is known as the river Io to this day. For those that have listened to her story and had tears fall in equal anguish, she helped their pain. Forever after, she blesses the children in the hopes that hers look down upon her actions and feel her love.
The obake (orcs) are usually small in number. Their tribes are scattered and tend to be tightly grouped for fear of aggressors. They usually only produce two or three healthy offspring every four or five matings, and out of these only one will usually survive. Tribal matings are rampant for fear of their kind falling to self extinction. This limited number of able fighting males has been one large factor in their race not able to take a strong foothold on many territories they wished to stake claim. They are able fighters, but their numbers lack the size to make any threat viable.
This being known, a tribe called Jorgha in the northern mountains seems to have pushed past this racial barrier and have numbers in the thousands and produce children yearly. They give praise to their god Grundag. He is not a god as normal religious texts would lay claim to them. No one knows his true history but it is a fact that the tribes that give praise to him have a healthier mating potential. The main village of the Jorgha lies on the flat of a plateau where granite is the common stone. In the center of their village however is a six foot tall basalt stone smooth to the touch. The stone is so smooth that it feels more than cloth than stone, silky in texture and is always warm to the touch.
The tribe of Jorgha worship Grundag as their fertility god, which he isnt. Grundag is an elemental whom took this plateau as his own ages past. When the original obake tribe of the jorgha settled he attempted to destroy them, but when he arose from his rested state the tribe fell to their faces and began praying to him. They saw him as their god, showing them the way to their destiny as it was his arrival that stopped their travels and made them choose the plateau as their new home. Their words of prayer wash over him in a sedate manner and do little for him other than enlarging his ego. They bring him metals of gold and silver, as well as iron and steel which is rare on the flattened stone; as well as gems to appease his appetite. In return he speaks to the land around them and allows for a bountiful harvest and warns of danger.
For the wayward travelers and caravan drivers there is a campsite along a path of road that many a man has stopped at and took camp. Even when the sun was still hours till dusk, men stop at this camp to lay their head and tell stories of past , present, and hopeful future. The odd thing is, to the unknown these men, especially when alone, seem to be telling these stories to no one.
Agrubiaes was a traveler by nature, ages past in times of lore and history where one. He was a teller of tales, and a singer of lies. Traveling from place to place, learning what he could to tell those he met at his next stop in life. He was carefree and enjoyed the company of men and women if only for a tale or joke he had never heard. His tragic tale only began when he stopped for the night at a wayward camp just off the road a bit. Travel weary he espied the fire of a camp and walked to it with no cares or worries. He sat with the company of dark men and soon his tale fell on deaf ears as they slew him for his coinage. He spirit not wishing to continue stayed behind and longed for the tales he would never see or witness himself.
As the years past, travelers camped at what would later become the same fire that Agrubiaes himself stayed at his last living night alive. He stalked the night, listening to talk and enjoying and reveling in the news, and the stories, and even the lies that were meant as jokes. He began wishing those travelers that gave him a taste of what he longed for best wishes on their journeys. And those he had gave blessings often would have carefree travels with clear weather or bandit free traffic. He heals the injured of minor wounds, and gives even the most exhausted a restful sleep no matter the length of their rest.
Out of the many unknown and godlings that inhabit the world, he is most notable and more widely known. He blesses all travelers that weave him a tale, whether true or not as long as it satisfies his thirst for tales tall and long, far and near. He himself has no physical being, but is seem more as the surrounding trees and camp itself. Those entering the camp with no ill intent and give him a tale or two, have little in difficulties on their journey. Those who are menacing or fail to grant him a tale find, swarms of insects, inclement weather, and bandits or even militia harrying their travel while on the road to their destinations.
A large dropping willow stands in the center of a little village, near the unknown for most travelers. This large and ancient tree is circles by white paving stones with crushed pink and green stone filling in the ground around it. Weeds do not choke the ground, or fallen leaves or other debris. It is kept clean and with careful eyes and gentle hands.
Valermar is a quiet soul, if the essence of a tree can be considered anything but quiet or even having a soul. When the skies fell with the blood of the gods in one of their many battles, drops of their sanguine fell to the land below where this willow grows centuries, near millennia, past. The divine blood grew root and leaf where none stood prior but also instead of the simple existence a desire and will grew with it. Seeing this, a few of the gods traveled down and spoke to him, curious of his birth, yet leaving eventually not caring as he seemed far inferior to them after all. After the years however, people flocked to the land around him as it was fertile, more so than lands they traveled through and he was greeted again with visitors.
After being with the two-roots as he originally called them, he began learning their language and how to communicate with them. He chose one out of the many and spoke of his needs and his gifts. This adept would learn of his past and his history, what Valermar knew of the past and of the gods above. The adept willingly serves as Valermars keeper, tending his little grove that has come to surround him now. Benches line his paving stones, but nothing enters the grove except the adepts. They smooth the crushed rocks beneath his branches and pour spring water on his trunk and roots. They lay fruits at his base and pray daily to his continued health.
In turn Valermar spreads his voice to the lands surrounding the grove and the village and succeeds in helping the crops grow in abundance. What they do not use or need though they give back to Valermar and the surrounding valley as it brings continued bounty to their plate. They have many days of celebration throughout the year, most of which are for Valermar himself. Feasts of harvest, fertility, marriage, and birth are done so at the base of his grove and in doing so keeps him feeling loved and welcome, something his parentage failed to do.
To the Hwuzdak people of the jungles, the dzoen tree is everything- its bark provides bark-cloth for clothing, shoes, and woven walls, its broad leaves are woven together for cloaks, its multitudes of round, pinkish fruits are eaten in all manner of ways (simply as-is, or dried, mashed, cooked with meat, stored for hard times, baked into malty-tasting bi'z bread). In the dry season, its roots can be mashed for the water they trap.
Thus, it is no surprise that the Hwuzdak venerate the dzoen, in the form of worship for the Sak'puz, the Dwarf Gods, tree-spirits who are said to look specially after the affairs and welfare of the Hwuzdak people.
The Sak'puz are the living spirits of dzoen trees, and dwell within their branches, perched, if one should be so lucky as to see one (an auspicious thing indeed!), in the form of a tiny dwarf, black as the night, with long, curly white hair and a silky white beard. Their tiny hands and feet are like the paws of monkeys, and they are sexless. Their eyes are glinting green jewels, and they carry in their hands the I'ozduk, the rain pots, which they shake out when Hwu Ogza, the Sky Serpent, thunders forth his commands.
The Sak'puz are not powerful gods- the jungles in which the Hwuzdak live contain many cosmic beings which are vastly more potent than the kindly dwarves of the trees, such as Nakz'akz, the Devouring Flame, god of the forest fire, and Soz'u, god of drought and thirst. But none are wiser than the Sak'puz, for they hear all the secrets that have ever been spoken through their roots and through their branches and their leaves.
The Sak'puz are venerated monthly in Hwuzdak villages, in a ritual known as the Dzoen Kzu'ab, in which the Sak'puz are fed with offerings placed below their trees and in which prayers and thanks are painted onto the bark of the dzoen trees. Each Hwuzdak is also taught that when something is harvested from the tree- bark, fruit, leaves, or roots- the Sak'puz must be thanked and properly recompensed with a little bit of beer or a chunk of boar fat. If a dzoen tree bears no fruit, or becomes sickly and collapses, or if a nest of deadly jungle-bees takes up residence on its trunk, the Sak'puz of this particular tree has become angry through the misconduct and sacrilege of the villagers, and their dereliction of their duty, and must be apologized to and soothed with the planting of a new tree from the black, sticky seed pods that sprout from a dying tree, along with the proper rituals and offerings.
First off, you need to know something about Jakov: he is not magical in any sense of the word: In fact, some people have described him as almost absorbing magical energy, his body turning it into chemical energy soon afterwards. Since a young age, the people of his homeland, who place great emphasis on magical ability, have had a habit of shunning him for his "disability." Due to this, when his homeland was invaded by the warriors of the neighboring nation of Koloboros, he eagerly joined their military, as a member of the King's Own Royal Foreign Rangers Regiment. He excelled in training and was quickly promoted to the rank of squad leader. However, soon after their first conflicts, where they made a name for themselves that spoke of courage and loyalty to their cause, the KORFR was deployed to one of the many Koloborosian colonies to squash a slave uprising. During one battle, the unit was forced to attack a heavily-defended position. Jakov's squad was the spearpoint, and Jakov was given the honor of dueling with the enemy commander. With a quick thrust of sword, he slew him, but all the man did was laugh and proclaim, "Heh heh heh, are you a fool, boy? You show such loyalty to these Koloborosian scum? Look at what they did to US, and then pass your judgement." With his dying breath, he pulled up his sleeve, showing the insignia of the King's Own 73rd Royal Foreign Archers Battalion. Too shocked to speak, Jakov almost didn't even notice the man trying to fit a slaver's shackles around his neck.
For eight days, Jakov ran through the wilderness, hunted by the very men he had served. That final day, starving to death, he prayed to whatever god would hear him for salvation.
Thus, Ismail was born.
Ismail, unlike most small gods, has found a very simple way to move around and avoid being trapped in one space: he's made his domain centered around Jakov's mind. His home is not an immobile tree or some sinister-looking rock that wouldn't move unless a giant tied it to the end of a tree to use as a club, but rather the inner zones of Jakov's mind. As a result, he is able to travel wherever Jakov travels. His area of effect is surprisingly large, as in up to around one hundred meters from Jakov when he's "home," or if he's detached himself momentarily from Jakov's psyche, he can use his powers on anyone who gets within fifty meters of his "body." That's right, he can create his own body using the magical energy that has been stored within Jakov's body throughout his life when he's been in contact with mages or wizards.
When moving around outside of Jakov, Ismail appears as a young man, with a polite tone of voice with a slight British accent and close-cropped, bleached-blond hair. Usually, when he appears, he'll be either smoking a pipe or drinking a cup of tea; whenever anyone asks why, he simply says, "It fits the look, love: deal with it." As befitting a god of the human mind, his abilities allow him to not only mess around with the human mind (driving foes mad, taking control of their bodies away from them, creating illusions), but also to the point where he can delve into an enemy's mind, find out what he believes that a god can do, and then do it (f he read your mind and you believed that any god could set a person on fire, he can do just that to you: it's all a matter of faith). As a result, anybody who knows or knows of him will know that he can accomplish anything, thus meaning that he can do anything... so long as they're around.
Despite some inital confusion, Ismail and Jakov are now fairly good friends. Often, when they're bored, they'll spend hours debating whether or not Ismail exists. This is a rather precarious subject, since if Jakov ceases to believe in Ismail, all of his powers disappear, but he loves to do it because it drives Jakov nuts.