I have been inspired recently by the forthcoming 13th Age game from Pelgrane Press and produced by Rob Heinsoo, Jonathan Tweet, Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell. Others have done a fine job of praising the rule set and the setting, and I won’t repeat that here. What I will say is that my take away from reading the pre-release version is that it is like playing a home-brew game of Dungeons and Dragons where the guys doing the brewing are masters of the craft. They have been and the tables running games for decades, and they have decided to publish ideas and advice to make a D20 D&D like experience incredibly fun and exciting.
I really want to play this game.
Another great thing about the “home brew” aesthetic of 13th Age is the open encouragement to make the game your own. They offer a fantastic setting, defining it with the most powerful and important NPCs (the Icons), but provide enough wide open spaces on the map, that a game master (GM) can fill anything he or she desires within the broad strokes of the world. It is a terrific model and the designers really know what kinds of things serve as hooks for GMs to build fantastic adventures and stories to own this world.
One thing that they leave wide open is the religion of the Dragon Empire of the 13th Age. Keeping with their design philosophy, they provide some guidelines, but don’t sweat the details. Although they too are fans of one of my favorite fantasy worlds, Glorantha (which as they point out, is really tied to its gods and cosmology), they don’t want to freight the Dragon Empire with a master’s thesis worth of history and theology (let alone a doctoral dissertation), when how the religions, gods and pantheons may play in the world is really a choice they want to leave to the group playing at the table.
I think that wise.
However, appreciating the freedom that they provide me, I have conceived for myself and my (hopefully) future game a thumbnail cosmology and a set of gods to give some religious and spiritual depth to my portrayal of the Dragon Empire. This is definitely a do it yourself pantheon, and I put this out as purely an exercise for my own flabby creative muscles. These gods are inspired by every piece of mythology, game play and fantasy literature that I have consumed since about the age of 10. They are a bric-a-brac of themes and ideas, but, I believe that they are in keeping with the thought suggested by the 13th Age text that the gods may have been pulled into the world of 13th Age over vast amounts of time from all parts of the cosmos and multiverse, such that anything and everything may have washed up on the proverbial shore.
In my game, clerics may act under the patronage of a particular deity, a house of deities, or may act for the whole pantheon. Different parts of the Empire, different racial and ethnic groups, and even different communities emphasize different deities, but all are acknowledged by the majority of the Empire’s population. A small minority maintains a much older dualistic faith which I will discuss at the end. Monsters and other bad guys are worshippers of Demons (and perhaps Devils, depending on how they turn out in 13 True Ways).
Before I give the (very) brief cosmological chronology of my version of the world of 13th Age, let me say something about my deity write-ups. 13th Age has (at least for now) a limited number of clerical “domains” that provide game effects for being affiliated with them. I am providing that association in my description of various gods in my pantheon, since they tie directly to game effects. I am also giving some secondary “keywords” not with any specific game effect (at least not now) to provide flavor and story hooks. There will also be some descriptive text that is not tied specifically to the domains. Together, I hope the information provides enough to do something interesting with these beings and their socio-religious functions, but not so much to weigh things down. I am very open to comments, but bear in mind this is both a draft and a work in progress.
The Houses of Heaven and Hell
A précis on the celestial and infernal powers by a journeyman sage of the imperial court
In the beginning there was the Void. Into this vast nothingness, there came an idea and that idea became a Being. In that instant, the Being shone forth and proved to be a Dragon of pure light and thought. It pushed back the Void and made Creation possible. With Creation came the first cycle, and two Houses came into existence: the House of Life and the House of Death. Between the two Houses, crept in the Void, seeking to Consume, Taint, Torture and Annihilate the two Houses. Great was the strife and discord. This was the Chaos War and sometimes all fought against all. The land, the sky, the stars, the underworld, the waters, all were riven, wracked and maimed.
In the end, the two Houses were no more. Some believe only one House remained, but others know that four new Houses succeeded and time began. It was the Lost Agewhich ended with the ascent of the Wizard King. Other Ages of Wizardry passed before the glorious Dragon Emperor threw down the Wizard King, and the many prosperous Ages of the Dragon Empire came into being. During this time it is said that gods and goddesses came and went from the four Houses. Who can know?
Now, the four Houses all find honor in the Dragon Empire, their names are The House of Light, The House of Shadow, The House of Dawn and the House of Twilight. Together they keep at bay the Void and those dread things that would end creation, like the Demons. The makeup of each House is written below.
The Four Houses
The House of Light
Titles: Dragon of Light; Creatrix/Creator of the Universe; Distant Guardian
13th Age Domains: Justice, Knowledge, Life
Other Keywords: Animal, Balance, Celestial, Creation, Light
Urvonobos is almost universally acknowledged as the creatrix/creator of the universe and the first among the gods, however, (s)he is little worshiped and generally is simply “honored” in most religious places. There is a full temple to the Dragon of Light on Santa Cora and the Emperor has a personal shrine in Axis. The followers of the Great Gold Wyrm honor absent Urvonobos as the progenitor of their absent liege. Urvonobos is often portrayed as a dragon with multihued scales of metallic and prismatic colors.
Titles: Sun Goddess, The Wise, Mistress of the Arts, Great Healer, The Sun Spear
13th Age Domains: Healing, Knowledge, Leadership, Strength, Sun
Other Keywords: Civilization, Courage
Great goddess of civilization, she helps build and protect towns, cities and the Empire, filling them with life, light and beauty. The spear is one of her symbols.
Titles: Bright Sky, Growing Green Field, Golden Grain Stalk, the Headman/Headwoman, Patron of Summer
13th Age Domains: Beauty, Community, Protection
Other Keywords: Agriculture, Air, Fertility
Ptahluran oversees the good things on the earth and protects them from his/her sky realms. (S)he oversees the fields, the villages, country life, and community. (S)he is the leader who gets his/her hands dirty to accomplish things. Not a King or Queen, but a village Headwoman/man. People in the prime of life are under his/her eye. In the vast cities of the Empire Ptahluran can still be found watching over people’s kitchen gardens and binding together neighborhoods. The cornucopia is one of her symbols.
Titles: The Knight of Stars, Light in the Darkness, Shield of the Faithful, Lightbearer
13th Age Domains: Anti-Undead, Justice, Leadership, Protection Strength
Other Keywords: Competition, Courage, Glory, Nobility, Skill
The Knights of Khal Edain protect all that is right and good in the land. In darkness, look to the stars for courage. In daylight fear no powers of Darkness neither the Void for Khal Edain is your strong shield and your bright sword.
Titles: Tender of the hearth fire, singer of songs, comforter of the weak and the sick, patron of marriage and family, The Kindler
13th Age Domains: Community, Healing, Love
Other Keywords: Family, Fire, Fertility, Hope
Khelebeth is the kindly goddess. She is hearth mother, matriarch, faithful lover, wise woman. From her springs every small miracle.
Titles: The Smith, Word Forger, Cauldron of Poesy, Maker of Useful Things, The Clever, The Skilled
13th Age Domains: Leadership, Lore, Strength
Other Keywords: Artifice, Earth , Fire, Luck, Runes, Skill
Urfestos is the husband of the kindly goddess, Khelebeth. He is the gruff worker, the skilled craftsman, the smith, the poet, the speaker of plain truth. Dwarvenkind honor him deeply, but see him differently than the human communities of the Empire. He is the foreman, the weaponsmith, the jeweler, the finder of Earth’s treasures.
Titles: The Lucky, The Young, The wandering daughter/son, The Sunbeam, The Fortunate, Hopeful
13th Age Domains: Illusion, Protection,
Other Keywords: Change, Competition, Freedom, Hope, Light, Luck, Travel
Batash is known as the child of Khelebeth and Urfestos in most of the Empire. (S)he is the prodigal child, leaving the village for fame, fortune, or desperate need. (S)he is the hero of happenstance or necessity, but not a seeker of honor, glory or complicated ambition. Batash is the girl sleeping in the cinders or the boy climbing a bean stalk: charming, changeable, free and very lucky.
Next time: The House of Shadow (Dark Gods for Dark Business)