After two weeks working on the deities and geography of the world of Witchtide, both are still very much a work in progress. I think the time and effort is worth it, though. In figuring out these details, I’m actually shaping the entire campaign. They say geography is destiny, and putting some careful thought into how the world is laid out now will make it simple to generate natural storylines later on. Same goes for the gods of the world. A mythology is the distilled essence of a people, presenting their worldview and core values in the form of characters and narratives.
Shaping the World
As seen in the rough map above, there are three major continents, each home to various kingdoms and worlds. There’s also some major islands, which essentially have their own “seafarer’s culture”. Cultural elements from all over the world can be seen on the islands, and yet, each island’s culture is unique.
Mbakulu is the cradle of civilization. Mammalian civilization, at least. Myths differ on who arose first and from what, but it’s accepted that all humans, orcs, elves, dwarves, and gnomes can trace their lineage back to the heart of Mbakulu. Today, that heartland is dominated by the great kingdoms of the orcs, lending credence to the theory they were the first race from which all others evolved. To the south is the human empire of Zola, surrounded by smaller human and orc territories. Two dark elf empires rule the western coast of Mbakulu: Aq’i and Nya’yed. In creating these cultures, I’m pulling elements from west and central Africa, along with Egypt and Iran.
Mångata is a crossroads of civilization, settled by dwarves, gnomes, and humans from Mbakulu as well as dragonborn tracing their lineage to Nkte’ul. Along the southern coast are human kingdoms such as Cantile and Baluaer, taking inspiration from Latin countries like Spain, France, and Italy. The north is home to gnomes and dwarves, whose lands I haven’t thought about yet, but will draw liberally from Germanic and Scandinavian culture. Scattered in between are the Slavic flavored lands of the dragonborn.
At last we have Nikte’ul, the main setting of the campaign. The broad strokes of the other two continents are important for adding flavor and context, but we’ll probably be spending most of our time here. Nikte’ul is the birthplace of reptilian races like lizardfolk and kobolds, as well as the avian kenku and aarakocra. Though they are strictly native to the continent, a subrace of elves also migrated to Nikte’ul sometime before recorded history, and are equally entrenched in the land. All of these cultures pull from Mesoamerican peoples like the Olmecs, Nahuatl, Maya, Inka, and Shuar. More recently, enterprising humans, dwarves, dark elves, and orcs have arrived from the other continents in search of land and treasure.
Shaping the Heavens
I’ve been doing a ton of research in the process of creating the world’s religions, and still have a long way to go in terms of fleshing out the details. I am happy with the distinctive world views I’ve created so far, though.
The Edroze, the dominant pantheon of Mbakulu, would be revered by most orcs and humans. The pantheon, at it’s core, is a tale of a primitive god adventuring in a cruel and frightening world. In his travels he encounters hostile forces embodied by Death, Death’s wife, and his daughters. First he flees from them, then makes war with them, learns to coexist with them, and ultimately marries the two daughters, creating the final four gods, his sons. Different cultures have elaborated on the tale to create complex mythologies, but the core story remains the same.
Many similarities can be seen between the Edroze and the Ka’alsa, the dark elf pantheon. As befits dark elf society, however, the positions of the deities have been inverted, so that the feminine forces associated with Death are the primary objects of worship.
Moving over to Mångata we have the Dwiztosc, a pantheon with deep roots in druidic nature worship. The humans, dwarves, and gnomes of this land see the world as shaped by two opposing forces–one male, one female–and divide nature into three elements: air, water, and soil. I took inspiration for this pantheon primarily from Slavic mythologies, but also from the early Indo-European mythologies that would become the Greek and Norse religions as we know them today. While they all worship the same entities, the different human, dwarven, and gnomish kingdoms each have unique mythologies, each leaning more Greek, Norse, or Slavic.
The Siyayushchiye, worshiped by the reptilian peoples of Mångata, include some of the same entities worshiped as part of the Dwiztosc. The main difference is that each of the Siyayushchiye are depicted as dragons, and each associated with a specific type of dragon. Although I’m trying not to include any of the typical gods of Dungeons and Dragons, I made an exception for Bahamut and Tiamat, whom I am partial to.
Now is probably a good time to mention that I’m eschewing the whole concept of alignments. I’ll talk about that more in the future, but Bahamut is not necessarily good, nor Tiamat evil. Dark elves and orcs aren’t inherently evil, either, though the moral code of a specific dark elf or orc culture might conflict with those of a specific human or dwarf culture. Then again, the mores of one dark elf society would probably conflict with another dark elf society. The idea that your race defines your morality seems inherently problematic to me.
Finally, the Tahual are the predominant pantheon of Nikte’ul. They are a loose pantheon of deities from all the cultures of the continent, making it a little more difficult to identify any unifying themes in the mythology–with two major exceptions. The worship of entities depicted as snakes is universal to the cultures of Nikte’ul, even in regions that are not home to snakes. In addition, they all incorporate the motif of sacrifice–often the sacrifice of sentient beings in order to appease the gods.
Shaping the Shapers
Very much a work in progress, but here’s a list of the deities I’ve created so far, with their associated portfolios and domains.
- Kabua-Mbosano, exploration, discovery (War)
- Ilotho, sun, wealth, law (Light)
- Arenyankha, sky, moon, wisdom (Knowledge)
- Lahnkonto, rain, health, luck (Life)
- Ehin, darkness, mysticism, messages (Trickery)
- Uku, forests, thunder, death (Death)
- Tsetse, birds, lightning, fire (Tempest)
- Togefa, mourning, disease, blood (Grave)
- Khunzel, the hunt (Nature)
- Telmet, chaos, oceans, wonder, dragons, the sublime (Nature)
- Sahir, magic, knowledge, history (Knowledge)
- Sam’il, sun, sky, floods, storms (Tempest)
- Haqora, love, fertility, protection (Life)
- Sekhnare, war, the hunt, beauty (War)
- Sha’at, truth, justice, law (Light)
- E’te, creation, art, stability, crafts, earth (Life)
- Mar, desert, secrets, the unknown (Trickery)
- Q’ir, death, rebirth, balance (Grave)
- Iten, change, vengeance, revolution (Death)
- Sin, writing, wisdom, moon (Knowledge)
- Kayr, beer, celebration, gardens (Nature)
- Ballobar: sun, men, music (Light)
- Chertes: moon, women, the hunt (Death)
- Sovenicar: judgment, fate, wisdom (Knowledge)
- Dreva: life, harvest, fertility (Life)
- Ogneyr: fire, sacrifice, war (War)
- Agasz: trickery, invention, writing (Trickery)
- Zvor: sky, air, thunder (Tempest)
- Ruen: earth, water, nature (Nature)
- Svade: underworld, soil, death (Grave)
- Bahamut: sky (Light)
- Tiamat: sea (Nature)
- Zolto: gold, writing (Knowledge)
- Serebryn: silver, luck (Trickery)
- Ronza: bronze, trade (Knowledge)
- Latuun: brass, crafts (Light)
- Meadh: copper, harvest (Life)
- Kasnyr: red, war (War)
- Sinai: blue, travel (Tempest)
- Zelna: green, nature (Nature)
- Belyn: white, hunt (Death)
- Chyra: black, death (Grave)
- Miqlectli, goddess of death and rebirth (Grave)
- Toltlamet, god of art and the hunt (Death)
- Atzinachtli, goddess of the moon and fertility (Life)
- Tlahuicatl, god of the sun and corn (Light)
- Coacpac, god of the wilderness and medicine (Knowledge)
- Iltepetl, god of storms and agave (Tempest)
- Xocoyotl, god of trickery and travel (Trickery)
- Tletatl, goddess of love and war (War)
- Xelquetzli, goddess of ships and outcasts (Nature)