Originally intended as a rewrite of the 3 PDFs Greek Gods, Norse Gods and Egyptian Gods to take advantage of the 3.5 version of the D&D ruleset and the desire of readers for a 'dead tree' book on this topic, this project survived the demise of Bastion Press and has come to fruition with DragonWing Games, the company started by lead author Steve Creech. The intention, as stated in the introduction, is to take the stories, myths and legends surrounding some of the 'real world' deities of the past and present them in terms suitable for use in role-playing - be it fantasy or contemporary settings. Fantasy worlds, in particular, often have their own pantheons created for them, but even if you adventure there, some of the ideas herein may be suitable for mining for ways in which the affairs of your setting's deities may impact on the people dwelling there.
Chapter 1 looks at Avatars and Divinity. A staple of fantasy literature is the 'avatar of the gods' who does mighty deeds in the name of his patron deity and who may even ascend to godhead himself one day. It's one way in which a deity, who may well have other unfathomable concerns and not wish to meddle personally (or perhaps who does not wish to take the risk of mixing with those who may have little time for him!), can take a direct hand in what goes on in the 'real world' for which he is a deity. Here, an avatar is defined as a construct, directly made by the deity, rather than an inspired ordinary person, and the appropriate rules for creating one in the light of the deity for whom he will act are given. There is a whole range of special abilities to choose from, depending on the nature and interests of the deity involved.
For ordinary mortals, there is an option called Path of the Devout where by following strictures based on their chosen deity, they can receive specific benefits from their holy lifestyle. This is more aimed at the fanatical follower of a faith rather than those for whom it is a profession such as clerics. A follower of this path is constrained to choose classes, alignments and weapons based on what is appropriate for their deity, and swear an oath to him. In time, such characters may aspire to godhead themselves which, depending on how gods 'work' in your world may be possible. Characters of epic levels with such aspirations of grandeur need to take a feat called Divine Potential to even qualify for consideration, and when you read that a requirement to take this feat is to be 45th-level you can see that this is going to be an unusual event! The character will then be set a quest by his patron deity, and on completion of that can set about finding some worshippers.
Overarching mechanics dealt with, Chapter 2 turns to an examination of Egyptian Mythology. It's a complex area to explore, as even the Ancient Egyptians themselves had four conflicting views of how the world came to be and precisely which deities had a hand in it! One important note is how religion and state entwined, the Pharaoh was closely linked with the gods and many of his duties as ruler were religious in nature, while the priests were as much civil servants as servants of the gods! After an overview of how religion worked in Egypt, each deity is presented in turn, with all the game-related information you need should you wish to include that deity in your setting: symbols, domains, duties and rights of clerics, the requirements laid on those following the Path of the Devout and a complete rundown on an Avatar. There's even enough on the beliefs of the faith for people playing clerics to sound convincing about it!
Next, in Chapter 3 Greek Mythology is given the same treatment. Again there is a plethora of deities whose stories read as much like soap opera as they do of heroic legend. After an overview of Greek cosmology and life, each deity in the vast multi-layered pantheon is given the same individual treatment as the Egyptian ones, enabling you to introduce some or all of them into your setting.
Treading on more unfamiliar ground, Chapter 4 looks at Mesopotamian Gods. Again there is a vast array of deities, who all seem to be related to each other. The underlying theme is that there is a deity for every aspect of life - and again they are listed with copious game details.
Chapter 5 moves back to a more familiar theme: Norse Mythology. The Norse gods have one unique feature - they themselves are mortal and can be slain if they are very, very unlucky. Again, the major members of the Norse pantheon are given the 'game treatment' as with the preceding pantheons.
Chapter 6 is titled Heroes, and looks at heroes of legend - the ones who battled against enormous odds to succeed in a quest. Each one is presented with full game statistics, should he happen past where your adventurers are... or if you harbour designs on running the quests with the originals attempting them once more! It's an interesting mix with Beowulf, Perseus and Jason (the Argonaut one who hunted the Golden Fleece) rubbing shoulders with Cleopatra and Homer. I'm not sure just how much use these will be to most campaigns.
Chapter 7 is more promising - Magical Creations and Divine Artefacts. Drawn from legends and presented in game terms, these are unique items, often gifts from the gods themselves, and are powerful enough that they should be used in a game with caution lest they make things too easy... Best use probably as the goal of a quest (the Golden Fleece is in there for traditionalists!) or as a symbol held by a temple or ruler as a mark of divine favour - it would be a terrible shame if someone stole it after all.
Next, Chapter 8 presents some Prestige Classes which characters can work towards. While rooted in the deities and legends on which this work is based, many are general enough that, with some work on the backstory, you ought to be able to make those you like applicable to your own campaign world even if your deities are different. Several would also be well-suited to NPC use, such as the God Seeker who roams the world looking for those who have that divine spark within them.
Chapter 9 looks at Skills, in particular Craft, Knowledge and Profession ones which are directly applicable to the divine focus of this book. Some are of universal application - Knowledge: Siege Warfare for example - while others depend on the beliefs of your setting - so if it is believed that you can divine the future from the stars, a character might wish to learn Knowledge: Astrology to do so. Being able to craft clay tablets or cylinders is appropriate in those cultures where they are used, while the nature of your campaign will determine whether Profession: Temple Prostitute is allowed or not!
Chapter 10 turns to Spells and Domains, introducing many new ones based on the deities presented earlier in the book and the legends surrounding them. There is plenty here that will be of use either if these gods will have a place in your setting or if you are looking to design new deities for your world. Several of the domains turn up in different formats according to which pantheon they draw upon for inspiration. There are quite a few new spells which you might wish to use even in settings without these particular deities - most are of general application even if based on the mythologies discussed here.
Chapter 11 presents Creatures, Monsters and Lesser Powers - myths and legends are well-populated with beasts fit to test the mettle of the most competent adventurer, and while many have already found their way into monster books, here are some more. There is also a Child of the Gods template you can add to any being - so if your deities have a habit of seducing mortals you can cope with the results - and a selection of Divine Mounts so that if your gods visit the world in person they can ride in appropriate style.
Overall, this is a comprehensive presentation of four mythologies from the real world's past, with supporting rule material which would allow you to use them as is, or adapt those features - such as domains, spells and so on - which will fit into your own world. If you like devising your own deities and their mythology, this should give you some ideas on how to put it together as a coherent whole.
Return to Lore of the Gods page.
Reviewed: 19 August 2007