A deity, also called a god or power, is an immortal being in the Dungeons & Dragons world with great power. Deities are heavily inspired by the polytheistic mythos of ancient real-world religions, such as the Norse pantheon and Greek pantheon.
The inclusion of deities in Dungeons & Dragons has been controversial with some fundamentalist religious groups, who feel that this presents a worldview incompatible with some modern day religious beliefs. During the run of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, deities were often referred to instead as "powers", while the Basic Dungeons & Dragons product line often described godlike characters as immortals.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Abilities and traits
- 3 Taxonomy
- 4 Notable deities
- 5 Publication history
- 6 Reception and influence
- 7 References
Definition[edit | edit source]
A deity in Dungeons & Dragons is approximately defined as an immortal being who receives the worship of mortals, and to whom clerics can pray in order to receive spells. Deities are typically humanoid in shape and possess power beyond that attainable by mortals.
Abilities and traits[edit | edit source]
The exact abilities available to a deity vary considerably betwen editions of Dungeons & Dragons. They also vary between campaign worlds and the campaigns run by individual DMs.
Immortality[edit | edit source]
In general, D&D's deities are not subject to age, disease, or any sort of death by natural causes and can live indefinitely. However, they can be slain by a sufficiently powerful opponent, such as another deity or a party of extremely high-level characters.
Taxonomy[edit | edit source]
Pantheon[edit | edit source]
Deities are often clustered into affiliated groups, known as pantheons, based on factors such as the world or worlds which their followers inhabit. These are usually based either on the D&D campaign setting which presents these deities (e.g. Greyhawk pantheon, Eberron pantheon) or the real-world culture from which the deities of the pantheon are drawn (e.g. Norse pantheon, Egyptian pantheon).
Some pantheons are further divided into sub-groups. For example, the Greyhawk pantheon can be divided based on the ethnic groups which worship them (e.g. Suel, Flan, Oeridian), while the Norse pantheon can be subdivided into the Aesir, the Vanir and the giants.
A deity may appear in more than one pantheon. The relationship between deities in a pantheon varies considerably. Some are close-knit and conduct regular meetings, while others have no connection except that they have followers in the same world.
Divine rank[edit | edit source]
Notable deities[edit | edit source]
- For a list of deities in D&D, see Category:Deities.
The full number of deities canonically appearing within the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse runs into the hundreds. Among the most well-known are:
- Odin, chief of the Norse pantheon
- Pelor, sun god of the Greyhawk pantheon
- Moradin, god of the dwarves in Greyhawk, Faerûn and other worlds
- Tharizdun, god of annihilation imprisoned in a distant location by the other gods for all time
Publication history[edit | edit source]
Prior to release[edit | edit source]
According to an ENWorld Q&A thread with Gary Gygax, the earliest deities pre-date the publication of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974:
- "When one "creates" a fantasy world setting that is totally divorced from our world, it is logical that special, unique deities are needed to fill it, for clerics subsume deities that are served. Thus I began adding deities to my campaign early in 1973, and those became the first deities of the World of Greyhawk."
Original D&D[edit | edit source]
The first published deities in Dungeons & Dragons appeared in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), a sourcebook created to provide game statistics for the gods of Egyptian, Indian, Greek, Celtic, Norse, Finnish, Central American, and Chinese myth.
Some sourcebooks made passing reference to the existence of gods or deities. Greyhawk (Supplement 1) (1975) mentioned beings such as Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu, the Shining One and and demi-gods as powerful beings who might be summoned by a gate spell.
- "It was just an amorphous concept. You played a cleric, you had a god, you prayed to--you didn't care what his name was, or what he was known for, or whether or not he turned wheat into bread. I don't care. My personal opinion, I don't care."
Basic D&D[edit | edit source]
The Dungeons & Dragons product line, which ran contemporaneously with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, targeted a younger and more mainstream audience and tended to avoid words like "god" or "deity".
The Basic Rules (BECMI) (1983) describes "mythological deities" as an optional flavor component, and is careful to advise DMs not to upset players' religious beliefs. The cleric in this book is described as serving "a great and worthy cause", usually one's alignment, and asserts that "theological beliefs" are not part of the Dungeons & Dragons game.
The Immortals Rules (BECMI) (1986) introduces the concept of Immortals, a form of existence to which high-level adventurers may ascend, and which includes mythical gods:
- "Some beings of historical myth, such as the "gods" of the ancient world, are included in this set as Immortals. Some of the beings once worshipped by the ancients are described here with even greater powers. But all are mere creatures, part of the game system."
The Rules Cyclopedia (1991), p. 13, concurs with the 1983 Basic rules, but additionally describes that a cleric may serve an Immortal.
AD&D 1st edition[edit | edit source]
The first deities original to Dungeons & Dragons were those of monster races. D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa (1978) named Bilbdoolpoolp, goddess of the kuo-toa. The demoness Lolth appeared in D3 Vault of the Drow (1978), where she was worshiped by the drow, although she was termed a "demoness" in this book and would not formally be defined a deity until later works.
Deities & Demigods (1e) (1980) expanded on the definition of deities and rules for their use, including mortals ascending to divine status. It included the pantheons previously mentioned in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976) and added the American Indian, Babylonian, Japanese and Sumerian pantheons; the Arthurian heroes; and numerous original monster deities, including existing demons or beings now promoted to divine status.
The original printing of Deities & Demigods featured the deities of copyrighted works: the Cthulhu mythos, Melnibonéan mythos of the Elric series, and the Nehwon mythos of Fritz Leiber's works. Copyright issues forced the removal of the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan deities from subsequent printings, though the Nehwon mythos remained. The book would later be reprinted as Legends & Lore (1e) (1985).
Perhaps the first D&D-original deities intended as the common religion of humans in the D&D world appear in the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983) box set. This introduced the deities of the Greyhawk campaign setting, many of which would later appear as the standard deities of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition.
The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1e) (1987) would introduce the alternative term "Power" as a Faerûnian word for "deity", although the term "god" was still used.
AD&D 2nd edition[edit | edit source]
The Dungeon Master Guide (2e) (1989) made reference to gods, goddesses, demi-gods and god-like creatures. The Player's Handbook (2e) (1989) explicitly stated that a cleric is an adherent of a religion and receives their power from a deity. This explicit mention of gods continued in other products, including PHBR3 The Complete Priest's Handbook (1990).
However, later sourcebooks would begin to use the alternative terminology "Power" instead of "god" or "deity". The Greyhawk box set From the Ashes (1992) refers often to the Powers of Oerth, but still uses the terms "god" and "goddess" in places. The Forgotten Realms sourcebook Faiths & Avatars (1996) likewise follows this trend. The Planescape series made heavy use of the term "Power".
Following TSR's bankruptcy and acqisition by Wizards of the Coast in 1997, the company became less wary of using the terms "god" and "deity". One of the first books released under Wizards of the Coast was Monte Cook's Planescape sourcebook Dead Gods (1997)
D&D 3rd edition[edit | edit source]
Wizards of the Coast's new edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game dropped the cumbersome term "power". In a first for D&D, the Player's Handbook (3.0) (2000) included descriptions of deities, selected from the Greyhawk pantheon.
D&D 4th edition[edit | edit source]
D&D 5th edition[edit | edit source]
The Player's Handbook (5e) (2014) dedicates a chapter, Appendix B, to the gods of the multiverse. It provides lists of the deities of multiple pantheons of various worlds and mythos, including the major gods of the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Eberron; the main non-human and monster deities; and the real-world Celtic, Greek, Egyptian and Norse pantheons.
Reception and influence[edit | edit source]
The use of fictional deities in Dungeons & Dragons has inspired many computer roleplaying games and other works to invent their own fictional religions or deities.
TSR employee Tim Kask expressed a dislike for inventing fictional deities, which had not formed a significant component of early D&D, and which could arguably be considered to violate Judeo-Christian religious rules against making false gods:
- "I've never felt really comfortable creating pantheons ... I don't like creating a hierarchy of gods, not in this sense. It's just something I've never been comfortable with, and I don't do. Whatever. Don't want that blue bolt to hit me."