One of my favorite roleplaying podcasts, “Game Master’s Journey,” has been recording a series of episodes about the relative unpopularity of the cleric class, and how GMs can make clerics more enjoyable to play. They’ve echoed some of my own observations, and helped me think a little more clearly about what I wanted to accomplish when I created my own pantheon.
I think roleplaying works best when players feel that they have at least a minimum of orientation towards the world before they begin playing. Certainly, for me, I have never felt attracted towards a cleric or warlock character for that reason. D&D is fairly vague and careless in it’s attitude towards religion, deities, and the way that those concepts interact with the world and it’s inhabitants. Both the cleric and the warlock are conceptually dependent on a defining relationship with a supernatural world that is not clearly drawn.
In list form, here are some of the questions I thought it was pretty important to answer, and the answers:
Dwarves should be clever; not necessarily wise, or even particularly intelligent in the conventional sense, but clever. It’s a subtle distinction but important, I think, to their character.
Dwarves are not mundane. They are not merely small men (certainly not the stocky, angry, inexplicably Scottish men that modern pop culture has universally made them out to be.) What’s missing in most depictions of dwarves is an essential magic, an elevated, supernatural cleverness. We get our notion of dwarves mostly from Tolkien, of course, but they’re much older than that. In Norse mythology, the dwarves are closely related to dark elves, the Svartalfar. Like any good myth, dwarves are a metaphor: they fascinate because they represent the spark of creative, destructive magic. They combine intemperance with wonder and amazement.
The Norse dwarves were dangerous, sharp-minded, over-eager to invent, to dig deep, but they also were unattached. They didn’t belong in Midgard. I think Tolkien realized that and created a story for them which gave them an authentic connection to the world. My dwarves are definitely thematic relatives of the norse dwarves, but I’ve taken a page out of Tolkien’s book as well. The story of the dwarves is a developing tragedy; slowly, they are falling asleep and returning to the stone that they were illegitimately hewn from. If your connection to the world is a tenuous one, then a threat to that connection makes it all the more important. I’ve got a short story on the way that goes into it a bit.
Before we do anything else, we should know what kind of world this is going to be, in the broadest sense, right? Where does it come from? To get a sense of history and form some idea about what the future might look like, it seems logical to go the beginning of relevant developments. For Felmoor, we go all the way back to the literal beginning of the world, which depending on how you look at it, is also the end of the world.
I came up with the basic idea for Felmoor back in highschool. It was called Telmor back then. I was super into Beowulf, and I’d been reading Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda so there was some Norse myth bouncing around in my head. The big influence, though, was “The Silmarillion” and what emerged was in some ways an intentional imitation of Tolkien’s account of the creation of the Midgard. Felmoor is a little bit different, a little more modern, but it’s got a similar profile.
The creation narrative below the jump is eventually going to be part of a “Player’s Overview.” The overview won’t be exactly analogous to the “Player Handbook” for vanilla D&D. It’s intended to be the bare minimum of lore, geography, etc. that players new to the setting need to know before playing. This is just a draft. The final product should probably be a lot shorter, and go into less detail.