I’ve always been a fan of the Devotion-powered deities. Gods that only exist so long as there are those that believe in them, and as a corollary, are only as powerful as their base. Gods with few believers are weak, and those with more believers are stronger. Gods who have no followers die. This leads to an interesting question for Astoria.
Thousands of years before Astoria was founded originally, the Seven were imprisoned deep underground, cutting them off from the outside world, and leaving them unable to use their powers. By my definition of gods, the Seven would have slowly faded as faith in them declined, eventually killing them.
But this did not happen, as the seven are quite well in the time of my campaign, leaving me to question what they are. The answer came to me in an unexpected way. Some friends of mine who does not play RPGs was invited to a game of 5e with their coworkers. One was hesitant, and having trouble figuring out what he wanted to play, so he came to me. We talked at length before deciding on Warlock, and as I was looking at patrons, it hit me. The Seven are not Gods, they’re Patrons.
Now what is a patron, you ask yourself, or at least hypothetical you asks for the sake of narrative flow. Patrons are living creatures of great power. Patrons can act in almost every way that a god can, including granting spells and powers, sending avatars to aid their followers, and when needed, show up in person to deliver some required whoop-ass. Most are functionally immortal, if not actually so, but their existence within the mortal realm leaves them open to traps, such as the one that got the Seven locked away.
The other difference between gods and patrons is desire. Gods only desire two things: more followers, and to provide to the followers they have. Patrons however, are complex and unique entities, and as such, can have varied and unique goals, much the way a regular person can.
The Origins of Gods and Patrons
Gods are primarily formed from dead people of note. Not that they are those people, for often godhood is not achieved for several generations after a hero’s death, as their stories get told, retold and changed with time. A great protector of a village, once known for her deeds defending off a rival village during a drought, has stories told of her deeds to children, who then embellish those stories and tell them to their children. After a few generations of this, she has gone from being a leader of a small militia in a time of need, to a one woman army, who returned the rain and fought off the enemy with the power of storms, and thus, a goddess of the weather is born. She likely has the same name as the hero who birthed her, but has none of the memories or personality, save that which was passed through story.
Patrons on the other hand were once mortals, in some way. Spirits of knowledge are often the result of a great wizards gambit for immortality. Liches, bored of their kingdoms after a few dozen centuries, look to greater power. Ancient Fey, their attachment to modern reality lost to time, find peace in the long beyond. These patrons fuel themselves, and are, theoretically killable. To do so would be no easy feat, and is most often undertaken by others of their kin. Rivalries and feuds are not uncommon in beings of great power, but similarly, brotherhoods and pacts are equally common.
Running Gods vs Patrons
When running a God, it’s important to keep an empty mind on the present goings on in your world. Gods don’t care about wars between cultures, unless followers are at stake. Even a god of love and compassion will sit idle while a tyrant holds the throne, so long as he pays lip service to them. The motivation of gods is entirely growth based, and thus only intervene when growth is hindered.
Patrons however, have goals, and will work to achieve those goals, but also acknowledge the goals of their followers, often offering a give-and-take relationship.
If you want to chat about this post, come by the subreddit. I’m planning to start getting the social half of this going now that I have something to show for it.