Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Eternal Gods of Inba Iro

When it comes to creating a new campaign setting, my creative process is whimsical. I flit from idea to idea, writing down whatever comes into my head, no matter how incoherent, returning later to elaborate on some of them while casting aside others. Which ones will ultimately earn my attention is unpredictable and not necessarily indicative of anything but a current fancy. Yesterday, that fancy turned to the names and interests of the gods of Inba Iro, the starting point for my upcoming fantasy campaign. 

The list (and even names) of the main Ironian gods presented hereafter is still in some flux, but it's taken firm enough shape that I felt I could share it. In working on this, I also felt like I've gained a better sense of both Inba Iro, its peoples, society, and culture, bits of which might even come through here. 

  • Aku: Goddess of secrets and silence.
  • Daha: A previously minor god of destiny, fate, and fortune, elevated to the role of a psychopomp by the Chomachto invaders.
  • Jilho: "The Protector," "The Dutiful Son," god of family, home, and law; son of the goddess Keru.
  • Jurd: goddess of waters and peace.
  • Keru: goddess of death, hope, and war.
  • Kotaro: god earth, fertility, and vegetation.
  • Nemu: goddess of fire, light, and the stars.
  • Omo: god of disorder, storms, and violence.
  • Sha: god of art, crafts, truth, wisdom, and writing.
  • Tast: god of burial, darkness, mourning, and night.
  • Thomalon: god of kingship, the sky, and the sun; an imported Chomachto deity who assumed the characteristics of several important Ironian gods.
  • Ton: god of the moons, time, and travel.
  • Ukol: god of abundance, agriculture, and medicine.
  • Ulant: goddess of music, oil, and wine.
  • Vulas: goddess of commerce and wealth; an imported Chomachto deity without much support outside the invaders.
  • Wa: "Completer of the World," the deity who brought sha-Arthan out of the primordial void.
As you can see from this brief sketch, the gods of Inba Iro are a mix of mostly native Ironian deities and a handful of imported/amalgam deities whose cults were brought/established by the new Chomachto monarchy and aristocracy. I've always been a big fan of cosmopolitan religious syncretism, but it's rare in most fantasy settings (Glorantha being one of the few that exceptions that springs immediately to mind). I decided to lean heavily into it in sha-Arthan and the final version of this pantheon may reflect that more clearly.

Something else that isn't clear from this list is that many of these gods are strongly associated with certain cities or region of Inba Iro. For example, Thomalon, being a new, amalgam deity has his great temple – and greatest influence – in the new imperial capital of Tamas Tzora (the "New City") and is largely unknown in da-Imer (the "Old City'), where Keru and Ukol are much more significant deities. Likewise, the Ironian pantheon includes dozens of minor gods that act as genii locorum and personifications of culturally important concepts. And that's not counting all the foreign gods worshiped by travelers and merchants to the Empire (as well as outside its borders).

I'm aiming for a riotous and promiscuous religiosity that better reflects the ancient cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world. I'll probably only achieve what I'm seeking after the campaign is fully under way, but I'm trying to put things on a good footing to start. We'll see how well I succeed in time.

14 comments:

  1. Interesting. I like your goddess Keru: death, hope and war. That might seem counter-intuitive but she is a goddess of endings and so also of beginnings, so therefore Hope.

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  2. I built a pseudo Christian world, with saints, lots of saints. so yah, everyone worships the big guy, sorta, but really, me as a second story man, I really care that Saint Dismas, protector of thieves remembers me....

    it let all the players work in what they wanted, cause I just added a quick note with a name ("saint...uhm..Dorlighter, patron of hammer wielding barbarians, yeah, that's it!") and let them roleplay it

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    1. it started cause I didn't like just copying the norse gods everytime, but I wanted some room for personal worship. also, my players are murderhobos, so "Quid lucrum istic mihi est?" (Latin for "What's in it for me?") so I had to give it some tailoring ability so each guy would have a reason to tithe (either cash or actions)

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  3. Interesting. Three things stand out to me:

    1) Samurai Jack has permanently made Aku a name with definite associations for me, none of which involve secrets and silence. Makes it harder for me to take seriously than naming a deity Mojo Jojo would, and if your players include other fans of the show they might have a problem with it as well.

    2) "Jurd: goddess of air and peace." You've got another god of storms, violence and disorder, and a third who has sky & sun in his portfolio. Feels like Jurd's role in air-related deific functions is a bit vague by comparison. Does she bring good weather? Helpful clouds and moderate tempertaures, maybe making her a partner of Kotaro (whose vegetation needs rain, not drought or searing heat) or Ukol (abundance and agriculture - although the latter probably includes irrigation, he still needs water from somewhere)?

    3) No one seems to deal with the oceans or other bodies of water. While rivers and lakes might have their own small gods, unless the area is far inland it would be pretty unusual for the seas to go without a deific patron of some importance. Not many coastal cultures that didn't have someone in that role, sometimes a whole group of gods for ones where fishing and sea trade were important.

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    1. This is helpful.

      1. For good or ill, I've never seen Samurai Jack. Is knowledge of it widespread enough that it'd be an issue?

      2. + 3. You noticed an error in my transcription! Jurd is in fact the goddess of waters and peace, not air. I shall make that correction.

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    2. 1) Honestly, I don't know. It was very popular on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s, talked about for years due to it being left on a cliffhanger, revived a few years ago to resolve the storyline with a mixed response from the diehard fan base, and currently in re-runs on CN (albeit in an awful time slot). If your players lived through the the "Oughties" with cable TV it's probably worth asking, especially if any of them are animation fans.

      Personally I found the show thoroughly enjoyable, with some striking (albeit stylized) art, solid writing that took itself just seriously enough without lapsing into pretentiousness, and a real willingness to experiment with its formula.

      2) Ah. I shall propitiate Jurd with an offering of fine aquamarines and opalescent fish scales before I next venture to sea, then. :)

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    3. Aku means evil in Japanese, which is where Samurai Jack took the name.

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    4. In that case, perhaps I should come up with a new name. Not being a Japanese speaker, I wouldn't have known that.

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    5. Ditto, had no idea. Fits the character - and makes the "...the evil that is Aku" line in the opening really a bit spot on.

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  4. Really atmospheric; I love that many of the gods have more than one string to their bow, and that the categories they cover aren't always immediately connected (at least to our minds). I'm a big fan of syncretism too. When teaching a class on the history of the Americas a few years ago while finishing up my PhD I always included a trip to a gallery at the university which had a range of artworks from the conquistador era of Middle America so that my students could get a real grip of how indigenous artists depicted the "new" God, Mary etc in their own terms and which often relied on their own notions of worship, deity, and concepts which were present in both christianity and their own religions.

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  5. You know I was starting to do this for my own world, and I started much like this. It's a fun and creative process inventing gods and religions and making them 'mean' something in the world. But the article “Reactions to OD&D: Gods & Clerics” keeps haunting me. Is there a way to go ‘back to basics’? Has someone created a logical and consistent ‘old school’ framework for clerics and religion that doesn’t require a traditional pantheon? Rick! Call me!

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  6. I feel like Omo is always working against Jurd, maybe even fighting a one-sided war.

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