Divine Inflation

It was recently pointed out to me that Pathfinder deities – not necessarily the deities of Golarion that Paizo uses, but any deities written for a Pathfinder game – have had the bar raised on the information they “need” to have included. Traditionally, the bare minimum you needed was only the following:

  1. Clerical Domains: Self-evident in their necessity, every god has clerical domains that reflect their various portfolios. Traditionally, any god will always have the alignment domains that correspond to the non-neutral portions of its alignment. Pathfinder has stated that, for their setting, true gods have five domains, whereas demigods and other quasi-divinities (e.g. archdevils, empyreal lords, etc.) only have four.
  2. Alignment: This is necessary so that clerics (and other classes, such as warpriests) can follow the “one step away” rule with regard to their alignment and their deities. This also goes for things like the prohibition on casting spells with an alignment descriptor opposite of part of their deity’s alignment.
  3. Favored Weapon: In Pathfinder, clerics et al automatically gain proficiency with their deity’s favored weapon. This also matters for a few tidbits here and there, such as the spiritual weapon spell.

That’s technically all you’re required to have, in terms of game mechanics that are necessary for potential PCs. Obviously, most entries will want to flesh that out with things like the deity’s areas of concern, holy symbol, etc. But those three are the main things that the game rules are concerned about insofar as what’s salient with regards to PC character sheets.

But the ever-expanding options that Paizo has put out has resulted in numerous other options for PCs with a strong focus on the divine. The result is that there are now quite a few other things that deities can offer, meaning that what options a particular god makes available now needs to be taken into consideration when presenting new deities. This can be tricky, if for no other reason than because some of these options are quite easy to overlook. These include:

  1. Subdomains: The most popular of the optional divine rules, subdomains represent a twist on a domain, typically to make the god’s domains more closely match their portfolio. Each subdomain is tied to a particular domain, and if the deity offers both than you can choose whether or not to take the subdomain when you take the parent domain; if a particular subdomain is not offered, then you can’t select it. Interestingly, the Inner Sea Gods book clarified that a god can offer a subdomain but not the parent domain; that allows you to take the parent domain as modified by that subdomain, but not take the unaltered domain. Paizo has also established, for their setting, that true gods offer six subdomains whereas quasi-divinities only offer four.
  2. Animal and Terrain Domains: These are domain options that can only be taken by druids (though a particularly-focused nature-adherent that gets domains might be able to choose them also). The tightly-focused aspect of what sort of characters these apply to means that not all deities might offer these, which will characterize several of the other options found here. A god of urban development, for example, probably won’t have any of these domains.
  3. Inquisitions: These are essentially clerical domains without granted spells, offered as specific choices for members of the inquisitor class, though a cleric (or similar class) could take one in place of a domain if they really wanted to. While it’s odd to consider, the presentation of the inquisitor class seems to imply that – unlike druids or paladins – they’re universal with regards to what deities have them. It’s odd to think of an inquisitor of a deity of peace and tolerance, but apparently they’re out there!
  4. Mysteries: Including mysteries here is a bit of a stretch. The flavor text for oracles specifically says that they draw their power from multiple patron deities who support their ideals, rather than any single god. However, I’ve also seen that particular bit of fluff overlooked or ignored quite a few times…possibly more often than I’ve seen it followed. To that end, having deities include specific mysteries seems like a “better to have it and not need it”-type thing. If you really want an oracle that’s dedicated to a single deity, having specific mysteries for them is a nice touch.
  5. Paladin Oaths: While these are all technically variations of the Oathbound Paladin archetype, each oath is essentially an archetype unto itself. Given that these are explicitly tied to compatible deities – rather than being secular variations of how particular (orders of) paladins operate – it’s self-evident that deity presentations have these, albeit only for gods that would have paladins in the first place.
  6. Variant Channeling: Not all deities are concerned with healing the living and harming the undead (or vice versa). Variant channeling offers alternate channeling options based around the theme(s) of a deity’s portfolio. Given that channeling is ubiquitous, and rather iconic, among clerics and similar classes, listing what variants are available should be remembered much more often than it is.
  7. Witch Patrons: This is another dubious inclusion. I’ve spoken before about the possibility of a witch’s patron being a deity, but that remains nebulous at best. I prefer to look at it this way: if divine spells can be granted by non-deities (e.g. demon lords, fey elders, Great Old Ones, etc.), then why can’t deities be a kind – though not the only kind – of patrons granting arcane spells to witches?
  8. Deific Obediences: This one feat typically requires more work than any of the other options here. Open to potentially any character regardless of class, this feat requires that every deity not only have their own obedience bonuses and requirements to achieve them, but also expanded benefits for the evangelist, exalted, and sentinel prestige classes…which I suspect leads to a lot of GMs either disallowing those classes or ripping off the expanded obedience entries in Inner Sea Gods wholesale.

As a note, I haven’t included spirits – the shaman class’s version of domains – here because shamans are explicitly stated to turn to spirits as an alternative to gods. If, however, you think that spirits should be more closely tied into the divine hierarchy, it may make sense to treat gods as having dominion over certain types of spirits as well.

That’s quite a lot, and more than virtually any divine entry bothers to include. That’s a shame, because not presenting those listings essentially locks out – or at least puts the onus on the GM to invent – those options for players that want to know the full range of what their deities offer. More than that, expanding that information helps to present (albeit in a rather metagame-y way) the manner in which the gods make their influence felt in the game world.

And that’s without getting into things like a deity’s preferred planar ally.

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