Posts Tagged ‘Pantheons of the Multiverse’

Pantheons of the Multiverse: The Babylonian Pantheon

October 29, 2016

Writing this series has highlighted just how much D&D’s “generic” pantheons – those pantheons that, for the most part, are based on real-world religions and mythologies – have been downplayed in the game’s presentation.

This can largely be attributed, I think, to their lack of ties to any specific campaign world. Since so much of D&D is written with specific campaign worlds – worlds with defined pantheons – in mind, this has essentially locked these deities out of a large amount of D&D products. Obviously, this is more of a generality than an absolute; just look at Planescape, after all. But it’s still a point worth considering.

Perhaps the area where this is most notable is with regards to D&D novels. If you’re a D&D aficionado, stop and think to yourself about how many times you’ve heard an Earth-based deity get name-dropped in a novel. There were instances of this out there, but they were few and far between.

Instead, most D&D novels were written for the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance, which have pantheons of their own. As such, it’s unsurprising that the divinities from Deities & Demigods/Legends & Lore would be so notably absent.

Of course, some pantheons have weathered this better than others…

Original D&D

I was surprised to discover that the Babylonian pantheon first appeared in AD&D 1E’s Deities & Demigods, rather than OD&D’s Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes. In fact, they’re one of the few pantheons here not to have that particular pedigree. Instead, the Babylonian deities are presented as a conglomerate with the Sumerian and Canaan deities as part of the “Near Eastern Mythos” article in Dragon #16.

Separating out the names used for Babylonian deities, it consists of Anu, Marduk, Ea, Sin, Ninhursag, Shamash, Ishtar, Tammuz, Ereshkigal, Nergal, Namtar, Tiamat, Apsu, Kingsu, and Nebo. It also has the mortal heroes Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and Utnapishtim. It also lists a few monsters and artifacts, and even name-drops several other deities, albeit with no further exposition beyond what they’re the gods of.

As expansive as this article was, few of these deities would make the transition to the next incarnation of the game. I suspect that this has more to do with AD&D’s expanded stat blocks than anything else, but it’s interesting to see this as being a “winnowing” of the pantheon as it moved into the modern age (with the caveat that some of these gods, such as Tiamat, made a home for themselves elsewhere).

AD&D First Edition

First Edition gave us a much reduced Babylonian pantheon. The nature of the gods, at least insofar as what they demanded of their worshipers, was now much more austere.

The rules for how priests of the Babylonian gods must conduct themselves in 1E seem incredibly harsh, to the point of being almost crippling. While I’d expect “helping enemies of your sect” to be a major transgression, “communicating with intelligent creatures or demi-humans” seems like a good way to destroy party cohesion before the game even begins. And if you do happen to say hello to an elf, the penalties include not only excommunication from your religious order, but a complete loss of all spells until you complete a quest to give your order a boost.

…I suppose that’s not as harsh as the Aztecs, at least.

There’s also an interesting note that the high priest must be a cleric/magic-user, which is a distinction I wish was expounded upon further. It’s at least somewhat intuitive to say that the high-priest will often be the king, but why do they have to know clerical and arcane magic both?

The gods themselves are rather few in number, consisting of Anu, Anshar, Druaga, Girru, Ishtar, Marduk, Nergal, and Ramman. There’s also a listing for Gilgamesh and Dahak, the latter of whom is “just” a monster, which ran counter to my expectations. Beyond that perfunctory presentation, there’s very few instances of the Babylonian deities in First Edition.

I should mention that the Forgotten Realms’ Untheric pantheon – which was already described as extinct when the first boxed set came out – was composed of Babylonian and Sumerian deities. As with the Maztican gods, the Untheric pantheon is different enough from its ancestor that I’ll set it aside for its own article.

AD&D Second Edition

Having started with AD&D 2E (by way of Basic D&D), I didn’t realize that the Babylonian deities were even part of the game. After all, they weren’t in Legends & Lore; eventually I learned otherwise, and started to think of the Babylonian gods – along with the Sumerian and Finnish deities – as “lost pantheons,” since the updated edition of the game had seen fit to leave them behind.

…except that it sort of hadn’t.

The Babylonian gods were given a new lease on life in Planescape’s On Hallowed Ground (which saw fit to keep the same eight deities). Although Planescape had been matter-of-factly talking about the Babylonian deities where it made sense to do so, this was the first time it had put them (along with many, many other deities) front and center. The premise was quite clear: they were and always had been part of the default background assumption of AD&D’s greater multiverse. (In fact, this book postulated a new origin for the Babylonian gods: that they collectively sprang into being, fully-formed, as the cast-off “desire for civilization” from the Sumerian gods.)

This presumption somewhat annoyed me, mostly because it felt like it was putting the cart before the horse insofar as “lore before game stats” was concerned. It was nice to see the “lost pantheons” being brought back, but the lack of information on specialty priests for these deities made this information largely academic. That was particularly true since the setting kept putting forward that two of the Sumerian deities – Nergal and Anshar – had recently slain Enki, a Sumerian deity.

That sort of plot, which underpinned the simmering tension between the two pantheons, would have served as great fodder if a PC were a priest of a god from one of those pantheons, since that kind of rivalry carries over to all associated persons. While I suppose they could have used clerics (which were generic to all deities), I’m still baffled that nobody ever wrote up specialty priest information for these gods.

Beyond Planescape, there’s very few instances of the Babylonian pantheon in action. Return to the Keep on the Borderlands made the bad guys worshippers of Nergal and Ereshkigal. Likewise, DMGR5 Creative Campaigning had AD&D 2E stats for Gilgamesh, along with Enkidu and original character Ahlkish.

D&D Third Edition

It’s somewhat fitting that the Babylonian pantheon would make their last appearance in D&D the same way they did their first: as part of a conglomerate pantheon in Dragon magazine. Specifically, in the “Mesopotamian Mythos” article in Dragon #329.

Similar to their presentation in Dragon #16, the Babylonian gods are subsumed, along with the gods of Sumeria and other ancient near-eastern civilizations, into a single pantheon. While it lists several aliases for most of them, the basic list of gods is Adad, Anu, Belet-ili, Ea, Enlil, Ereshkigal, Ishtar, Marduk, Nergal, Ninurta, Shamash, and Sin. A basic overview of each deity is given, including their clerical domains, making them playable for interested PCs.

I enjoy thinking of this as something akin to the “Twilight of the Gods” for the Babylonian gods and their related pantheons. Here, with many of their members now gone, the remaining deities have been forced to work together to remain relevant and survive. To that end, they’ve subsumed the aspects of their fallen brethren or simply decided to merge (re-merge?) before they died, hence the myriad aliases.

It’s a strategy that’s worthy of the Babylonians, doggedly working to make a place for themselves in a harsh and uncompromising world.

Pantheons of the Multiverse: The Aztec Pantheon

September 18, 2016

The presentation of the Aztec pantheon is one that’s been altered virtually every time it’s appeared in Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, even the name of the pantheon itself is different with each iteration, to say nothing of the component deities that make it up. Few are the pantheons that have this level of fluidity in their membership.

While it’s easy to look askance on this imprecision, I think that this has an upside to it as well. After all, the deities here have been repurposed not once, but twice within various AD&D game worlds. We see them in the gods of Maztica (though more as inspiration than a direct representation), as well as the Olman pantheon.

Despite the links between these pantheons, I’ll save my coverage of them for other articles.

Original Dungeons & Dragons

Receiving only two pages in the original Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, this collection of gods is called the “Mexican and Central American Indian Mythology.” Noting that information on these gods is scarce, the books lists only six deities: Quetzacoatl, Tonatuh, Huitzilopoohtli, Goddess of the Jade Petticoat, Tezcat, and Mictantecuhtli.

As with all of the gods of Supplement IV, the information on each god is limited directly to the deity in question, outlining their powers and abilities. Information on how clerics and priests of these gods conducted themselves, or even what the gods wanted from their worshipers, would have to wait until the next iteration of the game.

AD&D First Edition

In Deities & Demigods, the pantheon that these gods belonged to was called the “Central American Mythos.” Not only did the deities in question grow, but so did the available information on their overall nature, as well as those who would worship them.

I forgot to mention in my article about the American Indian pantheon (though I went back and edited it in later), but while deities in AD&D 1E didn’t have priesthoods that were tailored to them, the pantheons presented in Deities & Demigods did have, in their opening sections, modifiers that applied to priests of any god of that pantheon. I find that interesting, because while it’s less distinctive than having priests of each deity have specific abilities, it creates a thematic presentation for each pantheon as a whole, giving them a shared presentation in the game world.

For priests of the Aztec pantheon, this was not only limited to their commune and gate spells being restricted to the alternate Material Plane where those gods dwelled, but was found in the extremely harsh conditions that Aztec priest characters labored under. Even minor transgressions result in losing some wealth or some XPs. A major failure will see that offender not only losing all wealth but also all experience points, busting them back down to 1st level!

There’s also a notation that Aztec priest characters must choose a cardinal direction, and gain a bonus to attacks and spells made when facing that direction, but even though that’s generous for AD&D 1E, I have serious doubts as to whether it’s enough to make up for the high costs of failure. At least when your character dies, you can have them resurrected or roll up a new one; being robbed of all of your character levels in one fell swoop, however, is a penalty of such magnitude that I can’t see many PCs coming back from it.

…of course, that also means that, if you’re facing an Aztec priest character as an antagonist, defeating them once will usually be enough to put them out of commission for a long, long time.

Moving on, there a several more deities to be found here (deities who were present before, but have had a name change – notwithstanding minor spelling differences – have their previous name listed in parenthesis): Quetzalcoatl, Camaxtli, Camazotz (Tezcat), Chalchiuhtlicue (Goddess of the Jade Petticoat), Huhueteotl, Huitzilopochtli, Itzamna, Mictlantecuhtli, Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc, Tlazolteotl, and Xochipilli. There’s also a single entry for Hunapu and Xbalanque, twin heroes.

To summarize the changes from OD&D, only Tonatuh the sun god is no longer present in the roster. Given that the new sun god, Tezcatlipoca, is not only Chaotic Evil (which is also true for the Huhueteotl, the new god of fire) but schemes to overthrow Quetzalcoatl as head of the pantheon, a good in-game explanation would be that this god overthrew Tonatuh.

AD&D Second Edition

Now simply referred to as “Aztec Mythology” in the AD&D 2E Legends & Lore book, the pantheon has received another shake-up, though with thirteen deities it’s now slightly larger than its previous presentation. The gods listed are: Ometeotl, Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl, Mictlantecuhtli, Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc, Chalchiuhtlicue, Tlazolteotl, Xochipilli, Xochiquetzal, Metzli, Centeotl, and Ixtlilton.

Here, we can see that several deities from the AD&D 1E group have been replaced by newcomers. Camaxtli is gone, as are Camazotz, Huhueteotl, and Itzamna. Interestingly, we actually got an explanation (albeit one considerably after the fact) for what happened to Camaxtli, as he was stated to be killed by Tenebrous in the Planescape adventure Dead Gods. Similarly, both Huhueteotl and Camazotz are found with the aforementioned Olman pantheon; perhaps they were banished from the Aztec pantheon proper? Finally, there’s been a change in leadership, as newcomer Ometeotl is now the head of the pantheon.

That’s not the only change. In addition to having sections on Aztec history, culture, and religion (including a note that these deities now live in space in AD&D 2E, rather than an alternate Material Plane; it even mentions Spelljammer in this context!), we also get a new spell locate spirit animal, and a new magic item, the murky mirror. While Hunapu and Xbalanque are overlooked, we do get stats for three new notable personages: Nezahualcoytl, Nezahualpilli, and Axayacatl.

Finally, note that the “Sage Advice” column in Dragon #198 gives unofficial suggestions for what Tome of Magic spheres specialty priests of the Aztec deities should receive.

D&D Third Edition

The Aztec pantheon never received a formal debut in D&D 3E, but the article “Do-It-Yourself Deities” in Dragon #283 lists several pantheons as examples to be drawn upon when building a pantheon from scratch, the Aztec among them.

The gods listed there are drawn verbatim from the twelve in AD&D 1E, and aren’t given any real presentation besides what each one is the god of, their alignment, their clerical domains, and their typical worshipers. Still, notwithstanding knowing the deity’s favored weapon, that’s just barely enough to play a cleric of one of these gods in 3E.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

It’s unfortunate to consider that the Aztec pantheon, like the American Indian pantheon, was so thoroughly forgotten within the wider AD&D multiverse. They weren’t totally ignored, but they were still thoroughly overlooked, to the point where the instances where they were included are exceptionally rare.

Two members of the pantheon, Tlazolteotl and Xochipilli are – once again, just like Raven from the American Indian pantheon – featured in an adventure in OP1 Tales of the Outer Planes. In fact, it’s the same adventure, “A Simple Deed, Well Rewarded,” except that they’re kept in the background, being proprietors of a pleasure palace on a jungle world. Of course, both gods remain “off camera” the entire time. That’s also the case for Camaxtli in his aforementioned reference in Dead Gods.

Beyond that, there’s virtually nothing. I do recall that Camazotz gets name-dropped at one or two points in the Savage Tide adventure path in Dungeon magazine, but that’s a very minor reference.

Personally, I really wish that Spelljammer had given some reference to the Aztec deities living in wildspace, or even better: a short adventure involving one or more of them. There was a lot of potential for genre-mashups with mixing those two together, and I think it’s a real shame that we never got to see what that would’ve been like.

Pantheons of the Multiverse: The Arthurian Mythos

August 20, 2016

The name really says it all here. While both editions of Legends & Lore refer to this as “Arthurian Heroes,” I’ve chosen to go with “mythos” since both books include characters of decidedly less heroic bent. Either way, this collection of characters can’t be referred to as a pantheon, as – alone of all the entries in this series (with the arguable exception of the “gods” of Eberron, if I ever get that far) – this entry lacks even a single deity.

AD&D First Edition

The opening text in the the 1E Deities & Demigods book spends a scant two paragraphs talking about the characters of Arthurian mythology, and the first is to overview the nature of chivalrous knights. It’s only with the second paragraph that it touches upon the difficulty of using these characters in one’s AD&D game, and even then it brushes this aside by suggesting that it might be fun to “take a trip” to Arthur’s Britain.

It’s surely just a coincidence that the text then mentions that more information can be found in TSR’s Knights of Camelot Fantasy Boardgame.

The characters that we are then given stats for are: The Average Knight of Renown, Knight of Quality (followed by a long list of names for which the previous two stat blocks can represent), King Arthur, Sir Bernlad De Hautdesert (aka the Green Knight), Sir Galahad, Sir Gareth of Orkney, Sir Garlon, Sir Gawaine, Sir Lamorak, Sir Lancelot Du Lake, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Sir Palomides the Saracen, King Pelinore, and Sir Tristam of Lyoness.

AD&D Second Edition

The 2E version of Legends & Lore expands on its predecessor by a notable amount where the Arthurian Mythos is concerned. For instance, all of the entries mentioned above are here as well – save only for King Pelinore, who has been deleted for some reason – but now also include Queen Guinevere, the Lady of the LakeMordredSir PercivaleSir KayBedevere, and Naciens. There are a few stylistic changes as well (e.g. changing “Sir Bernlad De Hausdesert” to simply “The Green Knight”), but for the most part everything in the 1E book is here and then some.

More notable is the supplementary information that’s given. For example, we now have monster stats for the White Heart and the Questing Beast. Both Excalibur and the Holy Grail have magic item stats. There are also three new spells: impersonation, revelation, and protection from death.

What I found to be more notable, however, was the large introductory section that came before this. Presenting an excellent overview of the story of Arthur, it also talked about how to role-play in an “Arthurian Setting,” what the duties of a Knight of the Round Table were, briefly overviewed the nature of omens, portents, and transgressions in such a setting, and introduced a new character class, the pious knight.

The pious knight class has access to some divine spellcasting, and so includes a list of clerical spheres to which they have access. While it’s easy to wonder if this should have been expanded with the introduction of several new sphere in the Tome of Magic book, the fact that the text – after outlining the spheres open to a pious knight – says that they “have no access at all to other spheres” makes it seem unlikely that they’d have received any others.

Interestingly, the section on how to use the material here with role-playing – now expanded to four paragraphs – sticks to the advice of its First Edition counterpart and recommends treating Arthurian Britain as its own setting, or at the very least as an adjunct to a setting that happens to have a similar backdrop. It then goes on to outline how the PCs could function in King Arthur’s court.

I found this dissatisfying, for two reasons. The first was that it essentially walls off all of these characters from the wider AD&D multiverse. Unless we’re to essentially place Camelot and the surrounding environs in a demi-plane or Alternate Material Plane, there’s really no way to use what’s here in your bog-standard AD&D game, even if it allows for all sorts of cross-campaign hijinks (a la Spelljammer and Planescape) to take place.

Secondly, I don’t think much of the advice to make the PCs squires and would-be knights working their way up through the ranks of the Knights of the Round Table. Even if we overlook the issue of so many character classes breaking the setting conventions of Arthurian Britain – just try to imagine playing a thief! – and that the players don’t chafe at the yoke that chivalry imposes on them, having the PCs be just another set of squires and wannabe-knights seems like an imposition. While not all of the PCs might feel this way, I suspect that most players want their characters to break from the mold, rather than conforming to it.

All of these complaints, however, underscore the real problem with these entries: that ultimately the story of King Arthur is its own tale, with its own beginning, middle, and end, as well as cast of major characters. Ultimately, this leaves very little room for the PCs, and so it’s hard to visualize them as doing anything except serving as a disruption. Ultimately, while AD&D can be made to fit into the mold of the tale of King Arthur, it does so awkwardly (especially compared to games that were explicitly designed to do so, such as Chaosium’s Pendragon RPG).

Miscellaneous Thoughts

When I sat down to write this article, I had thought that there were no elements of Arthurian mythology that appeared anywhere in Dungeons & Dragons outside of the two sources outlined above. However, much to my surprise, I did find two others.

The first was that there’s an entry for the Holy Grail in the D&D Master Set. The second was that there’s a new – and much more powerful – entry for Excalibur in Encyclopedia Magica Vol. 4 (right between the entry from Deities & Demigods (as part of Arthur’s writeup) and the entry from Legends & Lore). Beyond that (and Excalibur getting name-dropped in the entries for the Ravenloft domain lord Ebonbane) however, I’m unaware of any other instances of Arthurian material appearing in any D&D products. That’s not entirely surprising, given the issues with using such elements that I noted above, but is still perhaps somewhat disappointing.

Were it up to me, I’d have tried to sit down and somehow come up with a “post-Arthurian” method of approaching these characters. That would have had something to do with trying to make it so that everything from the Arthurian myths have already happened, and now brought those characters to a place where the future is uncertain, perfect for the PCs to appear on stage to set things in a new direction.

That would have required bringing back King Arthur, of course. But on the other hand, maybe not, in which case your characters could be arriving just as Camelot is in need of a new king…

Pantheons of the Multiverse: The American Indian Pantheon

July 30, 2016

“Pantheons of the Multiverse” is an open-ended series of posts I’ll be doing where I talk about the various D&D pantheons. This isn’t meant to provide any particular sort of holistic overview of a given pantheon’s material, nor present any new materials to use in-game (though I may do either of these on a whim). Rather, this is just me looking at each collection of deities and expressing some thoughts on them.

While I’m not limiting this to any particular edition of D&D, there’s likely going to be a noticeable presentation of AD&D Second Edition resources here. That’s due to that edition having the most material where deities are concerned, as well as personal preference on my part.

What I find most striking about the American Indian pantheon is how completely they were forgotten. They currently have the dubious distinction of being one of the least-utilized pantheons in the whole of D&D lore. While it isn’t the most ignored collection of gods in the game’s history, you can count on one hand the number of game books in which gods from this pantheon appear, even in the latter days of AD&D 2E, when the holistic multiverse was given the greatest focus.

AD&D First Edition

Initially presented in the AD&D First Edition book Deities & Demigods (later renamed Legends & Lore), the American Indian pantheon has nine deities: Raven, Coyote, Hastseltsi, Hastsezini, Heng, Hotoru, Shakak, Snake-Man, and Tobadzistsini. Several heroes (Hiawatha, Qagwaaz, Stoneribs, and Yanauluha), and a single monster (Thunder Bird) and magic item (sacred bundle) rounded things out.

But after this, the pantheon disappears from the pages of 1E. The sole exception is an appearance by Raven in a single adventure in OP1 Tales of the Outer Planes, where he butts into a love triangle between Enki (Sumerian pantheon), Lliira (Faerunian pantheon), and Hecate (Greek pantheon). His appearance there is fairly ironic, considering that OP1 is the unofficial adventure supplement to the 1E Manual of the Planes, which didn’t feature any American Indian deities. (To be fair, that can be partially explained by most of the American Indian deities living, according to their entries, on the Prime Material Plane, which the Manual of the Planes ignored. This is an imperfect explanation, however, because the book also overlooked those deities that did live on other planes, such as Raven being on the Elemental Plane of Air.)

(EDITED TO ADD: One of the most interesting aspects to the pantheons found in Deities & Demigods is how they’ll introduce particular alterations to the priests who worship them. For instance, the opening paragraphs of the American Indian pantheon tell how symbolism is so important to Indian priests that they must have part of something to control it, such as sprinkling water to summon rain, or needing a fire in rituals involving demons or devils. Conversely, anyone wanting to cast any kind of charm spell on an Indian priest must know the priest’s name in order to affect them.

These flavorful alterations are largely absent in AD&D Second Edition, presumably because the introduction of specialty priests made this level of distinction unnecessary. Still, there’s something to be said for having particular quirks that are representative of a pantheon as a whole.)

AD&D Second Edition

When AD&D Second Edition released its own Legends & Lore book, the American Indian pantheon was presented again…but with several changes. A number of gods had been deleted, while a few others had been added, and several more had been renamed. The new pantheon looked like so (gods who had a different name in 1E have that name listed in parenthesis): Great Spirit, Sun, Moon, Earth, Morning Star, Wind (Hotoru), Fire (Hastsezini), Thunder (Heng), Raven, Coyote, Snake (Snake-Man), and Spirits. The same four heroes were also listed, while the Thunder Bird monster was gone (though there was a brief note in Thunder’s listing saying that it was an aspect of him), replaced by three new monsters: big head, gahonga, and ohdowa. Finally, the sacred bundle magic item was still there, along with two new spells: spirit animal form and bad medicine.

(EDITED TO ADD: Like all of the deities from Legends & Lore, the information for priests of the American Indian pantheon does not include listings for spheres from the Tome of Magic, as that book wouldn’t be published until almost a year after L&L came out. Skip Williams would later start writing unofficial updates for these spheres in his “Sage Advice” column in Dragon magazine. The update for the American Indian pantheon appears in Dragon #197.)

This is the single largest shakeup that I can recall for a pantheon, with the new presentation has a much more pantheistic/shamanistic feel to it. While this is presented in the 2E Legends & Lore as a complete retcon, I can’t help but wonder what an in-game explanation for why the pantheon is so different now would look like.

Such an explanation would require a history and presence in the game world, however, and without that there’s little that can be done based on the minimal presentation given here. Probably the best that can be done with that is to present a fantasy analogue of the European colonization of the Americas; that would probably have the American Indian pantheon being the original pantheon of humanity (or at least a large part of humanity) before other human gods came in and took over, marginalizing them. That could certainly explain why, in 2E’s Legends & Lore, the American Indian gods are now said to live in a demiplane that connects to the Happy Hunting Grounds (e.g. the Beastlands), rather than on the Prime Material Plane.

Of course, that’s just an off-the-cuff idea (and probably not a very good one, since I suspect that quite a few people would find offense in that). More likely, the easy way out would be taken: that both the First Edition and Second Edition presentations are said to be incomplete, and that the “full” American Indian pantheon consists of the aggregate list of gods from both.

Interestingly, there’s one more product in AD&D 2E that mentions at least some of the American Indian gods. Surprisingly, it’s not a product from the campaign-crossing settings like Planescape or Spelljammer. Rather, it’s found in the Forgotten Realms: FOR5 Elves of Evermeet. In chapter 4, it mentions that the green elves (e.g. the wild elves) of Evermeet worship Thunder (though they call it Eagle), Raven, and Spirits from the American Indian pantheon. More notably, they also have two other deities who – while not expressly said to be part of that pantheon – seem like a perfect fit for it: Bear and Wolf. Neither have priestly information given, unfortunately, instead having a brief description and abbreviated avatar stats.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

I recall being quite intrigued when I first read the listing for Spirits in the 2E Legends & Lore book, as that entry was a catch-all for pantheistic demigods that were all around. As such, that seemed like a great “canon” way to have divine spellcasters based around local deities, rather than better-known gods. Unfortunately, the Spirits entry said that they didn’t have normal clerics, instead granting temporary powers to those who made a genuine plea with a sufficient sacrifice.

While disappointing, there turned out to be other entries that were closer to what I was looking for. But those are for another post.