“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
These are fundamental beliefs widely held among all peoples throughout the known world.
The world ends; the world begins anew. Time is cyclical. The most recent end of the world was the Rending. Before that, there was Ragnarok, a battle between the giants and the gods. Before that, the Great Deluge, the Ever Winter, and the Time of Fire. The present world will be destroyed following a battle between Law and Chaos. Chaos wins.
Fates and Destiny
In the north, they are the Norns. In the south, the Moirai personify destiny. To the east, one’s destiny is determined by the stars. In all cases, the common term is “the Fates.” The gods obey the Fates. It is part of divine responsibility. Mortal creatures may choose to obey or to resist them. Diverse myths portray a hero’s struggle against the Fates and his or her success or failure.
Most folk, particularly those north of the World Dragon Mountains,2 are adherents to the Pantheon of gods. Followers revere all the gods, the Allfather chief among them.
The holy symbol is the Ouroboros, a serpent biting its tail. The symbol is presented with the “bite” at the circle’s top. The inverse presentation, considered heresy, signifies rebellion against the Pantheon.3
Rituals, ceremonies, and festivals follow the Ring Cycle, which comprises eight annual cycles of birth, death, and rebirth, and an overall cycle of worldly renewal. The faithful make rituals daily as well as monthly and seasonally.
As such, churches and cathedrals are dedicated to the Pantheon as a whole, yielding a central place to the Allfather. At the same time, temples, dedicated to a particular god, are not rare, while shrines may be either to a single god or to the Pantheon. In no case is devotion to the Allfather ignored.4
A religious edifice of a community is staffed by clerics, who attend to the religious, if not spiritual, needs of the faithful. These clerics may be of the adventuring class or minister clerics. Minister clerics may rise, though slowly, within the church hierarchy to hold upper offices.
|Village||Church (rarely temple)||Priest|
|Large Town (or City)||Church||Bishop|
|Major City||Church or Cathedral||Matriarch/Patriarch|
Each office is appointed by the next higher, usually influenced by its own superiors. For examples, the bishop of Valormr is appointed by the patriarch in the Grand Duchy’s capital city.5 The bishop appoints the curate of Odenwoad as well as that of Fyrir, and each curate appoints priests to surrounding villages.
In developing the DONJON LANDS setting, I strive to create only what is necessary for game play. Though I indulge to some degree when an opportunity to explore the world presents itself. In so doing, I follow two guidelines. Here I describe how they relate to the setting’s religions.
To save myself a tremendous amount of work, I use as models ancient religions of our own world. The religion followed north of the World Dragon Mountains draws from Germanic and Norse mythology. While, south of the range, the inspiration is from Greek mythology, and east of the (unnamed) central sea, Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian. Models not copies.
B/X Implied Setting
A goal of the Wyrmwyrd campaign is to develop a setting that corresponds to the rules as written. In B/X, clerics “have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess” (B9). No gods are described. A DM, who so desires, might elaborate on the Pantheon to define a much more detailed and complex religion, while another might use only “the Allfather”6 as a generic god.
1 The quote is often attributed to Twain. The Quote Investigator debunks the myth.
2 The World Dragon Mountains are far south of the Throrgrmir Valley.
3 A sect or cult of Chaos might use the Ouroboros inverted among its membership—never openly in civilized communities. We may encounter the symbol more frequently in the dungeons.
4 One might imagine the predominant religion as pantheistic merging toward monotheism, as the Church of the Allfather consolidates its power.
5 As folk in Valormr prize their independence, there is some tension between the Lords of Valormr and the Church of the Allfather. The best they can arrange is for the Valormr bishop to be a local native, who then, so hope the Lords, keeps local interests in mind. That is not the situation at present.
6 Of course, one might want to replace the Allfather with the Allmother. I suspect a matriarchal religion—that is, one whose primary god is female—would look much different though, not just a change in gender. Further, it would be interesting to follow the evolution of a religion whose chief god is non-gender or non-binary or simultaneously male and female. I intend to experiment with these in future campaigns. Meanwhile, I would love to see your examples.