December 27th, 2007: This week we focus on yet another alarming 4th edition
discussion about deities this time by Wizards designer Matthew Sernett. Since I was busy with Needfest vacation
I sent my ace conspirator Cebrion to er...handle the interro...uh...interview. Below is a transcript with Cebrion's
added commentary in italics.*
WHY WE CHANGED THE GODS
by Matthew Sernett
The gods presented in the 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook originated in the GREYHAWK Campaign Setting. It might seem odd to tell you
that if you’ve been playing D&D for 10 or more years, but if you started playing during 3rd Edition you could easily have missed the
GREYHAWK setting or not know much about it. GREYHAWK was the original setting used by Gary Gygax for his home games.
I mention that because it shows how long ago those gods were designed.
We didn’t move forward in 4th Edition with that pantheon because its deities weren’t designed for the improved experience of D&D we were forming.
Yes, a name and spheres of control can be so utterly limiting when deciding how game mechanics work.
It must be why nobody has ever converted Greyhawk to another game system. Ever.
Also, its ties to Greyhawk and its uses in 3E wouldn’t sync up with the new cosmology and mythology we’ve designed to be better for play.
Totally agree there, dude. If only the old cosmology didn’t suck so bad that it inspired a whole outer planar campaign of its
own- PLANESCAPE. It even had a horrible PC game made for it that NOBODY bought!
We struggled with what deities to put in the game for a long time, and many factors influenced our final decisions:
• We don’t want deities to be thought of as omniscient and all-powerful. Omniscience and omnipotence makes it difficult to use gods in adventure plots
or have them interact with characters.
Yep, the deities have never interacted with characters in Temple of Elemental Evil, and they certainly had nothing to
do with the adventure plot. It does really suck that the Greyhawk deities were never statted out for the purpose of
direct character interaction. Actually, let me check my Greyhawk Folio and most every other
Greyhawk product featuring deities from there onwards…
• We want epic characters to be capable of challenging gods and even of becoming gods.
So true! So, Drizz’t is going to be a deity too? Hell yeah! If only somebody like Zagyg of Greyhawk could have done something like
this, or every noob’s 287th level gnome cleric/ mage/assassin/ barbarian could systematically kill every god in the order they appear in
Deities & Demigods! If only Greyhawk were a world known for having deities that were once characters. Oh, wait…
• We wanted deities to be designed for play in the D&D world. Sure, it’s realistic in a sociological sense to have a deity of doorways or of
agriculture, but it’s hard to figure out how a cleric who worships such a deity honors his god by going on adventures.
Ooh! “..designed for play in the D&D world.” What world would that be? Ah! It’s a
transcendental concept that you either “just get”, or not! Yes! It would be so nice if the Greyhawk gods had been originally
designed for play in a “D&D world”! Damn you Gygax for Greyhawk not being a D&D world! And I agree, what thief in their
right mind would want to worship a deity of locks and portals anyways? If only such things warded something like treasure or an
enemy stronghold! It’s a conspiracy I tell you!
• We wanted fewer, better deities. In your campaign, you can have as many deities as you want, but in order to design classes, a cosmology, and products that work well together, we wanted a good set of deities that cover most players’ needs without that pantheon being too complex and cumbersome.
• We wanted deities to represent the new game and new vision for the D&D world. For a long time we wanted to design a pantheon that was wholly new, but the harder we pushed it in that direction, the more it seemed like some of the deities of the 3E pantheon were a good fit for the game’s needs. Thus, the pantheon is a blending of old and new.
So, they threw out the work they had done because they couldn’t come up with anything good themselves, and so decided to
instead pick and choose deities from all of the different and unrelated campaign worlds, blend them together, and make an unrecognizable
whole that the new generation will consume as the “proper state of things”, all the while alienating the customer base that made D&D the
success that it has become in the first place. Brilliant!
Update: When I was at the market getting discounted Needfest junk I grabbed a copy of the Daily Inquisitor. Check out this want ad I found
in the classifieds section...
*No Matt Sernett didn't talk to Cebrion personally, this is satire. Har! Front page