DESIGNER’S DIARY 16: DEITIES OF CONFLICT – HOBGOBLIN GODS

Before delving into the details, we established a distinct approach for hobgoblin deities, separate from orcs. First and foremost, hobgoblins are practical people. They are not as conservative or fanatical as orcs, so their relationship with deities should reflect this. Despite the expectation of dominant lawful evil deities, we did not apply this to hobgoblins.

Hobgoblins believe that a deity’s most significant attribute is its success, primarily in warfare, and its ability to survive. Therefore, we conceptualized hobgoblin deities as paragons of certain domains. If there is a deity associated with magic, it should be the best war wizard, for instance. If there’s a deity associated with leadership, it should be the most formidable commander. In essence, they needed to be exemplars rather than divine beings.

Regarding the details, the hobgoblin pantheon was one of the areas we invested significant thought into. Nomog-Geaya and Bargrivyek in the existing hobgoblin pantheon were rather lacking in detail. Additionally, Maglubiyet had an overwhelming influence on the existing pantheon. Thus, substantial adjustments were required in this regard.

There were two primary ideas for the hobgoblin pantheon. Firstly, each deity was seen as different incarnations of the same entity, representing various aspects of warfare. This singular, powerful lawful evil entity could be viewed as a god of sieges, duels, combat spells, and more, depending on the situation.

However, this approach risked one entity becoming overly dominant. Hence, we transitioned to the second idea—a pantheon with significant historical relationships between the deities, all centered around warfare.

Essentially, there would be four deities (which was the case, with some modifications). The first was the leader, a commander representing tactical warfare and dominance. The second was a weapon master, focusing on direct combat and weapon skills. The third would handle combat spells, while the fourth would cover ambushes, reconnaissance, logistics, and related matters.

After designing these four deities conceptually, we realized they were all lawful evil. However, we wanted to provide alternatives for all races, and we had no good or chaotic deities on hand. Creating some kind of chaotic good rebel deity was the most obvious choice, but it wouldn’t be a very original idea. The lawful evil vs. chaotic good theme had been explored countless times and wasn’t particularly novel.

Therefore, we decided that one deity should shift towards good alignment, and we also needed a deity who was chaotic (preferably chaotic neutral). But the question remained: which one would transition to the good side?

The leader was out of the question. It had to be one of the weapon masters, spellcasters, or scout deities. Upon closer examination, we realized that the theme of the weapon master could essentially be used for the leader as well. We’ve seen many famous characters transition from lawful good to lawful evil, right? Characters like Anakin Skywalker or Lord Soth are excellent examples. However, the reverse is not so common. There aren’t many instances of lawful evil characters becoming good. So, what if the greatest weapon master, the hobgoblin, who was lawful evil, were to turn towards good?

We thought about this extensively. In some Far Eastern films, there are scenes where the greatest weapon master teaches individuals who are initially reluctant to use the weapon. Could this weapon master not be as evil as initially assumed? Could it incorporate themes like honor or peace?

At this point, the weapon master started to take shape. It was named Chaxar and we crafted a story about how he departed from the hobgoblin pantheon and joined the side of a mighty lawful good deity. If you read Chaxar’s story carefully, you might notice that the deity he joined was Heironeous. When the powerful knightly deity perished, Chaxar, who was his most powerful aide at the time, became a kind of deity of knighthood. He also became an enemy of the hobgoblin pantheon. It’s an intriguing story.

What about the chaotic neutral deity? For this, we pondered extensively on the nature of lawful evil. Ultimately, we found inspiration from the modern world. This deity, named Vual, would be gender-neutral. They would stand against all stereotypes, impositions, coercions, and tyrannies. So much so that they would be bold and perhaps fearless enough to oppose lawful good deities like Chaxar. Vual would have no hierarchical structure, but like people who organize quickly on X nowadays, they would be able to communicate rapidly and create very powerful social or economic sanctions.

In this context, Vual is not a caricature. They are a refuge for players and perhaps DMs who want the in-game representation of their real-world beliefs. How much you use Vual in your games is entirely up to you. They might even become a collective consciousness of rebels rather than a real deity.

Of course, the leader deity became Malath, taking inspiration from Malathgargon, the hobgoblin city we’ve long used in our games. The spellcaster, Belfuun, became Chaxar’s twin sister, and a great drama was written between these three. The scout, Ychelgu, became silent, lethal, and charismatic.

However, Chaxar and Vual were not part of this, and the hobgoblin pantheon was reduced to three. At this point, we focused on another aspect of war. Just like in the case of orcs, we added Ovgorad, who was once mortal, as a fourth deity. He is the brilliant engineer who designed the massive hobgoblin city of Malathgargon and is proficient in all forms of creation. Unlike Chaxar, he would be entirely loyal to the pantheon.

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