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The Olympian Pantheon Part I: Introductionby Jonathan Becker
Although the Immortals of D&D and the Deities of AD&D (and DND3.5) are technically different origins...the former are "ascended mortals" while the majority of the latter are Outsiders from other planes of existence...functionally they serve the same purpose in both games: i.e. they are the "gods" that are worshipped by mortals and responsible for the creation, maintenance, and (sometimes) destruction of reality. Other than the origin of the Immortal species, the real difference in the D&D game is the designers' attempt to skirt the whole issue of gods and religion. The Cyclopedia simply defines a cleric as a character "dedicated to serving a great or worthy cause;" which I suppose is to say that other characters in the game serve only the basest of their own self interests!
Anyway, calling a spade a spade, the Immortals are indeed "the gods" of the D&D multiverse, ascended mortals have achieved "godhood" through their own actions, and clerics are their "priests" of Mystara who shepherd and instruct their followers in the ways of their patron gods.
So then the question is: where are the Greeks?
In all my old D&D campaigns (Advanced or otherwise), the Greek pantheon of gods always formed a substantial foundation for the theology of the game world. There is a simple reason for this: as one of the richest traditions and sources of mythology in the Western world, I grew up knowing all about Zeus and Heracles (Hercules to some of you rubes!) before I even started playing D&D. Certainly many of the mythical monsters in the D&D game world come directly from the ancient Greek myths: Medusa, the Hydra, Chimera, Pegasus, and of course Cyclops (oh, how I loved the Cyclops!). And where did the proverbial "bolt from the blue" for alignment deviation come from, if not from tales of Zeus? One would think the Greek gods of myth and legend would get some respect in the OD&D game.
And I can't for the life of me figure out why. It's not because the game designers decided to skip out on ancient deities of the real world...the Norse gods form a very prominent and powerful portion of the Immortal roster in WotI (including the reigning Hierarchs of both Thought and Entropy!), despite having worshippers in only a small part of the Mystaran Known World. What gives?
Is it because the idea of Greek gods smacked too much of toga-wearing and spear-chucking for a "medieval" game world? I'd point out that the real world Romans were worshipping the same gods, albeit with different names, and were skilled in the use of iron weapons, tools, and armour. Plus, togas can be both stylish and comfortable in a land like Thyatis or Alphatia.
A closer perusal shows some of the Immortals may be the equivalent of Greek deities. Faunus is an obvious emulation of Pan. Nyx was a Greek titaness, an aunt to Cronus (Khoronus), and sister to his mother Gaia (Djaea). Thanatos is the Greek name for the personification of Death, a much lesser god-being than Hades, though present in the Greek pantheon.
So I guess some of the Immortals in WotI could be used for "Greek flavour." Others, like the Norse could be converted to their Greek equivalents just as the ancient Romans and German tribes did. "Thursday" for example used to be the day of Jupiter (the Roman name for Zeus), but was converted to "Thor's Day" (Thor being a thunder god just like Zeus). Likewise, "Wednesday" is associated with Wotan (Odin), because it was originally named for Mercury (Hermes)...both gods being associated with magic and knowledge. You can see this easier when you compare the Germanic-English names for the weekdays with the equivalent names in Latin tongues: Wednesday in French or Spanish is Mercredi or Miercoles (again for "Mercury").
But what if you want the REAL Greek deities in your game? I don't want Odin (the king god of the Norse) standing in for Hermes (the sly messenger of the Greeks)! Well, there's always the troubling "Greek pretenders" of IM2. For those who don't understand the change in Level/Status from the module to WotI, I would think the answer is fairly obvious...the pretenders were drained of their Power down to Initiate level as punishment for direct interference in the Prime Plane. WotI is pretty clear about what the penalties are for this kind of action, and if slaughtering thousands of Darokin troops and demanding tribute/worship isn't "direct interference" than I don't know what is!
Of course, the Immortals of IM2 are not supposed to be the actual gods...they are simply "pretending" to be the Olympian gods. But as I said in the beginning of this article, call a spade a spade: Immortals ARE gods in the D&D game world. They have all the power any Olympian could ever have displayed in myth; heck, they have MORE power than many displayed! I find it disingenuous to call them "impostors;" if they are not "real" gods, then what are the real Olympians?
Okay, with all that being said, you might start to get the idea I've some fairly strong feelings on the subject. As such it's about time someone (that would be me) did something about it.
Here is a list of the Immortals that will be considered as part of the Olympian Pantheon (even those that do not reside on Olympus), listed by Sphere and Rank:
Gaia, 36th Level Hierarch*
Athena, 30th Level Eternal
Hecate, 18th Level Celestial**
Hestia, 17th Level Celestial
Pan, 11th Level Temporal***
Chiron, 4th Level Initiate
Hera, 33rd Level Hierarch
Aphrodite, 28th Level Eternal
Ares, 27th Level Eternal
Ouranos, 22nd Level Empyreal
Hephaestus, 14th Level Celestial
Hebe, 6th Level Initiate
Poseidon, 34th Level Hierarch
Demeter, 29th Level Eternal
Kronos, 24th Level Empyreal****
Prometheus, 12th Level Temporal
Zeus, 36th Level Hierarch
Rhea, 25th Level Eternal
Hermes, 23rd Level Empyreal
Apollo, 21st Level Empyreal
Artemis, 20th Level Empyreal
Dionysus, 16th Level Celestial
Heracles, 9th Level Temporal
Hades, 35th Level Hierarch
Nyx, 26th Level Eternal****
Erebus, 19th Level Celestial
Persephone, 15th Level Celestial
Thanatos, 13th Level Celestial****
Charon, 8th Level Temporal
* Gaia may use either the same stats as "Djaea" or "Terra." I prefer Djaea, but adjust level to 36th.
** I have created Hecate as an Immortal of the Sphere of Matter, but she can easily be used as a member of the Sphere of Energy (sponsored by Ouranos) or Entropy
*** Pan uses the same stats as "Faunus" from WotI without adjustment.
*** Kronos, Nyx, and Thanatos are much the same as listed in WotI; however, all have been reduced in status to reflect their lesser importance in the Greek pantheon of gods. Compared to the Olympians, they are much diminished in power.
Part II and III of this article will have the statistics for the various Immortals of the Olympian Pantheon.
Part IV will explain some ways of adapting the Olympians to your Mystara campaign!