Faiths and Pantheons
Faiths and Pantheons Capsule Review by Jeff Klingbeil on 29/11/02
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 3 (Average)
Is it "The Divine and the Defeated" on steroids? Yes and no.
Product: Faiths and Pantheons
Author: Eric L. Boyd and Erik Mona
Company/Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Line: Forgotten Realms
Cost: U.S. $32.95
Page count: 249
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Jeff Klingbeil on 29/11/02
Genre tags: Fantasy
“Faiths and Pantheons” is the Forgotten Realms book on the deities of the world of Faerun. Within the 249 pages (223 in the hardcover plus the 26 more in the two free web enhancements that Wizards of the Coast offers), all things religious in the Forgotten Realms is touched upon in a way to make it unnecessary to have “Deities & Demigods” to understand it all, although the “Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting” book is still essential here.
A First Glance
“Faiths and Pantheons” is a hardcover book priced at $32.95 U.S. Now, if you consider that “Book of Vile Darkness” is the same price, yet only has 191 pages, you will likely see what I see – a bargain. The cover of the book has a beautiful painting done by Brom (www.bromart.com) of a godly duel of good versus evil. The picture shows a hero in armor brandishing a glowing sword in the face of a much larger an ugly foe among dark clouds.
The interior art is in color. Carlo Arellano, Todd Lockwood, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Wayne Reynolds, Matt Wilson, Sam Wood join Brom in this book to make the same great art that was in the “Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting” book. The artwork of Raven Mimura and others are also included within which is overall very good as well.
The interior font size is small, which is typical and helps me swallow the price a little easier. I personally love the fonts that WotC uses for their Forgotten Realms line of products. Going that extra mile deserves kudos.
A Deep Delve
“Faiths and Pantheons” is divided into an introduction, four chapters and an appendix, along with two web enhancements.
The eight-page introduction provides explanations on native and immigrant deities, pantheons, dead deities, faiths, understanding the deity statistics, worshipping fiends, levels beyond 20th, deity synergy bonuses, deity spell casting, reading the deity entries, the granting of divine spells, and the handling of experience points for divine encounters. I liked the “Worshipping Fiends” sidebar the best, as it opens up ways to use “Book of Vile Darkness” rather nicely.
The first chapter is seventy-eight pages and is titled “Major Deities of Faerun”. Here, the thirty major deities of Faerun are listed and described. Each major faith is explained in detail, providing insight on their histories, relationships, dogmas, clergies and temples. These are better offers than what was given in the “Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting” book by far.
Statistics are provided for the deities, the avatars, and pets. Each faith starts out with a list of their symbol, home plane, alignment, portfolio, worshipers, cleric alignments, domains and favored weapon. All general information is then given on explaining the ways of both ordinary worshippers and the clerics, with statistics following afterwards. The information on each deity helps both the player play the cleric better and the dungeon master play the deity better, making for a richer and more enjoyable role-playing experience had by the both of you. New special abilities are included here and there for those which most relate to the aspect of that particular deity. Also of note is the help the information of the evil deities provides when trying to establish methods of an evil cleric.
The second chapter is sixty-two pages and is titled “Other Deities of Faerun”. Here, the deities of lesser note are described, but not in as much detail as in the previous chapter. For instance, you will not get as much explanation on the clergy and their temples. You also will not get any statistics for them or their avatars. While in the previous chapter, the deities were listed in alphabetical order; but here they are divided into their respective pantheons. The breakdown for the 89 deities in this chapter goes like this:
Minor Deities of Faerun (21 pages), Drow Pantheon (4 pages), Dwarven Pantheon (8 pages), Elven Pantheon (8 pages), Gnome Pantheon (6 pages), Halfling Pantheon (5 pages), Mulhorandi (Egypt) Pantheon (6 pages), Orc Pantheon (4 pages).
I must note that I was disappointed with the lack of statistics for avatars, as well as no divine rank statistic. I mean, why go through the trouble of creating divine ranks and then only give twenty-five percent of your deities them? While I suggest making it random with a d10 to make your own FR world more unique, the inclusion of the divine ranks would have gone a long way with me to help swallow a book which is, in my opinion, a new edition of a summarized version of previously written material with much improved artwork.
The third chapter is thirty pages and is titled “Places of Worship”. This chapter presents three detailed temples ready for use in your Forgotten Realms campaign. The three lucky deities to get this honor are Tempus, Shar, and Malar, in that order. Each entry is broken down into general description, ceremonies, services, hierarchy, initiation, allies and enemies, maps and map key, breaking in, adapting the temple, and getting the players involved. I wonder why the book’s authors go to the trouble of making statistics for the NPCs of the temples in this chapter, yet would not go to as much trouble for the minor deities in the previous one.
The fourth chapter is thirty-two pages and is titled “Champions of Faith”. I am happy to say that after surviving the problems with the previous two chapters, you will come across useful crunchy bits here – twenty prestige classes and a template. All of them are quite good. Wish there were more of them, though.
The appendix is ten pages and is titled “Deity Feats and Salient Abilities”. The appendix is broken down into feat descriptions, a new domain (Repose), monster deities, and a list of the Faerunian Pantheon. Prior to the monster deity list we are informed that deities not on the list do not exist in the world of Forgotten Realms. Now, I just have to wonder how much Wizards of the Coast are going to stick to this statement. Already I am wondering who the lizardfolk worship if Semuanya is not around.
The first web enhancement is twelve pages and is titled “The Leaves of Learning”. Here, we are given another detailed temple – this one for Oghma. It is done in the same way as the three temples of chapter three are.
The second web enhancement is fourteen pages and is titled “Deity Do’s and Don’ts”. Here we are given sections on using deities in the Forgotten Realms, how to handle a party which wants to fight a deity, how to make deities “unfightable beings”, a list of monk and paladin orders for the deities, talk on different kinds of manifestations of deities, and a full alphabetical list of all deities mentioned in the hardcover.
Now, while I do take into account the book’s own merits, I cannot help but make two comparisons in the evaluation of this book – the one with this book and “The Divine and the Defeated” and the one with this book and with its former edition’s predecessors.
On one hand, this book is great. If all you have is the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book, this is an excellent book to purchase, although the need to have it is not as great as the need was for Scarred Lands campaigns were for “The Divine and the Defeated”. But, on the other hand, if you own the previous edition’s books on deities (or can get your hands on them) and have the desire, ability, and time to do it yourself, you may want to pass on this book. Those who do not plan on running a Forgotten Realms campaign should pass on this book and get their deity fix elsewhere. Overall, I think the book could have offered more, but I am glad I bought it and see both Dungeon Masters getting a lot of use out of it for their Forgotten Realms campaign.