The Nentir Vale is a new setting that was introduced as the "default setting" in 4e, comparable to how 1st & 2nd editions explicitly assumed players would be using Greyhawk as their starter campaign, 3e ran on "Greyhawk with the serial numbers filed off", and 5e basically puts everything in the Forgotten Realms.
The main concept of the setting is separating the patches of civilized lands (described as "points of light", which is what fans called the setting until the "starter locale" got some adventuring modules under its belt) with vast unexplored or long abandoned wilderness with monsters and villainous cultists everywhere.
Ironically enough, it wasn't actually supposed to be a setting. It first appeared in the 4e DMG as a generic example of a town and a region for newb DMs to use, but then they wound up sticking a bunch of adventure modules in the area, and it became a real, if smallish, setting of its own right thanks to cosmological sourcebooks like the Manual of the Planes and to Dragon Magazine.
Even more ironically, the tie-in Risk-esque boardgame "Conquest of Nerath" actually reveals that the Nentir Vale region is one small part of a continent called "Nerath", part of two larger continents; we don't know their names, but we do know they're divided into four rough regions based on their ruling empires; Nerath, the Iron Circle, Karkoth and Vailin.
The Nerathi world covers a wide array of territory, with the continental regions from "Conquest of Nerath" providing the most detail. These regions were subsequently expanded upon by an article series in Dragon Magazine called "Nerathi Legends", which looked at specific parts of the map and showed how they looked in the present day of the setting.
The Nerath region lies on the western continent, and is a temperate zone of forests and plains, with extensive rivers that feed a number of swamps. It's bordered on the north, east and south by extensive mountains, with only a handful of comparatively small passes connecting it to the interior ocean between the two continents. The Sunless Citadel exists in the mountains to the far north-by-northwest of Nerath.
South of Nerath lies the Iron Circle, a subtropical to tropical territory consisting of arid savannahs, deserts and mountains, giving way to tropical jungles in its eastern and southeastern regions. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth lie on its southern coastline.
The Karkoth region takes up most of the eastern continent, stretching from arctic icefields and frigid mountains in the north down to tropical plains and forests in the south. The Temple of Elemental Evil was built on this continent, and it is also home to the Vault of the Drow.
Separated from Karkoth by a mountain range, Vailin is a tropical region whose coastline is thick with jungles, which give way to plains as one heads southeast towards the continent's interior. White Plume Mountain can be found if one travels far enough southwest into the "center" of Vailin.
A nameless island-continent lies between the two continents. Containing plains, deserts, swamps and forests, its is home to the Tomb of Horrors.
The most well-known part of the setting is the temperate Nentir Vale, which was once a northern frontier region of the human-run Nerath Empire, which was overthrown by gnolls. The Vale itself was ruined by orcs taking advantage of the chaos. It's recovering. Slowly. Still kinda shitty, though. Has some lakes and rivers, some woods and mountains. Some plains and swamps. In other words, a little of everything.
Major Cities of the Nentir Vale Region
- Fallcrest – The old regional capital, sits next to a waterfall. As generic as it gets.
- Hammerfast – A city built on an old dwarven necropolis, where dwarves sought refuge from the orc hordes. The gods declared a truce which allows both safe passage to visit the memorials of their dead. Also very haunted. Major trading town, so has a lot of every race passing through.
- Harkenwold – Less a city, more clump of rural villages. Ruled by a baron.
- #398: Sarthel, City of Silver: Details on the mercantile city-state of Sarthel, the largest and most prosperous city remaining in the heartland of Old Nerath.
- #399: The Seven Kings of Karkoth: Examination of the Karkothi Throneholds, a dark alliance of seven fractious city-states, a nation of pirates, reavers, raiders and black mages.
- #400: The Iron Wolf Barbarians: Details the Iron Wolf tribe of the forests & mountains of Western Selduria, a people who were once allied to Nerath.
- #401: Merindaelion, Barony of the Emerald Blade: Details one part of the Nerath continent, fleshing out a unique realm of mixed humans and elves.
- #402: Adretia, the Citadel of Iron's Grasp: Expands upon the lands of the Iron Circle, an order of cruel warlords and devil cultists who rule over a sizable empire with an iron fist.
- #403: Realm of the Gorgon King: Details the realm of Moghmarrin, giant-ruled realm of monsters and vassals of the Seven Kings of Karkoth.
- #405: The Knights of Rethmil: Details the kingdom of Rethmil, an ancient and honorable realm defended by elite swordmages mounted on dragonnes.
- #406: Rangers of Cernall: Details the March of Cernall, a wild, wartorn land guarded by an elite ranger order known as the Brotherhood of the Silver Hart.
Whilst not part of this series, issue #411 of Dragon features the article "Quests for Humanity", which examines how to run a human-focused campaign specifically focused on the restoration of Nerath, complete with the most hilariously named Epic Destiny ever: the God-Emperor.
The Nentir Vale, like Eberron before it, does not use the Great Wheel cosmology. Instead, it runs on the World Axis cosmology, dividing the multiverse into the World, the Feywild, the Shadowfell, the Astral Sea, the Elemental Chaos and the Far Realm.
The Nentir Vale pantheon is also known as the Dawn War pantheon, for its Chaoskampf-inspired war against the Primordials of the Elemental Chaos. Like Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk, it is based on completely fictional deities, melding iconic D&D gods (mostly from non-human pantheons) with a couple of new faces.
In contrast to, say, the Forgotten Realms, where deities often got into very precise roles and sometimes made rather little sense as patrons for adventurers (such as Chauntea), the Dawn War pantheon has each god covering multiple roles, at least one of which makes them of interest to either an adventurer or an evil cultist, and are worshipped across multiple races for different reasons and sometimes under different names or appearances (which D&D did at least back in the days of Dragonlance).
One thing more unique to this setting is that the alignment of specific deities doesn't affect worshippers so much. Even normally malevolent gods do have goodly worshippers, who put positive slants on them - the key example of this is Bane. Although most notorious for his role as god of tyranny, conquest and domination, he's also worshipped as a bringer of order and stability. Good worshippers of Bane focus on his demands for harmony and obedience, seeking to tame lawless regions and to gain the strength to protect the places and people dear to them. Even the Chaotic Evil deities have their non-evil worshippers. Adding to this is the fact that Invokers and Avengers often adhere to their own unique relationships with gods, so splinter-sects and heresies are incredibly common in this setting; Avengers who worship Lolth as she was before she became a psycho-demon bitch or Invokers who want to guide the faithful of Zehir into using their powers to kill monsters rather than innocents, for example.
Yes, this means you can have a legitimate Pelor the Burning Hate cult in the Nentir Vale, and it's totally canon.
It goes without saying that, in a setting where the gods fought a bloody war against god-like chaotic elementals, not all of them survived. The list below depicts all of the gods still alive and kicking during a "standard" Nentir Vale game.
In addition to these, all living gods are served by Exarchs - proxies, saints, demigods and other "almost but not quite" full-fledged godlings who serve a deity in various ways, rather than working on their own. This was the fate of most of the "racial gods", like Clangeddin Silverbeard.
Bahamut - Called the Platinum Dragon and named after the legendary Islamic world-fish, Bahamut is the god of justice, protection, nobility, and honor. Lawful good paladins often revere him, and metallic dragons worship him as the first of their kind. Monarchs are crowned in his name. He commands his followers thus:
- Uphold the highest ideals of honor and justice.
- Be constantly vigilant against evil and oppose it on all fronts.
- Protect the weak, liberate the oppressed, and defend just order.
Moradin - Moradin is the god of creation and patron of artisans, especially miners and smiths. He carved the mountains from primordial earth and is the guardian and protector of the hearth and the family. Dwarves from all walks of life follow him. He demands these behaviors of his followers:
- Meet adversity with stoicism and tenacity.
- Demonstrate loyalty to your family, your clan, your leaders, and your people.
- Strive to make a mark on the world, a lasting legacy. To make something that lasts is the highest good, whether you are a smith working at a forge or a ruler building a dynasty.
Avandra - The goddess of change, Avandra delights in freedom, trade, travel, adventure, and the frontier. Her temples are few in civilized lands, but her wayside shrines appear throughout the world. Halflings, merchants, and all types of adventurers are drawn to her worship, and many people raise a glass in her honor, viewing her as the god of luck. Her commandments are few:
- Luck favors the bold. Take your fate into your own hands, and Avandra smiles upon you.
- Strike back against those who would rob you of your freedom and urge others to fight on their own liberty.
- Change is inevitable, but it takes the work of the faithful to ensure that change is for the better.
Pelor - God of the sun and summer, Pelor is the keeper of time. He supports those in need and opposes all that is evil. As the lord of agriculture and the bountiful harvest, he is the deity most commonly worshiped by ordinary humans, and his priests are well received wherever they go. Paladins and rangers are found among his worshipers. He directs his followers thus:
- Alleviate suffering wherever you find it.
- Bring Pelor’s light into places of darkness, showing kindness, mercy, and compassion.
- Be watchful against evil.
Corellon - The god of spring, beauty, and the arts, Corellon is the patron of arcane magic and the fey. He seeded the world with arcane magic and planted the most ancient forests. Artists and musicians worship him, as do those who view their spellcasting as an art, and his shrines can be found throughout the Feywild. He despises Lolth and her priestesses for leading the drow astray. He urges his followers thus:
- Cultivate beauty in all that you do, whether you’re casting a spell, composing a saga, strumming a lute, or practicing the arts of war.
- Seek out lost magic items, forgotten rituals, and ancient works of art. Corellon might have inspired them in the world’s first days.
- Thwart the followers of Lolth at every opportunity.
Erathis - Erathis is the goddess of civilization. She is the muse of great invention, founder of cities, and author of laws. Rulers, judges, pioneers, and devoted citizens revere her, and her temples hold prominent places in most of the world’s major cities. Her laws are many, but their purpose is straightforward:
- Work with others to achieve your goals. Community and order are always stronger than the disjointed efforts of lone individuals.
- Tame the wilderness to make it fit for habitation, and defend the light of civilization against the encroaching darkness.
- Seek out new ideas, new inventions, new lands to inhabit, new wilderness to conquer. Build machines, build cities, build empires.
Ioun - Ioun is the god of knowledge, skill, and prophecy. Sages, seers, and tacticians revere her, as do all who live by their knowledge and mental power. Corellon is the patron of arcane magic, but Ioun is the patron of its study. Libraries and wizard academies are built in her name. Her commands are also teachings:
- Seek the perfection of your mind by bringing reason, perception, and emotion into balance with one another.
- Accumulate, preserve, and distribute knowledge in all forms. Pursue education, build libraries, and seek out lost and ancient lore.
- Be watchful at all times for the followers of Vecna, who seek to control knowledge and keep secrets. Oppose their schemes, unmask their secrets, and blind them with the light of truth and reason.
Kord - Kord is the storm god and the lord of battle. He revels in strength, battlefield prowess, and thunder. Fighters and athletes revere him. He is a mercurial god, unbridled and wild, who summons storms over land and sea; those who hope for better weather appease him with prayers and spirited toasts. Son of the old Goddess of Winter, Khala, he eventually turned on her when he realized she was too crazy even for him to put up with. Also, one of his Exarches is Krag-Ik Eight-Eyes, a redeemed Beholder! He gives few commands:
- Be strong, but do not use your strength for wanton destruction.
- Be brave and scorn cowardice in any form.
- Prove your might in battle to win glory and renown.
Melora - Melora is the goddess of the wilderness and the sea. She is both the wild beast and the peaceful forest, the raging whirlpool and the quiet desert. Rangers, hunters, and elves revere her, and sailors make offerings to her before beginning their voyages. Her strictures are these:
- Protect the wild places of the world from destruction and overuse. Oppose the rampant spread of cities and empires.
- Hunt aberrant monsters and other abominations of nature.
- Do not fear or condemn the savagery of nature. Live in harmony with the wild.
The Raven Queen - The name of the goddess of death is long forgotten, but she is called the Raven Queen. She is the spinner of fate and the patron of winter. She marks the end of each mortal life, and mourners call upon her during funeral rites, in the hope that she will guard the departed from the curse of undeath. She expects her followers to abide by these commandments:
- Hold no pity for those who suffer and die, for death is the natural end of life.
- Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate. As the instrument of the Raven Queen, you must punish hubris where you find it.
- Watch for the cults of Orcus and stamp them out whenever they arise. The Demon Prince of the Undead seeks to claim the Raven Queen’s throne.
Sehanine - Goddess of the moon and autumn, Sehanine is the patron of trickery and illusions. She has close ties to Corellon and Melora and is a favorite deity among elves and halflings. She is also the god of love, who sends shadows to cloak lovers’ trysts. Scouts and thieves ask for her blessing on their work. Her teachings are simple:
- Follow your goals and seek your own destiny.
- Keep to the shadows, avoiding the blazing light of zealous good and the utter darkness of evil.
- Seek new horizons and new experiences, and let nothing tie you down.
Asmodeus - Asmodeus is the evil god of tyranny and domination. He rules the Nine Hells with an iron fist and a silver tongue. Aside from devils, evil creatures such as rakshasas pay him homage, and evil tieflings and warlocks are drawn to his dark cults. His rules are strict and his punishments harsh:
- Seek power over others, that you might rule with strength as the Lord of Hell does.
- Repay evil with evil. If others are kind to you, exploit their weakness for your own gain.
- Show neither pity nor mercy to those who are caught underfoot as you climb your way to power. The weak do not deserve compassion.
Bane - Bane is the evil god of war and conquest. Militaristic nations of humans and goblins serve him and conquer in his name. Evil fighters and paladins serve him. He commands his worshipers to:
- Never allow your fear to gain mastery over you, but drive it into the hearts of your foes.
- Punish insubordination and disorder.
- Hone your combat skills to perfection, whether you are a mighty general or a lone mercenary.
Tiamat - Tiamat is the evil goddess of wealth, greed, and envy. She is the patron of chromatic dragons and those whose lust for wealth overrides any other goal or concern. She commands her followers to:
- Hoard wealth, acquiring much and spending little. Wealth is its own reward.
- Forgive no slight and leave no wrong unpunished.
- Take what you desire from others. Those who lack the strength to defend their possessions are not worthy to own them.
Torog - Torog is the evil god of the Underdark, patron of jailers and torturers. Common superstition holds that if his name is spoken, the King that Crawls burrows up from below and drags the hapless speaker underground to an eternity of imprisonment and torture. Jailers and torturers pray to him in deep caves and cellars, and creatures of the Underdark revere him as well. He teaches his worshipers to:
- Seek out and revere the deep places beneath the earth.
- Delight in the giving of pain, and consider pain you receive as homage to Torog.
- Bind tightly what is in your charge, and restrain those who wander free.
Vecna - Vecna is the evil god of undead, necromancy, and secrets. He rules that which is not meant to be known and that which people wish to keep secret. Evil spellcasters and conspirators pay him homage. He commands them to:
- Never reveal all you know.
- Find the seed of darkness in your heart and nourish it; find it in others and exploit it to your advantage.
- Oppose the followers of all other deities so that Vecna alone can rule the world.
Zehir - Zehir is the evil god of darkness, poison, and assassins. Snakes are his favored creation, and the yuan-ti revere him above all other gods, offering sacrifice to him in pits full of writhing serpents. He urges his followers to:
- Hide under the cloak of night, that your deeds might be kept in secret.
- Kill in Zehir’s name and offer each murder as a sacrifice.
- Delight in poison, and surround yourself with snakes.
Gruumsh - Gruumsh is the chaotic evil god of destruction, lord of marauding barbarian hordes. Where Bane commands conquest, Gruumsh exhorts his followers to slaughter and pillage. Orcs are his fervent followers, and they bear a particular hatred for elves and eladrin because Corellon put out one of Gruumsh’s eyes. The One-Eyed God gives simple orders to his followers:
- Crush your enemies.
- See them driven before you.
- Hear the lamentations of their women.
Lolth - Lolth is the chaotic evil goddess of shadow, lies, and spiders. Scheming and treachery are her commands, and her priests are a constant force of disruption in the otherwise stable society of the evil drow. Though she is properly a god and not a demon, she is called Demon Queen of Spiders. She demands that her followers:
- Do whatever it takes to gain and hold power.
- Rely on stealth and slander in preference to outright confrontation.
- Seek the death of elves and eladrin at every opportunity.
Tharizdun - Tharizdun is the chaotic evil god who created the Abyss. A few scattered cults of demented followers revere him, calling him the Chained God or the Elder Elemental Eye. Tharizdun doesn’t speak to his followers so much as babble incoherently at them (due to being completely insane), so his commands are unknown, but his cults teach their members to:
- Channel power to the Chained God, so he can break his chains.
- Retrieve lost relics and shrines to the Chained God.
- Pursue the obliteration of the world, in anticipation of the Chained God’s liberation.
It goes without saying, but, in a war, there are always casualties. Many gods fell either during the Dawn War or the War in Heaven, and a few even perished afterwards due to various machinations. These are generally presumed as being dead, dead, dead, but, Dragon Magazine #390 covers a small selection of dead gods who are still worshipped, and hints that it may be possible to bring them back.
Amoth - Former master of the Dominion of Kalanduren, Amoth was the God of Justice and Mercy during his life. This presupposes a Good alignment for him. Needless to say, the Demon Princes hated him, and eventually Demogorgon, Orcus, and a forgotten Demon Prince named Rimmon conspired to unite their forces and attack Amoth's Dominion. Despite what you might think, Amoth went down fighting; he killed Rimmon, and would have killed Demogorgon if Orcus hadn't got him with a cheap shot from behind whilst he was dueling the Prince of Demons. Amoth's story is covered in Divine Power, whilst his ruined Dominion is detailed in The Plane Above. Since the skull on the Rod of Orcus is stated to be that of a slain god of Virtue and Chivalry, some have supposed that it might be Amoth's skull, and if you could steal the Rod, you could use it as a way to bring Amoth back to life.
Aurom - One of several dead gods covered in extensive detail in Dragon Magazine #390. Aurom, also known as the Shattered One, is one of the most ancient deities in the Nentir Vale setting and one of the first to be displaced by an ambitious mortal. The Unaligned God or Goddess (nobody really knows anymore; s/he might have even been both) of "The Cycle of Life", Aurom held a disproportionate amount of power due to holding multiple diffuse portfolios, predominantly Life and Death. As such, when Nerull, one of the world's first necromancers, slew Aurom, he was able to win the favor of the other gods for his act by letting them divvy up most of Aurom's portfolios amongst themselves and taking only Death for himself. Nerull did his best to erase Aurom's existence to strengthen his powers, and so the Raven Queen reversed this decision to weaken Nerull's own grasp on power. Currently, many different sects of Auromites have risen and fallen, with the longest-lasting being the morose, dispassionate scholars of the Enclave of Dust. These individuals believe Aurom's sigil was a broken or unfinished rune, and that his/her commands were as follow:
- Everything is part of the cycle. We are born. We live. We die. Respect life, and know death to be a part of it.
- We are created from the elements and return to the chaos when it ends. The primordials are our enemies. They seek to undo the cycle, refusing to be part of it.
- Undeath is a punishment and trial. It should be ended for those who do not deserve it, and it should be prolonged or inflicted on those who do.
- Do not fight death. Do not seek to be more than you are. We are all dust.
Gorellik - God of Gnolls and Beasts, Gorellik's existence is only mentioned in passing in Dragon Magazine #364, where Yeenoghu is said to have slain him and stolen his children, thus dooming gnolls to their lives of evil. From what we know of his traditional animalistic "I don't give a fuck about anything other than eating and mating" mentality, he would probably have been Unaligned.
Haramathur - One of several dead gods covered in extensive detail in Dragon Magazine #390. Known as the Guardian In Stone and the Eternal Watcher, this Lawful Good God of Guardians was the protector of his fellow deities during the Dawn War, fighting constantly to thwart invasions of the Astral Sea from the Elemental Chaos, and earned the respect of all his kin. When Io was slain, this led to the creation of a mighty rift-gate between the two planes, and Haramathur knew that this couldn't be allowed to stand. Plunging into the rift, he used his powers to turn himself and his surroundings into stone, closing the rift for eternity through an act of self-sacrifice. The other gods do their best to keep this lore secret; if some well-meaning soul were to restore Haramathur, that would re-open the rift and allow the Dawn War to be rekindled. Haramathur's corpse now exists simultaneously in the Astral Sea (as the Dominion of Erishani, detailed in The Plane Above) and in the Elemental Chaos (as Mael Arn’dreygh, or the Sealed Way, an eye of calm in the center of a 20 mile wild maelstrom of rock, ash and molten lava). Haramathur's symbol was a halberd placed before a tower shield, and he offered the following commandments:
- Protect those for whom you care, as well as those who cannot protect themselves.
- Patience is a virtue. Wait for your enemies to move. Stay ever vigilant.
- Do not fear the darkness. Train yourself to be aware of your enemies with all your senses.
- The earth is your friend. Use it to protect yourself and trap your enemies.
He Who Was - The most famous of the dead gods, He Who Was is the deity who once commanded the loyalty of Asmodeus, before the latter murdered his master, unpersoned him, and seized control of his Dominion of Baathion. God of Sky, Kingship and Wisdom, he is rumored to have been the creator-god of humanity, and was probably Good in terms of alignment. Tantalizing hints say that if one can somehow find a copy of his name, one can bring him back to life. As just his dying curse warped Asmodeus and his followers into the first devils and trapped them in the now-blasted hellscape of Baator, the prospect of this terrifies Asmodeus, even for all his power. So, of course, he's done everything he can to wipe every last trace of his old master's existence from creation.
Io - The creator-god of the dragons, Io was slain battling the Primordial known as Erek-Hus, King of Terror, who split in half with one downward strike of his mountain-sized adamantine axe. Io's sundered corpse turned into Bahamut and Tiamat, each of whom got half of Io's traits - Bahamut got his better nature, and Tiamat his baser nature. A vial of Io's blood is a magical artifact-tier relic in the Metallic Draconomicon, and it seeks to assist in recreating the deity by fusing Bahamut and Tiamat back together. Alignment is uncertin; either a flawed Good or a benevolent-leaning Unaligned; the latter makes more sense, if we look at metallic dragons in 4e, plus it makes sense he could thusly be split into Good and Evil progeny.
Khala - The Goddess of Winter, Khala was a cruel and evil bitch who sought to claim the world entirely for herself, allying with Gruumsh, Tiamat, Zehir and even some Primordials. She was such a bitch (probably Chaotic Evil) that her own son, Kord, ultimately turned on her and joined with Pelor to help destroy her. Her downfall is covered in a sidebar in Divine Power, and expanded upon in Primal Power; her behavior was the main thing that convinced the Primal Spirits that they needed to kick the gods out into the Astral Sea once they'd saved the World. The Raven Queen snatched up her divine portfolio as Goddess of Winter after she bit the dust.
Laeris - One of several dead gods covered in extensive detail in Dragon Magazine #390. Laeris was essentially the pre-Baldur Loki of the Dawn War pantheon; a shapeshifting Unaligned god of Trickery and Deceit, he lived to play pranks on his fellow gods, the primordials, and anyone else who caught his attention. It's generally accepted that Vecna killed him after Laeris infiltrated Citadel Cavitius and tried to steal a powerful magical elixir called the Final Moment, but many argue that faking his death is just the sort of thing that the Trickster would do, leading to cults dedicated to him being quite active in the world still. Symbolized by a blank-featured mask (traditionally made of white porcelain), Laeris gave the following instructions to his faithful:
- Truth does not exist. Everybody lies. Don’t trust anyone.
- Law is a crutch. Only those who can do as they want are truly free.
- Property is an illusion. Take what you need today, but do not hold on to it tomorrow.
- Hide your activities from others. Lie about your motives. Never reveal your goals. Only those who can see through your deceits are worthy to discover your true goals.
Lakal - The benevolent and Goodly creator-deity of the Quom, Lakal was an oddity amongst her kin for being a living Dominion - a world within the Astral Sea. Unfortunately for everybody, Lakal became a casualty during a battle between Bahamut and Nihil, a Primordial incarnation of nothingness. When Bahamut vaporized the living void whilst within Lakal, its scattered droplets fell upon Lakal like a poisoned rain, causing her to splinter into countless fragments. This kind of drove the Quom nuts, and turned them into the psychotic murderhobos they are today.
Nerull - The original God of Death and the Dead, Nerull was a huge dick (Evil) who greedily hoarded the souls of the dead for his own pleasure. Eventually, one of those souls rose up and managed to slay him, becoming the Raven Queen, who has replaced him as the Goddess of the Dead. To thoroughly cast him into the dust, she not only forsook his Dominion of Pluton for her own kingdom in the Shadowfell, she cut it completely from the Lattice of Heaven. Nerull's fall is detailed in both Divine Power and issue #171 of Dungeon Magazine, with a more detailed look at his origins and cult appearing in issue #427 of Dragon Magazine, whilst Pluton is covered in-detail in Manual of the Planes and in-brief in The Plane Above.
Nusemnee - One of several dead gods covered in extensive detail in Dragon Magazine #390. Known as the Dread Maiden and the Horned Daughter, Nusemness began her existence as a god-blooded fiend; daughter of a mating between Zehir and a powerful she-devil. She served him loyally as an assassin for most of her life, until the day that he abandoned her when she failed to kill a high priest of Pelor and mortally wounded by a Pelorite paladin. Expecting death, the fiendling was astonished when the high priest showed her compassion and mercy, healing her as she lay there bleeding. Intrigued, she swore an oath to stand by and protect the high priest in his holy quest; when she perished in the course of this, to everyone's surprise, her godly blood combined with the faith she had inspired as a living symbol of redemption to elevate her to the ranks of the divine in turn. Nusemness became the Good-aligned Goddess of Heroism and Redemption, and sought to guide others from the darkness back into the light, a patron particularly of "reformed monsters" like drow, orcs, gnolls and kobolds. Naturally, this pissed off her dad, who had her assassinated using a poison made from his own blood. Ironically, it's whispered that if one could get some of her blood in turn, one could make a poison strong enough to kill any deity - to prevent this being used against him, Zehir has her floating corpse in the Astral Sea guarded by a battalion of devils and yuan-ti abominations. Nusemness died only recently, so her cult is actually still quite strong, at least by the default Nentir Vale fluff. Bearing the holy symbol of a serpent curled around a kukri, Nusemness offered the following commandments:
- It is never too late to seek redemption.
- True heroism does not come from good deeds. It comes from doing good when it matters.
- Nobody is perfect. Those who seek to be perfect will fail. It is not a shame to fail, and it is not a waste to try.
- Open your heart to possibilities. Never give up hope.
Sagawehn - One of several dead gods covered in extensive detail in Dragon Magazine #390. Known as the Winged Mistress and the Hive Mind, this Unaligned Goddess of Vermin was... well, she was the patron god of bugs. Not exactly glamorous or important, but, hey, there's lots of them. Sagawehn was effectively a Lawful Stupid goddess, being focused on the survival of the community to the point of hating individuality and wanting to crush all independent thought from others. Also ruthlessly expansionistic; her creedo was essentially "join the hive, or die". She might just have been a take that at the Formians... Anyway, she lived in Arvandor, for a time, but eventually the Seldarine and their worshippers got sick of her attempts to convert them all by force and they gathered an army to kill her. After a long and bloody battle, they eventually felled her, although it's rumored that the 4e lamia - fey-eating hive-minded bugs - may be the remnants of this goddess. "Hive Masters", lunatics who consider Sagawehn's teachings on the good of the colony before the self and the need to expand constantly for survival, still exist, and still worship her. Her holy symbol is a circle comprised of ants, and her commandments are quite simple:
- The community is the greater good. Sacrifice all for the whole.
- A community thrives if those within it do their jobs well—specialize and allow others to benefit.
- Strength is in numbers. Power comes with growth and expansion.
- Seek to expand. Conquer those who oppose you.
The God of the Word - Little is known about this deity; covered in The Plane Above, this Creation God was the ruler of the shattered Dominion of Shom, a former ally of Ioun who fell in battle during the Dawn Wars, leaving behind his orphaned servitors; the Illumians. Unfortunately, according to 4e lore, this race all but destroyed itself in petty, vanity-fueled wars over which of the Symbols of Creation they bore was superior; the Word of Mind or the Word of Soul.
Tuern - A God of Conquest and Fire, Tuern is the former ruler of the Dominion of Chernoggar, until he was murdered by his brother Achra, now known as Bane, and his Dominion stolen from him. What few details we know of him are covered in both the Manual of the Planes and in The Plane Above, as well as Bane's dedicated article in Dragon #372.
Zorthos - The God of Doubt and Lassitude, little is known about this deity beyond that he was slain in the Dawn War and his carved-off but miraculously intact face still floats through the Astral Sea, broadcasting a spiritual malaise that makes it a true hazard to encounter.
Pretty bare-bones, since the intent was to let GMs flesh things out and make the campaign more their own. Still, a few things slipped through as part of the World Axis cosmology:
The Creation of Everything: The Primordials arise from the Elemental Chaos and create the material plane, Feywild and Shadowfell by mixing together various elemental forces and fragments of the Astral Sea. The material plane at this point is basically the Chaos in miniature; elemental stuff constantly shifting and flexing, so a mountain of ice one moment might suddenly turn into a sea of fire the next, or a forest of living metal trees might get up and walk off into the sky on a river of lightning.
The World is Born: The gods arise from the Astral Sea and, upon finding the proto-World, become enamored. They start messing around with it, stabilising it so that it no longer changes terrain/elemental makeup at random and creating the first plants, animals, intelligent races, seasons... y'know, all the stuff that makes a mortal world.
The Dawn War: The Primordials get pissed off at the gods messing around with their toys and start trying to wreck shit. Apparently, there was at least a time of neutrality before this, in which the Primordials created their own races in imitation of the gods -- their most favored being the Titans and their lesser kin, the Giants. The Dawn War ends with all of the major Primordials killed off, sealed away or otherwise made docile, though not without some deific casualties -- Asmodeus the Archangel murders the Forgotten God and usurps his place, creating the Baatezu in the process, Torog is bound to the Underdark and mutilated into the King That Crawls, Io Dragon-Father is split in half by Erek-Hus and transformed into Bahamut and Tiamat, etc.
The Dwarven War of Independence: Dwarves were originally slaves to the Titans during the early days of the Dawn War. Moradin, their creator, initially didn't notice, but eventually helped break them free - but not soon enough for some dwarves. Those dwarves too contaminated by elemental energy before they escaped became the ancestors of the Forgeheart Dwarves, whilst those dwarves who succumbed to elemental energy became elementals themselves, such as the stony Galeb Duhr, fiery Azer and icy Eisk Jaat.
The War In Heaven: After the Dawn War, there was a brief but violent conflict amongst the gods for various reasons. This screwed up the afterlife so badly that it still screws people over to this day, resulting in each god's dominion in Astral Sea having shanty-towns of faithful worshippers wrongfully rendered physically incapable of entering their patron's dominion spring up on their outskirts.
The Elven Sundering: Lolth turns on Corellon and Sehanine, resulting in their elven followers likewise going to war. Those elves who stay loyal to Corellon and remain in the Feywild retain their nature, but inherit a broken empire, becoming the Eladrin. Those elves who follow Sehanine and end up stranded in the mortal world loose most of their elfin magic, becoming the first Elves. Those elves who flee to the Underdark with Lloth become the first Drow. And a tiny fragment of elves who tried to stay out of it all became the Dusk Elves, hated by all the other elven races as traitorous cowards and surviving only because Sehanine took pity and gave them magical adeptness at hiding.
The Two Empires: In an unprecedented event, dragons both chromatic and metallic unite with dragonborn to form an empire that spans much of the known world, known as Arkhosia. At around the time of Arkhosia's rise, a human empire also takes form, known as Bael Turath.
The War of Arkhosia and Bael Turath: Needless to say, the two don't get along and start fighting with each other. To match the might of the dragons, Bael Turath swears itself to Asmodeus, summoning legions of devils and wielding infernal magic to counter their draconic enemies. The empire-spanning infernal contract, abundance of infernal energy, spiritual contamination and even outright diabolic interbreeding eventually corrupts the humans of Bael Turath into a more diabolic state, creating the first tieflings. The war ends in the mutual annihilation of both empires.
The Founding & Fall of Nerath: Humans eventually build an empire called Nerath, which is the most recent world-dominating super-power in the "default" setting. It gets destroyed 100 years before the present by hordes of gnolls, led by demonic-blooded champions of Yeenoghu.
|Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Settings|
|Basic D&D:||Mystara (Blackmoor) - Pelinore|
|AD&D:||Birthright - Council of Wyrms - Dark Sun - Dragonlance |
Forgotten Realms (Al-Qadim - The Horde - Icewind Dale - Kara-Tur - Maztica)
Greyhawk - Jakandor - Mystara (Hollow World - Red Steel - Savage Coast)
Planescape - Ravenloft (Masque of the Red Death) - Spelljammer
|3rd/3.5 Edition:|| Blackmoor - Dragonlance - Eberron - Forgotten Realms |
Ghostwalk - Greyhawk (Sundered Empire) - Ravenloft
|4th Edition:||Blackmoor - Dark Sun - Eberron - Forgotten Realms - Nentir Vale|
|5th Edition:|| Dragonlance - Eberron - Forgotten Realms - Greyhawk |
Nentir Vale - Ravenloft - Spelljammer
|Third Party:|| Dragonmech (3E) - Dragonstar (3E) - Kingdoms of Kalamar (2E/3E/4E) |
Midnight (3E/4E) - Ptolus (3E) - Scarred Lands (3E/5E) - Spellslinger (3E)
Wilderlands of High Fantasy (Basic)