Homebrew Worlds 101: The Creation Story

The deities of your world are created. Relationships and rivalries between them have been forged. It is now time to give them a playground and a battlefield to celebrate those relationships and reconcile those rivalries. It is time to give birth to your homebrew world.

A creation story ties together several elements of your homebrew world: the deities, the physical terrain and features, and the people who populate it. There are many avenues you could go down when it comes to developing your world’s mythology. I’ll cover a few here, but you are more than welcome to come up with your own. Regardless of what you decide to do, the creation story is the foundation for the many threads of storytelling within your world. Making sure it is coherent, concise, and interesting is paramount.

Anyone who has read any mythology or religious texts knows that a world can spring from a variety of ways. Monotheistic religions tend to have one creator deity that is responsible for molding and putting into motion everything in the universe. Polytheistic religions tend to have a story that involves a number of different deities adding their own flavor to the universe. Some civilizations can share a deity or a pantheon and they have different stories for how their race or civilization came to be. For example, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people all worship the same god with different interpretations of it. The Roman and Greek pantheons are carbon copies of each other, with Romans simply changing the names and some of the details of each deity to fit their society.

The One Creator

The simplest and probably most used method of crafting a creation story is that one deity is responsible for everything. They are responsible for not only the creation of the universe, but they had a hand in creating the other deities. I’ve gone with this method for my homebrew world, as I felt I could be more creative with the story and developing the relationships between the deities.

The One Creator usually would be one that fits the Life or Light Domains, and generally be Lawful Good. You don’t have to stick to this, however. Having a Neutral deity would make sense with the seeming indifference of nature. An Evil deity would be one that would naturally implement danger and conflict into the world. Whichever you choose, you must remember that nature, while indifferent and seemingly random, is balanced. The default morality of the population of the world usually reflects that of the creator deity, so keep this in mind when designing civilizations and races.

The first conflict of your universe should be between two or more deities with opposite alignments. Because deities generally are immortal, the only true way for the conflicts to be settled is by charging their creations with taking up the fight. This lays the groundwork for an eternity of conflict on your world, which will be the source of drama and adventure for your players.

Multiple Creators

Many polytheistic civilizations have a creation story that not only explains the creation of the universe, but it teaches the core lessons of that civilization’s morality. Because multiple deities of different alignments are involved, there is no favor one way or the other as far as good and evil is concerned. Usually these stories will explain that in order for the universe to be balanced or “right,” there has to be good and evil.

Evil or chaotic deities tend to not be considered villains in these types of creation stories, but simply antagonists or catalysts for creation or change. If this is an enticing theme for your world, I would choose this type of creation story. You can then design adventures that involve gray area morality, adding tension and drama between party members and making your stories more ambiguous.

Making the Story Make Sense

The great thing about developing a mythology is that you don’t have to stick to reason, logic, or science to explain what goes on in the story. You simply have to make sure the story makes sense in relation to the world and its deities. You never have to give the “how” a deity does something. You have to emphasize the “why” the deity does something. For instance, I have one deity in my pantheon that was created by the creator deity plucking a comet out of space and forming a being from it. You don’t have to explain how the comet got there, how the deity plucked the comet from space, or how it shaped the comet into a being. You just have to give a reason why. My reason was that the creator deity needed to create a being that could help his mortal creations change their luck and he just happened to choose to make this being from a passing comet.

Continuity is also important when it comes to a creation story. Your mortals will have some knowledge about how things were created, so you should make sure your NPCs generally know and communicate similar stories. There could be certain people who don’t believe one story and have a different one to explain a deity’s actions. As long as both stories make sense in the mythology, both can exist in your world. It also can be the subject of conflict between different factions of worshipers of the same deity.

One Deity, All Races vs. Patron Creation Deities

Another choice you have to make in your creation story is whether or not all mortals were created by one deity, or that each race of your world has a creator deity. In D&D Forgotten Realms, for example, elves and dwarves have creator deities that they credit for forging their individual races. They also have their own pantheons, which is another choice you could go with if you wish. It’s a little extra work, but it gives each race their own distinct flavor and history.

If you choose to have on creator deity create all races, you can give each race a different story, flavoring it to fit the race. For instance, in my creation story the creator deity too a chunk of his own life force and shattered it upon an anvil. The resulting shards of life fell onto the world, springing up as different races depending on what terrain they fell on. Shards in the forests turned into elves, ones in the mountains turned to dwarves, etc.

Your creation story should serve as the story of how your world functions, how your mortals generally think and act, and give you many avenues to sew conflict and drama that will serve as platforms for immersive and compelling adventures.

This is the last lesson in Homebrew Worlds 101. I hope these articles help you craft your homebrew world and give you a playground to explore and discover with your players. Happy adventuring!