Worldbuilding Tips: Divine Patrons of Crime

One fun way for a GM to bring a world to life in the minds of players is to introduce one or more really interesting criminal organizations. Whether they are an open

And ultimately if your organization is going to survive in a high fantasy setting, you likely need someone in your corner in the afterlife. A divine patron is a god that supports the criminal empire despite (or because of) its activities.

In many campaigns this is an evil or chaotic god with crime as a secondary concern, but things don’t have to be that simple. At the very least, it may be more fun to have most crime families be faithful to an evil or chaotic god, but allow one or two that instead revere a neutral or even good-aligned god who just happens to have a fringe of lawbreaking followers. In addition to deepening the sense that this is a thriving world (rather than a monolithic setting where all assassins worship the god of assassin, and I suppose all candlestick makers worship the god of wax), this also sets the PCs up to be more willing to work with the non-evil-deity-associated crime syndicate. “Sure, the Silent Sisters are thieves and blackmailers, but at least they follow a god that appreciates the skill of a job well done, and instructs them to keep their word. You can kinda trust them, unlike the Crimson Knives, who are devoted to murder and lies.”

When looking at domain options for a crime god beyond chaos and evil, trickery is an equally good, and actually has a thievery subdomain. The arson subdomain is perfect for groups that use fire to eliminate enemies… or turn a profit with insurance. The subdomain of espionage would also cover blackmailers and extorters.

It’s not difficult to go even further by one step. A god of with the industry subdomain might support hard-working criminals because they put in long hours and master their trade. A god with the traps subdomain might support them as people who revere and learn about traps, even if it is to bypass them. While a god of community might seem to be antithetical to a criminal organization, a true crime family might qualify as a community of its own, or a god with the cooperation subdomain might support the organized part of organized crime. Even a god of law might be the patron of a criminal empire, if the god is focused on the subdomain of tyranny, and the criminals ruthless in enforcement of their own code.

Nor does the god have to be primarily a god of crime. Imagine a neutral deity with community, trade, competition, language, and imagination. The god might be primarily a god of those who combine business, words, and creative solutions, such as actors, bards, crafting guilds, and teachers. But the same god might accept that if you think far enough outside the box, you end up outside the law as well. Crime exists no for crime’s sake, but to be a backdoor for trade where legitimate business fails, and an arena where fast-talk and quick thinking are put to the limit. Actors and other performers were often considered the same kind of lower class as thieves and frauds, so giving them all a common god helps establish a classic trope.

Not everyone in the organization may worship their divine patron, but most of the major local leaders do, and the rest know what priests they can and can’t go to for support, or at least sanctuary. And, of course, if the god has anything to do with luck, it’s likely worthwhile to make a gift to the church before a job. Sure, that’s divine extortion… but that’s the racket.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a developer for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, the project manager for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on February 9, 2017, in Adventure Design, Adventure Sketch, Game Design, Microsetting, Pathfinder Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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