In developing an article Reskinning the Warforged: Scarecrows, I went to look into making my upcoming character in the Tomb of Annihilation campaign (we will start October 30 on into the wee points of the morning of All Hallows Eve) a Scarecrow Cleric of Fear. I ran into several problems in doing this. Number one, there is no Fear Domain in 5E and the 3E version has a lot of older spells that were hard to translate. The other problem was finding actual gods of fear in D&D.
Now, as a preface, i will say that there are a lot great choices of gods that inflict fear but do not have the domain as it says. Any evil god or, for that matter, a neutral to good god with a creepy set of domains could be dropped in. A lot of people playing the Forgotten Realms rested upon the sinister shoulders of BANE.
Not to take anything away from the Black Hand, but, although he has terror listed in his attributes, it never appears in his domains or portfolio. The fear instilled by Bane is the fear of a despotic ruler; a tyrannical overlord. He did rule by fear but it was one particular type of fear. It was potent, but not all encompassing. What I wanted out of a Fear God was an entity that relished in the things that scared mortals. An expert of what ails people; The stuff of nightmares.
And, for this, it took some research and digging into some of the campaign settings that haven’t been visited in a while.
Born of the god of serpents, poison, discord and famine, Meyanok, she is the embodiment of nightmares and fear. It is said that she was born from Meyanok’s ‘frustrated lust’ and ‘unconquered rage’. Worshiped by the Touv on the campaign setting of Greyhawk, she was the first born of evil quite literally. She holds sway over all the other children of Meyanok and uses her older status to make them do her bidding. Her clerics rule through pure fear and oppression much like Bane. She waits to corrupt the followers of the good gods and hopes to one day bring them all down low.
Vara’s dogma is simple. It involves “inflicting misery, oppression, and terror on all others.” That’s it. Which makes her perfect for a cleric who wishes nothing more than to cast an oppressive shadow of fear and panic across all lands.
There is also a legend that on the day of her birth, she visited her grandmother, the goddess of all living things. As she was sleeping, Vara visited her dreams; inflicting her with vivid nightmares. In reaction, her grandmother, Breeka, vomited up all matter of living nightmares inflicting the world with her dark touch.
Most of her information can found in THE SCARLET BROTHERHOOD, but Living Greyhawk Official Listing of Deities for Use in the Campaign download also is helpful. That last source adds domains such as Dream, Destruction, Trickery and EVIL. The idea of instilling fear to civilizations through their dreams is a going theme. Although her and her father would rather be full frontal assault, they are forced to stay in the shadows and carry on subtly.
That’s about all I could find. That leaves a lot the imagination of the DM. Working VARA into your world would be easy enough as you could also bring the supporting cast of her Serpent god father (maybe tie him into the many parts of the world serpent myths) along with her subservient and back-biting siblings.
EBERRON: THE DARK SIX
In Eberron, fear is fostered through the auspicious powers of the Dark Six. The cast out powers hold sway over the fortitude of all sentient beings.
THE DEVOURER represents the untamed destructive power of nature itself. It is the elemental forces itself along with the feral onslaught of the wild beasts. Civilization’s fear of the unpredictable wrath of storms, floods, wild fires along with the constant contention with the wild inhabitants who lurk just beyond the city walls has both destroyed and built worlds. The Devourer attracts many but especially Barbarians and Druids.
THE KEEPER is a stealer of souls. The very fear of losing one’s soul has driven civilization to madness over the millennia. Greed is the plague that hinders ones soul from finding that final resting place and aids and abets The Keeper in his spiritual theft. The Keeper turns holy men like Clerics and Paladins to it’s servants.
THE FURY is fueled by rage, despair and revenge. Those that have wronged another whether by design or accident have reason to fear those they damaged. Her offer is to those who have been wronged as it is they who tend to drive the dark drama of the world. But the sweet revenge she offers always comes with a price. And that price is always suffering. She is patron to the Barbarian and all those who seek repayment for things taken from them.
THE MOCKERY is a traitorous spirit and the embodiment of fear on the battle field. He is that feeling in the pit of the soldier’s stomach when they know the battle could go either way. It is that realization of immanent death that breeds fear and loses or wins battles. He offers aid to those who seek a victorious end to their battle. But there is no glory here. No peace. Only guile and dishonorable finality. So only those willing to sacrifice their honor in the battle (Fighters and Paladins) bend a knee to the Mockery as Patron.
THE SHADOW is a cautionary tale for those who seek knowledge; especially in the art of magic. It is the darkest side of ambition and said to be the malign shadow of Aureon himself who uses his shadow of magic to raise monsters and reveal secrets. Patron of warlocks and wizards. Once again fear of the unknown reigns supreme and what you thought was buried or thought a myth becomes the very thing that spells your doom.
THE TRAVELER spreads a gospel of chaos which powers all change in order to strengthen us. But we all fear change. It leads to uncertainty. One must step out on faith into the dark where disaster may be waiting. Therefore, the Traveler is a giver of dark and dangerous gifts. He is a trickster who gives even his most diligent of worshipers the unknown. The Traveler is especially a patron of Artificers who venture into the unknown in order to create newness and lead the charge into the night which is the future.
But, in the end, your cleric of fear could feed off any of these incarnations of The Dark Six. Especially on Eberron, your scarecrow could flourish. But I think of all of these options, The Mockery may be the best fit. But it is up to the flavor you’re intending.
GREEK MYTH: Phobos and Deimos
Turning to Greek myth, we return to the motif of fear, dread and battle. Once again, you may have to work to separate these two gods from their Father’s domain of war, but, once you do, there are so many things you can do.
DEIMOS is quite literally the feeling of DREAD in the pit of your stomach when anticipating some future reckoning. It is the fear of the coming battle or, if you separate it from such, the fear of what to come. PHOBOS is the natural inclination to run from something present that scares you too much to face. You can play these two off of each other as the dread of the future and the flight response in the presence. The two are killers of men in a different way their father’s wars do. It destroys a man and discredits him in the eyes of his allies and enemies.
But, together, they were the natural embodiment of fear itself.
DENDAR, THE NIGHT SERPENT
Early in Faerun’s history, the Sarrukh were approached by the World Serpent and offered the art of civilization to this original creator race of the scaly ones. They rose to prominence and power, but, the more diverse their people became, the more splintered the world serpent became until it was diffused and thought dead.
But the World Serpent, named Oroboros by many, had one aspect that tapped into the subconscious fears of mortals. Dendar, the Night Serpent was said to devour the nightmares of all humanoids. It went as far to say that Dendar “subsists and grows stronger be feeding on the fears that plague the folk of the world”. If this entity had a clergy, they were called ‘Nightmare Speakers’. One of their basic tenants was to cause as much fear across the world sending the people to sleep with vivid nightmares which their god would hunt and devour.
What’s more horrifying is that Dendar and his followers don’t want you dead. They want you to live in terror as long as you can. This feeds this aspect of the World Serpent.
Yuan-Ti are powerfully drawn to Dendar as a racial god, but any race that wants to deal in terror is accepted.
SHARGAAS, THE NIGHT LORD
Another racial god that touches upon fear as a part of its domain is Shargaas, the Orcish god of cold, the dark and the night. Each of these brings a special type of terror. Facing the wintery forces of nature; not knowing whether there will be a another warm sunrise. The unknown of what is in the dark and also the night is nightmare fuel.
But, more exact, Shargaas is an “embodiment of their fears—the fear of the unknown, and the fear of what lurked in the night below.”
That thing that lurks in the night below is Shargaas himself. Always plotting. Always waiting. And it is this fear of not knowing when he will strike from the shadows that fuels the fears of the weaker races. And being the smartest of the Orc gods, this conniving brute is the most dangerous of them. His plans were more cold and calculating than any of the others.
Shargaas went further than simply hating all non-Orc life. He hated life itself, even his own and went to great lengths to snuff everything from existence. He WAS their fear incarnate and you, as his obedient clerics, were to see to the spreading of fear also.
But, like I said, you could flavor your service to about any dark and twisted god into a service and campaign of fear. Let us know what you have done. What flavor did you use to inflict fear? What entity did you serve? And keep watching for my Scarecrow Cleric of Fear; coming soon. But, UP NEXT, we tackle the FEAR DOMAIN FOR 5E!