This is mostly aimed at my Home campaign, but also covers some ideas that fit into the Mystara game. Most of the core ideas come from the old “gold box” Basic DND Immortal-level rules for player-character deities, written by Frank Mentzer and published by TSR in 1986. I have tweaked and updated them to work with 4e and 5e and specifically added flavor to fit in my campaigns.
Immortals can be grouped into three species and are each a part of one of five “spheres” or distinct heirarchies. The species are Primordial, Primal Spirit, and Deity. The Spheres are Matter, Thought, Time, Energy, and Entropy. Each sphere is linked to an element as follows: Matter-Earth; Thought-air; Time-water; Energy-fire; Entropy-void/akasha. On Home, all of the Monster Lords are Primal Spirits, though two were originally Primordials (La’Warre and N’grannek) and one (Grey Priest) was originally a deity. The ritual binding them to the physical world transformed them into primal spirits. All but a tiny handful are in the hierarchy of Entropy.
The primordials are chaotic and affiliated with the elements, they create the physical stuff of the multiverse and rule the elemental chaos. During the dawn war the primordials were the aggressors because they were trying to destroy all of creation and remake it over and over and over. Demons, slaadi, djinni and archons are the chief servants of primordials. Elementals are both servants of primordials and a subclass of primordial. In general, primordials have the most creative power and destructive power of all immortals.
The Primal Spirits rule all three parts of the prime material, including the feywild and shadowfell. Primal Spirits are the energy of life within creation, and thus they took the raw stuff made by the primordials and filled it with life following the plan of the deities. They remained neutral during the dawn war, but when it became too violent they stepped in and forced both sides to stop fighting, and have formally forbidden either deities or primordials from interfering or fighting on the prime on pain of extinction. Because most of the casualties in the war came from among the primordials and deities, the Primal Spirits currently wield the most real power and the most numbers. On Home, however, the primal spirits are unable to break the control held by the Monster Lords because of their bond to the fabric of creation. Most primal spirits exist in more than one layer of reality at a time, with the greatest of them living in all three of the prime realms at once. Fey are subclasses of primal spirits as well as their primary servants. Of particular note, the “great spiders” are weavers of fate who interpret the pattern of the lattice and guide the living energy within the prime material realms. Under the Lady of the Web, nearly all of the top echelon of great spiders are Monsters and serve entropy.
Deities are the classic gods of most religions. They are the lords and primary inhabitants of the Astral Sea. They are responsible for the themes, ideas, and ordering of creation, which deities refer to as portfolios or domains. The eldest deities are actual manifestations of these portfolios, “the god strength” for example, not “the god of strength”. Killing these original deities removes the portfolio from existence temporarily. Typically another deity is able to claim the portfolio, most commonly the one that caused the former holder to die. Portfolios include war, strength, magic, wisdom, secrets, fire, luck, etc. The deities created a great astral structure called the lattice of heaven that drew power and matter from the elemental chaos into the prime where it became infused with life by the primal spirits. After the life died the lattice guided the souls into the astral sea where they found their way to the realm ruled by their own deity. Energy, order, and the pattern of existence flowed back down the lattice was interpreted and enacted by living beings and fed back into the elemental chaos as raw entropy completing the circuit. During the Dawn War the primordials destroyed the lattice, interrupting this process and causing immense chaos in both the prime and the astral. The deities no longer have the ability to make a new lattice, but several are trying to reconnect the pieces of the old one. Angels and devils are primary servants of the deities. In general deities have the most subtle power and most organization among immortals, they lead most councils.
Heirarchy and the Spheres
Immortals get their power in a very literal top-down flow. Each sphere has one hierarch, except entropy that has two. The hierarch then acts as a conduit through which power flows to all of the other immortals. The older and more accomplished an immortal is the more power they can hold and use at once time. Immortals can be thought of as sentient batteries or sentient pools of power. Primordials claim that the source of the power is the boiling chaos at the heart of limbo from which all of the raw stuff of creation originates. Deities claim the source of the power is the infinite Astral Sea and the energy it radiates. Primal Spirits claim life itself is the source of the power and both the astral and the elemental are simply manifestations of life. The truth of the matter may be known to the hierarchs, but if so they are not stepping in to solve the argument.
Hierarchs have almost absolute power over their sphere, in that they have the ability to strip power from any immortal in their sphere. They cannot give power to a non-immortal except by acting as a sponsor like any lesser immortal could, and their ability to grant increases of power is limited. But they can strip power, permanently or temporarily, and they can strip all power returning an immortal to mortal status. When the greatest primordial, Terra, was slain in the Dawn War the sphere of matter lost its hierarch. Ixion, who killed her, was able to prevent the title from passing to another immortal of matter and instead he was able to give the role to Ordanna, a primal spirit of thought who is acting as regent for Matter. Ixion is still the hierarch of energy. Time’s hierarch is Khoronus, and he is an original deity, he is time itself. Thought’s hierarch is currently Odin, though in the past he has traded the role with Korotiku the trickster. Entropy has two hierarchs, Thanatos and Nyx, Thanatos is death, not the god of death. Nyx is the sentience of the void, she is the last surviving primordial equivalent of the original deities, the others were all killed during the dawn war. The only ones whose names are known to mortal scholars are Terra, better known as Mother Earth, and Oceanus (the Monster Lord named himself after the primordial, but it a primal spirit). The ancient primordial embodiments of air and fire remain unknown. While thanatos is death, he has voluntarily given the portfolio up, and it is currently held by the Raven Queen.
Beneath the hierarchs immortal power flows in an uncontrolled way according to the capacity of the immortals. As immortals increase in capacity, by means unknowable to mortals, power comes to them instantly and involuntarily. Mortal scholars claim that the uppermost ranks of each sphere carry the title “eternal” and there are somehow limits on the number of eternals much like there are only one hierarch for each sphere. If an eternal expends too much power, or is injured too severely they can lose the position simply by energy changing its course, like a river. when a hierarch vacates the position, only an eternal can take the place and this happens instantly and without action on the part of the eternal. The power identifies whichever eternal is most “worthy” and they become the new hierarch.
Decisions that influence the whole of the multiverse are decided by councils. A council requires one immortal from each sphere as representative, and at least one deity, one primordial, and one primal spirit. At least one council member must be either an eternal or hierarch. Scholars of the dawn war have noted that councils work almost like immortal rituals, in that a decision made by a council has immediate effect changing the multiverse, without any actual action on the part of the imoortals to bring the change about. Very few councils or decisions are known to mortals, and looking into their workings is discouraged by the immortals. On Home, this usually means that the great spiders warn researchers away from areas they consider off limits, and obliterate those who ignore the warnings.
A few known council decisions:
Mantle of Death: Unanimous agreement of a council of all six hierarchs (only council that is not 5 members). After Orcus/LaWarre killed the deity of death during the dawn war, this emergency council stopped time and gave the portfolio of death to the raven queen, preventing the demon lord of undeath from claiming it. It is not known who thanatos originally gave the portfolio to, only that LaWarre killed this immortal and tried to claim the portfolio and Thanatos called the council to prevent LaWarre from succeeding.
Salvation of the Sentient Races: 4:1 decision, the identities of most involved immortals is unknown, Ordanna voted yes, Nyx was not on the council. Choice was made to kill The Demon and free the prime material from his rule, returning control to the uncorrupted primal spirits and ensuring that the sentient races would survive.
Dimensional Barrier: 3:2 decision, no votes were The Lady of the Web, and Pearl. Known yes vote was Korotiku. During the Dawn War, this council chose to split the nightmare realm away from the rest of the prime by altering its orientation. The effects of this are unclear and unable to be understood by mortals, but it appears that the nightmare realm was originally a fourth layer of the prime similar to the feywild and the shadowfell, but it is now a mirror of the prime separated dimensionally.
Binding of Oceanus, the lesser: Unanimous decision by Hel, Thor, Crown of Gold, Krakak, and Protius. After the mortal races and some primal spirits banished Oceanus the lesser to Home’s moon, this council bound him within the mare preventing his return to Home without the actions of another council.
Empowering of the Monster Slaying Weapons: unknown vote, unknown participants. It is unclear if this council was called before or after the forging of the weapons. But scholars claim that an immortal council approved the vote for the weapons to have the power to sever the tie between a Monster Lord and his realm, allowing them to be killable without uncreating that portion of creation in the process. It is rumored that this council was opposed by Entropy, and that the vote started a minor war among immortals. Not all scholars agree that this council is real (even among those scholars who believe in councils at all). Some claim that Monster Lords aren’t as powerful as they appear and the ancient wizards who created the Monster Slaying Weapons did so without immortal intervention.
This topic is even less understood or documented by mortals. Apparently some councils are not called for a single decision but rather to oversee and manage part of the multiverse in an ongoing way. Only two such councils are known to mortal scholars.
Council of Pandius, members unknown. This council enforces the treaty ending the dawn war. They have the power to strip an immortal back to mortal status without involving a hierarch and are rumored to have done so more than once. Primordials and Deities must get permission from this council to interefere with the prime material directly. Ordana and the Raven Queen are rumored to be on this council. The name “Pandius” is known to be a reference to a portion of the prime material, but scholars of Home have not identified it yet.
Council of Heaven. Members unknown. This council oversees attempts to repair the lattice of heaven. Endless rumors exist about this council, including their constantly changing membership, motives, and goals. A recurring conspiracy theory of sorts among those scholars who specialize in the dawn war and immortal activity. A popular theory is that the lords of hell are influencing this council to structure the lattice such that all souls go to hell instead of their proper afterlife. While not all souls go to hell, it is clear that those who make deals with devils are by far the least likely to end up in the wrong afterlife. They nearly always do go to hell.
What Immortals Do
Mortals have few insights into the activities of immortals, and immortals talking to mortals rarely (if ever) tell the truth. Nevertheless, some patterns have been observed over the millenia. Immortals manage and develop their own realms, further the goals of their sphere, further the goals of their species, pursue personal goals, and oppose each other in a constant cold war.
Manage their own realms
Nearly all immortals have a territory they control. For example, the demon prince Demogorgon rules a chunk of the Abyss, the Monster Lord N’grannek rules the kingdom of Imbilot, the Raven Queen rules the city of Letherna, and so forth. These immortals maintain a physical presence in their realm and manage it, much like a mortal ruler in most cases. Some immortals are more active than others, some have more than one physical body (for example the Fire Lord of consumption has five bodies and LaWarre is known to have seven) so they can be present in multiple places at once. When realms are part of the prime material, deities and primordials (but not primal spirits) are usually limited in how much power and interaction they can exert due to the treaty that ended the Dawn War. The main exception to this is that the Raven Queen has as much freedom in Letherna as any primal spirit would have, but outside her realm in other parts of the shadowfell and the prime material it is less clear. All primal spirits have realms in the prime material and are able to use their full power at will. In the astral sea and the elemental chaos these realms are nearly unassailable due to the power of the immortal present. Some, such as celestia or limbo have multiple immortals sharing one realm. When souls die they usually end up in the realm of their immortal patron and become an inhabitant of the realm for as long as that realm lasts.
Further the goals of their sphere
The spheres each have a number of goals and the immortals of the sphere do spend time working on them. For example, all of the four spheres of matter, energy, time, and thought actively expand the multiverse and carry out the act of creation, while entropy seeks to obliterate and end existence. Energy seeks to put all things in motion, time seeks to weave narratives of sequence and prevent retroactive change, thought seeks to understand and learn, and matter is constantly adding new “things” to existence whether creatures or objects. Mortal scholars have only this very crude and basic understanding of the goals of the spheres, though some scholars claim to have more specific details.
Further the goals of their species
Primordials still seek to spread the energy of chaos, to make and remake over and over. They are all about change and in this are most aligned with the sphere of energy and matter. Deities seek to give existence purpose and structure. This is the influence of order and they are most aligned with the spheres of thought and time. Primal Spirits seek to experience, learn, and live life as part of the cycle of life and death, this is most aligned with the spheres of thought, entropy and matter. Much like the goals of the spheres, these species goals are barely understood by mortals.
Pursue personal goals
All immortals have personal projects and goals. Tiamat seeks to amass the largest horde of wealth in existence. The Raven Queen seeks to guide all souls to the appropriate afterlife. LaWarre seeks to claim the portfolio of death. Mortals think they know what most of these goals are, but many immortals manipulate and trick mortals, even their own worshippers, into doing what furthers the goal not necessarily understanding the goal.
Oppose each other in a cold war
This has confused scholars for many generations. Even though immortals are free to openly engage each other and battle to the death, they rarely do. Instead, most immortals carry out a proxy war in the prime material that seeks to influence and guide mortals. There are infinite theories on why this is, and no consensus. But it is undeniable that immortals do spend a lot of time and energy in this sort of combat. Scholars and high ranking priests have noted that a success by one immortal against another is sometimes called a “stroke” by the immortals involved, and it apparently has a very real impact on both of them. For example, if LaWarre and Protius both worked to influence the passage of a law by the royal family in Lyric with LaWarre supporting it and Protius opposing it; if the law passed Protius would in some very tangible way be harmed and LaWarre would grow stronger. This is independent of any effect upon the mortal world this law has. Simply defeating or being defeated apparently involves a transfer of power from one immortal to the other. It is speculated that because of this transfer of power immortals cannot act openly or many others might gang up in opposition or support, so as to partake in the gaining of power. Thus they act in secret and with great sublety. Mortals involved almost never know that immortals were behind these actions. So immortals do not directly influence the heads of countries or guilds or even their own churches as often as mortals assume. Instead they influence the nanny who raises a prince so he grows up with values the immortal wants him to have, or the scholar who teaches the heir to a great merchant house so as an adult she holds opinions that match the immortal’s goals. They even sometimes have their own churches openly oppose something they want to succeed so as to throw off their opponents, knowing they can order their priests to “give up” at any time of their own choosing. Most scholars have identified a number of major conflicts that make up this cold war.
The Blood War: a long running conflict between the forces of chaotic destruction and lawful tyrrany. This is an embodiment of evil tearing itself apart, and is entropy feeding upon itself.
Overthrow the hierarch: all of the hierarchs are under siege constantly, as rivals within their own sphere and enemies from other spheres and species seek to topple them from the throne and take their place or put an ally on the throne.
Restart the Dawn War: a number of primordials and entropic immortals of all species seek to aggravate any conflict in an attempt to restart the Dawn War. They hope to break the primal spirits so that deities and primordials can again use their full power in the prime material and the primordials wish to exterminate all deities while the entropics wish to end the universe completely. The primordials think they will create a new multiverse afterward, but the entropics don’t plan to let them.
Control the destiny of the dead souls: this is a messy conflict with many factions. The Raven Queen and a few allies seek to ensure souls go to their immortal patron upon death, or to a fate of only her own knowing if they have no patron. LaWarre and a few other evil and selfish beings wish to claim all dead souls for themselves. A number of lawful entities seek to pervert the lattice of heaven to control where souls go, for example the devils wish to divert them all to hell. Many more players wish to influence just some specific dead souls.
Monster Lords vs Royal Family: Immortals are on both sides of this conflict. Most immortals that are not Monsters are backing the Royals, the Monsters and a few of the most vile entropics and evil immortals are opposed. This conflict is particularly ruthless and often becomes open war. Several immortals have been killed in this battle, either because of too many strokes or because the conflict leads to actual face-to-face battle to the death. In particular, though the royal family do not know about it, everytime one of them have wielded a monster slaying weapon armies of the immortals have marched in the feywild and shadowfell in parallel to their own prime material armies. The great spiders are the primary generals on the Monster side, while the Lords of the Fey and Tricksters of Thought are the primary generals on the Royal Family’s side.
Dragon War: Originally this was the war of primordial dragons, but it has spilled into the second generation. Pearl and Tiamat as the two most powerful deities of evil among the dragons seek to rule or exterminate all good dragons. Bahamut and Diamond oppose them, while the rest of the draconic pantheon remain either neutral or switch sides based on local fortune and personal gain. Other species are rarely involved. The three most powerful draconic immortals (The Great One, Null, and Chronepsis) have all stayed out of the conflict. Though Null did uncreate a small number of dragons who petitioned him to join their faction. In each case he only killed the messenger, but he uncreated the lord who sent the message.