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I'm not sure I did a great job of explaining what, exactly, I'm looking for in my recent question, Are there any gods or godlike entities in D&D associated primarily with fear? . I'm basing my parameters on a podcast I listen to that's heavily inspiring my campaign, and I'm not sure if it'd serve the question to refer to it.

On the one hand, if anyone who is familiar with the podcast stumbles across the question, they'll know exactly what I'm looking for; on the other hand, I fear that the reference might drive away people who have useful expertise but assume they can't give me a good answer because they don't know what I'm referring to. (The same goes for anyone in the future who goes searching for fear-focused gods; I suspect it might make for a worse Q&A experience for them, as the answers (if they exist) may seem specifically tailored to this one reference.) The podcast itself is relatively popular, but not explicitly related to tabletop games in any way.

In this case, the podcast, The Magnus Archives, deals heavily with entities that are created by the power of fear, and feed off of the fears of living creatures-- the key thing, for my question, is that they didn't so much create those fears, but are responding to the primordial fears of living creatures: death, disease, predation, etc. Essentially, rather than being fueled by the power of belief, as is common in D&D, they are fueled by the power of fear, and seek only to further that fear. This is established as a primary plot point relatively early in the podcast, which has been fully finished for a bit now, so it's reasonable to assume that any listener would be familiar with this concept.

So: Do I include the reference for the sake of potential clarity, or do I leave it out because it might be needlessly confusing?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was worried about derailing or getting off topic, but I can add that for sure! \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it something that can be summarized or described, or would someone need to actually listen to the podcast to be able to understand what it's referencing? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case May 27 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case I'm not sure, honestly! It's not so much a single plot point as it is just sort of...the entire setup for how the universe works, and I don't think of it as being a super unique concept, but it seems like my question has been confusing without it. \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case No, I really want something that would make sense to any D&D player; the main issue is with explaining the difference between fear as a primary goal of an entity vs fear as an incidental, natural effect of the entity's real goals. Someone familiar with the podcast will be more likely to understand what that means immediately. \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 17:35
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With this specific example, referencing the podcast probably isn't necessary or helpful

From the description (I'm not a listener to that podcast), it sounds like what is being described is a worldbuilding element-- a description of the cosmology and inherent operation of the in-game universe. And that description doesn't sound, to me, like it would mesh very well with the official D&D lore. That mismatch is problematic, because it's akin to asking if there is a specific type of orange in a cartload of apples.

So to my reading, this should perhaps be two questions:

  1. How do deities in D&D work/Do any deities in D&D work this way?

  2. If (1), are there any specific deities with these properties?

Neither of these would rely on the specific material in the podcast, meaning that the podcast is probably not a necessary reference. Further, I (personally) feel that podcasts and videos are really bad and irritating references unless you can give timestamps for specific references. I can read text at my own pace, but wading through media with a relatively fixed pace of consumption makes them extremely hard to refer back to.

That said, if the material is popular enough there may be enough broad familiarity that the requisite familiarity with individual episodes or releases is present for enough people to help. You could probably say "[X], as on Critical Role" and get what you're looking for with little fuss. I don't know of a good guideline for this.

But overall if an idea is well-defined enough to be useful in adding context to a question, I think that it should be possible to write a brief summary of the necessary elements of the idea to illustrate what you mean. Maybe with a reference to the podcast that inspired it, for those who might be familiar. But it's tricky, at best, to use a reference that is 100% external to the question or stack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That makes sense, and I was sort of leaning in that direction-- especially since it seems like adding the context muddies the waters and leads people towards thinking that I'm looking for something that works the same way as the podcast. (Although, especially in the outer planes, it's always seemed to me that D&D gods do work in the sense that the more belief they get, the more power they have, but I digress.) \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 17:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LCooper If I'm understanding what you're going for, I think that I use deific beings with properties like you're looking for in my games. But I know that it's all homebrewed enough that I can't rely on official D&D material for much of anything. And while opinions vary, unless you're running a by-the-book module I think that breaking away from the official D&D lore is one of the best choices you can make. It's a lot of history and constraint to take on otherwise, and if you don't need it for anything then you've added a lot of work in exchange for not very much. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case May 27 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect I'll need to do a hefty bit of homebrew in any case, but having a good base to cannibalize is always nice! My current plan is to do some handwavy nonsense with Atropals, but if there's something closer to what I want that I can borrow from, that's less work for me as a DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LCooper You can always workshop things like this in chat, too. I have found the regulars there to be very helpful with this sort of thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case May 27 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I may do just that! Normally I workshop writing with friends, but, well, those are also my players! \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LCooper D&D gods are defined by belief, but they are empowered more by worship—the two words are often conflated, but the distinction seems relevant here. Belief in and fear of a god ensures that god will continue to exist and provides a kind of “baseline” power, but becoming a more powerful god requires that mortals worship you, that is, make sacrifices and prayers in your name, pay you homage, and the like. Plenty of gods receive such worship out of fear—people making offering in the hope that they will be spared the god’s wrath—but they need to take that extra step, not just be afraid. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 27 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yeah, this is the weird sticking point that I was having a hard time getting across in my question, although I've since gotten one amazing answer that I'm just waiting on the 24 hour grace period to accept, and one comment from someone who hadn't read this meta but knew exactly what I was inspired by, so I feel like I did okay! Not sure if the 24 hour waiting period is the same on meta, but I'm feeling like this one is pretty thoroughly answered. \$\endgroup\$ – Cooper May 27 at 20:46
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Including more info is (generally) better than less

I don't think there's really any benefit to omitting that information, since it is what prompted your question. If you are specifically looking for deities like the ones in that podcast that inspired your campaign, then it helps to at least mention that.

If it ends up being entirely irrelevant, it can always be edited out as needed, or trimmed if there's a lot of unnecessary detail about the podcast in your question, but I think the question would be improved by at least mentioning that information.

Leaving that information out seems somewhat akin to asking a character-creation question about how to build [character X] from [show Y] in D&D/Fate/etc. without actually naming the character/show you're trying to emulate. Sure, you should specifically explain what aspects of the character are most important to you in the question, but it would just be unnecessarily confusing if you specifically avoided mentioning the character/show.

Similarly, in your case, you should certainly explain what aspects of the deity/religion are most important to you (which you've kind of done already), but that doesn't mean you should avoid mentioning what inspired you if it's not a tabletop RPG.

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