What makes a god a god? How are divine powers created and how do they die? How powerful is a greater deity compared to a lesser deity? These questions and many more are answered for the Fofgotten Realms campaign setting within Faiths & Avatars.
Detailed in this 192-page core supplement are the most prominent religions and deities of the Realms. Each divine power is covered in depth by an entry that includes information about the deity's appearance, personality, worshippers, portfolio, aliases, domain name, superior, allies, foes, symbol, worhippers'alignments, avatar manifestation, church, and specialty priests. The information on each religion includes its core dogma, day-to-day activities of priests, holy days and important ceremonies, major centers of worhip, affiliated orders, and the priestly vestments and adventuring garb of the members of the clergy. Finally, each entry contains spells specific to each of the religions—some new, some long unavailable or hard to find, and some updated to conform with the current AD&D game rules.
Faiths & Avatars includes the following:
- All the greater, intermediate and lesser deities of the Faerûnian pantheon.
- The honored dead, including Bane, Bhaal, Moander, Myrkul, and Leira, among others.
- Expanded and clarified specialty priest classes and specific spells for all religions with priesthoods.
- Color illustrations of priests from every faith in ceremonial dress.
- Four additional general priest classes now official to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting: crusaders, monks, mystics, and shamans.
Suitable for all levels of play.
Faiths & Avatars, by Eric L. Boyd and Julia Martin, is a square-bound Forgotten Realms book that highlights the gods of the Realms. It was published in March 1996.
Continuing the Forgotten Realms Books. In the early 2e era, TSR published two sorts of large-sized, square-bound books for the Realms. The prestige "FOR-series" books covered races, organizations, and other interesting elements of Realmslore. They began with FOR1: Draconomicon (1990), and even after TSR stopped officially using module codes, it continued with FOR5: Elves of Evermeet (1994) and many others. The "FRS" series instead focused on geographical locales. There was only one book in the series, FRS1: The Dalelands (1993), but books like Cormyr (1994) clearly continued with the same concept even if TSR didn’t officially give them the FRS code.
In the mid-90s, TSR began to expand beyond its two traditional series. While it would later classify some of these releases as FOR-series books, in truth TSR was covering lots of new topics in large, dense books: Thus Pages from the Mages (1995) detailed spells of the Realms, Warriors and Priests of the Realms (1996) provided character kits, and Volo’s Guide to All Things Magical (1996) offered new rules for magic. This was the innovative and expansive environment for Forgotten Realms books that led to the creation of Faiths & Avatars.
A Newer Look at Deities. In Legends & Lore (1990) for AD&D 2e, TSR revamped the way they looked at deities. Unlike earlier deity books, Legends & Lore focused on the avatars of the gods and on how the abilities of a god impacted its priests. Hence, that book—and its companion, DMGR4: Monster Mythology (1992)—formed a midway point; with the publication of Faiths & Avatars, TSR moved even further in this direction.
The amount of material available in Faiths & Avatars for worshipers of a deity is outstanding. There’s extensive detail on the church, its dogma, its holy days, and even its day-to-day activities. The specialty priests of AD&D 2e are also given considerable attention: All the gods have a specialty option, but some have two or even three! Finally, each god tends to get a few special spells, to give its priests even more distinctiveness. Avatars have also changed from Legends & Lore to Faiths & Avatars: Their power level has more or less doubled, and they draw more benefits from these character levels than they did previously.
There was a cost to all of this change: Only 45 gods are detailed in the 192-page Faiths & Avatars; nonetheless, readers and players didn’t seem at all put off by the relatively low number of deities included. Faiths & Avatars was very well received, and to this day various online projects continue to convert other pantheons to the Faiths & Avatars format.
About the Priest. Faiths & Avatars also gives some attention to the priest class itself. It does so by introducing four new priestly subclasses to join the 2e cleric and druid: the crusader, the monk, the mystic, and the shaman. All but the mystic were actually drawn from Player’s Option: Spells & Magic (1996), which was in process when this book was published and would itself appear just a few months later.
The mystic, however, was a brand new class (sort of). Gygax had written about creating a mystic subclass way back in Dragon #65 (September 1982). It was to be part of a Gygaxian second edition for AD&D that never materialized. Instead, the Basic D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991) introduced the first "mystic" to D&D—but there it was just a new name for what is known in other editions as a monk. Then in 2e, the idea of a mystic (or at least the name) suddenly proliferated. A full mystic subclass appeared in Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales (1994), while mystic kits appeared in PHBR4: The Complete Wizard’s Handbook (1990), Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992), PHBR10: The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993), and CGR3: The Complete Sha’ir’s Handbook (1994).
Thus, after the mystic was neglected throughout the 70s and 80s, Faiths & Avatars introduced the second (or sixth) version of the class—depending on how you count it.
Expanding the Realms. Ed Greenwood introduced the deities of the Forgotten Realms in just nine pages of text in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987). They got considerably better attention in Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990), which previewed the Legends & Lore deity format and introduced the first specialty priests for the Realms, and in the revised edition of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1993). Meanwhile, Warriors and Priests of the Realms (1996) detailed characters kits for priests of specific Realms gods just a month before the publication of Faiths & Avatars.
However, Faiths & Avatars blows all of that out of the water. By spending an average of four pages per deity, it offers up detail on the 45 D&D gods herein that quite simply can’t be found anywhere else.
Future History. Faiths & Avatars was followed by two other Forgotten Realms deity books in the same format: Powers & Pantheons (1997) and Demihuman Deities (1998). The material from the series was revamped and considerably condensed for 3e as Faiths and Pantheons (2002). The Faiths & Avatars deity format never officially made it to most of AD&D’s 2e worlds. However, Greyhawk got some attention: the Suel gods appeared in this format in The Scarlet Brotherhood (1999), while the “Oeridian Lesser Gods” got converted in a series of articles from Dragon #263 - #265 (September-November 1999).
The Faiths & Avatars format was also used to describe a deity in the generic sourcebook, “The Bastion of Faith” (1999).
About the Creators. Boyd wrote a long series of Forgotten Realms sourcebook from 1996-2008. Faiths & Avatars was the first of them, to be followed much later in the year by Volo's Guide to All Things Magical (1996).
Martin had previously written and edited for GDW. Faiths & Avatars was her only major work for D&D, though she also contributed to the 3e Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets (2000). She later contributed to a series of articles on the “Faiths of Faerûn” for Dragon magazine in the 3e era.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.