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Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
73,986 backers pledged $3,986,929 to help bring this project to life.

Orlan First Look and Ziets on Pantheon Design

Orlan First Look

Josh Sawyer

Click to see full-size image

As some of the keen-eyed among you noted from last week's update, there was an unfamiliar portrait in our work-in-progress tileset screenshot. We read the debates and viewed the Blade Runner-esque enhanced images that followed with interest. Good work, sleuths, the character pictured is, in fact, an orlan. This orlan is engaged in some important work in one of the Dyrwood's busiest cities. Here's the full-sized portrait for your continued speculation!

Ziets on Pantheon Design

George Ziets

Hello all. This week, I will be writing the update, and we’ll be starting to talk a bit about world development. For a designer, this is the fun part, and it’s a surprisingly rare opportunity.
On all my previous Obsidian projects, the team has worked with an established IP (intellectual property) like the Forgotten Realms or Fallout. We’ve always had a wealth of existing lore to draw upon – cities, towns, characters, history, gods, etc. Sometimes we’ve worked in an area of the world that hadn’t been seen in a CRPG before (as in NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer), which gave us the opportunity to extrapolate beyond what was already established... but otherwise, we were working with established material and trying to be true to existing lore.
In contrast, Project Eternity is an entirely new setting that we’re creating from scratch. And at the start of development (around the end of the Kickstarter campaign), we didn’t have much more than what KS supporters have already seen: a map, a few high-level ideas about races, nations, and technology level, and the idea that souls play a major role in this world.
So where do we go from there?

Building a Pantheon
One of our first steps was to think about gods. Deities can be a good starting point when developing a world. They reflect the views and beliefs of the world’s inhabitants, and they can inspire ideas for characters, organizations, and conflicts.

You’ve already heard a few of our gods mentioned in passing: Magran, goddess of fire and war; Berath, god of cycles, doors, and death; Eothas, god of light and redemption. Josh invented these gods when he was first developing the world, and they play important roles in the region where the game will be set. But we’ll need a lot more gods to fill out the pantheon.

Here are a few of the elements we consider for each new deity:

  • What is the god's name, and what are his/her "aliases" (e.g., "The Twinned God" for Berath).
  • What is the god's portfolio? That is, what aspects of life or the world do they represent (e.g., mortality, greed, summer, commerce)?
  • What allies and foes do they have amongst the other gods?
  • What are their symbols?
  • How do they manifest in the mortal world?

We list this information for each deity, as well as providing a detailed description. Players won’t necessarily get to see all this stuff, but it’s useful background for the art and design teams, so that the world feels like a consistent, coherent whole.

One other thing to bear in mind: for the most part, our deities aren’t good or evil. They’re somewhere in between – closer to the multi-dimensional gods of the ancient world. Every deity has his or her own agenda, which isn’t bound by notions of alignment. Sometimes they can be helpful and benevolent. Other times – not so much.

Woedica – "The Exiled Queen"
All the preceding info is important, but I wouldn’t want to leave you without revealing an actual example...

A lot of my design ideas start with a visual image. That applies to characters, locations, even narrative. I’m not sure where most of them come from, but examining them more closely will usually lead me to develop stories to explain who they are and where they came from.

One of the first images that sprang to mind was an old woman – a dethroned queen – wandering along an empty road in tattered finery. Despite whatever horrors she had suffered, she maintained a certain stubborn dignity, and she carried a heavy book of law.

I felt like this goddess could cover a range of portfolios, and I liked the idea that the deity who was the "rightful ruler" of the gods (in her mind, at least), had lost her throne. That may have some interesting implications for the way in which mortals view the world.

So what was her story? According to her followers, she had once claimed rulership over all the other gods. But if that was true, she was cast down in the far distant past. Among the other gods, she has no real allies, believing that all the gods owe her fealty. She claims the portfolios of law, rightful rulership, memory, and vengeance. And she manifests in the world as the Strangler, a leathery-skinned old woman, always clad in tattered finery, who appears on an empty road or abandoned alleyway to murder those who break a solemn oath.

Her Aedyran name is Woedica, which evokes the “Old English” feel of the Aedyran language. (Maintaining a distinct sense of national/ethnic language and culture is important to us – more about that in a later update.)

There’s a lot more to tell about the Exiled Queen and the other gods (some of which aren’t even “human”). But that should give you a taste of our creative process. We’ll have plenty more to say about world-building in future updates. As some of the keen-eyed among you noted from last week's update, there was an unfamiliar portrait in our work-in-progress tileset screenshot. We read the debates and viewed the Blade Runner-esque enhanced images that followed with interest. Good work, sleuths, the character pictured is, in fact, an orlan. This orlan is engaged in some important work in one of the Dyrwood's busiest cities. Here's the full-sized portrait for your continued speculation!

FORUMS: Discuss this update on our forums!


    1. Creator Richard Luijten on February 3, 2013

      That midget werewolf looks like he's trying to use the force or something..

    2. Creator James on February 1, 2013

      Dragon age is monotheistic isn't it?

    3. Creator Zbigniew Kordylewski on February 1, 2013

      Can't we at least one time have a fantasy setting with MONOTHEISM? I am sick and tired of all that generic gods of Fire, Death, Life etc.

    4. Creator Aethelric on February 1, 2013

      Woedica is far, far too close to Boudica to be taken seriously. I like the goddess, but the name is just silly.

    5. Creator William on January 30, 2013

      You have an access denied error on your JPG at the end of the post.
      Code AccessDenied
      Message Access Denied

    6. Creator Bryce on January 30, 2013

      The orlan is obviously cheating at mystery murder theatre.

    7. Creator LordCrash - OD | OOoE | WoOS on January 30, 2013

      Great update, thanks OE.

    8. Creator gandalf.nho on January 30, 2013

      Liked the orlan, he's a cipher? Has a name?

      And loved the part about the creation of the pantheon

    9. Creator Silver on January 30, 2013

      Sounds good so far. Thanks for the update, George! :)

    10. Creator FightingFurball on January 30, 2013

      Hm... I'm thinking Diversification here!
      Like Cabbala, Goddess of Cabbages. You know, wars might come around strong but normally only once in a life time but a cabbage harvest comes around every year!
      Stability and long time growth also worship market separation :)

    11. Creator Céline .S. Sauvé on January 30, 2013

      Wouldn't non having a huge pantheon make the world more unique? I mean, an overly large pantheon seems to be a staples of just about every fantasy setting out there, no?

      I do love the character images we've been getting looks at. Can't wait to see how magic is dealt with in the world either, no matter the flavour (Divine, Arcane, some now surprising sort).

    12. Creator Greenfr0G on January 30, 2013

      pid: Exactly!

    13. Creator pid on January 30, 2013

      When I read Woedica I hear

    14. Creator Brett Morehouse on January 30, 2013

      @Martin Kramer
      True, and, while I don't specifically make that distinction, I do show how the terms can and do intersect.

      In either case, my point still stands. An orderly society is a lawful society, whereby the terms intersect hard.

      Another point I purposely left ambiguous was that 'law' and 'order' are neither good nor evil. The terms themselves are neutral, and there can be morally good or evil existences of them.

    15. Creator Alan Villarreal on January 30, 2013

      What would be bad ass is if there happens to be a main villain, he has such charisma that you actually want to root for him. I was watching the new season of Spartacus, they introduced "Marcus Crassus". This guy is the main bad guy for the season but hes got so much charisma firepower that you actually feel and root for him. I'm hoping we can see some evil entities that give off the same Vibe in Project Eternity. Maybe be a fun idea too for a God. One that is so evil, yet so likeable.

    16. Creator cpt_freakout on January 30, 2013

      Echoing what Epsilon said, combinations of very different and yet subtly related concepts for gods would be great. I think Woedica is in the right track, in the sense that her concept clearly holds the law above life and death. There could be, say, a god of history, who would differ from a god of time in the sense that it would 'be about' the finite instead of the infinite; it could be represented by death in the form of the endings of stories and the passing away of people and nations as transformed into archives: the transcendence of life (in a romantic way) turning into enduring intrascendence, the little quotidian things that fill up the world.

    17. Creator Sichr on January 30, 2013

      @Epsilon. Since there possibly would be lot of traveling this would be pretty interresting...having your home parton symbol or representation with you, connected to some special traits or rituals that are inherited to you home and you have to follow...alienation to such principles/beings, specific sins to avoid...there is great RP potential ;)

    18. Creator Zaxth - Weresheep of Sin on January 30, 2013

      What about a god of insanity? or one of domination and subjugation, seperate gods even. Fire/War Life/death while obvious choices and would have to be in a world of humans, are perhaps a bit too tried. More variety in gods please, how about house gods? as in ancient Rome.

    19. Creator T.J. Brumfield on January 30, 2013

      Will we get Jeff, God of Biscuits?…

    20. Creator Sichr on January 30, 2013

      I like the way you are ascribing motives to gods to find that form their portfolio, well as reading this I have a few questions that came into my mind about pantheon and such things:
      1) Were there gods prior to the world itself? Or were they part of the creation? Or they come after that point?
      2) What about sentient beings. Were they created by gods? Or are gods byproduct of peoples beliefs, hopes and fears?
      3) The most interresting for me, what is the relation between such deities and time. If there is a wheel, are gods also affected by cycles? Or are they continuously, lineary, affecting the universe towards their own goals? Or Are they inert to time, standing outside the flow, being able to freely influence any point of "history" perceived by lower entities?

      I had to deal with such questions when designing my setting for another game, so Im just currious how others dealt with "genesis" and extinction/ beginning of new cycle. Thanx for reply and good luck :)

    21. Creator Daniel Francis Leiva on January 30, 2013

      "There’s a lot more to tell about the Exiled Queen and the other gods (some of which aren’t even “human”)." This is exactly what I was hoping for. Can't wait to see what kind of interesting, non humanoid deities you all can come up with!

    22. Creator Martin Kramer on January 30, 2013

      @ Brett Morehouse: "Lawful" doesn't equal "law". A lot of people misunderstand this, and see lawful people as people who uphold the law. That isn't true! It just means they prefer order. Law, in this case, is synonymous with order. It need not be synonymous with laws and jurisdiction. While they *may* overlap, this is not always true. Important distinction, in my opinion.

    23. Creator Mate Sršen on January 30, 2013

      I'm guessing if they made a TV show about that orlan he would be played by... William Petersen? David Caruso? :-)

    24. Creator bschneider on January 30, 2013

      Neat update, looking forward to more of this.

    25. Creator ZombieThreepwood on January 30, 2013


    26. Creator Kaeroku on January 30, 2013

      I really like hearing this kind of perspective on the development, and please keep updates like this one coming... BUT!

      I wanted to point out that January was the proposed date for seeing a video Arcanum playthrough! When when when!? :)

    27. Creator Sempavor - Bandit of the Obsidian Order on January 30, 2013

      Oh man, I can't wait to meet the Exiled Queen!... :)

    28. Creator Brett Morehouse on January 30, 2013

      Which Hades? If you refer to the current pop-culture, then you'd be accurate. If you refer to the Hades of Greco-Roman mythology, he was more lawful neutral.

      @Jean-Luc Picard
      As a longtime fan of the Ogre IP from Atlus, I don't see how this is a 'non-straightforward' take on 'law'. The concept of 'law' is relatively neutral even if the perception of 'law' is generally very misconstrued as 'good'.

      I bring up the Ogre IP for a very good reason. If you haven't played any of the games, you might not recognize the sliding scale of law/chaos present in every game. There are several morally GOOD actions that slide the scale towards chaos because you BROKE the law. There are several morally EVIL actions that slide the scale towards law because you UPHELD the law.

      Which actually brings up certain clever dungeon masters running DnD campaigns. You can only take the paladin class if you are lawful good. In strict rule structure, killing an innocent slides the scale towards evil, and disobeying orders from your sovereign authority (king, council, whatever) slides the scale towards chaos. If you are ordered to slay an innocent, any action you take slides the scale away from lawful good.

      If you spare the innocent, you slide to neutral good or chaotic good. If you slay the innocent, you slide to lawful neutral or lawful evil.

      There is a reason the lawful evil classification exists. You obey the law, but you commit morally evil actions.

      ...which makes me immediately think of historical examples of lawful evil...

      I think I need to stop this now before it becomes a full on rant.

      I think I'll summarize. I don't see this as a 'non-straightforward' example of 'law' in any possible sense.

    29. Creator Trister - OO's Tormented Master Wetboy on January 30, 2013

      it's updated like this that have me so completely psyched for this project. keep up the good work.

    30. Creator thenthomwaslike on January 30, 2013

      Awesome update, this lore seems to be tightening up into something wholly original and awesome

    31. Creator Sean Riedinger on January 30, 2013

      Our Orlan friend here seems to be using, if I had to guess... Probably some kind of psychometric talent. Gleaning information from the sword, being careful not to directly touch it to avoid contaminating the evidence / source of information. Regardless, a really nice image, and my excitement continues. :)

    32. Creator Jean-Luc Picard on January 30, 2013

      Love the Exiled Queen and the non-straightforward take on a "law"-type of deity. Awesome update overall.

    33. Creator Miroslaw on January 30, 2013

      Pantheon Design looks lie a lot of fun and work! I hope you will have time to make other things perfect in the game! And what do you mean there will be no good or evil gods? Was Hades not evil enough?
      This whole update reminds me Hercules Disney movie story!

    34. Creator Atarun on January 30, 2013

      A goddess of war and a goddess of law and revenge... Way to strangle gender stereotypes. :D
      Can't wait to learn more about the pantheon. It already seems many notches above the average fantasy pantheon, in terms of originality and depth.
      If we're given the choice of which god to adore during character creation, I hope it affects the game somewhat. Not like in rogue-likes, of course, where gods scrutinize every player action, but it'd be nice to have one's meaningful choice of faith reflected in NPC's reactions a few times in the game. :)

    35. Creator Tiago Morelli on January 30, 2013

      As some of the keen-eyed among you noted from last week's update, there was an unfamiliar portrait in our work-in-progress tileset screenshot. We read the debates and viewed the Blade Runner-esque enhanced images that followed with interest. Good work, sleuths, the character pictured is, in fact, an orlan. This orlan is engaged in some important work in one of the Dyrwood's busiest cities. Here's the full-sized portrait for your continued speculation!

    36. Creator Bryy Miller on January 30, 2013

      Jesus, that description of Woedica is amazingballs. Very nice.