One of the hostile entities I'm creating for a campaign I'm working on is a cult of witch-hunters (elven, to be precise) who are motivated to hunt witches by a belief that witchcraft/warlockery (aka pact magic) is an affront to their deity, and/or to the study and work "real wizards™" do to achieve their casting abilities.

However, I'm at a loss as to what a fitting choice would be for that deity. What I do know is that it needs to be:

  • a deity of magic (otherwise the conceit about why the witch-hunters do what they do doesn't make sense)
  • followable by not-insane people so the cultists have a population to try to hide amongst (a strictly evil deity would not work for this)
  • and preferably from the Greyhawk or Faerûn pantheons (because I don't have the energy/investment to create a pantheon atop all the other worldbuilding things I'm doing for that campaign, and those are also the deities I have the easiest time finding D&D-specific info for).

(If there is an extremely strong fit in another D&D campaign universe, I would be willing to at least entertain it, but it would have to be a much better choice than anything in Greyhawk or Faerûn to be an option.)

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Azuth from FR might be a candidate. He is not a god of magic, but of wizards, and is mostly interested in the structured study of magic. From wikipedia:

The clerics of Azuth teach wisdom and restraint. This means that Azuth is often not the favoured god of sorcerers with their fiery, instinctual use of magic, and bards with their somewhat fanciful approach to it.

From the 3e FR Campaign Setting, the first sentence for Azuthian dogma:

Reason is the best way to approach magic, and magic can be examined and reduced to its component parts through study and meditation.

Likewise, quoting from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (SCAG):

Azuth is god of a wizard's long hours of study, exacting standards of movement and speech, and cramped, ink-stained fingers.

Your cult might have decided that pact magic is an affront to the real teachings of Azuth, essentially a cheat to gain power without real work, swapping sweat with stolen power; without a proper understanding of what is going on. Warlocks could be seen as fools who are endangering the society with their broken understanding. Moreover, since the common folk cannot necessarily distinguish between actual wizards and warlocks, pact magic users will eventually cause serious paranoia within the society against reputable practitioners of magic, ie. wizards, as well.

Also according to SCAG, there are few dedicated centers of Azuth worship, and this fact might play well in your game. While there will be clergy who see this cult as heretics, they will be spread out and might not be able to mount a concerted argument to suppress the cult's "distorted" view of Azuthian principles. (An additional piece of lore information from 2e Faiths and Avatars: 45% of the titled clergy within the church hierarchy used to be wizards. Given that the 5e pantheon is structured in almost the same way as the 2e&3e versions, I don't see any reason if you wanted to keep this ratio also in 5e.)

Finally, Azuth is LN, so the cultists could see themselves as principled saviours who are willing to make the hard decisions others are unable or unwilling to do. What they are doing is to maintain order for the greater good of the society. When witches/warlocks are captured, the cultists might offer them a chance to renounce their pacts, atone for the bad deeds they did under the taint of otherworldly patrons, and start a new life learning magic the proper way. You could even imagine multiclassed warlock/wizards who joined the cult this way and having been converted, they could be even more zealous than the others in the cult.

PS: Following a comment by KorvinStarmast, it might be worth mentioning that within the 5e rules, you might have one or more Arcana clerics of Azuth playing important roles in this cult, either openly or covertly. I can add that such clerics could even be of LE alignment; not only 5e allows it, but also as far back as the 2e, Azuthian church accepted LE clergy according to Faiths & Avatars.

  • This is so close to an exact fit -- only problem: I'm having a wee bit of trouble wrapping my head around how the followers of a LN deity would get sloppy/ignorant of due process, though. Should I ask a separate question for that...or would it be better if you addressed it in this answer, or in chat with me? – Shalvenay Oct 23 '17 at 23:28
  • @Shalvenay: I think concepts like "due process", "habeas corpus", etc. and how they apply in the magical mediaeval lands of Faerun is worth an independent discussion. Such a discussion would also need to take into account that Faerun is a huge continent; different countries have different laws. For that matter, even in the 21st century Earth, there are places where due process is given only lip service. On a bigger context, I think LN or even LG alignment does not automatically mean individuals would apply due process; D&D paladins are quite often judge-juror-executioner rolled into one. – ZwiQ Oct 24 '17 at 4:17
  • @KorvinStarmast: Thanks for the good suggestion. However, I could not integrate your suggestion directly into the answer, but added a short PS mentioning it. – ZwiQ Oct 24 '17 at 4:32
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    @ZwiQ sweet, very helpful answer. – KorvinStarmast Oct 24 '17 at 12:27
  • @ZwiQ -- we probably should take that discussion to chat then, as I tend to reuse the Faerunian and Greyhawkian pantheons when building my own worlds – Shalvenay Oct 25 '17 at 3:00

Greyhawk

Pholtus

Not a god of magic but a god of fanatics - the witch hunters could be expressing their fanaticism in this way.

Boccob

A god of magic but he really doesn't care about anyone or anything - not to say some followers might not get it into their heads that pact magic users are doing it "wrong".

Wee Jas

Goddess of magic and death (in a good way) - an unlikely candidate as she is more concerned with ensuring that both operate smoothly. One of my all time favorite PCs was a cleric of Wee Jas - for some reason the ability to kill with a touch puts people off.

Tharizdun

The god of Eternal Darkness, Decay, Entropy, Malign Knowledge, Insanity, and Cold - basically a nihilistic entity so fanatical followers could fixate on anything.

Vecna

Primarily the god of secrets so could have a problem with powerful entities sharing "secret" power.

Corellon Larethian

Well, they are elves and he is the elvish god of magic.

Baravar Cloakshadow

Nobody ever suspects the gnomes!

  • 2
    What pantheon is Pholtus of? – Fivesideddice Oct 23 '17 at 3:02
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    I'm not sure what the rationale is for these other additions, and the answer doesn't really provide any. I thought this was a better answer when it was just Pholtus; alternatively, it could be better by explaining why each of the new additions are the right answer. – SevenSidedDie Oct 23 '17 at 15:23
  • @Fivesideddice : He is a lesser power of "Light, Resolution, Law" described in the Greyhawk Adventures sourcebook from 1988. – ZwiQ Nov 19 '17 at 16:33

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