I have been looking through the list of deities in the 5e Player's Handbook, as well as some of the big nasties in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, but there don't appear to be any deities that are associated specifically and primarily with fear.

Tharizdun is associated with darkness and madness, and Demogorgon is pure gibbering madness; indeed, all of the Demon Princess are obviously terrifying to behold. Star Spawn and Elder Evils are similar, in that they are undeniably terrifying, but they aren't driven by the desire to cause fear. For all of these creatures, fear is a natural secondary response to the other horrors that they want to bring to pass. It isn't their driving force or domain.

I'm looking for something that is primarily associated with pure fear. For example, a god of violent conquest will cause fear on accident as its followers rampage through a peaceful countryside with the goal of claiming the land for themselves; I'm searching some something that would have its followers rampage through the countryside for no other reason than causing fear.

Does such a thing exist in any edition of D&D? Any setting is fine, since this is for a Planescape campaign, using Sigil as the primary hub for the players; all the deities are equally relevant! I'm perfectly happy to homebrew my own fear-based deity, but if something already exists, I'd love to be able to make use of it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In most D&D games I've been part of, the DM is the deific being inspiring fear... But more seriously, what counts as primary for the deity? I've seen descriptions of Bane as a god of terror, but fear isn't usually listed in Bane's portfolio. Would that count, or does it have to be part of the "official" portfolio? \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    May 27 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Terror is good! The goal is something whose worshippers would be mainly trying to cause fear in other creatures, rather than conquest or anything more tangible. I realize this is kind of a weird concept I'm looking for, haha! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 27 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sadly that disqualifies Bane then - though fear/terror is part of his whole deal, he's also about tyranny and conquest (more of a "rule through fear" thing than terror for terror's sake). \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    May 27 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer Ah, dang! I do suspect the answer to this question is that none of the existing gods are the specific type of spooky that I'm looking for, but these comments do give me a better idea of some clarification I can add to my question, so that's good! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 27 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, now considering inserting the Magnus Institute into my D&D game... \$\endgroup\$ May 27 at 19:02

If you are willing to look outside of just the Forgotten Realms lore, then the Sahkil may be what you are looking for

The Sahkil are a type of outsider from Golarion (the primary setting of Pathfinder, which is produced by Paizo). The short version is: They're fallen soul shepherds who now exist almost exclusively to cause fear in humanoids. The most powerful group of them are known as the Sahkil Tormentors, who have power on par with demigods.

The lesser Sahkil will select individual mortals to torment for years at a time until they eventually scare them to death, while the Tormentors are more concerned with large-scale instilling of terror.

One of the Tormentors that may be of particular note to you is Chamiaholom, whose primary areas of concern are domination, hopelessness, and especially the mortal fear of death. In fact one of the obediences performed by his more devout worshippers is for them to perform a false divination for a stranger in which they reveal the person’s death.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is brilliant, and almost exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for! Completely fear-based, have some stats to at least get me started, and since none of my usual players have played any Pathfinder, I suspect they'll be completely unfamiliar to the group-- ideal for a horror campaign! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 27 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ A word of advice, these are statted out in Pathfinder-1e, so if you need any that are for your players to actually fight, you'll have to basically rebuild them from scratch, but you can get inspiration on how they should function from the Archives of Nethys or PFSRD entries for them. \$\endgroup\$ May 27 at 20:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the heads up! I'm thinking at some point I'm going to have to sit down and do a lot of rebuilding of stats, since everything for the Planescape setting is 2e AD&D, and that's a whole bizarre kettle of fish, what with the armor class situation and everything. But having a starting point is hugely helpful! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 27 at 20:09

A few have fear in their portfolio.

A few deities are described as a god of fear, or have fear as one of the elements in their portfolio.

  • Vara of the World of Greyhawk (The Scarlet Brotherhood p.41), Touv goddess of nightmares and fear
  • Bane of the Forgotten Realms (Faiths and Pantheons p.14), god of tyranny, hatred and fear
  • The Dark Six of Eberron (Faiths of Eberron p. 49), collectively gods of passion, destruction, fear, and vengeance; of those, The Mockery in particular is a god of terror and treachery
  • H'rar (Morgion) of Dragonlance (Holy Orders of the Stars p.14), god of fear, pain, suffering, and plague
  • Erythnul of the World of Greyhawk (Deities and Demigods p.66) is a god of panic

Of these, Erythnul strikes me as perhaps a good choice, according to his description in D&D 3e's Deities and Demigods:

Erythnul can create any armor, and simple or martial weapon, and any item that creates fear. [...]

Erythnul's avatars look just like he does. He sends them to spread fear and death, mostly for his own amusement.

There is a convenient fan-collected list called DnD3.5Index-Deities.pdf which can serve as a starting point in searching for deities of a given portfolio.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think several of these are not great choices—these are evil gods of scary things, that like to spread fear, but mostly because it goes hand-in-hand with their primary concern (slaughter and suffering for the most part). Bane was explicitly already addressed by the OP as a not-great choice, and Erythnul and the Mockery are rather similar. “Erythnul is the Oeridian god of Hate, Envy, Malice, Panic, Ugliness, and Slaughter,” and “The Sovereign of Betrayal and Bloodshed, The Mockery represents dishonorable combat and unjust war,”—Erythnul has “panic” but it’s one of six, and later in the list. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 27 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would argue Chemosh more than Morgion for Dragonlance; Morgion is the deity over pain and decay, but Chemosh is more about despair and giving into death/destiny; Chemosh is also directly opposed by Mishakal, the goddess of hope. \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    May 28 at 21:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to add Shargaas, the orc god of darkness. While fear is not his primary concern, his portfolio includes "fear of the unknown, and the fear of what lurked in the night below". \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 2 at 4:21

If nothing else, the Olympian pantheon is canon to D&D; it’s listed right in the back of the 5e Player’s Handbook even. The summit of Mount Olympus forms a good chunk of the Chaotic-Good plane of Arborea, sometimes known as “The Olympian Glades of Arborea,” and Olympus also forms a major inter-planar conduit that extends to Hades—and another one of those major interplanar conduits is the River Styx. That means Deimos (dread, terror) and Phobos (panic, rout in battle) are canon to D&D.

That said, the Olympian pantheon hasn’t really gotten very much attention (beyond mere mentions as in the 5e PHB’s appendix) in D&D products since 2002’s Deities & Demigods, for the Third Edition, and neither Deimos nor Phobos even appeared in that product (or in the 5e PHB’s appendix, for that matter). Most of the Olympian pantheon also has minimal interaction with the Forgotten Realms, which may matter depending on where, exactly, in the multiverse you’re setting this.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm using Sigil as the primary base of operations, so literally anything goes! I'll add that into my question. Phobos definitely has some good potential! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 27 at 17:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LCooper Ah, excellent—I have asked a friend and Planescape expert if he knows of any other options (perhaps more “D&D” options), so being based in Sigil will fit beautifully. Hopefully he finds stuff—he likes the question, says he’ll actually have to go through his god list. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 27 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ooh, excellent, thanks so much! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    May 27 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LCooper FWIW, Phobos and Deimos are almost always mentioned as a pair, not individually. According to Wikipedia, "Deimos served to represent the feelings of dread and terror that befell those before a battle, while Phobos personified feelings of fear and panic in the midst of battle." It sounds like you want both: fear of a rampage happening right now in one town (Phobos) as well as fear of an impending rampage in the next town over (Deimos). \$\endgroup\$ May 28 at 3:05

The Yuan-Ti's worship Dendar the Night Serpent, who "subsists and grows stronger be feeding on the fears that plague the folk of the world." Her primary form of worship is torturing humanoids, "leaving them in a constant state of fear and dread."

Her warlocks are called the nightmare speakers. They frequently have horrifying nightmares that they believe are prophesies from Dendar. Groups lead by nightmare speakers manipulate the surrounding humanoid communities through subterfuge and mind control, just like all Yuan-Ti do. Unlike other Yuan-Ti, who do this as part of a long-term plan to rebuild their empire, nightmare speakers do it to acquire more victims.

If you really want to throw your players for a loop, have the enemies deal non-lethal damage. Nightmare speakers are explicitly said to, "terrify rather than kill their opponents." If the players think they are fighting with normal human rather than Yuan-Ti, they may try to talk the enemy down. Of course, the Yuan-Ti would agree since it gives them an chance to manipulation the party. Maybe the Yuan-Ti apologize for 'mistakenly attacking' by giving the party a couple health potions, which have been spiked with an addictive drug that makes humanoids more susceptible to mind control.

(All quotes and information from Volo's Guide to Monsters.)


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