An important thing to consider when worldbuilding in D&D is the existence of gods.
For most worlds, the existence of these deities is undeniable. They may often visit the material plane to offer guidance to their followers or to offer judgement to those who act against them.
Gods are incredibly powerful beings, but not all of them exert their power by calling down great storms or influencing massive wars. Some gods simply exist and aid those who follow in their path.
One such god, who we’ll be focusing on today, is Ilmater, the crying god. In this article, we’re going to give you a deep lore dive on Ilmater, better preparing you to worship him as a player or incorporate him into the pantheon as a DM.
Who Is Ilmater?
Ilmater is a god of the Faerûnian pantheon focused on martyrdom, endurance, and compassion.
He is an intermediate deity, the second most-powerful type of deity – below a greater deity but above lesser deities, demigods, and the like.
Alignment: Lawful Good
Symbol: Hands bound at the wrist with a red cord
Domains: Life, Twilight
Ilmater, like most gods, has gone by many names. He is known as The Crying God, The Broken God, and The One Who Endures. He was also called Ayuruk or Itishikopak by certain tribes of Pelvuria, an icy land mass north of Faerûn.
Those who encounter an avatar of Ilmater will come across an elderly, broken man of tall and lean build. He is typically represented as a bald man with a hairy body, wearing nothing but a loincloth.
However, those won’t be the features you notice. It will be immediately apparent why he is called the Broken God.
Ilmater appears as a man who is severely wounded. His hands are crushed but functioning, and his body itself covered in numerous scars even when fully healed.
While a gruesome image to behold, his appearance goes out of its way to represent the true meaning of compassion. That is com-passion, or co-suffering.
Ilmater experiences the pain of all creatures in existence, and it’s for that reason he seems constantly weary.
An ancient and at times obscure deity, Ilmater is seen to be the protector of the suffering, and often comes to the aid of those who are in pain.
He is an eternal enemy to suffering throughout the world, which puts him at odds with several evil deities.
Still, as a god who believes in repentance, he even holds out hope that such awful creatures as Loviatar, the Maiden of Pain, can be redeemed and turn her powers to good.
This is a huge symbol of just how compassionate and caring this god is. His sworn enemy, his antithesis, isn’t even enough to cause him to lose hope.
While there is little chance of him losing hope, he can indeed lose his temper.
As someone who cares deeply about those who suffer, his vengeance and might is often turned toward those who cause suffering.
The One who Endures has been known to unleash his full fury on those who torture outside the bounds of the law. He is especially merciless when dealing with those who would harm children.
In some cases, Ilmater will possess a suffering individual, healing their wounds, releasing them from their torture or captivity, and giving them the strength and power (even including spellcasting) to exact just revenge.
History and Relationships
His dedication to those who are in pain is not exclusive to mortal creatures. Ilmater’s compassion led him to join forces with two other lawful good gods and form the Triad, a long-lasting alliance dedicated to justice.
The greater god of justice, Tyr, led archons and his followers in an attack against the fallen empire of Jhaamdath, a once lawful place that had fallen into anarchy, banditry, and general corruption.
This event, eventually known as Tyr’s Procession of Justice, lost Tyr many of his closest allies, and the blind god endured enough pain to catch the attention of Ilmater.
At this point, Ilmater joined forces with Tyr, shortly followed by Torm the Brave.
The forming of the Triad is an amazing piece of Forgotten Realms history because each of these deities were at least marginally obscure in their own right before such an event.
Sure, they had worshippers, but when they joined together as a group, as a collective, they became something more than a singular deity.
Forces of law and good throughout the realms now give worship to these gods, and even though the Triad has since disbanded (Tyr killed a god; it’s a whole thing) each of these deities have legions of devout followers.
Since becoming a prominent god among the Faerûnian pantheon, Ilmater has gained many allies and caught the attention of several enemies.
Lathander, god of renewal, and Ibrandul, god of caves and darkness, are two deities that have remained close with Ilmater even past the end of the Triad.
Sune, goddess of beauty, even invited Ilmater to relocate his realm from the House of the Triad to the plane of Brigthwater.
Bane, Bhaal, and Talos are but a few of the evil gods that Ilmater has been at odds with. I say at odds because, in reality, Ilmater isn’t the type of deity to make enemies.
His calm demeanor and wise compassionate words keep even his foes (most of them at least) respectful of him in some capacity.
Behind the Screen: Fitting Ilmater Into Your World
You don’t need to buy every book in the grand WotC library to understand the importance of gods in D&D.
The DMG makes it very clear that the best way to incorporate gods in your setting is to first determine their importance in your setting.
Traditionally, the Forgotten Realms is a place of active gods. The deities of various pantheons interact with the world and shape its history. Even on the small scale they are the reasons why clerics even function in 5e.
In making your own interpretation of the realms though, you can decide that the gods are distant, dead, walking among us, or anywhere in between.
Ilmater is a god of the downtrodden, the beaten, the forsaken. He is a god of forgiveness and a god of righteous vengeance. These traits are very… familiar?
With some obvious key differences, I’m sure you can think of at least one similar deity from a mythos on our planet.
It’s very easy to incorporate a compassionate god into a world setting. People love sacrifice, any type really, but they love sacrifice for the good of others more than anything.
In D&D, we often see churches devoted to lofty ideals of justice, but Ilmater gives us an opportunity for a church devoted to giving of oneself for another.
Even when that ideal isn’t channeled into such severe concepts as martyrdom, churches in your world that are devoted to Ilmater can encourage donations to the less fortunate.
Goodwill, love your fellow humanoid race, and all that jazz.
Having that motif come up repeatedly in various towns, represented by various characters, and sprinkled throughout the story makes your world feel connected and realistic.
Then we can get into just how much of an impact the actual god himself has.
Ilmater as a Character
We’ve discussed that Ilmater’s avatar is a broken, scarred, heavily wounded old man. I’ve also talked a lot about his compassion, kind heartedness, and limited capacity towards vengeance.
Bringing this avatar in is an excellent way to highlight an event or situation that is particularly heinous.
Ilmater doesn’t intervene for just any reason. He comes to the material plane to put a swift end to horrible injustices.
Characters might gain the attention of The Broken God if they are attempting to put an end to such injustices.
Things like freeing slaves, going up against a cruel warlord, overthrowing a corrupt government – these and many more situations might be enough for the god to make an appearance at your table.
What happens when Ilmater shows up?
Well, unless you’re going for a heavy deus ex machina situation, you’ll probably be using Ilmater as a wise teacher or mentor type figure.
He’s very much the type of god that appears once to offer words of wisdom and a special item, and then doesn’t show up again until the “final epic battle.”
I’m getting big Aslan vibes here.
That works wonderfully too; not only did Ilmater take the role of mentor to Tyr (incredible because Tyr is more powerful), but Ilmater actually has the ability to create any magical item that can heal or reduce suffering or that was good or lawful in nature.
Those bounds are really up to you to decide, but something like a Holy Avenger or a Sun Blade might be right in line here. This sort of direct interference with mortal affairs is right on brand with Ilmater’s portfolio.
You can even use him for a full deus ex machina if one of the characters messes up and gets captured.
That sort of situation will feel more impactful if Ilmater has actually been a recurring presence through the themes of religious sects and churches throughout the realms.
There’s also the potential of bringing in Ilmater without the use of an avatar. Sometimes he simply shows up as a presence that speaks, uses telekinesis, and can still cast spells.
If you do decide to have Ilmater show up in more than just name, here are some roleplay pointers to keep in mind. Below are some personality traits that are pretty key to the character:
- Rustic sense of humor
- Kind and gentle
- Greatly angered by cruelty
Character Motivation: Ilmater as a PC Deity
Ilmater’s domains are Life and Twilight, at least by the official standards of 5e. In play groups where homebrew is more accepted, I would include Order, War, Peace, and maybe even Knowledge.
What’s even more important than the domain itself is that a character who worships this god has an understanding of both compassion and justice.
Clerics aren’t the only ones who can worship a god. They’re just the only ones who have direct, mechanical benefits of such a deity.
For any character, worshipping Ilmater is worshipping his ideals of noble sacrifice, justice for the downtrodden, perseverance, and endurance.
This sort of worship comes through in a character’s behavior both on and off the battlefield.
When dealing with adversaries, characters who are devoted to Ilmater should be forgiving and should encourage repentance, just as Ilmater would for any of his adversaries.
In battle, this can be shown by offering mercy to a hostile creature you’ve gotten the upper hand on. In social interactions, this can be done by showing compassion and relating to the opposing character.
An Oath of Redemption paladin makes an excellent candidate for a non-cleric who worships Ilmater.
Their entire oath is centered around the tenets of peace, patience, innocence, and wisdom.
That sort of practice comes from an assumption that those who commit evil acts do so not because it is their nature but because they have suffered greatly.
Getting back to clerics, a life-domain cleric is really straightforward. You care deeply about life and are willing to fight to protect it. The twilight domain gets a bit more interesting, focusing more on “protecting those who seek rest.”
Ilmater is a weary god, exhausted from millenia of shared suffering.
If there’s anyone who understands the desire to rest in more ways than one, it’s this guy. A twilight-domain cleric might see death as a comforting darkness for one to rest within.
Knowing Ilmater’s realm to be one of peace and serenity where none can feel exhaustion or pain, such a cleric might invite those who have suffered to go quietly into the eternal slumber.
I’m just spitballing here, but a twilight cleric might have some prayer they say whenever a creature dies, something like:
“Sleep now, and wake on the other side. In the hands of Ilmater you shall be ever rested, and you shall know true comfort. Rejoice in your sacrifice.”
Ilmater may not be a god of immense power, but he is a god of immense compassion.
That sort of character creates an amazing opposition to horrible evil because it gives players the opportunity to see things in more than just black and white.
I hope this guide has helped prepare you to bring worship to this deity into your next campaign.
And as always, happy adventuring.