Almost all gods tend to interact with High Realm and Low Realm, for Middle Realm is ruled only by the Shepherd, who herself is a child of the Middle Realm. She is an unfathomable god of dreams, fate, and undeath. Her symbol is a shepherd’s staff.
The Middle Realm is a strange place. Lost ghosts find their way there, ancestral spirits often speak from its depths, mortal dreams and nightmares twist and change it in an everlasting cycle of chaos and reorder. The purpose of the Middle Realm is to act as a place between Life and Death, so in dreaming and dying it is inhabited.
And the Shepherd serves her realm, existing only to guide souls back and forth across it. Her servants, called “Lambs,” serve their god by slaying evil necromancers, and any who would tamper with the balance between High Realm and Low. Their god gifts them, in return, the power to Dreamwalk, and pass through the world as if ghosts themselves.
The Shepherd, God of Dreams and the Middle Realm, is mysterious in their goals. Their agents, or “Lambs,” are often sent to eliminate evil necromancers, secure some magical artifact, or assassinate a political figure. For these reasons, Lambs are feared and mistrusted unless they have an honest objective. Some would say that the Shepherd, as daughter of the Old God of Fate, plays some role in manipulating the threads of destiny to adhere to a pre-made plan, unknowable to all others.
Common among Lambs is that they owe some debt to the Shepherd. Should a mortal with great power or promise be slain, instead of departing for the Land of the Dead they might instead linger in the Middle Realm. Here, the Shepherd entices them with a bargain: their life in exchange for their services.
If the bargain is accepted, this person becomes a Lamb, and is branded with the Mark of the Shepherd (visible only to other Lambs) on the back of their left hand. Sometimes, in addition, they are also branded on their inner forearm with a list of five names. These are the names of certain persons or creatures that the Shepherd require be slain by their agent. Only then do they meet their side of the bargain, and are free from the Shepherd’s influence.
Lambs are gifted with certain powers while in service to the Shepherd, including spells of necromancy and possession, the ability to teleport short distances, slowing time, and supernatural vision. They lose these abilities once they repay their debt, unless they pledge further service to the Shepherd or gain her favor in some other way.
Should a player character die, they might be recruited by the Shepherd as a Lamb. Or, the party might encounter a Lamb, either working toward some nefarious purpose or willing to aid the party in a common goal.
The following are secrets to all but a few characters.
Lambs and Hounds
There is a big difference between actual followers of the Shepherd and Lambs, who are usually cajoled into serving her. Actual followers know more about the Shepherd as a deity, whereas most Lambs know only that they get supernatural powers and that they shouldn’t do certain things. Clerics/paladins who serve especially well may receive honor and powers greater than a Lamb’s, eventually earning the title of “Hound.”
Unlike Lambs, Hounds bear no marks of their service, and they have the ability to lucid dream and enter the Middle Realm in a dream-form. With enough experience, they can project their dream-form for various purposes or for scouting out nearby areas in High Realm or Low Realm. Hounds are much more secret than Lambs.
The Shepherd and Ioun
The Shepherd is considered the estranged daughter of Crom, Old God of Fate, while her sibling Ioun is seen as the true God of Fate. Ioun and the Shepherd’s faithful have the same relation that the children of two frequently feuding sisters would have.
Ioun is considered more lawful, conservative, and tends to meddle less in the affairs of mortals. However, while she doesn’t meddle, she does care a great deal more, and will reveal the path of Fate to chosen oracles and prophets, so that they might offer warning to others. For example, the Day of the Red Sun was foretold by the oracles of Delphi, at the behest of Ioun. Ioun is considered Lawful Good-Neutral, and her few followers are accepted across High Realm.
In contrast, the Shepherd is considered more chaotic, unpredictable, and meddling. But she does not seem to care about mortals themselves, but rather what purposes they might serve in shaping Fate (or, at least, it’s impossible to tell if she has any affection for mortals). Ioun would never dare tamper with the Fate, but the Shepherd actively attempts to influence the decisions of mortals by sending them on quests, and in doing so changes or ensures Fate. Because the Shepherd is unpredictable like this, and doesn’t care about lives ruined or lost, she has become mistrusted. In the long term, though, she does seem to care about maintaining Fate as Ioun does, and in preserving the sanctity of death, so her alignment is questionable.