Using my religion

Thinking about the gods in my new Brightshadow campaign, and in realise I’ve under-thought religion in fantasy gaming all these years. A discussion about verisimilitude and consequences elsewhere got me pondering: what do fantasy tropes actually do to the world around them?

Imagine taking the D&D basic pantheon and dropping it into our modern world. I don’t mean imagine Pelor showing up at the UN, or Gruumsh invading India (though those are awesome notions) I mean imagine if Christianity, Islam, Judaism and all the rest were real.* Really real. As in, certifiable, true beyond doubt, witness them with your own eyes and ears, there’s one right there and he walks among us, real. What would be the consequences?

Atheists would be seen as highly deluded, probably pitied individuals. The word ‘faith’ would need a different meaning, as there would be no faith necessary, it’s all right there. Would there be any need for a clergy? Or even temples? Surely worship would be ubiquitous, and wouldn’t need special places to do it? In fact, I wonder if the whole notion of worship might be different. Perhaps people would talk about the Gods the way we might currently talk about our bosses, or the government? I think bureaucracy and the system would get involved early on. Gods would become ordinary.

In fact, the Gods’ main selling points would be access to the afterlife, and miracles. Death holds no fear now, because an afterlife is guaranteed. What type of afterlife you’ll get is another matter, and that’s something that surely no one could afford to be ambivalent about. Miracles? I think they’d be the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket, less about prayer, and more about luck.

So let’s bring all that back to fantasy worlds. In my experience, most gamers pay little attention to religion in games. Perhaps more in Glorantha, dunno. I’ve never seen or heard anything that reflects the kind of questions I asked above at my tables, and that includes from guys playing Clerics and Paladins. Funny no? So I want to address that in Brightshadow. I want religion to be cultural, and ubiquitous, like the Internet is to us now. But I want it to mean something to the characters and the game. The afterlife thing is a very big deal, when you’re alive. What about afterwards? Ahhhh…. I see what to do now.

In my campaign, everyone’s already dead.

*I mean no offence to those who of course DO believe in the existence of one, some, or all Gods in our own world. Crack on. I’m talking about games of make believe here.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Using my religion

  1. “In my campaign, everyone’s already dead.”

    I applauded.

    In the settings I make for myself, religion is always a little more distant than in regular DnD. While divine magic works, there is a lot less direct contact with gods and such. I also prefer to go with broad religions instead of people following singular deities. Some of these religions are monotheistic, and believe the divine magic of other religions is demonic in origin, and so on.

  2. I am currently planning my world in that aspect. So far i am for a cult centered religion layer rather a gods centered.

    One point to consider is that it is totally different having an idea of a god over nature and an idea of a god in ruling nature. That’s key and difference between jew-christian-muslin God idea and Greek pantheons.

    In anycase, in my opinion, having gods present in a mundane world would fit more with a kami type of god. In the end the clt would be no about faith but trust. ¿Is this god reliable? ¿Is she strong to lead their worshipers to paradise? Even in the greek myths there were gods who died.

  3. Blind faith in something unprovable would be gone, but you’d have faith in the primacy of your favourite god(s). This is actually the case in most polytheistic societies: it’s hard to worship all of them, so you have your favourites (also known as henotheism).

  4. Religion is always one of those in game things that really require player buy in to shine as anything besides a background element. I rarely play clerics (or other very religious characters) as I have to be wiling to make that buy in and that is not always an investment I want to make.

    That being said, I am all for embedding religious belief in culture, they shape and reinforce each other after all.

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