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Religions and Deities in D&D.

milk ducksmilk ducks Registered User regular
edited February 2011 in Critical Failures
Religions and deities never quite fit into the worlds I create, and I was wondering if you guys could help me out. I guess one of my biggest issues is that the deities are presented so briefly, I can't figure out how anyone could actually, you know, worship them (Olidammara's the god of music, revels, wine, rogues, humor and tricks, for example -- how the hell do you make a whole religion out of humor and wine and tricks?) But there's also another issue, and it may actually be a much bigger obstacle:

Maybe some quick backstory? I was raised a Christian, but I haven't believed in God since I was, well, very young. It's something I guess I struggle with. I mean, a part of me wants to believe, but it can't get around the part of me that just isn't able to accept those teachings as truth. What I'm trying to get at is that this exact dilemma is what makes real religions so interesting, and it's totally absent in D&D, because the Gods do exist, and they even grant you powers. Where's the fun in that?

I'm playing around with the idea of making my next world a place where the existence of the gods is questionable. Would that be appropriate for a D&D setting? I guess they do a little bit of that in Dark Sun; in Athas, the gods are long dead, and you can still play divine classes, but they're much rarer, and even require some specific circumstances to even exist. I don't really want clerics and paladins to be that rare in my world, I just ... I just want their faith and their power to be seen as something extraordinary. I want their very existence to force the characters of the world to question: "Maybe the gods really do exist?"

Anyway, I guess I could use some advice. What do you guys think?

milk ducks on
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Posts

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo But do you really believe him? Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    There's a few important points
    1) God's exist. So it's not so much a question of belief, as making sure that the God of Wine has your back when you're throwing a party.
    2) Pantheon worship. Even the actual clerics might not be committed to a single deity. So there's no need to wonder if the God of Wine has a stance on abortion.
    3) There's a few bits and bobs in various settings that refer to Gods possibly not being the be all and end all of power. I think there was an even a 3.5e PrC for the cleric that gave up worship but still had divine powers. It's easy enough to have divine magic just as another side of wizardry, leave the faith out of it and present it through the story.

    Mojo_Jojo on
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  • milk ducksmilk ducks Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Right, to be fair, I almost always present my worlds as places where people pay tribute to multiple gods, rather than focusing all of their attention on a single deity: Sailing out across the oceans? Better pay tribute to the god of seas and storms; Heading off to hunt for the weekend? Better stop by the shrine of blah-blah, goddess of wilderness and beasts; etc. That's the way I get around it, to a certain extent, and probably the way it's intended to be taken in the first place.

    It only sort of becomes a problem when I try to fit in clerics and paladins and other characters who really do devote themselves to a single doctrine. These people swear oaths of loyalty to uphold the teachings of their deities ... kind of seems out of place when your deity is the god of, you know, roads.

    milk ducks on
  • TerrendosTerrendos Decorative Monocle Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    The Romans did stuff like that all the time. Consider the Vestal Virgins, women who swore oaths of purity to the god of the Hearth. Deities in my games are heavily influenced by Greek/Roman concepts.

    That said, you might want to look into Eberron. It's a campaign world where actual deities seem to have little if any real influence on the world. It's the churches that take and maintain power in the world; it's the church who authorizes Clerics and Paladins to use divine magic, and it's the Pope and not God to whom they must answer.

    Well, except the Silver Flame. They have to answer to a big ol' bonfire made of souls.

    Terrendos on
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    If you're having pantheon worship then it's best to look at modern or historical pantheon-based religions for inspiration. If the mortals of a given fantasy world know for a fact that multiple gods exist and that Gortwald The Bloody is the God of War and Hammers while Lexia The White is Goddess of Purity, Sheep, and Clouds then you can't really expect that any monotheistic religion would ever come into existence. Who is going to specifically worship Gortwald, to the exclusion of all other gods, when at some point in life you're going to need a prayer answered that doesn't involve war or hammering something?

    I tend to think of D&D religion as being like a spectator sport. Any given person on the street probably has a favorite team for whatever sport and the reasoning behind that favoritism may or may not make any sense. Often it's because that team is popular in his or her home state/city/country, or because they're popular in the place where he or she currently lives, or because his or her parents were fans, etc. They may have zero direct connection to this team, but they still put on the team colors and cheer when they're playing, and conversely they boo at whomever the team's top rivals are. At the same time, though, they aren't going to not watch two teams play just because neither is their favorite. So maybe you have Gortwald's crest on your favorite armor, but that isn't going to stop you from toasting Lexia during the annual shearing-season feast.

    Anyway. I think the idea of having ambiguously extant gods is interesting. Having clerics and paladins as genuine miracle-workers would certainly change the dynamic. People, in my experience, tend to look down on paladins as stuck-up and annoying. If they're legitimately towers of faith in an otherwise godless land I'd expect that to change, though you may have some trouble breaking your players out of the habit of taking pervasive faith for granted.

    If you're making divine spellcasting/powers rare then you may wish to do something with their relationship to arcane powers to compensate. If divine and arcane powers are roughly equivalent then I'd imagine clerical miracle-workers are going to be seen as wizards who can't eat fish on Fridays (or whatever) in order to keep their magic.

    Finally: if you're going to make divine power dramatic and important in the campaign world, you may wish to make sure that your campaign story somehow involves that. If it's just a fact that people don't know whether the gods exist but the story is about hunting werewolves and fighting dragons then the whole question of divinity thing is likely to get lost in the background.

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  • OptimusZedOptimusZed Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Plenty of settings have gone with the "generalized divine energy can be accessed for divine magic" approach. If you're having trouble linking the nature of the gods to the divine classes in your setting, then I would just use this.

    I ran a campaign once that was set in a world where this was the case, but there were multiple thriving religions. Worship had no connection to ability to cast divine spells, though. The religions were just belief structures, not unlike the real world. There were no special benefits for being particularly devout or high ranking in the church in any mechanical sense, nor was there any prohibition against being able to cast Cure Light Wounds when unaffiliated with any religion.

    So there were bishops with no spellcasting ability whatsoever and non-religious stable boys with lay on hands. It was an interesting setting to run.

    OptimusZed on
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  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Yeah, I'd look at the Greeks and Romans for inspiration. People believed in multiple gods, but might devote themselves to a particular god relevant to their business or life. Maybe they just pray a shrine before making their trade journey, or maybe they're a priest or a virgin who's given their life to that gods service. They still acknowledge the other Gods exist, but they deal with this one specific one mostly. Which mostly works out except the greek pantheon didn't always get along. Makes things interesting.

    Tofystedeth on
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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Yea, "religion" in D&D doesn't have much real world analogue with modern religions.

    Faith isn't really about overcoming your logical doubt about your deities existence so much as...."Go God Brand Y!"

    I really want to do something different next time I run a game but it's so much effort. I wish I knew more about Voodoo because I think that would make a hilarious/awesome divine component.

    The other option is a mix on "Belief Powers Gods" and "Mortal Ascent to Godhood". Basically no gods at all in the setting but exceptional people rise to assume "Sainthood" and act as a conduit for divine power to the masses. This is very close to D&D typical gods except without the whole (mostly) immortality thing going on. I assumed a large amount of "churn", to the point where it would not be unusual for Paragon level to feature god killing/making/whatever.

    DevoutlyApathetic on
  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I was going to come into say D&D religion is closer to football team supporting than real life religion, but I see someone has already done so!

    There's also a large element of self interest involved.
    It only sort of becomes a problem when I try to fit in clerics and paladins and other characters who really do devote themselves to a single doctrine. These people swear oaths of loyalty to uphold the teachings of their deities ... kind of seems out of place when your deity is the god of, you know, roads.

    The situation above makes sense because there's a god of roads who does awesome things for travellers (for what ever reason), so people who travel a lot tend to worship him and follow his rules in order to improve their chances of him doing nice things for them. They don't necessarily believe he is the best god in the world, but he is the god who can do the best for them personally.

    Jam Warrior on
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  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    Remember that in real polytheistic religions, worship was not just a matter of adoration, but more of a contract between mortal and god. You don't pray to the god of storms because you think he's a swell guy, you pray to him to placate him so he won't wreck your shit. People invented gods as a way to explain existence, but also to assign a human intelligence to a capricious universe. If you're getting bad weather, you make sacrifice to the weather god to get him to stop, and hopefully to favour you with good weather instead. You pray to the god of battle because you're not sure that "god is on our side"; you want to tilt the balance in your favour. Prayer and ceremonies and sacrifices are acts of propitiation, not love.
    Obviously, religions like that of Rome got more sophisticated than simply bribing the sky-people, but at its core it was still about keeping the gods happy. Neglecting to give the proper ritual and sacrifice (or, conversely, excessively grovelling superstition) was considered to draw the gods' ire, which in turn harmed society as a whole. The government funded temples and cults to specific gods, because it was considered a matter of public interest to keep those gods satisfied.

    Where D&D gods become unrealistic is if the DM only takes into account one aspect of the deity. Pelor is the god of agriculture and the bountiful harvest? Then, logically, he must also be the god of blight and famine. (Polytheistic religions might have minor gods or personifications for that sort of thing, but they're generally portrayed as being at the beck and call of the more important gods.) If he were purely a positive god, then why are there bad harvests? Is he just a fuck-up? It doesn't make any sense, and it's not the sort of religion you'd find in the real world. You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    Aroused Bull on
  • SolarSolar Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Aroused Bull is right

    Pagan Romans didn't used to have faith so much as they used to be sensible

    Worshipping the Gods of your father was just a thing that you did, because that is what people do, not because of faith.

    Solar on
  • TerrendosTerrendos Decorative Monocle Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I think the Raven Queen is supposed to be about famine and winter and such. Pelor would make it sunny and summer all the time but he had to strike a deal with her predecessor when the gods took power, at least according to the Points of Light setting.

    You could certainly change that for your game though. However, mechanically Divine powers support the concept of "light in the dark" and so it doesn't make a lot of sense for your Cleric representing Pelor's famine and winter aspects to be shooting rays of radiant light everywhere.

    Terrendos on
  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I don't think Pestilence famine is hers but Winter "No more growing stuff!" is. Her and Pelor actually contest each other on a lot of things but not typically diametrically.

    Raven Queen thinks suffering is part of life, to attempt to prevent it is pointless, Pelor thinks all suffering should be alleviated.

    DevoutlyApathetic on
  • AegofAegof Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    This is basically how the pantheon is set up in the game, though. I think only a minority of the gods are explicitly good, but all of them have a counterpoint in opposition to them, though not necessarily as enemies. Melora for nature, Erathis for cities. Ioun for knowledge, Vecna for secrets. Bahamut for justice, Tiamat for vengeance. Avandra for freedom, Torog for chains. So on and so on. And then, at least in Points of Light, it's less about evil balancing good and more about good being outnumbered and outgunned and barely able to hold on to what it has so could some unlikely heroes out for adventure help it out please?

    Aegof on
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  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    Aegof wrote: »
    You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    This is basically how the pantheon is set up in the game, though. I think only a minority of the gods are explicitly good, but all of them have a counterpoint in opposition to them, though not necessarily as enemies. Melora for nature, Erathis for cities. Ioun for knowledge, Vecna for secrets. Bahamut for justice, Tiamat for vengeance. Avandra for freedom, Torog for chains. So on and so on. And then, at least in Points of Light, it's less about evil balancing good and more about good being outnumbered and outgunned and barely able to hold on to what it has so could some unlikely heroes out for adventure help it out please?

    I'm not well-versed in 4E myth, so I wasn't specifically addressing that setting. Milk ducks was comparing D&D gods to modern monotheism (and referencing Greyhawk gods), so I was pointing out one of the major differences between that and real polytheism.
    But if we're talking about Points of Light, then I guess that's an even bigger reason to be faithful. The gods of light and their forces are literally what's standing between you and an eternity of hell under the assorted gods of darkness. I'd expect very fantatical religious orders, in that case. Worship of evil gods would probably be about as tolerated as witchcraft in the 1600s - heretics aren't just immoral, they're endangering the entire universe. There'd probably be factionalism between some of the religions, with the followers of the 'good' gods looking askance at those who are merely 'unaligned' as potentially contributing to the growth of evil, or at least of not working against it as much as they should. Depending on how vocal the gods are to their followers, I can also see the tenets of the nominally good gods being taken to extremes out of paranoia. Wearing cloth woven of two fabrics will help the devil to enslave us all. At least, that would be more interesting than the rather wooly, passive impression of religion I get from the 4EPHB, although obviously not suited for all campaigns.

    Aroused Bull on
  • TerrendosTerrendos Decorative Monocle Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I don't think they'd be superstitious though, or at least not very. After all, a simple Detect Evil spell on that black cat will tell you it's very firmly Unaligned. Why would you think you'd get bad luck from breaking a mirror if the Goddess of Luck herself told you not to worry about it?

    And the churches wouldn't shun those devoted to other gods because a) you'd be actively inviting that person's god to smack you around, b) there is a standing peace treaty between all the different gods and you wouldn't want to risk violating that, c) even the "Evil" gods have some areas of control that are absolutely necessary (good luck going to war without talking things over with Bane), and d) all the gods together are actively holding off things that are even worse. You've got Asmodeus and all his minions engaged in a constant war with the Abyss, not to mention the fact that all the gods are essentially a united front against the threat of the returning Primordials. Sure, being ruled over by a cult of necromancers would suck, but it's still better than your plane being annihilated and returned to the Elemental Chaos.

    Terrendos on
  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    Well, I'm not sure detect evil spells exist in 4E. More to the point I didn't say anything about superstition. Obviously if your god tells you something's not an issue, then it's not. But if you look in a religious text, you'll find all sorts of rules, most of which don't actually get followed. In the real world, religion is often strongest amongst the poorest or those in the worst circumstances. If you know for a fact that your god is real, and you happen to live on the bleeding edge of extinction, enslavement, or eternal damnation, you're probably going to be far less liberal in your interpretation of the holy writ. Even minor laws would tend to get followed, well, religiously, and the average commoner is hardly going to know the difference between the laws laid down by god and those dictated by the church.

    If even the evil gods are standing shoulder to shoulder with the good to hold off something even worse, and that's common knowledge, it expands things. In that case, I think you'd go back to something like I was suggesting before, more similar to real-life polytheistic religions, in which you placate the evil gods while supporting all of them against the fiends or the primordials or the far realm or whatever it is that's trying to kill you this time. Evil gods would have a place in society just like good ones, even if it's considered distasteful to pander to them (e.g. Ares). But this is getting awfully setting-specific. Are we talking about 4E's PoL setting specifically, or use of D&D gods in general?

    Aroused Bull on
  • ArcanisTheImpotentArcanisTheImpotent Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    and you can always have multiple monotheistic religions squabbling with each other just like in the real world. it's a common feature in a lot of fantasy settings that the power of a deity comes from the faith of its disciples, so you can have a lot of gods covering the same portfolios but for different people.

    maybe they're different deities, maybe they're just different faces of one deity. either way, divine beings tend to be inscrutable at best, and they may not care that their worshipers fight and kill each other day and night.

    you don't want to conflate 'existing in a true, physical sense' with 'giving a damn about their mortal worshipers'

    ArcanisTheImpotent on
  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    If they want you to battle other deities they aren't really monotheistic, they're Henotheistic.

    DevoutlyApathetic on
  • ArcanisTheImpotentArcanisTheImpotent Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    religions ≠ deities

    ArcanisTheImpotent on
  • milk ducksmilk ducks Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I'm glad I posted this thread; this discussion is a lot of fun to read.

    milk ducks on
  • PantheraOncaPantheraOnca Registered User regular
    edited February 2011

    If even the evil gods are standing shoulder to shoulder with the good to hold off something even worse, and that's common knowledge, it expands things.

    I like this take on the idea. Necessary evils make for interesting decision points.

    PantheraOnca on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Where D&D gods become unrealistic is if the DM only takes into account one aspect of the deity. Pelor is the god of agriculture and the bountiful harvest? Then, logically, he must also be the god of blight and famine. (Polytheistic religions might have minor gods or personifications for that sort of thing, but they're generally portrayed as being at the beck and call of the more important gods.) If he were purely a positive god, then why are there bad harvests? Is he just a fuck-up? It doesn't make any sense, and it's not the sort of religion you'd find in the real world. You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    Pelor does not cause all good harvests everywhere. (I don't think that's actually in his portfolio anyway but lets pretend it is.) Sufficient rain, temperature, etc cause good harvests. But if those don't happen, Pelor can step in (or have one of his clerics step in more likely) and make that shit happen with magic. Famine is caused by the things that normally cause famine. But also by evil cults to Nerull or the appropriate demon or devil. And those crazy anti-druid guys. The likelihood of this is proportional to the number of adventuring parties in the area.

    But really, Pelor is too fucking busy to deal with your petty problems most of the time.
    Also he is secretly evil.

    HamHamJ on
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  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    milk ducks wrote: »
    (Olidammara's the god of music, revels, wine, rogues, humor and tricks, for example -- how the hell do you make a whole religion out of humor and wine and tricks?)

    we actually had this in the ancient world: Bacchus, Dionysus, others.
    Maybe some quick backstory? I was raised a Christian, but I haven't believed in God since I was, well, very young. It's something I guess I struggle with. I mean, a part of me wants to believe, but it can't get around the part of me that just isn't able to accept those teachings as truth. What I'm trying to get at is that this exact dilemma is what makes real religions so interesting, and it's totally absent in D&D, because the Gods do exist, and they even grant you powers. Where's the fun in that?

    You might want to explore campaign settings like Ebberron and Dark Sun, which have different takes on the existence of Gods.
    I'm playing around with the idea of making my next world a place where the existence of the gods is questionable. Would that be appropriate for a D&D setting?

    Yes! Again, look up Ebberon.


    You might want to look back to the days of the Roman Empire for inspiration as well.

    Many different cultures, many different Gods.

    Sometimes they must have seemed incredibly real and present. Aristocracy and Royalty claiming descent from Gods and seemingly blessed with wealth and power. Barbarian tribes with fanatical warriors that seem steeped in their religion to the point that pain and fear simply do not exist. Polytheistic sorcerors of the far east who can apparently appeal to the many gods of the world to perform incredible feats.

    Does a person at that time believe in those Gods? Maybe or maybe not... but when their power appears to be called upon and manifested, it might cultivate such a belief. It could motivate awe, hatred, or any range of feelings toward a particular deity and their worshippers.

    Fast forward to the Crusades. The christian soldiers of that time believed that god was on their side and they could not be defeated. And the way they swept through the holy land during the first crusade certainly made it seem to be so.

    Today an incredible amount of superstitions and holidays that exist and are based upon religious beliefs that are more or less extinct. Some so diluted that we don't even remember. Wishing Wells. Spilling Salt. Black Cats. The "Witching Hour". Mistletoe. Yuletide. May Day. Samhain/Halloween. Even the dang Tooth Fairy.

    Gods do tend to be very real in D&D. Whether or not people believe that in your campaign is another matter.

    Horseshoe on
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  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Solar wrote: »
    Aroused Bull is right

    Pagan Romans didn't used to have faith so much as they used to be sensible

    Worshipping the Gods of your father was just a thing that you did, because that is what people do, not because of faith.

    The Gods were kind of capricious... it was kind of a crapshoot. They also didn't have much bearing on morality as deities in other religions might. The gods may very well exist, they got their own problems, you send them a little something once in a while in the hopes they'll take notice.

    Kill some dudes on a battlefield, call to Mars to see that these men are his gift to you. Hope it pays off.

    Make a sacrifice to a deity associated with some business venture you're making and hope it pays off.

    Maybe you're in jail and try to make a tribute to the god of doors just in case he's listening.

    It's an interesting concept of deities: they're not much different from people, they don't necessarily care about people that much, but they're around and can help you out or screw you over once in a while. Maybe it's best to kill a pigeon once in a while just to be on the safe side.

    Horseshoe on
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  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Where D&D gods become unrealistic is if the DM only takes into account one aspect of the deity. Pelor is the god of agriculture and the bountiful harvest? Then, logically, he must also be the god of blight and famine. (Polytheistic religions might have minor gods or personifications for that sort of thing, but they're generally portrayed as being at the beck and call of the more important gods.) If he were purely a positive god, then why are there bad harvests? Is he just a fuck-up? It doesn't make any sense, and it's not the sort of religion you'd find in the real world. You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    Pelor does not cause all good harvests everywhere. (I don't think that's actually in his portfolio anyway but lets pretend it is.) Sufficient rain, temperature, etc cause good harvests. But if those don't happen, Pelor can step in (or have one of his clerics step in more likely) and make that shit happen with magic. Famine is caused by the things that normally cause famine. But also by evil cults to Nerull or the appropriate demon or devil. And those crazy anti-druid guys. The likelihood of this is proportional to the number of adventuring parties in the area.

    But really, Pelor is too fucking busy to deal with your petty problems most of the time.
    Also he is secretly evil.

    I have a problem with that set-up. It basically means the gods are superfluous. The rains don't come because Pelor makes them happen (by whatever means), they come because of the water cycle, which works perfectly fine without any divine intervention whatsoever; but if they don't come, you can appeal to Pelor and he'll fix you up. That's not a god, that's a druid. It's not very mythic - not the sort of thing you'd find in real life, either. Re is the sun, not some dude with a spaceship and a dimmer switch.

    Aroused Bull on
  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Getting players from a rational society to have PC's act like people who engage in magical thinking is kinda difficult.

    DevoutlyApathetic on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Where D&D gods become unrealistic is if the DM only takes into account one aspect of the deity. Pelor is the god of agriculture and the bountiful harvest? Then, logically, he must also be the god of blight and famine. (Polytheistic religions might have minor gods or personifications for that sort of thing, but they're generally portrayed as being at the beck and call of the more important gods.) If he were purely a positive god, then why are there bad harvests? Is he just a fuck-up? It doesn't make any sense, and it's not the sort of religion you'd find in the real world. You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    Pelor does not cause all good harvests everywhere. (I don't think that's actually in his portfolio anyway but lets pretend it is.) Sufficient rain, temperature, etc cause good harvests. But if those don't happen, Pelor can step in (or have one of his clerics step in more likely) and make that shit happen with magic. Famine is caused by the things that normally cause famine. But also by evil cults to Nerull or the appropriate demon or devil. And those crazy anti-druid guys. The likelihood of this is proportional to the number of adventuring parties in the area.

    But really, Pelor is too fucking busy to deal with your petty problems most of the time.
    Also he is secretly evil.

    I have a problem with that set-up. It basically means the gods are superfluous. The rains don't come because Pelor makes them happen (by whatever means), they come because of the water cycle, which works perfectly fine without any divine intervention whatsoever; but if they don't come, you can appeal to Pelor and he'll fix you up. That's not a god, that's a druid. It's not very mythic - not the sort of thing you'd find in real life, either. Re is the sun, not some dude with a spaceship and a dimmer switch.

    Well yeah. The Powers are ultimately just another part of a larger picture. Hell, like half of them used to be plain old mortals.

    The number one benefit of worship is probably actually getting into a good afterlife. If you worship Heronious because you believe in his ideals, spending eternity in his divine realm is where you want to be.

    HamHamJ on
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  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    Getting players from a rational society to have PC's act like people who engage in magical thinking is kinda difficult.

    I don't normally push it, let them be skeptical if they like. Anyway, if the in-game universe really does work according to magical principles, then rational players might start to give the local superstitions some credence.

    In one of my games, I had coin fountains scattered about the wilderness, devoted to the goddess of chance. The superstition among NPCs was that if you tossed a coin in the fountain, you'd get good luck, whereas if you took coins out of the fountain, you'd be cursed with misfortune. I actually applied a very minor, temporary bonus or penalty to players' rolls for the next day or so, without telling them, but I needn't even have done that. The players' confirmation bias took care of everything. They scooped the coins out of the first fountain they encountered, after which they had some entirely unrelated bad luck - monsters, unstable floors, just the normal sorts of things you run into in a dungeon. They got convinced that I was sending these things their way as punishment (I didn't try to dissuade them). Next time they found a fountain they dumped a bunch of treasure into it, figuring their bad luck would stop, and surprise surprise it did - even though I wasn't actually doing anything different.

    Aroused Bull on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Mr. Bull

    in your previous example according to you

    you didn't even need to have given them a temporary bonus

    meaning it might have well been a universe that worked in accordance with magical principles

    and the players believed it anyway and performed a religious or spiritual observance

    whether your universe works with or without deific intervention

    players and PC's may make choices depending on whether or not they believe it is

    Horseshoe on
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  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    I'm confused

    Isn't that more or less what I said?

    Aroused Bull on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    it's more that previously you said the non-existence of gods was "not mythical"

    yet in this case, even though they were, it was of no consequence

    meaning it could have been that the world did not work that way

    but as that situation played out, the world appeared to be one that was mythical in nature

    even if that's the case and it's only an appearance

    i would still call that a world steeped in myth and the power of the gods, even if they don't actually exist

    Horseshoe on
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  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    It's not D&D, but you may want to look into Warhammer Fantasy RP, which I think has a great pantheon, and especially if you can get the Tome of Salvation book, which is excellent and full of how people worshipped, in the kind of world where there are clerics who cast spells, but the whim of the gods can still be capricious. (way too long a sentence there) If you can grab a copy it's well worth reading, I think. It's on drive-thru rpg, as well.

    SageinaRage on
  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    I said that handyman fix-it gods aren't mythical. Obviously you can have a "mythic" feel to your game without necessarily having any supernatural beings at all, but portraying deities the way HamHam suggests doesn't contribute to that feeling. Even if I was running a very down-to-earth game, I'd personally still want any gods people believe in to feel like RL gods, rather than like high-level NPCs, whether or not they really exist.

    Aroused Bull on
  • TerrendosTerrendos Decorative Monocle Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Well the fact of the matter (at least in 4e Points of Light) is that the Gods probably could be a lot more proactive about helping people and making their presence known. The problem is that they're beset on all sides by threats that seek to destroy them and/or the plane. Primordials, the Abyss, devils ignoring Asmodeus, the Far Realm, Githyanki... it's difficult to have more than an occasional presence for relatively minor problems down on the ground when you're constantly trying to keep all those extraplanar baddies out.

    Also I think there was like a pact between the spirits and the Gods that the Gods shouldn't interfere with the material plane or something.

    Terrendos on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I said that handyman fix-it gods aren't mythical. Obviously you can have a "mythic" feel to your game without necessarily having any supernatural beings at all, but portraying deities the way HamHam suggests doesn't contribute to that feeling. Even if I was running a very down-to-earth game, I'd personally still want any gods people believe in to feel like RL gods, rather than like high-level NPCs, whether or not they really exist.

    You can try, but ultimately you will end up fighting the system. Any mystery about the deities is solved as soon as you get planeshift and can go up to Celestia and see for yourself. Any being that exits is potentially something you kill for experience, or just the hell of it really. Even the Lady, walking deus ex machina that she is, almost gotta taken out by Vecna that one time.

    HamHamJ on
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  • Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User
    edited February 2011
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    I said that handyman fix-it gods aren't mythical. Obviously you can have a "mythic" feel to your game without necessarily having any supernatural beings at all, but portraying deities the way HamHam suggests doesn't contribute to that feeling. Even if I was running a very down-to-earth game, I'd personally still want any gods people believe in to feel like RL gods, rather than like high-level NPCs, whether or not they really exist.

    You can try, but ultimately you will end up fighting the system. Any mystery about the deities is solved as soon as you get planeshift and can go up to Celestia and see for yourself. Any being that exits is potentially something you kill for experience, or just the hell of it really. Even the Lady, walking deus ex machina that she is, almost gotta taken out by Vecna that one time.

    I used to run Planescape games all the time and I didn't have any problems. Why would I? There's nothing in the system that requires me to stat out gods. Some of the fluff in some of the settings might point that way, but who ever stuck faithfully to fluff or published modules when it conflicted with what they wanted? I've never read that Vecna module, so for me and my players it might as well not exist.

    I'm not saying that the way you do things is wrong, just that that portrayal of gods isn't really to my tastes. I'm sure there are some interesting ways to run with it, but as a default idea it falls a bit flat for me.

    Aroused Bull on
  • AegofAegof Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Yeah, the biggest reason the PoL gods don't seem to do much with the natural world is because they got kicked out. Gods that show up in person are likely as not to get their heads eaten by the World Serpent or the Primal Beast or whoever.

    The spirits and gods get along, mostly, because they all value the world and work together to protect it. Even that's not enough of course, since adventurers need somethin' to do.

    (The thing that interests me the most about Points of Light is this system of uncomfortable ceasefires and distasteful alliances between so many major powers in the setting. The whole cosmology is a powder keg waiting for a player to light a match.)

    HamHamJ, most of that's only true if the DM wants it to be. It's pretty easy to go "haha nope" when the players try to stick a sword in Ioun. Or, better yet, cut off this plane traveling nonsense early on and keep the game grounded.

    Aegof on
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  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I said that handyman fix-it gods aren't mythical. Obviously you can have a "mythic" feel to your game without necessarily having any supernatural beings at all, but portraying deities the way HamHam suggests doesn't contribute to that feeling. Even if I was running a very down-to-earth game, I'd personally still want any gods people believe in to feel like RL gods, rather than like high-level NPCs, whether or not they really exist.

    Well it works for the "fix-it" gods as well. In fact, it still does to this day here on Earth.

    Take a storm god like Thor or an earth godess like Freya.

    People who worshiped them simply didn't know how the water cycle works.

    To them sometimes the gods favor your offering and sometimes they don't.

    Maybe you did something wrong, or maybe they just didn't feel like it.

    However there are still people today who know how the water cycle works.

    They continue to perform their indigenous religious rites for rains, harvests, salmon runs, etc.

    I know guys like this. Since I'm in the U.S., they're american indian tribal members.

    They're certainly educated enough to know about how the earth tends to work.

    But they still believe. It's part of who they are. It's still real.

    Who am I to say they're wrong?

    Horseshoe on
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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Where D&D gods become unrealistic is if the DM only takes into account one aspect of the deity. Pelor is the god of agriculture and the bountiful harvest? Then, logically, he must also be the god of blight and famine. (Polytheistic religions might have minor gods or personifications for that sort of thing, but they're generally portrayed as being at the beck and call of the more important gods.) If he were purely a positive god, then why are there bad harvests? Is he just a fuck-up? It doesn't make any sense, and it's not the sort of religion you'd find in the real world. You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    Pelor does not cause all good harvests everywhere. (I don't think that's actually in his portfolio anyway but lets pretend it is.) Sufficient rain, temperature, etc cause good harvests. But if those don't happen, Pelor can step in (or have one of his clerics step in more likely) and make that shit happen with magic. Famine is caused by the things that normally cause famine. But also by evil cults to Nerull or the appropriate demon or devil. And those crazy anti-druid guys. The likelihood of this is proportional to the number of adventuring parties in the area.

    But really, Pelor is too fucking busy to deal with your petty problems most of the time.
    Also he is secretly evil.

    I have a problem with that set-up. It basically means the gods are superfluous. The rains don't come because Pelor makes them happen (by whatever means), they come because of the water cycle, which works perfectly fine without any divine intervention whatsoever; but if they don't come, you can appeal to Pelor and he'll fix you up. That's not a god, that's a druid. It's not very mythic - not the sort of thing you'd find in real life, either. Re is the sun, not some dude with a spaceship and a dimmer switch.

    You can have a problem with that if you want in your setting, but Points of Light gods are just that. They along with the Elementals made the world, but the world then manifested its own primal spirits who told them both to fuck right off, the world can run just fine on its own now thanks.

    Jam Warrior on
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  • INeedNoSaltINeedNoSalt with blood on my teeth Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Where D&D gods become unrealistic is if the DM only takes into account one aspect of the deity. Pelor is the god of agriculture and the bountiful harvest? Then, logically, he must also be the god of blight and famine. (Polytheistic religions might have minor gods or personifications for that sort of thing, but they're generally portrayed as being at the beck and call of the more important gods.) If he were purely a positive god, then why are there bad harvests? Is he just a fuck-up? It doesn't make any sense, and it's not the sort of religion you'd find in the real world. You might say that there is an opposite evil god of famine and winter constantly warring with the good god of the sun, but if the gods are in a constant balance of good and evil, that comes with a whole raft of implications in its own right.

    Pelor does not cause all good harvests everywhere. (I don't think that's actually in his portfolio anyway but lets pretend it is.) Sufficient rain, temperature, etc cause good harvests. But if those don't happen, Pelor can step in (or have one of his clerics step in more likely) and make that shit happen with magic. Famine is caused by the things that normally cause famine. But also by evil cults to Nerull or the appropriate demon or devil. And those crazy anti-druid guys. The likelihood of this is proportional to the number of adventuring parties in the area.

    But really, Pelor is too fucking busy to deal with your petty problems most of the time.
    Also he is secretly evil.

    I have a problem with that set-up. It basically means the gods are superfluous. The rains don't come because Pelor makes them happen (by whatever means), they come because of the water cycle, which works perfectly fine without any divine intervention whatsoever; but if they don't come, you can appeal to Pelor and he'll fix you up. That's not a god, that's a druid. It's not very mythic - not the sort of thing you'd find in real life, either. Re is the sun, not some dude with a spaceship and a dimmer switch.

    In the Exalted setting, the sun is a giant war machine that travels across the sky every day. The god of the sun could probably flop that switch.

    I really enjoy the Exalted approach to divinity (but I am basically in love kiss kiss with the Exalted setting in every way.) I appreciate that (for example) Exalted gets around this 'water cycle' issue being discussed here in the thread by straight up saying, "Without the gods, the water cycle gets fucked up and stops functioning."

    It it is totally reasonable for you to approach your D&D games and force the gods to matter. There is no reason to assume they are impotent or superfluous. In fact, if you're using a setting that says the gods are real and active, then it actually behooves you to make the setting rely on that fact.

    I mean, you don't have to, but one of D&D's big things is that it's basically the homebrew center of the universe.

    If you don't want to make the gods responsible for the way things happen at all, it really does make more sense to go the Eberron route and make them ideas created by people and not actually super-powered spirits.

    INeedNoSalt on
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