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Religions and Deities in D&D.

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Posts

  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Another thing about D&D deities is they are not omnipotent, even in their own domains. They are very human and they can be both flawed and fickle. the important factor is simply that they are more powerful than we can imagine being ourselves. The traditional deity typically grew out of embodying superstitious thinking; the rain doesn't fall on it's own at seemingly random times, somebody makes it rain, and you can influence that somebody if only you know what will please them (or you do something and the weather changes, then it must be related and you can make it rain). It's not a complicated philosophy, it's just people filling in the blanks of their hard-to-rationalize world.

    D&D's pantheon is not terribly different from patron saints, or maybe football teams; you believe they all exist but you pay homage to certain ones when you want to influence their domain in your favor, like for a better harvest or to stave off disease or even to screw over one of your rivals. If it doesn't work, well then it's the gods working in mysterious ways with some bigger giveth-&-taketh plan in mind or whatever.

    Though the last campaign I ran had a very minimized divine presence. The concept I used was that the realm was mostly shut off from the otherworldly planes and thus the power of the gods filtered through only at its basic, impersonal level of domains. This would be drawn upon by mortals worshiping their own deities that had attributes that corresponded to divine domains. This allowed for a lot of different pantheons and more variety to worship & practices beyond the typical racial preferences. One pantheon might have a sun god, a moon god, and an earth god each with a couple domains, and another religion has one god for all domains. I suppose creating several separate religions is one way of avoiding the usual D&D pantheon issues.


    Getting players from a rational society to have PC's act like people who engage in magical thinking is kinda difficult.

    This, so hard. I love a good one-dimensional fantasy world and I've played with some good roleplayers with perspective but my god most of the time it's like leading around a bunch of martians disguised in chainmail. It's not just the lack of pure superstition or traditional religion, it's the basic grasp of societal rules and manners, or rather the average player's utter obliviousness to the difference between their mindset and the medieval one. Sure there's no question it's great we have all our modern knowledge, science, and conveniences, but if and when you want a campaign setting with a little more substance than a Daffy Duck cartoon it makes no sense to the player's modern assumptions of how people work. Nothing about the feudal system functions if everyone from king to peasant is a rude, self-entitled, middleclass twit. They look for the nearest corner magic shop and only stop short of waiving their credit cards and demanding to see customer service because their federal right to retail price-matching is being violated. So usually you just got to hold the fantasy together with string and cardboard backdrops and let them have their modern lite fantasy romp, fortunately the game can be fun without devling into the setting.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Utsanomiko, damn, that is scary accurate.

    Heaven forbid you take a pause and say, "GUYS. Stop trying to butcher the king's guards. Look. Your sheet? It says Lawful God. The guy just told you not to kill anyone, I don't think you need to butcher him over it."

    Next thing you know, the player in question starts a 10 minute dissertation on the relativity of lawful good, says you are railroading, and throws his dice before storming out.

    --

    For the deity problem: 100% look into Eberron. It actually is a pantheon system, and the actual existence of the gods is debatable. There is nothing in the crunch which requires them to ACTUALLY exist: it could be some aberrant monster from antiquity, some bizarre magical thing, etc.... Eberron definitely has a deity system that I Think would work for you.

    streever on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    streever wrote: »
    Utsanomiko, damn, that is scary accurate.

    and well said too.
    Heaven forbid you take a pause and say, "GUYS. Stop trying to butcher the king's guards. Look. Your sheet? It says Lawful God. The guy just told you not to kill anyone, I don't think you need to butcher him over it."

    Next thing you know, the player in question starts a 10 minute dissertation on the relativity of lawful good, says you are railroading, and throws his dice before storming out.

    Yeah... anyone who acts with a degree of moral flexibility should probably be either Evil or Unaligned, depending upon just how far they believe they can stretch the rules to suit their own purposes and not that of a higher power.

    This can actually be something that adds a good degree of complexity to a character

    Thank Bahamut for DM's who are willing to let you write the culture of your character.

    I used to have a fighter who was a dragonborn, from basically a Bedoin tribe in the desert. He didn't really believe that much in gods other than Bahamut and Tiamat. His people believed that there was a single god at the beginning of the universe that sacrificed itself during the war with the old primordial baddies. The result? Split into two parts: Bahamut and Tiamat. Between the two of them they represent all aspects of divinity. All other "gods" were either misinterpretations of Bahamut and Tiamat, or just much lesser powers that didn't matter because worshipping them was basically "wrong".

    Basically these ideas drove his life. He was a religious zealot, a holy warrior dedicated to Bahamut. Problem was, he would sometimes go too far on his Jihad, the struggle against evil that would eventually lead him back to his people to create new prosperity.

    Everything he did was the product of his worldview. Victory and Defeat were determined by the will of his God. He would spend his hard-earned treasure not for magic items, but to build temples to Bahamut. He actually came to be pretty well known for that, which furthered his goal. He believed he was chosen to fight terrible enemies... because that must be the will of Bahamut.

    Generally, he was a good guy. But like I said, he had problems. He was cruel and merciless with his enemies (which often meant anyone who worshipped Tiamat or one of her aspects manifested in an Evil God). I had to make him Unaligned as a result. He truly wasn't on the path he thought he was. He hadn't learned mercy or restraint toward his enemies, as a Good guy might. Good guys also don't wear the teeth of their enemies, have a collection of kobold jawbones decorating their swordarm, or make a mask out of a dragon skull. Simply put, he truly didn't understand the Will Of Bahamut that he had dedicated himself to enacting.

    Gradually, he started to get it. He tithed a lot to temples to Bahamut in town. Had conversations with priests. Began to understand what he was doing wrong. Started to use his very large Intimidate skill to make enemies stand down so he could show them mercy in the face of their reckless desire to take him out. He finally began to drift toward Good, not because it was convenient, but because it was based in his belief system.

    Was he wrong about how deities work in D&D? Dead fucking wrong. When he faced doing things in a fashion that displayed humility, restraint and was aligned with Good, his righteousness was actually rewarded at a couple of points because the DM was impressed with the great amount of risk I'd take with the character due to how I played him. In fact, he gained an artifact and a divine boon... associated with Pelor and Moradin, respectively. But those Gods meant nothing to him. To him, they were not part of the one true faith, and in his mind it worked like everything else. For better or worse the answer was always the same:

    Insh'bahamu... if Bahamut wills it.

    By paragon tier, his alignment had shifted to good. There was no going back once he had taken those principles to heart and made them a part of everything he did.

    A character's religious worldview can be entirely self-defined... and alignment is that thing that indicates how good you actually were at walking the talk.

    Horseshoe on
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  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Shoe, that sounds like an awesome character.

    I'm actually doing a little bit of setting-building myself, and I think I see where the OP is coming from--the gods in 4e aren't that REAL. I think the game could use some fluff around the gods--myths, notable worshipers, that type of thing--to make them feel and seem more real.

    streever on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    streever wrote: »
    I think the game could use some fluff around the gods--myths, notable worshipers, that type of thing--to make them feel and seem more real.

    and as in my example that I used just before:

    the fluff and myths are the best when they come from that player's characters

    because the player is already into it: he got to help create his own little niche in the game world and gets to own it and play it

    and the notable worshippers of the gods should dang well be those same characters!

    Horseshoe on
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  • INeedNoSaltINeedNoSalt with blood on my teeth Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    i am a notable worshiper of Horshuu

    INeedNoSalt on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    streever wrote: »
    Shoe, that sounds like an awesome character.

    I'm actually doing a little bit of setting-building myself, and I think I see where the OP is coming from--the gods in 4e aren't that REAL. I think the game could use some fluff around the gods--myths, notable worshipers, that type of thing--to make them feel and seem more real.

    One more thing.

    You can nudge the player toward helping you fill in the myths without writing a bazillion pages of backstory... the bazilion pages of backstory is something I consider a "bad move" because... well, it's almost guaranteed not to be read. :P

    For example I used to DM a Greyhawk game. One of the characters was a Cleric of Heironeous... the kind of cleric that gets business done on the battlefield.

    And so it was like... well he's a cleric. A priest in shining armor, sword and shield in hand. Hm. I suppose he must have a prayer book with him, right? After all... even in wartime, funeral rites, marriages, blessings and such are part of his job.

    I wrote up a few short prayers that he could carry around and use when he needed them.

    But the thing that really got him is that I wrote a battle hymn for Heironeous.

    Because that god has (in my mind) a great resemblance to the Archangel Michael, I borrowed some christian symbolism. (For example, a prayer said before battle was basically a shortened version of a catholic prayer to St. Michael).

    Anyway, as I was saying the thing that may have made the biggest impact is that I wrote a hymn. The one that would be sung by the followers of Heironeous on many occasions. I based the hymn on the christmas song "Do you hear what I hear" and changed it to "The Call". One of the central tenents of the faith is that you do not call upon Heironeous. He calls upon you. And when he does when he asks: "Whom shall have the bravery to stand against Evil? Whom shall I send?" If you are the man of that faith you must answer The Call. You step forward and announce "Here I am. Send me."

    Anyway, "Send Me" was the battlecry of Heironean military types. Like if you imagine the leader of a troop of men pumping them up.
    Leader: "Before this city stands a horde of orcish barbarians. Who shall fight?"

    All: "SEND ME!"

    Leader: "Who shall refuse to surrender, or to retreat from horror?"

    All: "SEND ME!"

    Leader: "Who shall bring glory in the name of Heironeous?"

    All: "SEND ME!"

    Leader: "Who shall not fear death? Who will fight to the end?"

    All: "SEND ME!"

    (soldiers draw steel and bellow in unison, other theatrics associated with charging cavalry or footmen, etc)

    oh dang wait

    holy crap i think i still remember part of that frikkin hymn
    The Call - to the tune of "Do you hear what I hear".
    Through the clash of sword and shield
    Do you hear what I hear?
    Ringing o'er the battlefield
    Do you hear what I hear?
    The Call, The Call,
    Ringing o'er the Field
    Heironeous, our Lord of Sword and Shield
    Invincible, our Faith We shall not yield.
    Glor'yus cry of Victory
    Do you hear what I hear?
    Echoed by the strong and free
    Do you hear what I hear?
    The Call, The Call,
    Glorious and Free
    Heironeous, Here I am, Send Me
    Heironeous, Here I am, Send Me

    If found that snippets like that rather than pages of backstory are more helpful, because they give the guy a chance to bring his own stuff to it.

    "Your character is an Elf. I got a little piece of paper for you. Here's a little something your Elf was taught as a kid. It's a short excerpt from an old scroll. He knows it by heart. The rest is up to you."

    That kinda thing.

    Horseshoe on
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