Religion

Posts on religion seem to be making the rounds; never one to waste the opportunity to ride on another person’s coattails, I thought I would get in on the game.

The D&D games I have been involved in never seem to have taken religion terribly seriously (which might be ironic since I learned to play D&D while going to Catholic school). Priests of Thor and Mitra always rubbed shoulders with other faiths; individual priests might not have been happy with the arrangement, but players were unconcerned with the finer points of theology and just wanted to get on with their tomb-robbing. Most ‘priest’ characters were pretty much interchangeable. And it was fine.

The real world, however, is much more complicated (as posts and replies on Grognardia, LotFP and other places will show). Up until a few years ago, if you had told me that pantheism involved the worship of cooking pans and polytheists believed that god was made of plastic, I might have believed you. What a strange hobby this is — it constantly forces me to learn new and weird things. But, cruising around the blogs, I learn that some people take religion in the fantasy world pretty seriously and ponder the questions of, well, “how do all those gods get along?”

I’ve written about my own take on religion in the fantasy world before. The people of Aldeboran worship a hodgepodge of gods and goddesses including some drawn from/inspired by real world religions and some yanked from the zany and pretentious art-psychobabble of the Church of the Subgenius… as well as a few made up ones just tossed into the mix. I respond pretty positively to Stuart Robertson’s premise that the game really is “a cultural Borg … that rolled around borrowing from just about every source it encountered.” (sourced from Grognardia), so the ‘buffet style’ of religion doesn’t bother me anymore than having Scandinavian/Germanic gnomes/dwarves occupying the same world as Javanese Naga. However, some folks really seem to want to understand how having a bunch of competing deities might work, though, which could be a fun project for the philosophically and theologically inclined.

I’ve been fond of the idea suggested by reading stories from Leiber’sLankhmar‘ series and L. Sprague DeCamp’sNovarian‘ tales that suggest that an individual god or goddesses power might wax and wane depending on the number and fervor of his or her followers. I suspect such a system might be in place on Aldeboran, although I have not confirmed that.
Current, real world religions seem a bit of a problematic source of inspiration, though, mostly because many ‘real world’ faiths require their followers to reject other faiths as ‘untrue.’ That kind of becomes a problem in the fantasy world when the temples of Neptune and the temples of Thor are just down the street from one another and offer pretty similar services at competing prices. On Aldeboran, I imagine that most people are functional polytheists (like many ancient Romans). If they are trying to seal a business deal, they go to the temple of the god of money and burn a candle; before an ocean voyage, they drop off a few coins at the temple of the sea god, etc. Individuals might like one god more than another or feel like they have a ‘special relationship’ with one deity (much like many old school Catholics have a particular patron Saint), but it wouldn’t occur to most people on Aldeboran to insist that someone else’s god does not exist.

The notable exception to this rule are two religions modeled on real world religions. The Aldeboranian ‘Church of the Allfather‘ is fashioned after the medieval Catholic church in some of it’s less than admirable moments (what with the burning or heretics, inquisitions and all). They consider elves to be corrupt monsters (and will attempt to kill them on sight) and dwarves as ‘subhumans’ worthy only of being slaves. They have a highly organized hierarchy of priests, bishops, etc., and are always going off on crusades.

Another exception is the Church of Jeebus, in which the members practive all sorts of speaking in tongues, exorcism and other strange practices. Although less hierachical than the Church of the Allfather, there are several competeing sects in The Church of Jeebus and a few of the charismatic leaders are extremely influential. One of the most famous is James The Baker, a former owner of a bakery who saw the face of Jeebus in a griddlecake one morning and set off to create his very popular ministry. Baker and his wife ride around decked out in jewels and furs in a golden carriage, preaching the gospel of buying shares in their ministry in order to assure yourself a place in the afterlife.

Some people might find the inclusion of these two parody religions offensive (I don’t really think they are, since my mockery is reserved for the misbehavior of the human agents of these faiths — I don’t care if people want to beleive or go to shurch, but I also don’t think the misbehavior of the clergy should be above mention). I’m not running any games on Aldeboran right now so it doesn’t really come up.

see also:
A to Z: P is for Priests
Apr 18, 2011
Those who don’t know me might assume that, given the nature in which I portray religion and priests in this post that I am an atheist or a cynic or something similar. I will admit a distatse for organized religions… mostly due to how …

Welcome To Aldeboran
Feb 28, 2010
After discarding the rather pompous and unoriginal pantheon of my highschool years, I just toss in any and every god of religion I can think of, with Cthulhu cults rubbing elbows with pagans of every stripe, authoritarian churches and …

My Favorite Adventures
Mar 13, 2011
4) The Haunted Monastery: In my own homebrew world, I have a religion I call “The Allfather.” The Allfather’s followers are somewhat like the medieval Catholic Church; basically lawful but inclined to an excess of zeal and dogma. …


3 Comments on “Religion”

  1. Trey says:

    I don't think the “parody” religions are out of place. A little social commentary has got just as much place there as in literature, provided the groups cool with it.

  2. Limpey says:

    Trey: I'd hate for my actions or my attempts at satire to make a fellow player feel unwelcome — and if I knew that there were things that were sensitive, I'd just stay away from them. I keep my world-building pretty fast and loose, anyway. I guess I balm my conscience by telling myself that while I will mock Jerry Falwell or Rev. Jim Bakker or Pope not-so-Innocent from the 14th century in the course of a game, I won't tear into my fellow players — I might kid someone, but I wouldn't do it if I thought it would really hurt them. I don't know if that's cheap justification on my part or not — it's as close to me describing me as I can get, though. I'm not clever enough to be a modern day Swift of the D&D table, but I have pretensions and aspirations towards that. I would have loved to play in a D&D game with an author like Terry Pratchett.

  3. Grungi says:

    Good points, I agree with them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s