Sunday, June 23, 2013


Admittedly, the lion’s share of modern folks are monotheistic, so our perspective may be skewed, but we have numerous religions surrounding one God. What about the pagans or more to the point the fantasy folks in your game world? I think you should complicate your world and divide the worshippers of the same god(s) into different groups. Here’s the easy way: There is one main religion per divinity, however, there are various sects that believe other things. This works pretty well for keeping things really easy while allowing for heresies and other religious conflicts. You see, that’s kind of why you do it - to generate conflicts. Nobody fights to the death like two groups that believe almost exactly the same thing with only a slight difference. For example, despite Protestant propaganda, the Spanish Inquisition is only known to have killed around 825 people (assumed to be more than that, but still less than 1500) over the course of about 160 years. The Inquisition was actually a monitoring device against Jews and Muslims (again, contrary to Protestant propaganda). Meanwhile, Henry the VIII executed at least 500 for religious treason over the course of six or seven years, amongst the tens of thousands he executed in his lifetime. Let’s not forget (though it isn’t similar religions fighting) the ballpark 50K who were executed for witchcraft over the course of about 300 years, again mainly in the English controlled areas. Henry was killing Catholics, a religion he was raised in. The Spaniards were killing Jews and Muslims who had (at least in theory) failed in their religious conversion. The closer “relationship” was by far the bloodier. Let’s take the elephant in the living room: estimates have 20K Templars (just Knights Templar) dying in the crusades. A druid or pagan looking in from the outside is likely to see Islam and Christianity as the same god. I won’t argue that point right now, but I think there are certainly people in this modern day world that are still fighting the crusades. I mention the Templars, because they fit so well into a fantasy environment - warrior monks fighting for their religion. A lot of this always comes back to my desire to see paladins fighting paladins. I am setting up a wonderful world war in my game world. In the end, it will come down to pallys fighting pallys, both knowing that they are fighting on the side of what is right and good. (No, we don’t use paladins as a class, but these are knights of religious orders, and it is a lot quicker to write “pally” then what I just did.) How do I handle the religions? Close to the one major religion with smaller sects and cults. There are more than one religion, but most of the major religions of the major gods are not hostile to each other, and people raised under one religion can easily worship at the temple of their god within another religion. I can accept this because there isn’t a central authority in my religions. With no central authority, there is far less consistency from church to church. If some preacher in the middle of the farmlands is preaching that a particular god is god of life and harvest, while the same god is worshiped as the god of luck and justice in the city, there is no one to say one is right and the other is wrong. Well, at least there is no one to enforce an opinion like that. How to use them? Well, a fanatic sect may start causing trouble to the point of forcing the more mainstream religion to have to put them down, either for heresy or to avoid being vilified by association. Maybe one sect believes a similar one has no right to certain relics. Always fun to force the PCs to choose sides! Need ideas? Remember that the assassins were a religious sect, as were the aforementioned Templars. Shaolin monks? What about conflicts between worshippers of the goddess of plants? Would the wild worshippers (more druidic) be at conflict with the farmers? If you really cannot think of at least a handful of ideas without trying, maybe you’re not cut out to be a game master.

1 comment:

  1. Let's see some of this new conflict spelled out once you've played it with your group, sounds like you onto something good, making make a new module, I'm sad you only have the two. They are well done and great fodder for us out here. I never thought about closely aligned sects in that light, as opposed to conflicts between disparate religions. Pantheons with multiple deities have always left me trying to remember names and jobs. It all gets to be so big and awkward. My mind is whirring now, thanks for the spark. Again, you've found a great way to simplify making things for complicated!