Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tenets of Religion

It occurs to me that the medium upon which something is written tends to make a difference in how that thing is treated. What am I talking about? Well, from the title of the post you probably know I’m talking about religious writings.

I am not Jewish, but the Torah is nearly always depicted as being a massive scroll from which they read. My own religious book is a thick book with very thin pages (I assume to keep the book from being even thicker). But these books are typically produced in the fanciest ways - leather bound covers, gold on the sides of the pages, some manner of gold leaf decorating the cover, often illuminated pages within the book - fancy! But there are other ways as well. The 10 Commandments were written on two stone tablets - It is not unreasonable to think that religions would continue to read the most important fundamentals of their religion off stone tablets. Perhaps a religion would craft the high prayers onto a wood panel maybe a relief cut, or etched into a metal sheet, or cut into the four sides of a marble obelisk at the center of the temple.

Does it matter? Well, yeah, I think it does. If this is a religion intended to be celebrated in major cities with major churches and cathedrals, then they really should lean towards the greatest displays. If that religion is then to be transported with people while they travel, maybe they carry a small pendant version of the obelisk with one rune on each side to remind them of the four basic tenets. Now I’ve probably lost some of you already who were thinking “This doesn’t apply to me. There’s nothing here that increases my damage output.” Well, you might be right, but if you knew that a major religion used obelisk pendants made of obsidian for their major sign, then as GM you can put a bunch of these in as loot. If you know that the holy writings are on a lambskin scroll frequently wrapped around the blessed silver rod, well, if you’re willing to defile religious objects, you know where to loot a couple pounds of silver. The cost of the gold leaf on the book will increase its price, but probably not its loot value since you probably cannot pull it off (certainly not a material weight of gold off).

But it is more than just the loot value of these things. It changes the character of the religion. Truthfully, reading from a huge scroll does make it feel that much “older”, at least to me. How would we feel if on Sunday they were reading from a smart phone? The words didn’t change, but the ceremony sure did. And with our fantasy pagan religions the “written” words can be nearly anything. Viking runes on a stone sign post. A totem pole. Phrases etched onto a suit or armor or maybe just the helmet. A style of script that looked like swords and daggers formed into letters. or like wild roses climbing up the page. Maybe a tapestry with the words woven in or embroidered on a nun’s veil. Don’t get bogged down in our cultural themes. Use them as a base and then let your mind roam widely!

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