How Might D&D Religions Differ From Real Life Religions?




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    How Might D&D Religions Differ From Real Life Religions?

    What features of real life religions couldn't apply to D&D religions?

    What features probably wouldn't apply?

    In what ways would (or could) D&D religions mirror real life religions?

    There are no wrong answers, or at least I don't think there are.

    Your thoughts?

 

  • #2
    I don't think faith would nearly apply in the typical DnD world. Since the evidence for Gods in nearly all DnD worlds is directly available, it would not be a matter of whether you believed, but who you choose to follow. This should have a rather large impact in nearly all aspects of life, but that is up to your world.

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    I'm assuming you're asking about the core religions...

    To be honest I don't see them having as much an impact as modern-day religions. Because every god has a tight portfolio, there's no single god with all the answers. It's difficult to tout yourself as "the one true God" when there's lots of magical mojo going on behind your back and hacking your followers to pieces. The mellowing of alignment in D&D contributes alot to this.

    So I think choosing your deity in D&D would be more akin to choosing your favorite football team, rather than gospel that dictates every iota of your life. Sure, followers of some gods are going to be crazier than others -- I could see worshipers of Gruumush being the D&D version of Packer fans =P -- but for the most part its not going to be a huge deal.

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    If D&D gods were real, people would bargin with the gods a lot more. May be not face to face, that would be up to the god but offerings would be made and may be a service offered and if the god was perceived to pull through then the person would feel oblighed to carry out that service.

    People would not follow one god but go to what ever one, who's portfolio suits their current needs most.

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    "Your deity doesn't exist"

    "I'm sorry? I was just zapping someone with GODLASERS and you're telling me they don't exist"

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    Alikar hits the nail on the head

    Faith would be INCREDIBLY important in D&D worlds. When being a member of a faith = access to healing, a surified knowledge of an after life etc, folk would usually be incredibly devout..but not necessarily in their religion, but their god...as faith and religion are not the same thing.

    For example, the local cleric of Lathander maybe a pious, puritannical SOB, whom his paritioners don't like much, but they'd still love their god, ya know?

    Priests would have to live up to the mark. Also, dieties would blow traitorous priests out of their socks, scourge or geas abusive/slacker ones etc.

    When a god exists, whispering into a priests ear: "Oi! get yer finger out and HELP the paritioners or I will petrify your ass to go with yer brain!" is something that would enocurage action, lol.
    If gods rely on faith of worshippers for "Life", then making sure priests do their job is important. Hence D&D "clerics" would be the NORM, not the exception.

    People in RL have amazing devotion and courage, even if they are evil, for example, the Waffen SS commited horrors, but bloody hell, they had guts.
    So, your clerics of Bane or similar would be much the same, ballsy as hell and not to be messed with!

    Another thing I've noted before, is how dangerous such societies can be. Any time in our world, a society has been hell bent for violence, ugh...Rome, British Empire, Germany, Mongol Empire etc...
    So, societies like orcs, hobgoblins, some humans, who are consumed with violence, lust to rule...back by priests who can prove that a god approves such....very bad mojo indeed!

    Orcs and especially hobgoblins would not be "1st levle mooks", unless their society is very squalid. Encourage dby fanatical priests, with rela power, they would be damned dangerous. If all hobgoblins do IS prepare or commit war...wow, you'd need doughty dwarves and human archmages to deal with 'em.

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    As long as there is 'obvious' evidence of a god's existence, i.e. the ability of his/her priests to do magical things, then it's going to make a dramatic difference to the world.

    • Atheists will not exist - or would be considered crazy. It would be like not believing in elephants, or possibly like being a Holocaust-denier (not wanting to raise politics, just provide an analogy)
    • Most people will probably not worship one god exclusively, particularly if your gods have the fairly standard 'portfolio' divisions. There's no point praying to Avandra for sun for your crops, or Pelor for a safe journey.
    • Some people will be dedicated to a specific god in a big way considering that god to be the most important. Pelor-type gods will probably dominate here (sun worship being fairly popular as the bringer of all energy to the world). I imagine it's harder to consider Avandra as that sort of 'primary deity' in the same way. Those who have this view may consider the other deities as 'angels' in service of their chosen god.
    • Holy War/Jihad may be significantly greater. If a god's power in the heavens is directly proportional to the amount of worshippers it has on the mortal plane then it will inspire its followers to convert the non-believers. While not all gods will want to use war to do that, war-like gods will be more effective if they do, so their clergy may spend a very significant amount of time at war with opposing religions.
    • Heresy is harder to establish if a god's 'opinions' are clear cut. One of the major factors in real world religions is schisms between different factions following the same gods. Protestant vs Catholic, Sunni vs Shia, etc. These can only really occur if there is any question about the god's actual opinion on issue X. If when Martin Luther posted his proclamations on the door of the church in Wittenberg god had struck him dead (or he'd lost his cleric powers) there would have been no reformation. This may or may not come into a fantasy religion depending on how clear cut a god's opinions are and how much that god interacts with the mortal plane. You do also have the possibility of a god of lies providing power to heretics of another god to create a schism in the flock.
    • Congregational worship - if there are multiple gods with different portfolios then congregational worship (going to church every sunday) becomes much more complicated. Does each god have a holy day of the week, do you have enough days for each god, do you worship the pantheon, how do those priests that are dedicated to a single god feel about you not attending their 'mass'. I would expect that assuming pantheon type worship is the norm that people would attend worship when they could, or when they wanted to beseech the aid of the gods. Small communities would be limited to just a temple with a lay priest follower of the pantheon as a whole. Cities may have a 'Parthenon' (a massive cathedral but again dedicated to the pantheon) and then also have more intimate shrines to each of the deities. Or maybe on Holy day the congregation are expected to make their way around the temples of all the gods, maybe spending more time, or attending the 'main mass' at ones they consider more important.


    Just some thoughts for now... might come up with more later.
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    If we are taking a Eurocentric medievel look at things:
    Historically the church had an incredable amount of power and influence, vast wealth through donations and land owned by them and tended to by monks and nuns, compulsory tithing and near total obedience. Threats of excomunication and fear of the afterlife could reign in an individual, an interdiction could undercut a monarch. Now add proof (rather than faith) of the gods existance and the ability to comunicate with the diety. As pointed out above, schisms are lessened. No monarchs setting up their own church to get round rules they don't like (Henry VIII) or major heracies. Now add to that popularity magic. A cleric would be both the communities protector, healer and most powerful ally. Given the choice between obeying the lord or the church... Likewise at the higher echelons control would be total. As educated men in a time few were most scholars and advisors were clergy. Add in divinations and the kings are going to be even more reliant (and pliable). Should a land follow primarily one (lawful) god or united panthion the churches power and control would be near absolute.
    As for crusades, the promise of paradise and forgiveness raised large armies. The promise of raise deads would not exactly hurt recruitment of the knighthood.

    On the other hand DnD frequently has many gods, and they don't all get along in a united pantheon. Threats of abandonment from the god mean less if someone can go down the road and sign on with a different faith. Here the churches would have very little power and the nobles would retain control. They might have influence but each one is just another faction at court. People would most likely prey and make offerings only when they wanted something from the gods. Rome springs to mind. The level of fanatasism and devotion would be far dituted from the above example. Quite possibly many clerics seek the clergy for personal power rather than divotion and see themselves as working for the gods and being well paid in power for their service.

    I suppose it all depends on the gods you are using in a campaign.

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    Quick reminder - this is a great discussion at the moment, and the historical references to real world religions have been OK. As long as we can all avoid making comments about current day religious practice we should be OK.

    (n.b. anyone who thinks it might be fun to deliberately derail the thread is likely to get banned, so fair warning, OK?)

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    Eberron had a very interesting take on D&D deities.

    Essentially it didn't have gods who you could go and visit on their home planes - the gods are remote and unknowable (with a few exceptions). Most people worship a pantheon of good gods, venerating particular members of the pantheon for particular purposes. Power is not directly granted by the gods to their clerics, thus allowing for bad guys to exist within temple or church structures. Also spell-casting Clerics are (arguably poorly-named) exemplars of the church. the actual clerics (small c) who run most churches are expert/administrators, and not people who have divine miracles at the snap of their fingers.

    - the exception is the god known as the silver flame, which is incarnate in the capital of thrane - you can walk in and see it if you get permission. This has perhaps led to a more aggressive faith (although there are at least 3 main strands of that faith too - conservative, liberal and radical in temperament).

    It is a take on "D&D religion" which I find somewhat more attractive than the typical take from the old days.

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